The 6 Stupidest Gaming Consoles Ever Released

The 6 Stupidest Gaming Consoles Ever Released

For every NES and Sony Playstation, there are countless gaming systems that just didn't make it. Sometimes it's bad luck, or the marketplace. And other times, it's because their system was completely retarded.

These are the systems that deserved to be forgotten. Unless the point was to laugh at them, which we shall do now.

Magnavox Odyssey 100 and 200 (1975)

Most gamers remember Atari's Pong for getting the whole video game console party started back in 1975. Most do not know that Pong was stolen from an even earlier console, the Magnavox Odyssey (Pong was a ripoff of their Table Tennis game). Magnavox even sued over it, and reached an out-of-court settlement in their favor.

But nobody bought the Magnavox Odyssey, mostly because a primitive public that was frightened and confused by electronics thought that the Magnavox game console would only work on Magnavox televisions. So Atari utterly dominated the industry instead, delighting an extremely easily entertained nation.

Pong. Note TVs only had three channels back then.

A bitter Magnavox was looking to score some more of that Pong cash that everyone was rolling in. So in 1975 they cranked out two new versions of the Magnavox Odyssey: the 100 and 200.

"Now even more orange!"

Magnavox really wasn't thinking big, and figured that Pong would be the only video game ever. So they released consoles dedicated to very slight Pong variations, amusingly called things like TENNIS and HOCKEY (the two that were on the Odyssey 100--the 200 model had a third game).

Tennis, football, and hockey. Seriously.

Why you've never heard of it:

To give you an idea of what the technology was like at the time, the Odyssey 200 was not smart enough to keep track of your score. You had to do it yourself, with a manual slider thing (even Pong kept score for you, on-screen). Copyright laws were very loose in the gaming world at the time, and Pong rip-offs pretty much flooded the market. There was no reason to buy this stupid thing that made you keep your own score.

"Finally, something that combines the excitement of tennis with my passion for writing down numbers."

Despite dismal sales, Magnavox kept plugging away, later releasing even more consoles with even more variations of pong (the Odyssey 300 and 400, finally including the amazing innovation of on-screen scoring).

If you're one of those late adopters and would like to get in on the Odyssey 200 fun, you can usually find them on eBay for almost nothing (we found one at ten dollars with zero bids). Hook that shit up to your 72-inch HDTV and you've got yourself a party.

The Fairchild Channel F (1976)

This was released in August 1976 under the incredibly vague name "Video Entertainment System." Predictably, this name turned out to be too similar to another console, the Video Computer System released by Atari around the same time, so Fairchild was forced to change the name to the Channel F. Atari then changed the name of their system to the Atari 2600, but Fairchild didn't bother changing theirs back because, really, what would be the point.

The Channel F was groundbreaking in that it was the first console to use cartridges with the games on them (it came out before the Atari, and everything up to that point had been like the Pong machines, where the games were programmed into the console and those were the only ones you could ever play).

If you squint you can see this is "Baseball."

Why you've never heard of it:

Like Magnavox before it, the Channel F couldn't compete with Atari's console. The console got buried so deep in its shadow that it may as well not have existed. Only 26 games were ever released for it (as opposed to the 900 games released for the Atari).

It didn't help that the wiring in the Channel F was apparently as brittle as uncooked spaghetti. Also, while the controllers were the closest thing to a wired Wii-mote at the time (in shape at least), they didn't have a base. That meant you couldn't rest it on your stomach along with your drink and a bag of chips.

Fairchild, not content to lose to Atari, came back with the Channel F System II in 1979. A whopping six games were released before it was put out of its misery.

The Epoch Cassette Vision (1981)

The Epoch was the first home console made in Japan. That's right--all of the systems we've mentioned up until now were manufactured in the USA.

The Cassette Vision came out a full two years before Nintendo would enter the scene, so Epoch basically had no competition. No competition? For video games? In Japan? How could they possibly fuck that up?

Why you've never heard of it:

The Japanese really weren't into playing video games at home. They loved their arcades (Space Invaders was so popular it literally created a coin shortage) but none of the American game consoles had caught on.

Epoch had a unique vision of fixing this by bringing Japan a console that was quite a bit shittier than others on the market. One big problem was the controllers. You know when you're playing video games and you're leaning left and right with the controller, throwing it in anger, all that?

