The Best Weird Nintendo Experiences
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Nintendo likes to get weird. When you're one of the most successful companies of all time--video games or otherwise--you are afforded the luxury to experiment and make products that are not guaranteed hits. Some of those turn out to be unexpected successes, but for the curious collector, even the biggest flops are worth checking out for the pure novelty of it. After all, when your flesh is no more and your bones have long been fossilized, will it matter that your favorite accessory for the Game Boy didn't sell well? No. Will it matter that you still enjoyed it? Also no, but we don't want to think about that. While we remain on this mortal plane, we will enjoy every oddity Nintendo has to offer. And since that Wii Vitality Sensor never materialized, we'll never even have to know how close we are to leaving.
Over the years, Nintendo has itself created many weird accessories and devices, ranging back from the NES era (and even earlier) all the way to the Switch. But third-party companies have done so, too, and many of these are even weirder than what Nintendo came up with. Did you know you can fish with your Game Boy? You're about to. And if you thought that you couldn't turn your handheld into a device resembling an oral surgery tool, you would be dead wrong. Never underestimate what Nintendo (and Nintendo partners) are capable of.
These are the best weird Nintendo experiences of all time, including a few that are actually pretty handy.
Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer
It's hard to imagine today if you're younger, but there was a time when everyone didn't have a camera in their pockets at all times and cell phones were only for making phone calls. Nintendo decided the best way to correct that was the Game Boy Camera, a game cartridge and camera combination that plugged in just like any other game. It could take pictures in such low resolution that they looked like security camera snapshots from an underground criminal compound, but it sure was cool to have a working camera in your Game Boy. Paired with the Game Boy Printer, you could print out little stickers of your favorite photos after doctoring them to be as silly as possible.
Image credit: Strong Museum of Play
The NES and Famicom introduced some of the most important and long-lasting controller features of all time, including the directional pad still seen on almost every console's controller today. But that didn't stop third-party companies from trying to find ways to replace that controller almost immediately. One of these, the U-Force by Broderbund, promised that you wouldn't have to touch anything, with sensors recognizing hand movements for game control. If that sounds familiar, imagine if something like Kinect was used for games requiring pinpoint accuracy and you'll see how the U-Force was one of the goofiest ideas in history. It also came with an optional flight-style grip with buttons, if you wanted to look even cooler playing your games.
Image credit: moogleman27909 on eBay
But while the U-Force would make youlooksilly, the Konami LaserScope would make you lookand soundsilly. A headset resembling the scouter units from Dragon Ball, it was essentially arepurposed Zapper controllerthat replaced the trigger with sound recognition. This wasn'tvoicerecognition, as it just needed to hear a noise rather than a specific command, but it allowed you to play certain games by moving your head and yelling. A novel idea, it also made playing a video game an all-family affair, as everyone else in your house would have to listen to you yelling at your TV in order to make your weapons work. To no one's surprise, it didn't really catch on, but it was one of the more creative ways to shake up game controls at that time.
Made famous--or infamous--in the Fred Savage movie and feature-length commercial The Wizard, the Power Glove is certainly a product of the '80s, and with its official backing by Nintendo and prominent scene in the movie, you'd expect it to be good. But even in the film, a character says it's "so bad." He meant it in a cool, rebellious way, but the Power Glove was simply too ambitious for the technology at the time. It made use of sensors to tell where your fingers are positioned inside. Codes were needed to work with each game, but the poor accuracy likely meant you'd want to just use a regular controller instead--which was included on the outside of the glove. It had to be testing pretty poorly during development if an entire controller was just stuck on top.
Game Boy Pocket Sonar
Image credit: kuchibashi17 on eBay
More than any other item on this list, the Game Boy Pocket Sonar made us ask this question: why? The peripheral was created by Bandai (now part of Bandai Namco) and allowed you to find fish underwater. The only problem is that the Game Boy is not waterproof, and while it includes a case, you'd likely be using this device on a slippery dock or a boat, meaning there was a good chance your Game Boy would go tumbling into the murky depths of the sea--or pond--and the fish would find it, instead. It's even more creative than the LaserScope, but it's limited to such a specific use and despite having a real bobber that floats in the water, wouldn't you rather just hang out, relax, and hook some worms onto your fishing hook like everyone else?
No one but Nintendo would have thought the best way to enhance the Switch was with cardboard, but that's why Nintendo has been so successful for so long: It thinks of things we didn't know we even wanted. The Labo line, which includes a VR headset, robot kit, and variety kit packed with little devices and toys, uses the features of the Switch and a mix of cardboard and reflectors to make something borderline magical. The variety kit is particularly impressive because it includes a working piano, and using the Switch's software and your ingenuity, you can even make new toys and devices--or recreate a boss fight from Undertale.
Lego Super Mario figure
Mario is usually an adorable little fellow you'd be happy to see in the worst of times. That's true for his Lego version, too, which lights up and lets you play the original Super Mario Bros. theme song when place on top of the Lego NES set's television unit. However, when he's not powered on, there are two black voids where his eyes should be. It's like something out of a horror movie, replacing the portly plumber's plucky personality with one of pure pain and predatory petulance. Is this the price Mario must pay in order to become "Super?" Is this what we don't see when the video game is shut off? It would certainly explain why Peach seems to want nothing to do with him on a romantic level!
