Gaming culture is weird. Throughout its history, the industry has chased the image of cutting-edge cool. Sleek. Sophisticated. Futuristic. But it hasn’t always achieved this goal.
Looking back through the history of video games, there are just so many examples of gaming consoles or peripherals that shot for a slick futuristic style, missed, and continue to look pretty ridiculous to this day. Here are some of our favorites. Get ready to cringe.
1. The Fragmaster
What’s the first kind of product that comes to mind when you think of a company called Thrustmaster? Certainly not this bizarre abomination of a joystick.
Although it resembles a futuristic toilet seat more than anything else, the Fragmaster was a two-handed joystick released during the Quake 3 era, designed to help players dominate in first-person shooters.
A perfect storm of awkward, ugly and expensive, the Fragmaster came with programmable buttons that allowed you to mimic keyboard functions. But the ultimate embarrassment for those who purchased it must have been their repeated losses to players using the infinitely more versatile and responsive standard mouse and keyboard.
This thing didn’t stay on many players’ desktops before being thrust right into the trash.
2. The Joyboard
The ill-fated Joyboard was released in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and was touted as the Next Big Thing, even being promoted on TV by Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee. Essentially a balance board which the player controlled by leaning to one side or the other, the Joyboard only got one game, skiing sim Mogul Maniac, back in 1982.
However, following a lackluster public response to what was essentially a glorified joystick, compatible surfing/skiing games failed to come to fruition, and the Joyboard wiped out big time. Still, it could be viewed as an ancestor to the much more sophisticated Balance Board for the Wii.
3. ‘Resident Evil 4’ Chainsaw Controller
Whoah man. So, sooo edgy. This tasteful accessory for the PlayStation 2 was likely marketed straight at the flame-shirt wearing teenage boy demographic, but it wasn’t much of a success—mostly due to being as clunky and awkward to use as all hell.
The gore-drenched Chainsaw Controller also allowed you simulate the characteristic roar of a chainsaw and, thanks to an in-built vibrator unit, featured a rumble force feedback for a ‘realistic chainsaw feel.’ FYI, Resident Evil 4 is a game where the main weapons are firearms, so… enjoy the ‘realism’ of your pistol feeling like a chainsaw. You’d have a more authentic experience playing the fan-made Resident Evil 4 dating sim. You could also detach the controller cables from the chainsaw and mount it on an equally garish display stand to proudly show off to all your friends and family. It might be a shitty controller, but any dates you bring home might later be thankful for the sign of such an obvious red flag.
4. Konami LaserScope
Komani’s b-movie-looking Laserscope was essentially a light gun for your dumb face. The helmet held a crosshair over your eye and came with a microphone into which you had to shout “FIRE!” to trigger your weapons in-game.
Some of you may have already twigged onto why this thing would be extremely annoying, but Konami pressed ahead with this spectacularly bad idea, and decided to make it fail when it came to its most basic function.
The built-in microphone was so poor that the few gamers who actually bought the LaserScope reported that the in-game gun would fire upon practically any utterance, even a sufficiently loud background noise. At least the player would keep shooting as his game inevitably degenerated into a stream of neck pain and bellowed expletives.
Anyone up for a fun afternoon of whipping your neck around constantly and shouting ‘FIRE!’ 48 times per minute? I like to think that the best use of this peripheral was aimed at the Konami employee who greenlit it.
5. The SNES Super Scope
Sticking to the scope shooter theme, here’s a classic example of (attempted) style over substance. The NES already had a nice and easy to use light gun in the form of the NES Zapper. But to justify that ‘S’ in SNES, Nintendo decided to go big or go home for their follow-up.
The Super Scope essentially serves the exact same function as the NES Zapper, but in a huge, bazooka-shaped shell (pretty excessive compared to the handgun-sized zapper). The clunky thing clocks in at just under two feet in length, and bear in mind that most SNES players were kids at the time. I’ll bet that the audience for the upcoming SNES mini will be somewhat more advanced in years, however.
The unnecessarily shoulder-straining size, combined with the paltry handful of games supporting the Super Scope, doomed this unwieldy accessory to relative obscurity.
6. Nintendo’s R.O.B.
Ooh, Nintendo. On the one hand, you have to admire the company’s willingness to take risks and push the boundaries of gaming tech when it comes to peripherals. Something they’re still willing to do today, pushing the boundaries of taste and technology with breast-fondling feedback. But they’ve made their fair share of fails over the years.
R.O.B., short for Robotic Operating Buddy, was released in 1985 for the NES. This little fellow works with a grand total of two games that set up physical obstacles for him to move around while a CRT television flashed him directions.
R.O.B. never really took off as an NES peripheral, but Nintendo never forgot the grand dreams they had for their little buddy, and introduced him as a fighter in the Super Smash Bros. games.
7. The PowerGlove
The NES Power Glove was a nightmare to use, but its kitschy design, perfectly pitched to the sensibilities of teen boys of the ’80s, ensures that there’s considerable nostalgic affection for the ridiculous thing nowadays. Released in 1989, this was another peripheral that suffered from having very few games designed for it, and being just plain inconvenient to use for regular NES games.
The Power Glove came with extra buttons and special speakers and sensors to keep track of the hand position, but sadly this tracking wasn’t very responsive.
However, The Power Glove’s greatest moment in pop culture was it’s appearance in the 1989 movie/blatant Nintendo commercial The Wizard, where it’s reverently taken out of the box and praised in the most down-with-the-kids 1989 way… “I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad.”
You know what, he’s not wrong though.
Gaming history is littered with bad ideas. Are there any dumb peripherals that you still somehow loved?
This article originally appeared on video games magazine site NowLoading.co. The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a few articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.