If you had it, you still love it and even if you didn’t, you knew about it.
The Nintendo Entertainment System is still one of the most loved and successful consoles Nintendo has ever come out with, remaining a beloved staple in the hearts of many, to this day. In fact, it is so iconic that no matter if you see the square controller or the rounded one, it will surely take you back to your childhood, having the power to induce infinite nostalgia.
Actually, the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, was not only an iconic and revolutionary console for the consumer but also for the industry as a whole. As one of the bestselling consoles of its time, the NES helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983. Before we get into the nitty-gritty it is great to know that the Nintendo Entertainment System was released 2 years after the crash, when there was a massive decrease in consumers who regarded the gaming industry as obsolete. Given the unfavorable circumstances, many expected the NES to fail, also given that at that time Nintendo was not a household name in the US console market, but rather known only as a successful Japanese toy and playing card manufacturer. Against all odds, Nintendo pulled in many consumers thanks to the quality and experience provided and raised the bar for years to come.
Of course, even though it was initially highly successful, Nintendo still had to come up with new tricks and gimmicks along the years, in order to keep the gaming community interested. That is the reason why we have a pretty lengthy list of NES accessories to choose from, some better and some worse.
Now that we reiterated some of the most important facts that stand at the core of the Nintendo Entertainment System, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what were the best and worst NES accessories.
The Best Accessories
The NES Controller
Starting with an obvious but essential one: the NES controller. Even though it was changed into a rounder shape at the end of its life in an attempt to keep the console relevant, the controller that comes to mind when thinking about the NES console is the good, old, rectangular-shaped one.
The game controller that is still an icon today is a gray and black block with red accents, with a simple four button layout: two round buttons labeled "A" and "B", a "START" button, and a "SELECT" button. Also, Nintendo opted for a cross-sized joypad on the left side, replacing the bulkier joysticks from other gaming consoles.
The original NES controller has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the console, so much so that to this day, its image is a high selling piece of merchandise.
The Zapper Light Gun
Also known only as the NES Zapper or the Light Gun, the Zapper Light Gun is an electronic accessory closely resembling a revolver-style handgun that enjoyed a lot of success, maybe the most success out of all the NES peripherals ever launched.
The Zapper can be used with compatible NES games, one of the most known being Duck Hunt, but many space themed games as well. Its internal optical sensor allows the player to point at a television set and "shoot" at in-game targets such as ducks, clay pigeons, cowboys, and criminals. Some games also used the Zapper on the title screen to select a mode and start the game.
Overall, the Zapper was well-received as it was fun and functional, having over 20 games to choose from, the whole concept being a novelty and attracting a lot of buyers. As a nod to this OG accessory, Nintendo came out many years later with a new version called the Wii Zapper.
Even though it is not an official Nintendo licensed product, the Game Genie was a success with a lot of NES owners as it is a line of video game cheat cartridges that allowed you to use cheat codes and unlock hidden levels, adding endless possibilities of gameplay. It was actually first released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
How it works is that all the devices temporarily modify game data, allowing the player to manipulate various aspects of games, and sometimes access unused assets and functions. Even though some may argue the morality of it, people found a great amount of enjoyment using the Game Genie, this being reflected by the fact that five million units of the original Game Genie products were sold worldwide.
Later, Nintendo actually sued the creators of Game Genie, claiming that it created derivative works in violation of copyright law. Even though this stopped the distribution in the US for a short period of time, the demand of the consumers soon overcame this legal hiccup, only adding to the thrill of it, increasing the demand and making a slow return on the market.
The Miracle Piano Teaching System
Slowly easing into a less commercially successful accessory but well-received by consumers and critics nevertheless, we have the Miracle Piano. Venturing out into trying to combine fun and practicality Nintendo took a risk and decided to incorporate games into learning how to play the piano.
The Miracle Piano Teaching System consists of a keyboard, connecting cables, power supply, soft foot pedals, and software. The software comes either on 3.5" floppy disks for personal computers or on cartridges for video game consoles. After the supplied keyboard is connected to a console or computer and the included software is loaded, a user follows the on-screen notes.
It was marketed as a new and innovative tool to teach users to play the piano as it provided hundreds of intuitive and fun lessons and was advertised as the perfect adjunct to formal lessons. Trying to incorporate singing skills into games, the piano can be used as a controller as players aim at targets in order to perfect their music skills.
There are multiple games that people can play to learn classic piano, rock piano, or show tunes. One such game is called Robo Man where the player has to press the correct keys at the right time to create a bridge. If they missed, Robo Man fell and the player lost. Even though it was not a commercial success due to its high price, those who had it thoroughly enjoyed it, critics describing the Miracle Piano as "not only entertaining and challenging, but also cleverly designed to reinforce the lessons".
