#3. The Power Glove for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1989)
Wearing this glove will make you a god among 10-year-olds. You would be able to kill those impossible bosses with your pinky finger and go through puberty three years early because of how manly this piece of hardware would make you.
The Power Glove was the most awesome looking accessory Nintendo had ever made. It looked especially awesome in the feature-length commercial/movie The Wizard (starring Fred Savage). Movie villain Lucas Barton had the memorable catchphrase, "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad!"
Just like the Activator, the Power Glove had sensors, in this case three clunky sensors that you had to attach to your TV: two on top and one on the side. Once they were in place and stayed there for more than five minutes you could start calibrating the orientation of the glove by pointing your knuckles at the sensors for a prolonged length of time.
The finger controls themselves either didn't work at all, or they worked and never turned off making a game of Super Mario Bros. an experiment in trying to keep a suicidal Mario alive as he constantly jumped in front of goombas or down deep dark holes while you flailed your glove around in frustration.
The Japanese manufacturer of the glove went bankrupt, though Mattel (the US manufacturer) did better thanks to The Wizard convincing kids to buy it (that is, forcing their parents to buy it for them). That year many a child learned a hard lesson that trusting Hollywood product placement when making their buying decisions.
#2. The Atari Mindlink
You can kill pixels with your mind.
The Mindlink was a headband made for the Atari 2600 and other Atari consoles. The Mindlink advertised that it could read your mind. It didn't.
That's probably a good thing, since it was likely you didn't want your parents to see an on screen interpretation of your adolescent mind. What the Mindlink actually did was read the movement that your head made when you shifted your eyebrows. And no, not even in the '80s was it cool to play a video game with your eyebrows.
During testing most gamers got headaches from having to concentrate hard enough to move their eyebrows in just the right way so that the headband's infrared sensors would detect the movement and project it back to the console. Don't believe them? Turn on the radio and try to move your eyebrows in time to the beat for a half hour or so. We'll wait.
The Atari Mindlink was intended to be released in 1984. Yes, "intended." It was so awful it never even made it to production. Another fun note was that this controller was being designed during the great video game crash of 1983-'84. We suspect if this thing had made it to the market, the gaming industry would have died forever.
#1. R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy)
It's a robot.
It's a ingeniously designed marketing ploy to get people to buy the Nintendo Entertainment System. R.O.B. was a cute robot that didn't really do much. By pushing a button on the regular NES controller you could get the R.O.B. to move his arms, turn from side to side or push a button on the base of his frame. During a game, the action that R.O.B. performed would cause something to happen on screen (maybe).
This would be very entertaining for a while until you realized that the R.O.B. was so slow, you could just hit the buttons on the R.O.B. yourself and move his arms and head and save time. He was there more to impede the game than anything else. So what was Nintendo thinking?
Well, the R.O.B. and the NES came out in 1985, in the wake of the North American Video Game Crash of 1983-'84. The market was flooded with at least 14 different consoles, each with their own separate line of games, each of them mostly horrible. Most consumers simply walked away.
The NES came along, bundled with R.O.B., and immediately stood out. What other console came with a robot buddy? Kids imaginations ran wild. By the time they figured out the robot was worthless, they were already addicted to Mario and Legend of Zelda.
Nintendo sold one million consoles in North America in their first year. Having established a foothold in the market, Nintendo quietly stopped selling the R.O.B. bundles and sold the NES on its own.
We're still waiting for somebody else to try this, and 23 years later they could actually include a robot that works--maybe one that talks and can sit on the sofa and play games with us. And is female.
If you liked that you'll probably enjoy our look at The 7 Commandments All Video Games Should Obey. And don't forget to check out our point by point demonstration of why the new Mike Myers movie is going to be awful.