History's Craziest Gaming Peripherals

Posted by Dave 13 FEBRUARY 2014
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Last week I wrote about a whole slew of arcade machines that were, in one way or another, pretty odd (Ten Weird Arcade Games You’ve (Probably) Never Played). Some, like Snacks ’n’ Jaxson, are odd just because of the concept of the game (bounce your nose around while you eat food). Others, like the now-infamous Boong-Ga Boong-Ga, are odd because of the way you interact with the game, and today I’ll be looking at some of the crazier peripherals and control methods out there in the world of gaming.

As gaming evolves both at home and in the arcade, manufacturers and developers keep devising new ways in which to immerse players in their games. The Vesaro Racing Simulator, for example, gives you full force feedback, a range of motion, surround sound and three screens. It’s not quite the same as driving a real racing car, but only because you can do it from the comfort of your own home, and crashing doesn’t result in spending weeks in hospital. Conversely, the unassuming Wii remote managed to provide an entire generation of new gaming experiences, all while looking like something that you’d normally point at your TV anyway. Most gamers will at some point have tried Wii Sports Bowling or something similar, and caught themselves grinning uncontrollably at an experience that’s simultaneously ridiculous and fun.

Even the peripherals I’ll be looking at below are not all bad; some took a game that would otherwise have been mundane and dull, and elevated it into an essential experience. However, others didn’t work so well, and probably ended up getting thrown across the room with more readiness than a standard controller.

In no particular order, here are ten of the craziest gaming peripherals from the last few decades.

Donkey Konga Bongos:

I’ve always been a big fan of the GameCube, even though it never achieved the recognition it deserved. That’s what happens when you go up against the PlayStation 2, I suppose. One might say that Nintendo took fewer risks with the Cube than they did with the N64 before it or the Wii after, and yet they still managed to produce things like the Donkey Konga Bongos.

Donkey Konga

Before Rock Band came along with its full drum kits, Donkey Konga was the best home drumming experience you could have on a console. As absurd as it was, there was something extremely charming and fun about seeing four grown men sitting on the floor, playing bongos and clapping their hands to “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. Definitely one of my favourite gaming memories to date.

Used In:

Donkey Konga, its sequels, and Donkey Konga: Jungle Beat, in which you controlled DK as he ran and jumped through levels, by smacking the corresponding bongo to your intended direction and clapping for jumps.


Rez Trance Vibrator:

Rez was a strange game; a shoot-em-up based on the concept of synaesthesia (the idea that senses can flow together for some people, allowing them to smell sounds or feel music, for example). Its strangeness was further enhanced, however, by the Trance Vibrator that came with the PS2 version.

Rez Trance Vibrator

Ostensibly offered as an accessory that vibrates in time with the game’s music, increasing tactile feedback and immersing the player further into the game as the music takes over their senses, it achieved notoriety when one of the writers at Game Girl Advance published a provocative piece on the “intimate” uses of a heavily vibrating, pulsing piece of plastic. If you want to read it, you’ll have to look it up yourself; I’m not linking to it here. This is a family-friendly site.

Regardless of how it was used, the Trance Vibrator (oh come on, even the name is suggestive) served to enhance the beat of the game, and that was supposedly the point of it. I’ll let you make up your own minds.

Used In:

Only Rez itself. No other game was crazy enough to offer compatibility with a large vibrating plastic brick.



Nintendo Power Glove:

The Nintendo Power Glove was designed to offer you a new way to play NES games. It certainly managed that, but it was a terrible, frustrating and generally idiotic new way to play NES games.

Power Glove

Featuring not only an array of buttons but also sensors that track how your hand moves and how your fingers flex, the Power Glove seemed like an amazing idea. Nintendo even funded a full-length feature film entitled “The Wizard” which showed off this brand new way to play.

Watch how radical and awesome it should be:

In reality, it never worked that way at all. The sensors usually failed to pick up the nuances of what you were trying to do (even simple things like movement), most games didn't take advantage of the features of the Power Glove, and it was awkward and uncomfortable to use.

If you're not of a sensitive nature, watch the infamous play with the Power Glove (but be warned, he knows more swear words than you do and isn’t afraid to use them repeatedly and loudly):

Used In:

Pretty much any NES game, plus the “baddest” movie ever.

The Wizard
"I love the Power Glove. It's so bad."

DJ Hero Turntable:

I think this one speaks for itself quite well.

DJ Hero

Designed as a spin-off from the Guitar Hero franchise, DJ Hero had you (predictably enough) operating a turntable in time with music to score points. I expect most readers of this blog have seen plastic guitars and drums designed for PS3 and Xbox 360, but the turntables of DJ Hero slipped under the radar to some degree.

Surprisingly, not only did the turntable controller work pretty well, but the game itself was also fun. Great music, tight controls and a rewarding gameplay mechanic made DJ Hero a novel and entertaining experience, and there was even some crossover with Guitar Hero with the “DJ vs. Guitar” mode. However, since I don’t have anything bad to say about it, I’m getting bored, so let’s move on.

Used In:

DJ Hero and DJ Hero 2. Shocking, no?

Before we move on, here's a video of the game in action which made my jaw drop.

Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller:

Yes, that’s a chainsaw. Yes, you’re meant to hold that while you play a game that’s already difficult enough for most people. And yes, it makes revving chainsaw sounds.

Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw

Resident Evil 4 was a breath of fresh air for the series. Though it still featured implausibly bad dialogue and absurd, one-dimensional characters, the action was fun and terrifying, which is all anyone wants from a Resident Evil game. However, trying to play it on this controller made you not only unable to control the game so effectively, it also made you look like an idiot. I’m no stranger to looking like an idiot when I play games (ah, Dance Dance Revolution memories) but this controller seemed designed to get spectators staring at you as though you’d lost your mind.

