Saving the princess, running from ghosts, and playing a plastic guitar can be hard work, so sometimes video gamers need something beyond a standard joystick.
The original Nintendo Entertainment System in the ’80s came packaged with a small handheld “light gun.” Used in a bunch of games, it allowed gamers to shoot at stuff on their screen (a flash of light would register as a “hit”), just like they would in the arcade. When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in the early ‘90s, so too was the Super Scope. Utilizing the same technology as the light gun, this accessory was the size of a bazooka, and had to be shoulder mounted. It also required six AA batteries to work and cost almost as much as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System did.
WII CAR ADAPTER
In the 2000s, the Wii was a massive success for Nintendo. Encouraging movement, interaction, and group gaming, the system’s wireless, hand-held controllers translated player movements to the screen: that meant actual swinging for a tennis game, or pretending to throw a ball for a bowling game. Those games require lots of space, which is why it’s weird that Nintendo sold a device that allowed Wii owners to play in their cars…where they had to sit down and not move much at all.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 CHAINSAW CONTROLLER
The long-running Resident Evil series is basically about killing monsters. These games are violent and gory of course, made all the more so by the Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller that was available for the PlayStation 2. The plastic, half-size chainsaw came pre-painted with zombie blood and vibrated whenever a player recorded a kill onscreen with a chainsaw, so as to provide a “realistic chainsaw feel.” It also came with a display stand so players could show off their fake chainsaw when it wasn’t in use.
The ‘90s hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan (famous for members for RZA and Method Man) was obsessed with martial arts and old martial arts movies, frequently rapping about those subjects in their songs. In 1999, the collective got its own martial arts-style fighting game, Wu-Tang Clan: Shaolin Style. Sold separately was the “W” Controller. It was a basic video game controller, with a directional pad and some action buttons, but it was shaped like the Wu-Tang Clan’s stylized “W” logo.
THE ATARI MINDLINK
It allowed gamers to control video games with their minds. Pretty heady technology for 1983…except that it didn’t really scan brains. The Mindlink was a wired headband that plugged into an Atari 2600 and other Atari consoles. Instead of using a controller with their fingers, Mindlink wearers moved their eyebrows to determine what their character in the video game did. The device then translated those eyebrow twitches to in-game actions. During product testing, players got massive headaches because they had to furrow their brow just so, and for long periods of time, for the device to work correctly. That snafu, along with Atari’s near-bankruptcy in 1983, prevented the Mindlink from ever being officially released.