Best Of 2019: 30 Weird And Wonderful Peripherals From Nintendo’s History


    From now until the end of 2019 we’ll be celebrating the coming year by looking back and republishing some of our finest features from the past twelve months, in addition to our regular output. This article first appeared on the site back in September. Enjoy!

    Nintendo’s history as a manufacturer of playing cards and toys means the company has always been very comfortable with expanding out from with video game console under the TV into the wider world of peripheral accessories and novelties. These extra lumps of plastic and electronics that interface with your system can be wonderful, strange, utterly confounding or any mixture of the three and we certainly haven’t seen the last of them.

    These bulky bits and pieces are often linked to a very specific game or experience and can be a nightmare when it comes to storage. Many people will have Rock Band guitars and drum kits wedged down the sides of wardrobes, but they evoke great memories even if you haven’t used them in years and it takes a strong mind to throw them out. There’s also a dangerous allure to many classic peripherals – even if we know that they’re impractical or downright useless, you can’t just get rid of them!

    Today we’re going to take a look at just some of the most alluring peripheral gadgets to release for Nintendo consoles through the years, whether first-party or officially licensed products. Below are a collection of thirty (plus a bunch of others we mention in passing) that run the gamut from excellent to… unimaginably awful.

    We’ve stuck to things that actually saw release (so, sorry Wii Vitality Sensor and NES Knitting Machine) and we’ve also skipped big add-on peripherals with their own software media (your Famicom Disk Systems, Satellaviews, 64DDs and the like) – we’ll look that them another time. So push your pad into your NES Speedboard, don your Power Glove and Konami Laserscope and prepare to play it unnecessarily loud…

    NES Max

    Brøderbund U-Force

    Brøderbund’s U-Force looked for all the world like some sort of advanced laser cutting device when set up. It folded up like a mini briefcase or a bulky laptop when not in use, but once set up the two ‘screens’ used IR sensors to detect players’ motion without the need to physically touch anything. Nifty in theory, although it was notoriously awful at registering inputs, which neutered the whole (arguably pointless) concept.

    Perhaps Brøderbund were thinking of accessibility with the U-Force. Unfortunately the tech just wasn’t reliable enough, so the most fun you could have with it was opening it up and pretending it housed the nuclear codes or something. Good in theory, perhaps; pants in practice.

    Nintendo Hands Free

    NES Satellite

    NES Speedboard

    As evidenced by the U-Force, third parties were apparently obsessed with getting the controller out of your hands back in the day, and the NES Speedboard is a much cheaper alternative to Brøderbund’s high-tech, low-success solution. You can’t say Pressman’s Speedboard didn’t work, either – simply slot your NES pad into the board and you’re free to turn your tortured palms over and hammer at the tiny buttons like you were operating a tiny arcade cabinet. Without the joystick. Or the comfort.

    Like so many rubbish peripherals, the NES Speedboard solved a problem that no-one had in the first place. It’s an early iteration of all the plastic nonsense to come with the Wii many years later. Check out the video below for some comprehensive analysis:

    NES Power Glove

    NES Zapper


    ASCII Stick Super L5

    A one-handed controller might be useful for people who only have the use of a single hand, or if you fancy having a slice of pizza or a beverage on the go while you’re gaming. The ASCII Stick Super L5 had buttons on the back and a rotating faceplate to make it as comfortable and user-friendly as possible, although that’s not saying much. Still it’s another example of making gaming accessible and at least it looks cute. The video below gives you a very brief look at the pad:

    Super Scope

    Slapping ‘Super’ on the front of everything on SNES was a tried and tested naming convention for games, and it also worked well enough for updated versions of accessories. Guess what they called the SNES version of the Advantage stick?

    Still, Nintendo put a tad more effort into naming this hulking great light gun, shunning ‘Super Zapper’ for Super Scope. Its legacy of games might not be any better than the Zapper’s, but it’s a lovely bit of retro kit and you can read all about it in our Hardware Classics feature.

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