Nintendo's most-failingest peripherals

Long before we had stacks of plastic guitars and enough withered dance mats to blanket all of San Francisco’s homeless, Nintendo was dropping superfluous add-ons at an alarming rate. And each time they shoved a new one out there, we lapped it up like a delicious treat, fully expecting longtime support for this latest and surely greatest peripheral.

Above: A small sampling of various Nintendo junk

Naturally most of them disappeared without fanfare, and support dried up as another object neared release. A rare few made a positive difference (Zapper, NES Satellite, Rumble Pak etc), but the vast majority were cast off with much haste. Collected here are the best of the worst, and no, there’s no Power Glove because that shit was made by Mattel.

Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.)

What it was supposed to do: Trick people into thinking the newly launched NES was a sophisticated computer, and not a videogame machine. Following the games crash of ’83, retailers and consumers were reluctant to touch anything pertaining to games, so ROB was meant to act as a super-cool pet robot that played games at your command.

Above: The most boring video you’ll see this week. Complicated!

What it actually did: Clumsily handled spinning gyros to play two forgotten launch games. It was loud, it was complicated and everyone quickly forgot it even existed – which was Nintendo’s plan all along, of course. Once the NES was in your house, Mario, Zelda and plenty of other top-tier games were ready to prove this industry still had life. A clever ruse, but a shitty peripheral.

Number of games that used it: Two. Literally two. One of the most failingest add-ons we can think of.

The Power Pad


What it was supposed to do: Capitalize on the fitness craze of the ‘80s by convincing parents that games could also count as exercise. You’d stand on the mat, run in place until your head exploded, then fold it up and toss it into the closet next to Teddy Ruxpin and some other clever 80s reference. The pad was heavily advertised as the next big thing, often with phrases like “You ARE the game!”

Above: PS this thing won’t be around a year from now

What it actually did: Well, it was only meant to lie on the floor and get stomped on, so in that measure it’s a total success. The catch is that the games generally required huge amounts of sprinting to perform the simplest tasks, so playing them for more than a few minutes was out of the question. Plus, only two companies seemed interested in developing titles for it – Bandai and Nintendo. Guess which one is at it again? 

Number of games that used it: 11 in Japan, six in the US, all from Nintendo and Bandai in a short span of time. In this case, Nintendo actually supported their product, but we didn’t bite. Shame on us?

Super Scope 6


What it was supposed to do: Act as the next generation of light guns, and prove that Nintendo could support such a device longer than it did the NES’s Zapper. Plus it was a bazooka, which is way cooler than a pistol.

Above: It gets you into the game “like never before.” Hm, that’s wrong

What it actually did: Impress people for a year with decent games like Battle Clash, then fade away. Like the Power Pad, it worked as intended but developers didn’t stick with it, so when Nintendo finally did get around to making another kickass game (Metal Combat), we were so god damn over it. Shame on us again!

Above: The Scope’s sensor sitting atop a TV, right above a Wii Sensor Bar 

Number of games that used it: 11, though a few are merely special Super Scope “modes” and not the full game. Others, like 1994’s Tin Star, could be played without the Scope, removing the need to own one at all. It and Sega’s Menacer were among the last attempts to treat console light guns as platforms, and even when done right recently (Time Crisis and the like) people tend to lose interest too quickly to justify supporting. That’s why today we have Wii Remote shells instead of actual light guns.

Game Boy Printer


What it was supposed to do: Allow you to print all the wacky and zany pictures you took with your black-and-white Game Boy Camera. Each printed picture doubled as a sticker, so you could paste your blurry images all over the place if you suffered from a really specific type of narcissism.

Above: Pardon our Aus

What it actually did: Get discounted to $5 in about a year. First off, the camera itself was only fun in a “god this is so crappy” kind of way, the printer required specific Nintendo paper and the images themselves tended to rub away over time. All this and six AA batteries to print stamp-sized pictures that, on the best of days, look like this:

Above: That’s Call of Juarez on 360, if you can’t tell 

Number of games that actually used it: Oh, several games let you print shit out, but based on how fast this thing dropped in price, we’re guessing only in-store demos used up enough paper to warrant opening a new roll.

N64 Transfer Pak

What it was supposed to do: Allow the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy to communicate and share data, ideally to unlock content or enhance gameplay in some way. We were told this idea of “connectivity” would change the way games are made, with many Nintendo-published titles that would take advantage of the add-on. Most prominent were the Pokémon Stadium games that let you move teams from your Game Boy carts to the N64 for battle.

Above: The Transfer Pak is barely acknowledged, despite being a key feature

What it actually did: It worked fine, but everyone on the planet assumed the Transfer Pak would let you play actual Game Boy games on a full-size television via the N64. GamesRadar has more than a few ex-retail thugs who recall child after child, parent after parent bringing their Transfer Pak back because it “didn’t work.” We weren’t wrong to assume it should play Game Boy titles, as Nintendo had released a Game Boy-to-TV adapter on the SNES six years prior. Stranger still is the fact that the Transfer Pak did let you play certain Pokémon Game Boy games on TV, but nothing else. What?