Produced in limited quantities, the Chainsaw Controller is relatively rare, and if you can find one then you’ll probably get offers from merchants to buy it at a high price.


Here's a video of respected games journalist Luke Plunkett fiddling with one.

Used In:

Only Resident Evil 4, though it could technically work on other games. I can’t think why you’d want to.

Super Scope:

Hands up if you had one of these when you were younger. Right, put your hands down again, because I’m envious of you.

Super Scope

The Super Scope (or “Nintendo Scope” to us Europeans) was another of Nintendo’s wonderful peripherals, presumably hoping to follow the popularity of the NES Zapper, but with the craziness dialled up to 11. The Zapper was merely a handgun, but this was a bazooka! The fact that it took six AA batteries and chewed through them in a matter of hours didn’t matter. Nor did the fact that it didn’t work especially well in my limited experience, or the fact that Nintendo only released a handful of games that were compatible with it.

Actually, reading back through that, I don’t really want one any more. Trying to play Lemmings 2 with a bazooka sounds like a great way to make an already-infuriating game cause me to have an aneurysm.

The Super Scope can be seen as a continuation of Nintendo’s point-and-shoot accessories, so we should at least pause to give it thanks for leading us to the Wii remote and one of the most successful consoles of all time.

Used In:

A massive range of twelve games, most of which were rubbish.


Samba de Amigo Maracas:

Okay, so I’m a sucker for music games with silly peripherals.

Samba de Amigo Maracas

Samba de Amigo was a great (though slightly obscure) Dreamcast game that had you playing maracas in time with music. Stand on the enclosed mat, wave the maracas at the right time, and prepare to throw away any shred of dignity you still hold. Samba de Amigo had you shaking along to Latin classics like Mambo No. 5, Livin’ La Vida Loca and Macarena. Despite the atrocious musical choices, however, the game was a lot of fun.

The maracas had a tendency to break quite easily, and now sell for absurd amounts of money on eBay. However, for those of you that just can’t resist giving it a go, Samba de Amigo was more recently ported to the Wii and is just as enjoyable, silly and credibility-destroying, but much more affordable.

Look how cool you can be when playing Samba de Amigo:

Used In:

Oh come on, do you think there were any other maraca-shaking games on the Dreamcast? Well actually, there was a sequel, and the maracas will technically work on Namco’s Mr Driller. But that’s all.

Sega Dreamcast Fishing Controller:

I can confirm that that is indeed a fishing rod controller. Sadly, there are no details available on the sanity of the people at Sega that conceived of it.

Sega Fishing Controller

Jokes aside, the Fishing Controller does a remarkably good job of emulating a fishing rod, being released in time for the game “Sega Bass Fishing” and, more surprisingly, actually making it fun. It had an array of buttons, motion-sensing capabilities and a very satisfying handle to turn when you want to reel in your fish.

Bizarrely, the Fishing Controller was also compatible with Virtua Tennis, incorporating the motion controls to allow you to wave it around and control your tennis racket. Eat your heart out, Wii Sports.

Used In:

At least five (yes, five!) different Dreamcast fishing games, and Virtua Tennis. If you’ve never played a tennis game with a fishing rod controller, then frankly you haven’t lived.

R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy)

I’m sorry to bring up another Nintendo peripheral, but frankly this may well be the weirdest thing they’ve ever done.


A robot that sits next to your NES and helps you play games? That’s amazing, surely? Nintendo must have produced tons of games that used it, and every child either had one or wanted one? No, sadly not. I knew a guy when I was at school that had one of these, and it was awful. It was cool having an actual working, moving robot in your house, but it moved way too slowly, tended to drop things, and above all wasn’t any fun to play with. Plus I think it’s kind of creepy, with its soulless, dead eyes.

Nintendo seems to remember R.O.B. fondly and includes him in their games every so often (Mario Kart DS, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, etc.), probably to make us feel nostalgic, and in the hope that we’ll form new, decent memories of the little plastic pile of rubbish.

Used In:

Two games: Gyromite and Stack-Up. Both were dismal.


Steel Battalion:

I’ve saved the big guns for last this time. 

Steel Battalion Controller

Steel Battalion was released on the original Xbox, and cost an absurd amount of money. Looking at that controller, I think you can see why. Your money would get you a controller with 40 buttons, three pedals and two sticks, plus the game itself, not to mention no end of respect from similarly crazy (but more frugal) gamers.

Steel Battalion saw you driving your own mech (a sort of walking tank thing) but gave you control over everything it did, including starting the ignition and even turning on the windscreen wipers. The finishing touch was an ejector seat button with a protective cover; failing to use this before your mech was destroyed in combat meant your save file would be wiped, forcing you to start the game over.

A sequel came out in 2012 for the Xbox 360 using the Kinect sensor, which as some of you will know, has no buttons at all. It was dreadful, and no-one should ever play it. Hopefully Capcom will learn from this and make a new version with even more buttons than the original, not less.

Used In:

Steel Battalion, and its sequel: Steel Battalion: Line of Contact. Unsurprisingly, no other games were made that required a limited edition, £130 slab of metal in order to play.

So, that brings us to the end of this little tour of peripheral insanity. To cover every weird piece of plastic that ever controlled a game would take forever, so I’ve just stuck to my favourites. But what are yours? Do you have fond memories of the Sega Activator? Do you feel like I’ve been unfair to R.O.B.? (I haven’t. That’s just nostalgia fooling you.) And what do you think the future has in stock for gaming peripherals? Perhaps you already own an Oculus Rift? Get in touch with us through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected] and let us know!

Written By: Dave Morgan

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