While Nintendo may no longer rule the home console world, one thing you can never take away from them is their constant desire to experiment and innovate, especially when it comes to peripherals for their systems. Over many years, and several console generations, Nintendo has released a staggering amount of add-on hardware for everything they make. Some have been massive successes, some have been horrible failures, but many of them are still remembered by gamers everywhere, especially the ones on this list.
10. Zapper (NES)
The good old orange and gray light gun that came with every Nintendo starting with its North American launch in 1985. Sure, most people only used it for Duck Hunt, because that game was also released at the same time the console launched (and in some areas, was a double cartridge along with Super Mario Bros that came with the console) but there were actually a couple dozen games that it was compatible with. such as The Adventures of Bayou Billy and Hogan’s Alley. But for the vast majority, it was screens of randomly flying ducks and the infuriating dog that everyone tried to shoot with the Zapper at least once (yes, you did, don’t lie). Unfortunately, even though many things from the original NES have been ported in some way to current technology, the original Zapper never will be, because it was designed to work on curved CRT screens, and is not compatible with the LCDs, plasma screens, or any other flat panel display methods that have become commonplace in modern TVs, due to an unsolvable display lag issue.
9. Super Scope (SNES)
Advertised as the next level of the Zapper, the Super Scope was a two-foot long light gun shaped like a bazooka, complete with a scope and shoulder mount. Obviously, it was intended to be an advanced version of the NES’ tiny pistol, and for a time, it was heavily advertised by Nintendo, and even made an appearance in the dreadful Super Mario Bros movie. In practice, however, the Super Scope wasn’t all that fun to use, as it was fairly unwieldy, and none of the handful of games released to utilize it were even close to as fun as Duck Hunt. The Super Scope was considered a fairly large failure for Nintendo, and in fact, only received a limited release in Japan due to a lack of any demand (although it was first given a wide release in North America a year prior). The Scope does live on, however, as it debuted as an item in Smash Bros. Melee, and has appeared in every game of that franchise ever since.
8. Rumble Pak (Nintendo 64)
Believe it or not, there was a time where controllers didn’t have a Rumble feature. These days, it’s basically a requirement (and in fact, Sony took a lot of heat for introducing the SIXAXIS controller with the PS3, which didn’t have Rumble, and quickly went back to the DualShock 3), but the first controller with Rumble was actually introduced by Nintendo, and ironically, is considered by many to be one of the worst controllers ever made. Yes, it’s the Nintendo 64 controller, which did not actually have Rumble capabilities on its own, but could acquire them thanks to the Rumble Pak peripheral, which attached to the bottom of the controller. Of course, in typical Nintendo fashion, the Rumble Pak shared the same port as the memory card peripheral, which was required for saving games, requiring users to switch back and forth during gameplay. However, the Rumble Pak was an unquestioned success, and is now an integral part of pretty much every game controller on the market.
7. Power Pad (NES)
Long before Dance Dance Revolution was even a glimmer in someone’s eye, there was the Nintendo Power Pad. Originally developed by Bandai, which also created most of the games that used it, the Power Pad was released by Nintendo in North America in 1988. The Power Pad was a double-sided mat, with one side containing 8 buttons that represented the traditional Nintendo controller (the four directions of the gamepad, A, B, Start, and Select), and the other with 12 buttons that were specifically assigned for certain games. Only 11 games were ever made that used the Power Pad, and it quietly disappeared from the gaming landscape, but it was the clear inspiration for games like DDR, which would become popular in later generations, and even got a limited re-release for the Wii console in 2008.
6. Mouse (SNES)
This was exactly what it says it was, a two-button mouse designed for the Super Nintendo, which was released in 1992. The mouse originally came in a bundle with Mario Paint, the only game it was compatible with at launch, and likely the only game anyone remembers even using the mouse for. However, it was actually compatible with dozens of Super Nintendo games, as the console would eventually see early FPS games like Doom and Wolfenstein 3-D, as well as other games like Civilization, which did not necessarily require the mouse, but could definitely benefit from it. It was actually a fairly useful tool, but unfortunately, the next generation of consoles brought advances in analog sticks that could be part of the controller, eliminating the need for a secondary peripheral and resigning the SNES mouse to the scrap heap.
