As the holidays approach and school winds down to a temporary close, the subject of shopping and gift giving may be on one’s mind, and what better gift to give a loved one than a new video game console? The choice of console can be fairly tricky even to a seasoned gaming veteran, but there is really no way to go wrong with any of the current “Big Three” consoles. In the deep pool of video game history, however, there have been consoles that have stood out among the rest, but not for reasons one might suspect. These consoles were the trash of the industry, having little support, a minimal game library, or some other aspect leaving them to cause shudders in those who were foolish enough to purchase them. For your reading pleasure, I will dredge up the five worst of these failed consoles, and describe the aspects that truly make them the worst of the worst. Note, however, that I will not pick on the earliest consoles for being simplistic or outdated; those chosen will be done so with consideration to the offerings of their peers...
Number 5: Nokia N-Gage (2003)
Designed to try and cash in on the popularity of the Game Boy Advance, the Nokia N-Gage was billed as a portable video game player that included cellphone functionality. The primary issue of the N-Gage was that of cost, retailing at $300, or more than twice that of its competitor. Although there were some critically acclaimed games in its meager lineup of 50 titles, most were subpar, and paled in comparison to titles on the Game Boy Advance. As a game console, the N-Gage also had the problems of having difficult-to-swap game cards, as well as poor buttons for controlling the games. As a cellphone, the N-Gage was very awkward, as its microphone and speaker were on the side of the unit, forcing users to talk into it from the side. The N-Gage was widely known as the “taco system” due to this issue, and the appearance it caused. The last game for the console was released in 2006, but sales in China and India apparently continue.
Number 4: Philips CD-i (1991)
The idea of the Philips CD-i was an interesting one: create a CD-ROM-based gaming and edutainment device popular enough to serve as a compliment to a VCR player. On the gaming front, however, the console was a terrible travesty. From the beginning a mistake was made to license the technology to other manufacturers, leading to a surge of nearly identical CD-i systems that only served to confuse consumers. The manufacturers of the console were successful in creating a deal with Nintendo to be able to use some of Nintendo’s mascots in games for the system, but even this wasn’t enough to save the system: the games produced, including Hotel Mario and the CD-i Zelda trilogy, are among the worst reviewed games of all time, and shunned by fans of the series. To make matters worse, the manufacturer itself seemed to have second thoughts on the CD-i being a game device, and wanted to avoid competing with Nintendo. Add in a poor controller, a library of terrible games not involving Nintendo mascots, and an initial price of $700, and you have the Philips CD-i in a nutshell.
Number 3: Tiger Telematics Gizmondo (2005)
Like the Nokia N-Gage, the Tiger Telematics Gizmondo was an attempt to combine a portable video game platform with the functionality of day-to-day consumer electronics. Somehow, however, the Gizmondo ended up being even worse. Presented as a portable game system with an onboard GPS, the Gizmondo came in two flavors: one with random pop-up ads that retailed for $229, and one without for $400. The device was only on the market for a little less than a year before the manufacturer went bankrupt and the device was discontinued. One of the main executives behind the device was also found guilty of organized crime, tarnishing the reputation of the system. Only eight games were ever released for the U.S., with most being abysmally bad and the most critically acclaimed being Sticky Balls, an action-puzzle game. The device is widely known as the worst selling handheld game console of all time. But the worst part? The “onboard” GPS functionality was meant to come shortly after the release of the product, but ended up being scrapped as the manufacturer dropped closer to bankruptcy.
Number 2: Apple Pippin (1996)
“What?” you might ask, “A game console designed by Apple? Must be good, right?” Well, no. In fact, it is commonly called one of Apple’s worst failed products. The device itself followed typical Apple ideology, placing importance on aesthetics over performance and functionality. The Pippin, to be fair, did look very snazzy, but it was severely underpowered compared to its competitors (Sega Saturn, Playstation, Nintendo 64) as well as exorbitantly expensive ($600? Seriously?). The banana shaped controller was too awkward to play most games, and what games did exist were of poor quality. Apple has found success in marketing games on its modern handheld electronics, but we can only pray that they do not again try to get into the home console market.
Number 1: RDI Halcyon (1985)
The RDI Halcyon had perhaps the strongest aspiration of any game console with regards to its time: follow up on the success of such arcade franchises as Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, and render beautiful hand-drawn graphics to make up interactive games. If it worked as described, it would be able to run games that looked like Disney movies in an age where graphics such as those in the original Super Mario Bros. were consider top notch. With a beastly 64kb of RAM and a Z80 processor, the Halcyon was sure to turn heads; it even had built in voice recognition to execute commands, and was planned to be given a voice of its own resembling that of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Indeed, that is where the name came from; the manufacturer wanted to create a device powerful enough to rival that of the movie HAL itself. With such great promises, what makes this the worst game console of all time? The price. $2,500. In 1985. That comes out to about $5,000 in modern day currency value. Oh, and only two games were ever released for the system- both terrible and not particularly interactive. Needless to say, sales were lacking.
There you have it, the five worst game consoles to taint our Earth. Stay clear of these, folks, unless you happen to be an avid collector willing to shell out quite a bit of money. It is my hope that you learned something from my article, and be prepared for my Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review next issue!