With the rise in virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, there's never been a better time than now to see folks with goofy-looking gadgets strapped to their heads.
There's no telling just how history will remember this particular wave of peripherals, but it's as good a time as any to reflect back on those gaming peripherals of the past—so them truly, truly terrible.
There is perhaps no peripheral that is poked fun at as much as Nintendo's R.O.B., short for Robotic Operating Buddy. R.O.B. released in 1985 for the NES, and 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. Unlike many of the other entries on this list, R.O.B. received a renewed appreciation thanks to becoming a fighter in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series.
1993 was a simpler time, though Sega seemingly wanted to make it more complicated. The Activator is an octagon-shaped ring for the Sega Genesis that uses infrared to keep track of movements made within. The idea being that it would make fighting video games like Mortal Kombat that much cooler, translating actually punches to virtual ones. In reality, the reaction time of the ring compared to a controller was abysmal, and the Activator was quickly deactivated.
The Super Scope is a bazooka-shaped light gun released for the SNES that essentially serves the same function as the NES Zapper: it "shoots" things on the screen. Except, you know, it's huge. The thing clocks in at just under two feet in length, which seems a bit excessive when compared to the handgun-sized Zapper—especially since they accomplished the same thing. The paltry list of games supporting the Super Scope also doomed it to relative obscurity.
There are plenty that would argue against including the Steel Battalion in this list. While the thing only works with two games, and is unabashedly ridiculous to look at, the fact of the matter is that there's tons of buttons to control what is essentially a bipedal tank. Even so, the only time you're likely to see these in action is at particularly ambitious gaming conventions.
1994 brought with it the Aura Interactor, marketed as "virtual reality game wear." The idea of the device was that kicks, punches, and shots in video games would be transmitted to the Interactor in such a way that the wearer would feel them. In reality, the vest was essentially a glorified speaker that translated bass into rumbling. Think of it like a vest-shaped Rumble Pak and you're not far off.
As you might have noticed, a number of these peripherals date back to the '80s and '90s. That doesn't mean there weren't terrible decisions made in the aughts. Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS included this awkward grip featuring four buttons in 2008. It clips into the GBA port on the DS and requires players to hold the system sideways in a weird open-palm manner just to use. It made playing fake guitar feel harder than just, you know, actually playing guitar.
The poor Joyboard for the Atari 2600 only got one game, Mogul Maniac, back in 1982. It is essentially a balance board, controlled by leaning in one direction or another. Folks that are actually aware of both tend to compare it to the Wii's Balance Board, though the Wii accessory was much more advanced. With just one game and not being much more than a glorified joystick, the Joyboard soon tilted into oblivion.
The Sega Game Gear actually had a TV tuner peripheral that let users, as the name implies, tune in TV. Though the Game Gear's screen is criticized often, portable TVs of the time were likely comparable if not worse. The little peripheral had and continues to have fans, but it feels like an oddity on an already odd console. The switch to digital television broadcasting from analog made it all but useless as well.
And then there's the much-maligned NES Power Glove. While it's actually a nightmare to use, nostalgia for the device is strong enough that there's still a strong amount of affection for the thing. Released in 1989 with a spare few games designed for it, the peripheral features a number of buttons in addition to the typical NES ones. The main draw of the Power Glove is how it uses special speakers and sensors to keep track of the hand position, though not particularly well. It's most famous moment? The 1989 movie/advertorial for Nintendo The Wizard, when it's pulled out of the box like a holy relic,