Welcome to another edition of Retro Looter. This week we are going to look at forgotten consoles that, in all honesty, should probably stay forgotten. That’s right; this is my personal list of the worst consoles ever made. So the next time you complain about the lack of games on your Wii U or your red ring of death-repeating Xbox 360, just remember, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than you. Imagine being the owners of one of these sinkers:
Apple Bandai Pippin, 1996
I often hear people wondering why Apple never had a crack at the home console industry proper. Well, the truth is, in 1996 they did. With the help of Bandai, Apple actually attempted to create a multimedia platform with this – the Pippin. It suffered from a huge identity crisis; was it a game console, a web-browser, a multimedia player? No one really knows. It was also severely underpowered, had a terrible user experience, cost over 600 US dollars at launch and had a tiny game library.
Perhaps arguably a concept too ahead of its time, Steve Jobs unsurprisingly killed the Pippin when he returned to Apple in 1997.
Sega 32X, 1994
We love the Sega Mega Drive (also known as the Sega Genesis). But this humongous add-on was a well-documented commercial failure. Engadget called it “an ugly fat, misshapen and tumour-esque addition to the Genesis”. It was intended as a lifespan extender for the aging console to provide upgraded 32-bit graphics and gameplay that could rival that new kid on the block from Sony. In reality, it added almost no additional functionality other than slightly improved colour palettes and some very limited 3D graphics that looked worse than the Super Nintendo’s SuperFXchip.
With the Sega Saturn already planned for release the following year, developers and consumers alike never took an interest in the Sega 32x. With TV commercials like this one, who could blame them?
Atari Jaguar, 1993
A console infamously known for having one of the WORST controllers ever made; just look at this monstrosity. Are you supposed to play video games on this thing or work out your monthly credit card repayments?
It was marketed as being the first 64-bit system (a bold claim when your competitors at the time were still rocking 16-bit power), but it never came remotely close to delivering on it, with its pretty slim library of games looking more like underpowered Sega Saturn and PlayStation games.
The Jaguar’s failure resulted in Atari pulling out of the console business altogether.
In a way, Nokia actually helped to pioneer the combination of mobile phones and gaming on the go which has become so prevalent today. Unfortunately, the execution with the N-Gage was nothing short of disastrous. The skinny, vertical screen was a huge flaw which led to its games having terrible, low resolution and choppy animations. The awkward combination of the number pad with gaming controls also made the device extremely clunky to use. On top of that, you actually had to remove the N-Gage’s battery to swap games. All evidence pointed to the very apparent fact that Nokia didn’t know jack s*** about game consoles, games or gamers. A follow up model was released a few years later, but its impact on the dominating Game Boy Advance was like a singular drop in the ocean.
Philips CD-i, 1991
Remember that time Philips – yes, the Philips, maker of mediocre electricals and kitchen appliances – made a console? Well, in 1991, they did just that with the atrocious CD-I. Atrocious mainly for costing over $1000 at launch; though on the flipside, it was actually one of the earliest consoles to incorporate a CD-ROM drive. Sadly, Philips never seemed quite sure whether they wanted it to be a game console or some kind of interactive multimedia device. In the end, it failed as both. Really then, another classic case of a big company entering a market it didn’t really understand.
But the real reason we still remember this villainous device? Through some strange agreement with Nintendo, Philips gained access to some of Nintendo’s most beloved properties. And they turned them into this…
Virtual Boy, 1995
Speaking of the big N, who can forget the Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s so called portable, yet definitely not portable, head-ache inducing, posture destroying device. As anti-social as gaming can be sometimes, having your head stuck in a virtual reality headset may have set a new standard; a concept we’ve thankfully moved away from…
Nintendo promised us a real virtual reality experience, but what we actually got was little more than pseudo 3D-ish Game Boy graphics presented in eye straining black and red. Thankfully, it only had a handful of titles made for it, most of which were utterly abysmal, and the few people who did buy it soon realised the only comfortable way of playing it was to lie flat on your back, or to just take it off and not play it at all. Something the rest of us had the common sense to do.
And there you have it! Let us know if you’ve had the displeasure of playing on any of these consoles or if you think any other consoles deserve a mention. Tune in next time as we look at some of the best and most underrated consoles ever made.