Games and the consoles we play them on can be as advanced as they like but if the actual experience of playing them is uncomfortable or overly complicated, we’re just not interested.
Still, game and console developers are adventurous and over the years we’ve some interesting attempts to add something a bit different to player experiences with peripherals that are either themed or designed to make a console stand apart from others on the market.
Sometimes these efforts prove fruitful and timely – like the wildly popular Guitar Hero axes – but sometimes they result in weirdness that was either before its time or not suited to any time at all. Just look at the Xbox Kinect – the hopes were high but the sales figures were far from it.
Read on for a selection of some of the kookiest peripherals and accessories we’ve ever had a chance to get our hands on.
ROB the Robot
ROB (short for Robot Operating Buddy, which we could translate as “Robotic Operating Friend“) was strange not so much for what it is, i.e. an accessory for SNES to play with and grab small objects using the console controller, but for what it represented. ROB was in fact marketed during the video game crisis of the 80s: Nintendo’s idea was to make the most naive sellers believe that the peripheral was an educational toy rather than an accessory that needed a console to work; the strategy was successful, but the robot was soon forgotten, also due to the total lack of supported games.
Chainsaw controller for Resident Evil 4
Very often one of the main objectives in creating a peripheral is to make the gaming experience immersive; with Resident Evil 4 the company NubyTech has taken the thing a bit too seriously, marketing a controller made to chainsaw specifically for the title of Capcom. The product was released in two versions, a yellow one for the GameCube and a red one for the PlayStation 2, but the problem was that the design was more oriented towards aesthetics than effective ease of use; although all the keys of a normal GameCube Joystick were present, the configuration was very little intuitive, while the part of the blade (unfortunately) had no use. In short, useless in terms of gameplay, but wonderful to keep in the library.
In this case, we launch a note in favor of Nintendo, which in 2004 had a brilliant idea: to produce real bongos for GameCube, compatible with Donkey Konga and DK Jungle Beat. Unlike the skateboard controller for Tony Hawk: Ride, the DK Bongos were cheap (we’re talking about €50.00 for the game and controller), stupid but, above all, they worked great. It was in fact possible to play rhythm on Donkey Konga and move the characters in DK Jungle Beat by slapping the bongos in different places and clapping, and with some handling it was also possible to exploit them for other GameCube games, generating unique and hilarious gameplay.
Azeron Cyborg gaming keyboard
One of the most innovative, yet strangest gaming peripherals currently on the market is the Azeron Cyborg, the latest generation keypad that promises to revolutionize the user’s gaming experience. Actually, it’s sort of a mouse combined with fingers with 29 mechanical switches corresponding to programmable keys; you can therefore play using the keypad instead of the keyboard, customizing it according to your preferences and the commands of the title you are dedicating yourself to. As you can guess, it is by no means a cheap purchase, but if you want to know more, you can take a look at the official product page.
A gaming peripheral as ingenious as it is stupid is the Booster Boy by Saitek, a Game Boy accessory that combined a magnifying glass, comically large buttons, and a speaker box to the console. Gamers thus had a bigger screen and buttons and a higher volume, which would seem like a great idea… except that it took away from the Game Boy’s main point: its portability.
Rez Trance Vibrator
The trance vibrator, produced by ASCII and released – fortunately – only in Japan, is a relic of an era in which the country loved to market gaming peripherals that served a single video game. In this case, it was a vibrating controller for use in the bizarre Rez, where players had to shoot strange enemies across a computer network, adding musical instruments to each shot to eventually get the full soundtrack. As fantastic as the title itself sounds, the problem with the Trance Vibrator is that it apparently vibrated too much, too strongly… and was used as you probably think.
The Atari Mindlink was doomed before its release, and it’s probably the craziest and most useless gaming peripheral on the list. This cable tie designed for the Atari 2600 promised to read players’ minds and allow them to play with their minds. As you can imagine, it didn’t quite work like that or it would have been the turn of the century; more simply, it read the movements of the forehead, sending pulses to the console accordingly. Since the idea was truly terrible, the Atari Mindklink was never released to the market.
Controller for Steel Battalion
We conclude the list with a peripheral that is the exact opposite of a failure: the controller for Steel Battalion, a mech game released by Capcom in 2004, was truly titanic. Well, 44 keys, including three foot pedals, entire rows of buttons and levers, analogs, lights, and much more, all to play a single title. At the time, the bundle with controller and video game cost around €200.00, but today it is used for double the price. In short, if you want to see a peripheral with many, many buttons and you have money to spend, this is the right purchase.
That’s about it for the weirdest gaming peripherals ever released. We hope you discovered something new, or at least had a laugh with some of the most bizarre and useless ideas in the history of video games (yes, we are talking about the Atari Headlink).