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The Top 7... failingest handhelds

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4. TurboExpress

While some people might point to the Lynx as their favorite old-timey handheld, almost nobody will tell you theirs was the TurboExpress – and that’s kind of sad. Not sad for them, but sad because the TurboExpress was a good idea that went horribly, horribly wrong.

Sure, the TurboExpress had serious problems. It was reportedly common for units to have faulty sound and dead pixels right out of the box, and at $250 in 1990 (equivalent to around $400 in 2011 money), it was by far the most expensive handheld on the market. Even the Lynx could thrive against a competitor like that.

On the other hand, it was the first handheld version of a more established console, the TurboGrafx-16. It used the same credit card-sized games as the console, and delivered near-16-bit visuals at a time when 8-bit was considered pretty impressive. And while its games might not have had the same recognizable cachet as Mario or Sonic, it was still pretty sweet to be able to play a handheld, full-color version of Legendary Axe or Splatterhouse when everyone else was muddling through black-and-green Tetris.

Of course, that sounds a lot better than it actually was. Since the games were intended for display on a TV, reading text could be difficult, and the TurboExpress lacked the onboard save memory that the TG16 had. It also ate batteries even faster than the Lynx and Game Gear, burning through six AAs in two or three hours.

There isn’t much else to say about the TurboExpress. Apart from sporting a TV tuner accessory, it never did much to differentiate itself from the TG16, which itself is mainly remembered for weird games, terrible ads and arguments over whether or not it was ever really 16-bit.


Above: But, you know, as long as you were one of the (presumably) cool kids it was all OK

However, the TurboExpress was tenacious; even though its sales were anemic, totaling around 1.5 million by the time it was discontinued, the handheld stuck around until 1995. By then, the world was anticipating a new wave of 32-bit consoles, the TurboDuo (a CD combo system that replaced the TG16) was in its death throes and not even Johnny Turbo could save the TurboExpress from its demise. For a system nobody really wanted or could afford, though, that’s a pretty good run.


3. Game.com

For a while after the Lynx and TurboExpress, it looked like the handheld market had stabilized into a comfortable two-way fight between Nintendo and Sega. It couldn’t last, however, and before long Tiger – the same company that had filled the ‘80s and early ‘90s with awful, overpriced LCD adaptations of seemingly every popular game and movie – decided to release a handheld. A real handheld, with graphics that weren’t just drawn-on and lit-up.

Released in late 1997, the Game.com (pronounced “gaym kahm,” with a silent “.”) was a $70 combination game machine/rudimentary PDA that featured a touchscreen, two cartridge slots, a handful of built-in applications and a $50 add-on modem that allowed for online capabilities. It also took to heart the lesson that known game franchises can make or break a new system, and immediately secured licenses for Duke Nukem, Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat Trilogy and – most baffling of all – Sonic the Hedgehog.

Unfortunately for the Game.com, it turns out that having recognizable titles doesn’t actually mean much when they all look like cruddy, poorly animated Game Boy ports. It probably also didn’t help matters that Tiger developed most of the games internally, simply buying the rights to make its own ports like it did in the LCD-game days. Factor in that the Game.com actually looked dated even by Game Boy standards, sporting a blurry screen after the Game Boy Pocket had introduced a sharper display, and it’s easy to see why this thing never stood a chance.

There was also this ad, which probably didn’t help matters much:


Above: AAIIIGH!!!! SCREAMING!!!!

Following a year of weak sales, the Game.com did what nearly every other failed handheld did: it released a second, smaller version of itself, the Game.com Pocket Pro. Sporting a single cartridge slot, a sharper front-lit screen, a $50 price and the ability to run on two batteries instead of four, it was an improvement… on a handheld nobody really wanted in the first place. Even so, it managed to hang onto retail shelves until 2000, which is a pretty significant achievement, considering that its main competition at that point came from the Game Boy Color.

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66 comments

  • sexyman500 - August 9, 2011 6:34 a.m.

    shash. This whole article is humorous due to the 3ds failing as well. lawls
  • Acteon - June 1, 2011 9:40 a.m.