Well, if you did that with the Epoch, you'd be out of a system, seeing as how the controllers were just knobs built onto the console itself.

Imagine booting up the ol' Xbox and then holding it on your lap as you play. That's what the Epoch was. Keep in mind this thing came out five years after the Fairchild up there and its handy wired controllers.

So the thing sold horribly and then, in 1983, Nintendo released the Famicom (the NES to us) and the Epoch Cassette Vision was forgotten forever.

Epoch, however, struck back with the Cassette Vision Junior. They apparently figured their first system failed because awestruck consumers were intimidated by its technical prowess, so they corrected this by making the Junior much smaller and shittier than the original.

The Japanese symbol for "Jr." is "Jr."? That's weird.

At this point consumers in Japan made it clear that if Epoch ever tried to release a video game system again, they would burn down their office.

The Vectrex (1982)

Considering all of the me-too ripoff consoles that seemed doomed to failure based on pure lack of effort, the Vectrex looks like a piece of engineering genius.

Look at it, the thing comes with its own built-in screen! The controllers have little joysticks and buttons, just like the more modern control pads! What could go wrong?

Why you've never heard of it:

Well, for the graphics, it used line-based two-color vectors instead of the colorful raster graphics everybody else used. So where Atari's Pole Position looked like this:

On the Vectrex it looked like this:

Keep in mind, the second pic is from a console that came out five years later. It was an advanced machine in every other sense (some of the all time great arcade games used vector graphics, like Asteroids) but come on. Two colors?

Vectrex, being the top engineers they were, came up with a brilliant solution to this problem: include several thin sheets of colored plastic with the system, so people could just lay them over the screen to give it some color. No, seriously.

It was at that point the gaming public stood up, pointed out the door and said, "Vectrex, get the fuck out of my office."

Just a year later, the video game industry crashed and took the Vectrex with it.

NEC SuperGrafx (1989)

Let's face it, most video game consoles are failures. But few fail on the scale of the SuperGrafx.

Some of you may have owned the TurboGrafx 16 console, but may not know that the Japanese version (called the PC Engine) utterly dominated in that country, beating even the Nintendo NES in its day.

"Oh no, lightening monsters, or whatever!"

Cocky from their success, NEC decided to beef up the TurboGrafx console and released the SuperGrafx in 1989. The beefed-up machine had better graphics and CD-ROM capability (with an add-on). And the games were only $110 each! Or $170 in today's money!

Why you've never heard of it:

Uh, yeah. It was bad enough that the system itself was $300 ($540 adjusted for inflation), CD-ROM not included.

All in all, only five games were ever made specifically for the console (it could also play the original TurboGrafx games). The sad thing was, you still couldn't get the whole library without spending enough money to get you a beat-up used car instead.

The Sega Nomad (1995)

The only reason this is not more well known as the most misguided piece of hardware in gaming history is because it came out around the same time as the Sega Saturn, their follow up to the Genesis. The Saturn was a more high-profile failure that almost certainly lost Sega more money, but at least you could play an entire fucking game on it. The reason that's relevant to the Nomad will be clear in a moment.

At first, the Nomad seemed like the best idea ever. Already the Sega Genesis was hugely popular, and instead of making a whole different handheld game, Sega just made a portable Genesis. It even played the same games, you just shoved the Genesis cartridge right in there.

It came out several years after Nintendo's Game Boy with its crappy black and white screen. So how could this not take the handheld world by storm?

Portable Sonic!

Why you've never heard of it:

It was more than twice the price of a Game Boy (around $270 in today's money). And while it played Genesis games, it only did so for about an hour and a half before all six of your AA batteries died. So, yeah, it would blow through five bucks worth of batteries every time you fired it up, and you'd barely have time to get past a couple of levels.

About 25 minutes of gameplay.

Sure, you could order a rechargeable battery pack, for about 80 bucks more ($110 in today's dollars). But strangely enough, after spending the equivalent of $380 on this thing, it still wouldn't blow you. Oh, and the rechargeable battery ran out even faster.

You also couldn't tilt, turn, drop, shake, bump or otherwise move the Nomad lest it freeze or just quit working altogether. Sega considered adding a feature where they would drive to each customer's house and punch them in the face, but couldn't decide what to charge for it.

For more idiotic gaming hardware, check out The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Video Game Accessories Ever. Or have a look at the best stuff from the Mirth Canal in The Top Picks.

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