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Worst consoles

The Seven Worst Consoles of All Time

The Worst Video Games Consoles Ever Made

As long as you aren’t invested, everybody likes a failure.

It’s a fact of the human condition, which is probably why there are so many “fail” compilations on YouTube. Watching a naff idea, or a good idea executed poorly, trip over itself out of the starting gate can make you appreciate quite how good you have it.

In the video gaming world, there have been plenty of fails; be it a highly-anticipated game that launched with a ridiculous amount of issues – we’re mentioning no names – or a console that failed to deliver anything it promised. It’s those failed consoles we’re revisiting today.

As we step boldly in to the ninth generation of video game consoles, let’s take a look back at the consoles that didn’t quite reach the heights of their competitors. In no particular order, here are some of the worst consoles to ever hit the market.

Game.com (Tiger Electronics, 1997)

In the 90s, Tiger were synonymous with licensed LCD games. These single-game handhelds came in a multitude of licences from Aladdin to X-Men. In 1997, Tiger took the plunge into the cartridge-based multi-game handheld market with the awkwardly-named Game.com.

The Game.com offered a touchscreen and stylus that slotted snugly into the front of the device. Along with a suite of built-in office features like a calendar and an address book, as well as an optional modem for internet functionality, Tiger hoped to increase consumer value over Nintendo’s Game Boy. The hardware, however, just wasn’t up to scratch. Its screen suffered a painful amount of ghosting, more so than the Game Boy, and as a result offered slow, stilted gameplay.

As with its LCD games, Tiger managed to secure big name titles for the Game.com. 20 games were released, featuring ports of Duke Nukem 3D, Batman & Robin and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. They all managed to push the boundaries of common decency, but nothing is quite as offensive as the severely-truncated ports of Sonic Jam and Resident Evil 2. Coupled with a marketing campaign that actively insulted gamers, and Tiger was facing an uphill struggle the whole way.

After being bought by Hasbro, Tiger did try to revive the dying console – the Game.com Pocket released in 1998 and a backlit version, the Pocket Pro Light, arrived a year later – but to little success. Nowadays, Hasbro is re-releasing some of Tiger’s more popular LCD handhelds and the Game.com, one of the worst consoles we’ve ever seen, is all but forgotten.

PV-1000 (Casio, 1983)

When we think of Casio, we tend to think of mini keyboards, calculators or digital watches. Certainly not games consoles. The company actually made a fair few in the 1980s, but the award for worst console has to go to Casio PV-1000. Possible winner of “lowest-selling console of all time”, this little blue wonder was released only in Japan during October 1983 and sold just over 9,000 units (cue Dragonball memes).

The PV-1000 featured a grand total of 13 games which were mostly ports of Namco and Konami arcade titles such as Super Cobra and Dig Dug. These were fairly rough translations however, and better versions could be found on competitor machines such as the MSX. The console was reportedly pulled from the shelves mere weeks after its release, hence its low sales numbers, making it actually incredibly rare these days.

In a bizarre move Casio ended up releasing two MSX-based games computers a year later, the PV-7 and the PV-16, meaning Casio were competing with none other than Casio. An updated version of the PV-1000 hardware was released as the PV-2000 computer, which was compatible with the controllers of the PV-1000 but not its games. As all the PV-1000 could do was play games, this meant Little Blue was put in an early grave and the success of Nintendo’s Famicom around the same time simply nailed the coffin shut.

Atmark “Pippin” (Bandai/Apple, 1996)

The Pippin (or PiPP!N as the console itself would tell you) was Apple’s attempt at producing the “home multimedia box” much like the Philips CD-i or the 3DO, but on Macintosh design specifications. Released in 1996, it attempted to bring Macintosh games to the home video game market.

Apple wouldn’t make these consoles itself, but licenced the “Pippin” design specs out to other companies to produce the hardware. Sources seem to vary on whether Bandai approached Apple with the idea of entering the home console market or if Bandai was the only one to accept Apple’s offer, but the result was Bandai’s Atmark console: a small cream box with a boomerang-shaped “Applejack” controller.

Macintosh games wouldn’t work on the Pippin hardware so it was relegated to primarily receiving ports of “edutainment” titles and games from the Macintosh library. Of the 15 games released, most were based on Japanese franchises – though it did also receive Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley which just sounds the best.

Bandai would struggle due to the failure of the Pippin, but were saved by the release of the Tamagotchi that same year. And, of course, Apple would find its own success later on. So a happy ending, all round.

HyperScan (Mattel, 2006)

One of the weirdest entries on this list of the worst consoles ever made is Mattel’s HyperScan console. Having not really touched the home console market since the Aquarius in 1983 (distribution of the NES in Europe notwithstanding), Mattel decided to make some waves in 2006 by releasing this red and black beast that opened like a book with a disc drive on one side and a radio-frequency identification (or RFID) reader on the other.

