Consoles birthed video games. While the way to play games has changed over the years, from arcades to computers to smartphones, gaming systems you plug into the TV were there from the beginning and still exist today.
The list of gaming systems to come out since the first one arrived back in 1972 (which we reveal below) is long. Many of them pushed hardware and gaming further, but even some of the more wild ones aren’t as well known.
Either in an attempt to contend with more popular systems or out of pure experimentation, there were consoles people will find hard to believe existed.
Taken from throughout video game history, here are wacky video game consoles that no one’s probably heard of.
20 Action Max
Video games have long toyed with sensor technology, but Action Max failed to make it practical. There are two crazy strikes against the console. According to PC Mag, it required a separate VCR to play and players had to stick a giant red sensor onto their TV screens to pick up the controller. Not even Duck Hunt needed that.
19 The Vectrex
The Vectrex did the ludicrous in offering a display built-in to its console. What made it odd was its vertical aspect ratio, which may have been ahead of its time considering smartphone screens today. However, Business Insider points out that the display was blue and didn’t even have varying colors.
18 Telstar Arcade
At first glance, the Telsar Arcade system looked to have it all. PC Mag reports there was a built-in steering wheel, a lever for changing gears, dials and a holster with a revolver-like controller. Today, game developers are all too eager to sell accessories separately while the Telstar offered it all in one complete package.
The Pioneer LaserActive was a huge machine, which made it impractical to store in a home theater system (because none could hold it). Like the name suggests, this system sought to capitalize on the brief but defunct LaserDisc format for gaming entertainment. While the LaserDisc community has a cult following, the format never caught on and the Pioneer LaserActive cost a whopping $1,000 (Business Insider).
16 Nintendo 64DD
While not a full-fledged system per se, the 64DD was a long promised game-changer that never saw the light of day—at least in the U.S. What made it ingenious was that it could take screenshots off the TV, let players to share their artistic creations with other 64DD users and even had a mouse.
Pricy, primitive and puzzling are the best ways to describe the Mattel HyperScan. According to PC Mag, this kooky system arrived in 2007 and revolved around the concept of putting card-like games on top of a red scanner to play. Not only was the technology spotty, but it cost $70, which was a lot to spend on a console with limited games that’s made cheaply.
14 Philips CD-i
The Philips CD-i looked a lot like a VCR on the surface. While it could do more than just gaming, the console featured some exclusive Nintendo titles. Business Insider reports that games like “Hotel Mario” and “Link: The Faces of Evil” made their way on the system even though it wasn't an official Nintendo console.
13 RDI Halcyon
Imagine speaking voice commands to a video game console back in the 1980s. RDI Halcyon was ahead of its time in offering both voice recognition and a headset—which is practically a must for gamers today. However, all these cool features came at a steep cost, with Portland Retro Gaming Expo reporting it cost $2,500.
The XaviXPORT wasn’t eye-catching or colorful on the outside, but it had technology ahead of other consoles for its time. According to PC Mag, the controllers had motion-sensor technology for games that were reminiscent of Wii Sports. Yet the system predated the Wii, so it technically beat Nintendo to the motion-sensor punch.
11 APF M-1000
A cartridge-based system, the APF M-1000 came with two controllers and accompanying docks so they could sit on top of the system. Fast Company reports that in addition to a joystick, the controllers had a 12-button numeric keypad. The console’s games were less interesting though, with Hangman, Blackjack, Bowling, Tic-Tac-Toe and Pinball to name a few.
10 The Fairchild Channel F
The Fairchild Channel F isn’t a name that exactly rolls off the tongue, but it was a game-changer. Business Insider reports that it was the first gaming system to use cartridges, which would influence future systems to follow for decades to come. Plus, the controllers were essentially one-handed joysticks.
9 Magnavox Odyssey
This is what started it all. As touched on earlier in the introduction, the Magnavox Odyssey kicked off the video game craze back in 1972. The controllers were boxy, it didn’t even have sounds and some games required supplementary materials for players to reference off-screen. It doesn’t get crazier than this.
8 View-Master Interactive Vision
Strange name? Check. Strange design? Check. Strange gaming experience? Check. The View-Master Interactive Vision hits all the right (or wrong?) points to make it a crazy system. What made it somewhat revolutionary, as PC Mag points out, is the fact that games incorporated video footage and different sounds players could control.
What made the 3DO crazy? For one, not every model was alike. According to Business Insider, several companies made the system, which meant their specs varied between whoever made it. While a revolutionary approach to game consoles, it was ultimately one that didn’t catch on despite its attempt to be ahead of the curve in the early 1990s.
Game cartridges have come in all shapes and sizes. Portland Retro Gaming Expo reports that games for the TurboGrafx were the size of credit cards. One of the perks to the system were all the games it supported too. It’s a good thing games were so small, which made larger collections easy to store.
5 Entex Adventure Vision
For 1982, the Entex Adventure Vision had a lot to offer as far as gaming systems go. The built-in screen was something of a technological marvel, as Handheld Museum reports it used 40 LEDs and a spinning mirror to pull off its graphics. While they originally sold for $80, the same source reports that they can go for as much as $1,500 today.
4 Apple Pippin
While Apple’s console may not look as attractive as their other products—let alone other gaming consoles—it was ahead of its time. According to PC Mag, Apple hoped to introduce not just a gaming system to consumers, but a computer as well. The console ran on their Mac OS, which powered their computer products at the time.
3 Epoch Cassette Vision
It may not look like a video game console when compared to PS4 or Xbox One, but the Epoch Cassette Vision offered a feature long abandoned by systems today: built-in controllers. Business Insider notes that players had to huddle up around the console if they wanted to go head to head against each other.
2 Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System
Here’s a console that cost more at the time of its release than a PS4 or Xbox One does today. According to Portland Retro Gaming Expo, the console was $650 and games alone were $200. The controllers were massive too. In turn, consumers got a system with stunning visuals and state-of-the-art sound—for its time, that is.
It wasn’t that long ago that the OUYA came out, and not much long after that it reached its end. The console came to life thanks to Kickstarter, it was tiny, affordable and had flash-storage that actually ran on the same OS Android uses. The real potential resided in its open source approach, which was a new avenue for gamers and developers (Lifewire).
Sources: Lifewire, Business Insider, PC Mag, Portland Retro Gaming Expo, Fast Company, Handheld Museum,