Ok, let's be honest here: "Best" might be pushing it a bit too much for the Virtual Boy, one of the entries here created by Nintendo itself. An early attempt at Virtual Reality that fell painfully short, it saw Nintendo take a huge swing and a miss at a time when it was on top of the world--this was when the SNES and Game Boy were still selling like, well, they were the SNES and Game Boy. But Nintendo opted for something no one expected--or wanted, apparently--with the Virtual Boy. It only displayed red and black colors, had a very limited library of games that were mostly mediocre, and you couldn't actually use it without AC power, despite the "Boy" name. It sold terribly, was discontinued remarkably quickly for a Nintendo console, and we all kind of wish we had one anyway.
Image credit: skoober827272 on eBay
Amazon Kindle, eat your heart out! Ok, actually, this doesn't actually let you read books on the Game Boy Advance. Instead, the Nintendo e-Reader was essentially an add-on for the system that let you unlock features and play classic games by scanning paper cards. It also allowed for additional levels and features in certain standard Game Boy Advance games, but because of its design--you couldn't load a game into the e-Reader itself--this required connecting a second Game Boy Advance to the first one via a link cable. It's not exactly the most cost-efficient or simple way to get new levels but the e-Reader definitely saw its influence live on in things like the 3DS' AR technology.
Game Boy Advance Video
Image credit: WULFF DEN on YouTube
Sometimes you just need to watch an episode of All Grown Up! and you can't wait until you get home, even if that means viewing it in a resolution that would make a 240p YouTube video from 2006 feel special. Majesco's Game Boy Advance Video came along well before smartphones meant you had a computer in your pocket at all times, so letting kids swap out episodes of cartoons and watch them for hours during long car trips--provided they had headphones--was actually a pretty neat idea. Its idea was well ahead of the technology needed to make it work well, however, so it's not a huge surprise that Nintendo and Majesco didn't keep emphasizing video content moving forward. YouTube creator WULFF DEN did, however, putting Tenet onto a cartridge.
Sure, you could just lift something slightly heavy in order to tone up your arms, but then you wouldn't be using video games to do it… we guess. That must have been the thought process when the Riiflex was created, adding a weighted shell to a Wii Remote so people could keep bulking up while playing games. According to this Amazon review, however, they did actually work as advertised:
"These work great with all of the exercise and dance modules/games. They give you more of a workout. They are easy to fit the controller into and they feel like they are going to last a long time."
Thank you, K. Celgio.
Nyko Pixelquest Arcade Kit
There are a whole bunch of arcade games ported to the Nintendo Switch, and because of the console's versatility, you aren't limited to just playing them in handheld mode or with the system docked and connected to your TV. With theNyko Pixelquest Arcade Kit, you can make a little cardboard arcade cabinet that your Switch can fit into for a more arcade-like experience. Even the Joy-Con controllers still get used, with slots for them to be inserted so you can attach a full joystick on top of the analog sticks, and yes, it even has a faux coin door printed on the front. You can easily remove the devices in order to play them again normally, too, and a spot in the back means you can keep charging the Switch at the same time.
What's better than one directional pad? Two? Maybe? 8BitDo is one of the best third-party controller manufacturers on the market, with options that work on everything from the Switch to the many plug-and-play mini consoles, but the 8BitDo Lite is juststrange. It's a blocky controller that includes two directional pads for "total 2D gaming action," but the use cases for the controller are pretty minimal. Still, it does look gorgeous and matches the blue and yellow Switch Lite models almost perfectly, and with customizable turbo and 18 hours of battery life, it's a pretty impressive device.
Circle Pad Pro
The original few 3DS models didn't include the little "C-Stick" nubbin for controlling the camera in select games, and that meant certain genres just weren't always at their best on the system. This was especially true for shooters, and if you were left-handed, the problem could be even worse, depending on a game's options for flipping the scheme. With the Circle Pad Pro, you got an extra circle pad on the system's right side--or, rather, next to the right side--that could be used in games like Resident Evil Revelations for more-precise aiming. But the device itself was also a giant hunk of plastic that limited its portability, and Nintendo smartly opted to include the C-Stick on its New 3DS line a short time later.
Image credit: Video game junk extraordinaire Ashens on YouTube
The first, chunky Game Boy system was a revolutionary device, but it did have a few flaws that limited when and where you could play it. There were devices that helped with this, adding rechargeable batteries to save on AA costs and a magnifying glass to make it easier to see the screen. But STD Entertainment--yes, that was its real name--decided to solve a whole bunch of problems at once with the Handy Boy. The device attached to the Game Boy and added a magnifying glass, light, stereo speakers, a joystick, and larger buttons, with contacts connecting inside the Game Boy's battery compartment and the speakers plugging into the headphone jack. It was a monstrosity that removed all portability from the system, but it sure is funny now.