Skip to main content

The 10 worst consoles ever

Culprit: Tiger Electronics

US launch price: $30

What it would cost today: $41.55

Sucks because: The Tiger R-Zone wasn't just one of the worst consoles of all time - it was three of them. The R-Zone Head Gear is the one that people tend to remember, with its sad mockery of the Virtual Boy's red-and-black virtual-reality gimmick, but there was also a non-VR handheld - the R-Zone Extreme Pocket Gear - and a big-screen, "color" version, the R-Zone Super Screen. All of them worked the same way, however: by shining a light through a transparent LCD cartridge and projecting the action in eye-searing red (or black) on a plastic "screen."

Think the Virtual Boy was bad? Next to the Tiger R-Zone and its stiff red LCD "graphics," it was a high-definition gift from God. The R-Zone was essentially just a gimmicky version of the same awful, clicky-beepy LCD games that Tiger had been dumping on the market since the '80s, only projected onto a single eyepiece for kids whose parents were too poor to afford a whole set of goggles.


Although many people don't even consider the R-Zone a real console, the fact remains that it was a system for which game software was produced. It doesn't matter if said games were awful, or all essentially the same, or if the system was really more of a cheap, fraudulent toy than anything else - it qualifies. There are some who would say that Tiger's other infamous flop - the handheld - is more deserving of punishment, and while we agree it was horrible, it at least featured actual games with more than five frames of animation apiece.

Best game: NiGHTS, although that's sort of like saying that skin cancer is the best kind of cancer you can get.

2. Studio II

Year: 1977

Culprit: RCA

US launch price: $149.95

What it would cost today: $522.30

Sucks because: These days, people remember mainly two things about videogames from the 1970s: Atari and Pong. In fact, the '70s were littered with weird, forgotten consoles, because everyone and their mother was rushing to get in on the new video fad. Few of those efforts were quite as misguided and terrible as the RCA Studio II, though. You think the Jaguar's bulky controllers are crappy? Check out this action:

That's right - the "controllers" are keypads built into the console itself. As in "non-removable." As in "holy shit, how do I work this thing?" Maybe they aren't so bad if you think of them in the same light as a modern keyboard, but considering that the Studio II's main rival - the Fairchild Channel F - featured corded joysticks, that's already one big strike against the hardware. The Fairchild also featured color graphics, while the Studio II's black-and-white visuals were already obsolete by the time it was released. And with the release of the Atari 2600 less than a year away, not even five built-in games (which featured such time-honored classics as Addition and Patterns!) could save the Studio II from being crushed under the treads of the Atari juggernaut.

Above: Popular Studio II game Speedway, also known as GHAAAAAAAGH

Best game: Gunfighter/Moonship Battle

Special thanks toVintage Computing and Gamingfor scanning those horrible old R-Zone ads.

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.