Super Nintendo LifeCycle Exertainment Bike
Yes, ‘Exertainment’. *shudder* This was essentially an exercise bike that plugged into your SNES via the expansion port and split the controls across the handlebars. A couple of bespoke games such as Mountain Bike Rally provided distraction during your workout, and the resistance on the pedals would change to reflect if you were going up or downhill. If nothing else, it proves Nintendo was keen on fitness long before Wii Fit got everyone off their derrières, although this set-up was a damn sight pricier than a Balance Board. Check out this video from Kelsey Lewin for the full lowdown:
Game Boy Printer
The Game Boy Camera was a neat little oddity infused with the same off-the-wall spirit as the WarioWare series (it was developed by Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka's company Creatures, Inc.). The Game Boy Printer, though, enabled you to print out your creations on special thermal paper and brought that oddness into the real world.
It's tough for kids these days to imagine a pre-smartphone world where a camera on a phone was a real novelty, so the appeal of Game Boy Camera (or the third-party WormCam for Game Boy Advance) can be hard to understand unless you were there. Being able to quickly print out your irreverent notes, labels and selfies, though? Any kid can get behind the idea of cluttering their schoolbooks, lockers and immediate vicinity with printed junk.
A bunch of games also let you print out notes, pictures or high scores (you could print out Pokédex stickers in Pokémon Yellow and later Pokémon games, for example). The paper for the printer is scarce these days, but that doesn't stop dedicated enthusiasts from cutting standard thermal paper to size. A low-fi classic.
Jaguar Nu-Yell JN-100 / Singer IZEK Sewing Machine
The NES Knitting Machine might not have seen the light of day, but the Singer IZEK Sewing Machine could be yours if you've got a sufficiently large wallet and an ebay account. It linked up to a Game Boy Color via an in-built Link cable and a pack-in cartridge and let you select between a range of stitches or even design your own.
These two models are practically identical and were simply rebranded for different regions. Here's another wonderfully in-depth video from Kelsey Lewin with a look at the history of both machines, plus further accessories and upgrades that let you embroider Mario and his pals onto your threads:
Game Boy Pocket Sonar
The Game Boy got a ton of accessories, but arguably none more practical than the Game Boy Pocket Sonar. An aid for the keen angler, this Japan-only contraption from Bandai helped fisherman locate their slippery prey beneath the surface of the water using sonar. If for some reason you purchased this and didn't plan on catching your dinner out on the water, there was also a fishing minigame included to get you in the mood.
Super NES Mouse / Nintendo 64 Mouse
The Super NES Mouse and the Mousepad came bundled with Mario Paint and enabled quicker movement and extra precision in several supported titles. The Japan-only N64 version was really a peripheral for a peripheral - a pack-in for Mario Artist: Paint Studio on the 64DD. There's not much else to it, really - it's a mouse. Next!
Nintendo 64 Bio Sensor
The Wii Vitality Sensor may not have escaped the prototyping stage, but the Nintendo 64 Bio Sensor got off the drawing board and into the hands of (Japanese) gamers.
Plugging this little cart into your controller and clipping the attached peg to your earlobe meant you could play Tetris 64 while the game sped up or slowed down according to your heart rate. It came as a pack-in with that game, which was just as well as nothing else supported it.
It's a shame that it never took off as it seems a lot less cumbersome than a wedge of plastic you stick on your finger and there must be plenty of novel applications for other games. Horror games which direct their jump scares according to your heart rate seems like a no-brainer. Then again, giving developers access to our bio-data sounds a bit fishy these days. "The heart rate's heading south, interest levels flat-lining - put something exciting in the fourth lootbox..."
GBA Wireless Adapter
Each Game Boy had an assortment of link cables you could use to play and trade with your mates, although the Game Boy Advance had a a couple of even tastier options. The GameCube Link Cable, for example, allowed you to connect your handheld console to your GameCube for a second screen experience with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and the multiplayer Four Swords Adventure well before the asymmetric gameplay of the Wii U, although the full Four Swords experience on GameCube latter remained a rare event thanks to the mass of hardware it required.
The Game Boy Advance Wireless Adaptor was far more useful and let you trade and play supported software without the need for that confusion of cables. The function of many of these peripherals eventually found their way into the base hardware, but at the time, the wireless adaptor was a very handy taste of the future.
Game Boy Advance e-Reader
The Barcode Battler and Namco's Barcode Boy for the original Game Boy had already explored the concept, but the Nintendo e-Reader for GBA enabled players to scan cards and add various extra bits to supported games.
This included special trainers to battle in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, new levels in the GBA port of Super Mario Bros. 3 and special items in Animal Crossing (when connected to the GameCube game via the requisite cable). A series of NES games were released on cards which had to be laboriously scanned, although they all saw proper cartridge-based GBA releases, too.
Nintendo DS Paddle Controller
Taito's Paddle Controller for Nintendo DS came in four colours and worked with Arkanoid DS, Space Bust-A-Move DS and Space Invaders Extreme. That's a pretty specialised piece of kit, then, but it was wonderfully precise and worked perfectly with those games.
Paddle controllers such as the Ultra Racer 64 have cropped up over the years on various consoles, but their application is usually far too limited to make them worthwhile purchases. Not that utility is a factor in them being attractive, mind. The Guitar Hero Grip and the DS Rumble Pak had a similarly small pool of supporting software, but we still want 'em. Speaking of 'paks'...
N64 Transfer Pak
An adapter that enabled the unholy union of Game Boy carts with N64 hardware. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean you could play GB games on the telly, but you could transfer certain details between a select group of supported software, most notably the Pokémon Stadium games. Read more about it in our look back at its legacy.
This was just one of the many ‘paks’ that plugged into the N64 controller’s multi-faceted rear port. The Rumble Pak is probably the most famous, and we’re still nostalgic for clicking that bad boy into the pad and loading up some force feedback in Star Fox 64. We have less affection for the Controller (Memory) Pak, even if many early games required them (we’ve still got one that contains our Mario Raceway ghost data where we managed to pull off that shortcut every lap – a momentous day). Of course, the Expansion Pak that plugged into the top of the console (after the Jumper Pak had vacated its spot, of course) and doubled the Nintendo 64's RAM to a whopping 8MB is another significant addition to the line up. They sure 'paked' in the peripherals on N64, eh? Eh!? Hello? Oh.