5. Camera (Game Boy)
For all that Nintendo often gets accused of their console technology lagging behind the times, it turns out that often they were far ahead of the game. For example, the Game Boy Camera was released in 1998, and set the world record for smallest digital camera at the time. It was compatible with all available Game Boy platforms at the time, even the old single color models, and came with mini-games, the ability to connect to a printer (there was a tiny Game Boy Printer sold by Nintendo specifically for that purpose, although a third-party eventually released something that would allow you to connect to regular printers instead), and even some limited video editing software that allowed you to put stickers and designs on your pictures. That’s right, it was Snapchat nearly fifteen years before Snapchat existed. Sadly, the Game Boy Camera went away when Nintendo introduced its next generation of handhelds only a few years later.
4. Super Game Boy (SNES)
Those of us old enough to remember the original Game Boy definitely appreciated this peripheral, which was a cartridge case that allowed you to plug your Game Boy games into your Super Nintendo, playing them on the larger screen of your TV, with even some options to add color. Granted, it was just swapping out the traditional greenish background for a different single color, but it was more than we’d had before! The Super Game Boy was released in 1994 to some success, but was eventually replaced by the Game Boy Color, which came out in 1998 (although some Color games were still compatible with the Super Game Boy, there really wasn’t any reason to use it instead of the handheld). Nintendo actually made a follow-up peripheral years later for the GameCube, called the Game Boy Player, which allowed you to play all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games through your home console.
3. Balance Board (Wii)
The Nintendo Wii was the best-selling home console of its generation by a wide margin, moving over 101 million units. Part of the reason behind its success was its dedication to games that appealed to a far wider audience than ever before, such as launch title Wii Sports, and the subject of this entry, Wii Fit, an exercise game which included the Wii Balance Board peripheral. The combination of the simple but enjoyable exercise-based mini games, the large Wii install base, and the easy-to-use Balance Board made Wii Fit a runaway hit, trumpeting its fun approach to personal fitness. Technically, there were dozens of games compatible with the Balance Board (and no, not all of them were exercise games), including top titles like Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games, but we feel pretty safe in saying that the majority of people who purchased this item used it with Wii Fit or one of the other spin-off games that it inspired.
2. Power Glove (NES)
Ah, the Power Glove. An official Nintendo product that was made without their involvement, the Glove was essentially a controller implanted in a flexible gauntlet that also allowed players to use hand motions to control characters on-screen. It never worked particularly well, and only had two games released specifically to utilize its hand-motion technology, but it’s well-remembered for two reasons. First of all, it was featured in the 1989 Nintendo-produced movie The Wizard, which has become a cult classic among gamers. Second and most importantly, it just looked really, really cool. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to save the peripheral itself, as it sold less than 100,000 units in North America and was considered a massive failure, albeit one that is still remembered to this day.
1. R.O.B. (NES)
The much-maligned Robot Operating Buddy was actually released as part of the original NES package in both Japan and North America. This was because, due to the original Video Game Crash of 1983, home consoles were not considered a viable product, and Nintendo thought that by including R.O.B. they could market it as a toy. There’s no denying that R.O.B. was cute, in a weird way, but the actual robot did not work particularly well, and only two games were ever officially designed to utilize his abilities. However, the inclusion of R.O.B. actually did help Nintendo from a marketing perspective, getting the console into many people’s houses and building a massive fan base as a result, restarting the home console market that has continued to expand by leaps and bounds to this day. As for R.O.B., the physical robot may be gone, but he’s never been forgotten, and recently became a playable character in both Smash Bros Brawl and Smash Bros Wii U.