Not the best but also not the worst
R.O.B. the Robot
Gradually heading towards the worst category, we have R.O.B., and even though it was discontinued pretty quickly, it was a massive success at its launch. The polarizing yet lovable R.O.B. or Robotic Operating Buddy came along Nintendo’s Entertainment System first launch on the American market, during the video game crash of 1983. It had such an appeal that a survey says that the most popular given reason for buying an NES was because children wanted the robot—followed by good graphics, variety of games, and the uniqueness and newness of the NES package.
Regarded as a Trojan Horse of marketing and one of the smartest moves in gaming history, the launch of R.O.B alongside the NES revitalized the market and represented for many the opportunity to have a piece of the future in their hands.
Presented as the ”world’s only interactive robot” at the time, R.O.B was supposed to be a functional companion used for playing select video games within a custom playset, being portrayed as a bridge between the player and the game. His whole appeal was that he was able to be connected to your NES and help you progress in games, making him seem like a dear friend. However, some of the excitement died down as people started complaining about him being too slow.
One thing is for sure, even though he was not the best gaming robot possible, his lovable stature and presentation made sure he was adored by many. To this day, he is an iconic part of the Nintendo Universe as he can be seen as a cameo or a playable character in many Nintendo games, especially the Super Smash Bros. series.
The Worst Accessories
Roll & Rocker
Being regarded as one of the weirdest and most pointless NES accessories to ever exist, the Roll & Rocker was definitely a flop. This could be partly because even though it was compatible with the console, it was not an official accessory produced by Nintendo.
The whole purpose of the Roll & Rocker was to be plugged into the NES and be used as a d-pad. By moving your hand back and forth on the board the characters in your game were supposed to move, navigating the game in a way that was intended to be similar to motion control but ended up being nothing of the sort.
The main complaint people had was that it did not make the gameplay more intricate but rather complicating the movement, with no reward. Indeed, you were able to navigate with the help of the Roll & Rocker but you still had to have a classic controller plugged in to press the buttons, defeating the whole purpose. So, even though the intention was good, the execution made this accessory absolutely obsolete.
The Power Pad
Also briefly known in the US as Family Fun Fitness, the Power Pad is a floor mat game controller made for the NES. It consists of a mat with pressure-sensors embedded between two layers of flexible plastic, meant to register the pressure applied and transposing it into a game.
It was meant to be connected into the second NES controller port and laid out on the floor, in front of the screen and had two sides, Side A with 8 round spheres, which was rarely played and Side B, with 12, which was more popular.
The purpose of this accessory was to test players on their timing and coordination, memory, running speed, or allow them to play music with their steps. Even though the idea behind it was great, the mat was not a hit with the consumers, many people finding it hard to be precise given the amount of buttons crammed into a small square. Also, given the lack of accuracy, many players became frustrated and found shortcuts, pressing the buttons with their hands instead of their feet or even quitting altogether, defeating the whole purpose of having a fun and active gaming experience.
The Power Glove
Similar to the futuristic feeling of R.O.B., the Power Glove stirred a lot of curiosity among gaming enthusiasts due to the fact that it looked like something straight out of the future. Manufactured by Mattel in the US, the Power Glove first stole the show with its galactic looks and attached controller.
The Power Glove has traditional NES controller buttons on the forearm as well as a program button and buttons labeled 0-9. The user presses the program button and a numbered button to input commands, such as changing the firing rate of the A and B buttons. Along with the controller, the player can perform various hand motions to control a character on-screen.
However, it came only with two games that did not sell well and was heavily criticized for its imprecise and difficult-to-use controls. Even though it sold nearly one million units, it quickly became regarded as a pretty bad accessory to have and use.
Probably one of the worst NES accessories was the LaserScope due to the fact that even though it sounded amazing, the reality could not be farther from the truth.
This head-mounted light gun used with and licensed for the Nintendo Entertainment System video game console is a voice activated headset. The headset also included an eyepiece with a crosshair that sits in front of the wearer's right eye, being able to be used as headphones for the NES console.
Whenever the wearer said ”fire” it was supposed to shoot, making this a kid’s dream and a parent’s nightmare. Despite the loud noises you had to make, many people argued that sometimes it even failed to do its job and shoot at the specific keyword.
Even though in theory it sounded like an amazing, futuristic piece of technology, in reality it was regarded as a glorified set of headphones for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, as you may actually love some of the NES accessories that we have regarded as the worst or even hate the ones we think are the best. That is part of the beauty of gaming! The experience you have is the one that matters the most, and no list or outside opinion should stop you from trying out new things and enjoying yourself. If you are on the lookout for NES accessories why not check out our selection?