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The Best Hardware Gimmicks in Gaming History

Video games allow humans to live vicariously through characters on the screen. Controlling a game character gives greater immersion than simply watching people on the screen, like in other formats like television or film. Pressing the buttons or moving the control stick makes a player feel connected to fiction, and sometimes game companies have tried to innovate and create even greater ways to connect to our favorite universes. From motion controls to toy-like peripherals, these are the 22 best hardware gimmicks in gaming history!

1. Nintendo Switch’s Hybrid Compatibility 

Nintendo Switch
Image Credit: SrideeStudio /

After the commercial failure of the Wii U, Nintendo needed something revolutionary to save itself in the console market. The ingenuity behind the Switch made the company enter a renaissance of sorts, and Nintendo has made a comeback. Playing on the go or in front of the TV will never get old. We’re waiting patiently for the sequel system now!

2. Nintendo DS Lineup’s Two Screens

Nintendo DS console
Image Credit: Nintendo & Wealth of Geeks.

Sometimes, Nintendo creates something that at first feels unnecessary, but then developers make great games utilizing the gimmick, and fans understand the brilliance behind the idea. The two screens on the Nintendo DS catalyzed some crazy, but brilliant gameplay ideas. A personal favorite remains when players have to close the system while playing The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass in order for the screens to “stamp” each other and create a mark on a map for Link to continue his adventure!

3. Nintendo Wii Remote

Nintendo Wii console colors
Image Credit: Nintendo & Wealth of Geeks.

The Wii remote revolutionized how kids and adults enjoyed gaming in the mid-2000s. No longer confined to the couch and button mashing, the Wii’s motion controls unshackled gamers forced them to make their favorite hobby an active endeavor. Other companies copied Nintendo’s strategy, to varying amounts of success, but the Wii Remote remained the standard-bearer, for better and for worse, of the generation. 

4. Microsoft Kinect

Microsoft Kinect
Image Credit: Vancouver Film School – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

One of the first imitators of the Wii Remote was the Microsoft Kinect. The Xbox console line was always considered mature and for lifelong gamers. Ironically, Microsoft must have found the silly, carefree nature of motion control gaming quite profitable; otherwise, they wouldn’t have dove in with their own version of the activity. The Kinect carved out its place in history without seeming like a ripoff, as the controller-less cameras allowed for fun and excitement!

5. DualShock Pressure Sensitive Buttons

PlayStation 2 DualShock Controller
Image Credit: Deni Williams – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Sony hasn’t always been in the business of gimmicks like Nintendo or Microsoft. The PlayStation manufacturer prefers to keep things simple, but one of their best innovations that goes unnoticed is the DualShock’s pressure-sensitive buttons on the PS2 and PS3. Pressing down on the buttons with varying levels of intensity leads to a different outcome in certain games!

6. Nintendo DS Touch Screen 

Nintendo DS
Image Credit: Nintendo & Wealth of Geeks.

The Nintendo DS already changed the game with two screens, but the company made a masterstroke by implementing the bottom touch screen. During a time when the smartphone revolution had just begun, adding touch controls to video games featuring Mario and Link showed the world that Nintendo was ahead of the learning curve. That did not stop players from saying R.I.P. to all of the DS touch screens after pounding them with a stylus for a couple of years, though.

7. Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Player

Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Player
Image Credit: Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

The Game Boy Advance helped Nintendo fans experience high-level games in a condensed package, but the issue remained that the best games were on the GameCube. Nintendo addressed this by selling a Game Boy Player. Gamers hooked the device to the bottom of the GameCube, allowing them to play their favorite portable titles on the big screen!

8. Nintendo 3DS Visuals

Nintendo 3DS
Image Credit: Nintendo & Wealth of Geeks.

The 3D visuals on the Nintendo 3DS represent Nintendo at their most playful and ambitious. The company hardly ever tries to stand out when it comes to graphics. Therefore, the implementation of stereoscopic 3D made for a grand experience on the handheld. Unfortunately, not many developers knew how to leverage the power of the gimmick, and the 2DS line granted gamers the same console without the added dimension. 

9. PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR
Image Credit: Tim Bartel – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Virtual reality represents the video gaming of the future. People have always wanted their favorite games to futuristically teleport them to an entirely different realm of existence, and PlayStation VR’s capabilities stand above much of the competition. The cameras and precision tracking of the headsets feature some of Sony’s best technology, but a dearth of games to enjoy holds the experience back.

10. Nintendo Amiibo 

Nintendo Animal Crossing Amiibos
Image Credit: Rafael Elias Henrique/Shutterstock.

Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines helped to blur the line between the physical world and the virtual one inside of a game. Amiibo’s toy-like structure was easily implemented into the gaming experience with a simple scan of the bottom of the action figure, and they made for a nerd’s collection paradise!

11. Nintendo Wii Wheel Peripheral 

Nintendo Wii Wheel Mario Kart Remote
Image Credit: othree – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Gamers could play Mario Kart Wii with just the Wii Remote, but the Wii Wheel added an extra layer of realism to racing. The sleek white design’s clean look instantly draws players in, and the smooth feel on the hands makes it an easy peripheral to hold while playing. 

12. Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller
Image Credit: Geni – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Perhaps the most important device Microsoft sells, the Adaptive Controller allows disadvantaged gamers to customize the controller to fit their needs and gaming purposes. The various stories of people who have suffered a setback and need a controller that can be contorted to their personal desires show the device’s importance. 

13. Nintendo GameCube Discs

Nintendo GameCube Disc
Image Credit: Maxime Lorant – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The Nintendo GameCube’s small stature catered to young audiences and families. The tiny discs that fit inside the system were adorable but also effective. Pirates couldn’t copy the disks easily, and the design snuffed out Sony’s ability to gain royalties off the era’s DVD format. 

14. Wii Fit Balance Board

Wii Fit Balance Board
Image Credit: – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The Wii Fit Balance Board encouraged gamers who didn’t normally want to exercise to get up from the couch and get moving. The board allowed people to weigh themselves and play fun minigames in Wii Fit. The BMI measurement system in the game always seemed wonky, though, and even led to some people experiencing mental health problems related to their weight. 

15. PlayStation Vita Cross Connectivity

PS Vita 2000 console
Image Credit: Sony & Wealth of Geeks.

The PlayStation Vita’s impressive construction stood tall compared to its peers, such as the Nintendo DS console line. Better graphics allowed connectivity to the PlayStation 4, and many games used both consoles to create unique crossover experiences. 

16. Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo Virtual Boy
Image Credit: Sergey Galyonkin – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The Virtual Boy stands as a pioneering virtual reality experience decades after its release, and Nintendo fans are still trying to get their hands on the console. The Virtual Boy’s iconic red aesthetic adds to the retro exterior and lovable nostalgia. 

17. Rumble Packs

Joystick controller for playing on the new xbox series x console.
Image Credit: vfhnb12/Shutterstock.

Rumble packs on controllers ranged from unnecessary immersion in horror games or survival modes, attempting to heighten the urgency of a player’s task, to necessary sensory additions to a video game. The rumble pack was a common gimmick on most controllers in the 2000s and 2010s. 

18. Worm Light

Nintendo Gameboy Worm Light
Image Credit: Nintendo.

The Game Boy and Game Boy Color featured limited light for gamers. People turned to worm lights for added visual support. These lights plugged into the console from the top or the side and gave an extra bit of punch to the graphics of retro classics!

19. PlayStation Scratch and Sniff Discs

Sniffing, smelling, smell, sniff, happy, smile
Image Credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.

PlayStation games tried to tantalize the senses in the early 2000s with discs players could smell. Crazy, but kind of fun, right? The smells of gasoline and field turf accompanied games like Gran Turismo 2 and Fifa 2001. Not pleasant, but certainly something children found interesting. 

20. Nintendo Wii U Gamepad

Nintendo Wii U Gamepad
Image Credit: Nintendo & Wealth of Geeks.

The Wii U’s gamepad never resonated with developers or gamers, but Nintendo certainly could have done a better job communicating what the controller’s purpose served. Think of the Wii U as a Switch prototype and for a pretty good idea of its brilliance. The device allowed gamers handy maps and secondary control options for their favorite games. 

21. NES Zapper

NES Zapper
Image Credit: Julia de Boer / The Next Web – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Even from the primitive age of the NES, Nintendo immersed players into the eight-bit graphics of the titles they developed. The NES Zapper gave a preview of some of Nintendo’s other gadgets. When playing Duck Hunt, the plastic gun peripheral felt like something from the future, delivering one-of-a-kind shoot-em-up fun from your living room!

22. Donkey Konga Bongo Drums

Donkey Konga
Image Credit: Namco.

The drums used to play Donkey Konga turned family living rooms into parties for all ages. The rhythmically inclined and those less talented in music alike enjoyed pounding away on the plastic bongos. They would eventually be used in other games in the Donkey Kong series, such as Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

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