The Nintendo DS would feature an in-built microphone, and the Famicom had one built into its second controller in place of the 'Start' and 'Select' buttons, but it wasn't until the Wii U GamePad that a mic would return as a stock part on a Nintendo home console (and it's now disappeared again with Switch). The Nintendo 64 Voice Recognition Unit only had one use in the west - chatting with Pikachu in Hey You, Pikachu!, and with its big yellow sponge ball the VRU is probably the most interesting of Nintendo's microphones. The GameCube got its own rather dull-looking mic for use with Odama and a few other games, and the Wii received the rubbish room-wide Wii Speak device about which we shall never speak again.
The VRU had one other compatible title in Japan - Taito's train simulator Densha de Go! 64, which let you announce incoming trains (and boasted its very own - and rather incredible - controller, too).
GameCube ASCII Keyboard Controller
Given Nintendo’s patchy online record, you may find it surprising to see the sheer amount of keyboard accessories available for Nintendo systems over the years. From the Famicom BASIC to the 64DD Keyboard, the bundled Bluetooth Pokémon keyboard for DS to the unreleased WorkBoy Suite Keyboard for Game Boy, we could have filled half this article this Nintendo keyboard add-ons. There'd be little point, though, when there's only one of real interest.
This beautiful beast for GameCube was originally built for use with Phantasy Star Online. It has all the stylish understatement and panache of a makeshift Mini Cooper limousine welded together in your cousin's scrapyard, but we still want it. It’s hard to find one that hasn’t had a number done on it by the sun or whatever else causes discolouring to these plastics, be it tobacco, greasy hand grime or the chemical properties of the plastic itself.
Pointless? Yes. Ridiculous? Certainly. Ugly? Indubitably. We don’t even own any software that uses it, so it would be utterly pointless to head to eBay this instant and put in a bid or two... but we're gonna.
Dance Dance Revolution Dance Pad
“But they haven’t mention the NES Power Pad back with all the NES peripherals!” No, we didn't name check LJN's useless Roll ‘n Rocker, either. But we have now, so calm down.
The NES Power Pad might have the prestige of being associated with Stadium Events, one of the rarest NES games going, but as a device it was fairly uninspiring and dull-looking. The GameCube got a Mario-branded dance mat for use with Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, though, and can be used for assorted minigames therein. This instantly makes it a thousand percent more interesting than any of the mats that came before or after it.
Not particularly unusual or rare in the scheme of things, but we couldn't leave out one of the best controllers ever made, could we? When the WaveBird for GameCube came along in 2002, its wireless RF tech worked beautifully and it paved the way for the modern wireless pad as we know it.
The little receiver plugs into the front of the GameCube and you can spin the channel selector wheel with up to 16 available if you, all your friends and anyone you've ever met who's got a WaveBird met up for a serious Double Dash LAN-fest.
The only feature really missing is rumble, but this is still our preferred controller when we dive back into the GameCube catalogue. Until we get that GameCube ASCII Keyboard pad, of course.
As you can see, the GameCube got its fair share of alternative controllers. The Resident Evil Chainsaw controller was a particular highlight and it still irks this writer that he failed to snatch up one on sale for a mere £16 many moons ago. The same mistake wasn't made when it came to the DK Bongos.
Designed for use with the Donkey Konga rhythm games and Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and including an inbuilt microphone, their limited application on GameCube hasn’t stopped people putting them to good use elsewhere. Bongo Souls is the classic example, but there’s nary a game you can’t make harder with an assortment of DK Bongos. Because Ornstein and Smough weren't enough of a challenge.
Nintendo 3DS Circle Pad Pro
Not-so-affectionately dubbed the 'Frankenstick', this was Nintendo's solution for people who wanted a second analogue input for their 3DS but refused to upgrade to the New 3DS with its extra little nub. Perhaps it was a ploy to shame people into upgrading rather than be seen hulking this utter lump around with you. It needed a battery in order to transmit the input data via the system's IR sensor.
Looks aren't everything, of course, but this was a Nintendo-like solution we happily paid to avoid; we loved our original 3DS too much. Interesting fact: in the event of a water landing, the impossibly large version for the 3DS XL was designed to function as an emergency lift raft.
This isn't a ranked list, but if it were this would be at the bottom. Not that the actual wheel itself is all that bad - it's the legacy of rubbish it inspired from third parties and chancers that makes us bitter. A deluge of with fishing rods, hockey sticks, swords, tennis rackets and football controllers flooded shop shelves everywhere; a parade of pointless plastic to clip your Wiimote into.
The success of Switch has brought about a return of these assorted doohickeys, although it hasn't quite returned to the lows of a decade ago. What a waste of perfectly good shiny white plastic! Well, not a total waste…
Wii Fit Balance Board
A solidly put together pair of overpriced bathroom scales, they functioned admirably with the original Wii Fit and crossed generations for use with Wii Fit U, too. There were even a few games which made use of them outside the realm of fitness, from Punch-Out!! to a whole bunch of sports and dance games. In combination with the Wii Fit U Fit Meter (Nintendo likes a pedometer - remember the Pokéwalker?), this certainly wasn't the worst way to lose a few pounds while having fun (to varying degrees) with a video game. They also come in handy for weighing random objects or luggage before you go to the airport.
An anomaly on this list for not working with a Nintendo system, this Nintendo-branded joystick was sold by Laral Group for Windows 95 PCs. Nintendo licensed the name and the product certainly bears all the hallmarks of N64-era hardware. Obviously, this wasn't an avenue the company pursued, but it's a cool little side road in its history.
Here's a video from LGR that takes a good look at the stick and takes it for a nostalgic spin in Microsoft Flight Simulator 98:
Nintendo's latest left-turn, Labo is a wonderfully novel concept. It's delightful throwaway entertainment, enhanced by the fact you can literally throw it away when you're done without any guilt. It also encourages those with the time, energy and inclination to explore the incredible possibilities of its toy box and create your own games on the TV, table top or in VR. As a peripheral you're free to ignore it, but its ingenuity is really something you should experience firsthand. Nothing lasts forever, but that's all right.
There are, of course, a huge number of peripheral Nintendo oddities and many that we haven't highlighted here. Are there any odd ones we’ve missed that you have fond memories of? Got a penchant for the Nintendo DS MP3 Player or a soft spot for the Nintendo 3DS Stand? Let your love be known below…