Welding together the worlds of video games and card-collecting, the idea was that games were sold in “Game Packs” featuring a game disc and a set of cards that could be scanned by the RFID reader to activate certain features. It’s the sort of gimmick that served the Barcode Battler in the early 90s, but with tech that was a precursor to the NFC technology used in the ‘toys-to-life’ genre such as Skylanders or Nintendo’s Amiibos. The real downside was the card-reading functionality rarely worked quite as it should, sometimes taking up to two minutes to read a card. Additional cards could also be purchased separately and for a complete game you were looking at paying around $100. Thank God we moved past paying extra to unlock features in-game, right?

The HyperScan also features the lowest number of games released for it on this list, having received the hilariously small number of five. Three of those were based on Marvel Comics characters. It was discontinued one year after its birth, meaning certain card packs weren’t even released in the end, locking some game features to never be accessed.

Gizmondo (Tiger Telematics, 2005)

Released in 2005 with a whopping one launch title, the Gizmondo was designed as an all-in-one device. It could take photos, play MP3s, had SMS support and, of course, could play games. The game library was as typically slim as others on this list, featuring 14 games largely based around sports and racing titles and, due to its short shelf-life, it had a staggering 38 games cancelled.

However, it’s the backstory of the Gizmondo that really makes it not only one of the worst consoles ever made, but one of the weirdest flops of the entire industry. Tiger Telematics (not to be confused with Tiger Electronics) began life following a merger between a small Swedish electronics firm run by a man named Carl Freer and a carpet shop based in Florida. The Gizmondo itself was originally conceived as a method for parents to track their children via GPS. It’s a strange start for a burdgeoning handheld, but it gets stranger.

Following a weak (and weird) marketing campaign, lack of decent games and fairly high price tag, the Gizmondo would sell less than 25,000 units and cause Tiger Telematics to file for bankruptcy less than a year after its release. Then, Freer’s business partner Stefan Eriksson was discovered to have had ties to the Swedish mafia, would crash a Ferrari Enzo, and be arrested for driving under the influence as well as further charges of embezzlement. In 2008, Freer would begin once more on a whole new Gizmondo project – only for his new business partner to be convicted of fraud and jailed for two years. You couldn’t make this up.

To add insult to injury, the casing of the unit is made from rubber rather than plastic, meaning all Gizmondos are slowly degrading over time. Tiger, Tiger, burning dim.

GX4000 (Amstrad, 1990)

British-based Amstrad found success in 1984 with the CPC 464 home computer, and would stick to releasing variants of that hardware for some time. It was in 1990 that it would dip its toe in the video game console market with the GX4000, released solely in Europe and based on CPC 464+ technology first seen in 1987.

The GX4000 had 30 games released for it, all being ports of CPC games with little to no updates to them. Possibly the most famous is the pack-in title Burnin’ Rubber, generally considered one of the better Amstrad CPC racers, though the GX4000 did also receive versions of Batman and RoboCop 2. Despite a million-pound advertising campaign, interest remained low and additional software was slow to arrive.

Amstrad struggled to compete with the 8-bit consoles from Nintendo and SEGA, along with the excitement that had been brewing for the soon-to-be-released 16-bit consoles such as the SEGA Mega Drive. As a result, by 1991 the retail price of the GX4000 had dropped from £99.99 to £29.99 which says enough about its market performance.

Considering it’s the final form of the CPC hardware, it’s also hideous to look at. It’s probably for the best that Amstrad never touched the home console market again.

Zodiac (Tapwave, 2003)

There’s a running theme between a few of the worst consoles on this list: some of them feel like attempts at merging existing multimedia functionality with gaming in one convenient device. The Tapwave Zodiac is no different.

Tapwave was formed in 2001 by former executives of the hardware manufacturer Palm, Inc. best known for its range of PalmPilot PDAs in the 1990s. The Zodiac was a gaming handheld that was designed to use a version of the PalmOS operating system, and was aimed at those who felt they were too old for a Game Boy.

Make no mistake, the Zodiac is pretty much a PDA in itself and includes all the expected features of such. It has a non-capacitive touchscreen interface, office applications and even an MP3 and video player. The addition of an analogue thumbstick and notable face buttons allow for gaming on-the-go, and the handheld actually managed to feature some famous ports including Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Duke Nukem 3D (again) and some classics from SEGA.

As we saw with the Game.com, however, that doesn’t always count for a lot. Ironically given its marketing as an adult alternative to the Game Boy, the Zodiac featured teeny-tiny buttons that adults struggled to use and it lost out to both the Game Boy Advance and the then-upcoming Nintendo DS.

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