Number of games that used it: 16, though only five were released outside Japan, two of which were Pokémon Stadium games. The rest addressed the Pak as an afterthought, with features that were barely worth the hassle of digging it out of the closet. Even if it had allowed for GB-on-the-TV play, it would’ve fizzled anyway, as the Game Boy Player arrived for GameCube in 2003.

Up next: Junk that let you shout, swipe and sweat the day away

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  • poothurdur32 - March 22, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    Uuuh... You're forgetting the Balance Board. It isn't nearly as responsive as people wanted it to be, with about 20 games released for it in America, with only 3 of them worth actually playing (It's Launch Games, WiiFit, Rabbids TV Party, and WiiFit Plus). The other 15-odd games are just Unresponsive Shovel Ware Crap, like Super Monkey Ball and Shaun White Snowboarding (well, OK, they're just crappy WITH the balance board. They're perfectly fine without it.)
  • wiigamer024 - November 24, 2010 7:03 p.m.

    lol i loved Hey You, Pikachu! when i was little. I even got the special edition Pikachu N64 that came with the game for Christmas back a good decade ago. :) i always thought that game was the shit. man, i miss that game so damn much... Another thing i though was awesome when it first came out was Wii Speak. haha i got it bundled with AC:CF also. sadly, i never used it. at all. lol its just collecting dust now :)
  • theintellectual - November 24, 2010 5:25 a.m.

    @doomdoomdoom: exactly. the only thing keeping Nintendo afloat is the spectacular Mario games it pumps out once or twice a generation. the rest is kiddy crap, or just plain retarded. its time to stop treating Nintendo like a legitimate contender in the games buissness.
  • AuthorityFigure - February 9, 2010 12:15 p.m.

    Well you can't blame Nintendo for not trying out ideas! If you wish to support their experiments and are left with plastic junk, I think you've helped the industry in some way anyhow. It's not a total loss.
  • NottaFanboY - September 8, 2009 10:48 p.m.

    Sorry to say in a number of years the whole lot of wii everything will be on this list...
  • linkganon - August 29, 2009 4 a.m.

    i remember using that n64 transfer pack, but i know why they forgot about it. the damned thing wouldn't stay in the controller! it kept falling out and sliding out of reach for the controller to read it. it was really frustrating, and was guaranteed to happen. on a side note, you may know rob now by playing ssbb. if you forgot the n64 transfer pack came with stadium. you could add the ones that were dropped, like the nintendo, ps port before nintendo declined the deal with sony, which in turn created nintendo's rival the playstation.
  • Thequestion 121 - July 17, 2009 2:13 a.m.

    Wow. I didn't know that Nintendo had so many failed products! And I have Wii Speak!!
  • thezombieofjustice - July 14, 2009 1:15 a.m.

    hahaha that transfer pack brings back some good memories lol and a gameboy printer didnt know they made one. lol learn something new everyday
  • Xeacons - July 12, 2009 3:21 p.m.

    Although, I wouldn't call Wii Speak a failure just yet. Not until the Wii's cycle is completely finished (which won't be for another couple years). Now that Conduit's using it, we can expect more High Voltage titles to carry it, and if Conduit really inspires 3rd parties to get on the Wii ball, WS might just prove a success in the end.
  • mastersword369 - July 11, 2009 9:13 p.m.

    Just add the Vitality Sensor already! We all know it's gonna fail!
  • dmaster225 - July 11, 2009 1:02 a.m.

    i had the transfer pack. i thought it was pretty fun since I was a 7 year old when that was out. I remember the feature in the Pokemon G&S games that it had a print option, and I, as a little ignorant 7 year old, was like crazy trying to look for a computer printer that I could connect my GBC link cable to. When I think back, I laugh at my ignorance.
  • Buga15 - July 10, 2009 7:37 p.m.

    DK Bongos were like guitars in guitar hero, but GH isn't as stupid and children stuff
  • Red - July 10, 2009 3:52 a.m.

    I had the gameboy camera when I was in middle school. Some girl swore up and down to the teachers that if I took a picture of her with it, that I could edit it so I could see her naked. They took the camera away from me despite the fact that I never took her picture.
  • richomak27 - July 9, 2009 8:41 p.m.

    awesome article Brett didn't know about a few of these
  • DoctorFruitbat - July 9, 2009 5:56 p.m.

    The crown of ultimate peripheral fail goes to Sega. Check out the Sega Mega-CD 32X for the only three-console balls-up ever attempted. At least they did a good online service with the Dreamcast, which a decade later Nintendo aren't even close to matching. Pretty sad.
  • Meoff118 - July 9, 2009 5:18 p.m.

    Surprised nobody said FIRST
  • SuperGoomba64 - July 9, 2009 4:52 p.m.

    I thought Mario Kart:Double Dash used the GCN online adapter, but no one used it D: I have the N64 Transfer Pak. It works about half the time, It only works for Pokemon Stadiuam.
  • sadisticgrizzz - July 9, 2009 3:35 p.m.

    i actually had that rob. but i traded a school buddy 4 contra like 3 days after i had it. lets just say we're not buddies anymore
  • Harmon20 - July 9, 2009 2:37 p.m.

    Gamecube, and ONLINE!? No way. It could never happen. AND it didn't.
  • shelcobsohn - July 9, 2009 12:18 p.m.

    the wii is stupid