    I had an Atari Lynx (still have one actually) and loved it. I fondly remember nights spent playing Electro-Cop and Scrapyard Dog. I only recently started collecting old handheld consoles - love the NGP and Game Boy Pocket, but its the Turbo Express that remains the holy grail at the moment. And for those of you hating on the PSP, shaddup :) It might be fashionable to knock it, but it still has a great games library. I'm still working my way through Persona 3, Dissidia 012, Prinny 2, Ys Seven and Parasite Eve. Not enough hours in the day...
  • PanaMusica - April 3, 2011 7:54 a.m.

    must..sidetalk... with my Sony VGN-UX280P.. itz laugh or cry
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - March 31, 2011 4:43 a.m.

    @v8ninety Of course it's not a real word. But you knew what it meant, didn't you? It's succinct.
  • JBizFoShiz - March 31, 2011 4:24 a.m.

    I had an NGPC. Silver. Played the hell out of Sonic, both SNK vs. Capcom games, and Metal Slug. Also, some robot RPG or something that I cannot remember. Those games robbed me of so many hours, and they deserved to. That was NOT a bad system. It just could not compete with the GBC and the eventual GBA. Now, I don't own a 3DS, but the NGPC still, to this day, has the best thumbstick on a portable system. In fact, this and the GBA are my personal top two handhelds ever. RIP Neo-Geo. There's always eBay.
  • Transmatrix - March 30, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    Awesome article, thanks Mikel. For a more comprehensive list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handheld_game_console I'm surprised that at least one of the Linux-based handhelds didn't make the list...
  • e1337prodigy - March 30, 2011 11:01 p.m.

    I have the NeoGeo pocket colour. With a lot of games - i still play it more than the DS... Are you saying it's rare? am I finally rich?
  • revrock - March 30, 2011 7:46 p.m.

    Sega Nomad? Where's it @?
  • Agent79 - March 30, 2011 5:30 p.m.

    I haven't seen so many horrible things since my GPA.
  • kiraisjustice - March 30, 2011 1:02 a.m.

    im reading this article with an N-Gage QD in front of me, something i never thought i would say
  • Yeager1122 - March 29, 2011 11:16 p.m.

    Ive never heard of ant of these and after reading this i know why.
  • Memph - March 29, 2011 11:01 p.m.

    I still have my cobalt blue NGPC :D 16-bit graphics it was certainly not, but still Sonic Pocket Adventure, SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millenium and Cardfighters Clash were all fantastic games. The clickety-stick was also the greatest method of control ever to grace a handheld. I also bought Gals Fighters (a mash-up of many SNK fighter female characters) and Puzzle Bobble, which were both great too.
  • SpaceOdysseus - March 29, 2011 10:54 p.m.

    I was wondering if maybe someone remembers the cybiko. I do. i found mine in a box in my parents house the other day and spent an hour playing the games i had loaded on there, i wish there was still a way to find them.
  • zymn - March 29, 2011 10:12 p.m.

    This reminds me of an article that I wrote for a website i used to have. But it was the Top 5 Worst Game Boy Rip-Offs. Mine certainly wasn't as creative as this one though.
  • Deders14 - March 29, 2011 8:48 p.m.

    I loved my Ngage its a shame every1 else slags it off! I had it for about 5 years in various forms. Infact it still in the draw!!!
  • onewingedantista - March 29, 2011 8:47 p.m.

    Where PSPgo?
  • therawski - March 29, 2011 6:23 p.m.

    The momma can I mow the lawn video had me loling and asking myself wtf about every 2 seconds, that photo of the crazy enzo never get's old, where's the rest of it?!
  • MrWeaselTips - March 29, 2011 6:20 p.m.

    I had a Lynx in 1992 (pretty sure it was bargain basement by then) the cartridges were similar in size to a game boy one so - being a kid - I stuck a Lynx one in a Game boy. Didn't work (obviously) so I put it back in my Lynx and my god did it mess up my Lynx! So literally, the Game boy killed my Lynx
  • philipshaw - March 29, 2011 1:28 p.m.

    I remember all of these, lucky I didn't pay money for any of them
  • morbiusdog - March 29, 2011 12:26 p.m.

    OK,so the PSP wasn't really a fail, but what about the PSP GO! Surely that should be at number 1.

Showing 1-20 of 66 comments

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