Whether you grew up during the infancy of the gaming industry, are a veteran of the violent Console Wars, or currently shell out cold hard cash for minor hardware upgrades because they have a word like “Pro” in their name, it’s likely you have at least some familiarity with various video game systems from your era and beyond.
Names like Atari, Intellivision, Sega, Sony, and Nintendo all conjure up images plastic boxes of varying sizes and colors, all of which contain virtual video adventures for your to enjoy.
That said, there’s a lot more to the eight console generations than big names like the Xbox or even relatively obscure entries like the TurboGrafx. In fact, we’re willing to bet that there’s a considerable amount of consoles that you’ve never heard of, and that’s what we’re tackling with our list of 20 Game Consoles You Never Even Knew Existed.
Your concept of the home console market is about to expand, so get ready.
A Japanese exclusive, Bandai’s Playdia was something of an “edutainment” console that targeted younger users.
Few games ever released for the ill-fated system, but the few dozen that do exist are rather interesting, being that many of them feature the likes of Dragon Ball, Ultraman, Hello Kitty, Sailor Moon, Gundam, and other Bandai-affiliated brands.
While the name “Zeebo” is mostly associated with a malevolent, spectral clown in Are You Afraid of the Dark?, it was also the moniker of a bizarre 2009 home console sold exclusively in Brazil and Mexico.
The Zeebo doesn’t feature any kind of discs or cartridges for its media. Instead, every game is downloaded through the internet.
In addition to a library of original games, the Zeebo was also graced with all-time classics such as Resident Evil 4.
18 CD-ROM Squared
This console is unique in that it’s actually more of an add-on for the Turbo-Grafx-16 than a standalone system… yet its technology was so revolutionary that it easily earned its own spot on the list.
What’s the big deal, you ask? This device was the very first video game console to use CD-ROMs as storage media.
It would late be followed up by the far more well-known Turbo Duo, essentially leaving this benchmark of video game tech in the annals of history.
Even with a name as cute and silly as “Loopy,” Casio’s strange 32-bit system failed to etch its place in the hearts and minds of gamers.
That’s a shame, too, since the Loopy has a lot of weird stuff going for it.
Aside from the fact that it was almost exclusively marketed towards women, the Loopy had a printer built into it and featured add-ons that included a video capture device and image editing tools.
16 Super Cassette Vision
“Super Cassette Vision” is easily the most 80s combination of words we could possibly imagine, so this Japanese system already gets a few bonus points in our book.
A follow-up to the shockingly successful non-super “Cassette Vision,” this system was made in response to the growing might of Nintendo and Sega.
As you can probably guess, the Super Cassette Vision was no match for its increasingly omnipotent competitors, eventually causing its maker, Epoch, to drop out of the console market altogether.
15 Pioneer LaserActive
Pioneer’s LaserActive is an unholy union of video game console, CD player, and karaoke machine. Heck, it even plays Laserdiscs!
That’s not all though: through the purchase of additional modules, your horrific amalgamation of an entertainment system will break the laws of nature by acquiring the arcane knowledge to play TurboGrafx and Genesis titles, and if that wasn’t enough, it also had (low-tech) 3D capabilities.
Despite all of its power, the base form of this monstrous behemoth cost $970, sealing its commercial failure.
While not as popular as Nintendo or Sega’s systems, the Turbo-Grafx 16 still managed to have a decent enough presence during the early console wars.
What didn't have a decent enough presence, at any point, was its fifth-generation follow-up, the PC-FX, which only sold about 400,000 units.
One weird tidbit about the PC-FX is that it had a sizable selection of… shall we say, rique', titles in its library... if that’s your sort of thing.
13 FM Towns Marty
Another Japanese exclusive, the FM Towns Marty had surprisingly advanced hardware that put it on par with its peers and direct competitors, but, alas, it was a colossal failure.
Ironically, a serious driving force behind the crashing and burning of the FM Towns Marty was the very hardware we were so quick to praise: due to its design, it was expensive to create and hard to replace.
That, coupled with the fact that it wasn’t a mix between a computer and a system, sealed its fate.
Born from a blood pact made between Bandai and Apple, the uniformly designed Pippin (otherwise known as “PiP P!N”) is an achingly rare curiosity.
Essentially an Apple computer in the form of a video game system, the Pippin was meant to be an impressive piece of tech, but was discontinued after a pitiful debut, where it only sold a mere 42,000 copies.
11 iQue Player
Chinese piracy and censorship are notorious issues across the globe, but in 2003, Nintendo and scientist Wei Yen attempted to battle both simultaneously.
At first glance, the iQue Player appears to be a “plug-and-play” controller, but it’s actually the system itself.
There were 14 games released for the system, all of which were N64 classics that needed to be downloaded from a special depot.
What’s funny about the Ouya is that there was a point in time where basically everyone knew it existed.
Hailed as some kind of revolutionary game-changer, the Ouya was so thoroughly over hyped that, upon finally releasing, anyone who cared had already expended their energy, causing this nearly-deified system to land with a thud and then disintegrate into the sands of time.
The HyperScan was an attempt by Mattel to satisfy gamers who weren’t quite old enough to handle complex or mature gamers.
Unfortunately for Mattel, their crusade ended in failure, as the system and its accessories failed to make a sizable impact on the market.
In total, only five games were released for the HyperScan, and it has fallen deep into shadow.
8 VTech Socrates
The VTech Socrates is a rather run-of-the-mill “educational” system, featuring an assortment of games focusing on subjects like math and language.
Interestingly, it features a wireless keyboard and voice technology, both of which would have blown our minds if we were still kids.
The Socrates had one last thing going for it, and that was, well, “Socrates,” its cute robotic mascot.
7 Atari XEGS
Atari’s well-known successes and failures have made them a household name, but even a company as iconic as them still has a few curious tidbits in their history, and the Atari XEGS is definitely one.
Marketed as being some kind of mix between a serious console and a beginner’s computer, the XEGS actually managed to perform both tasks decently.
Regardless of the system’s relative obscurity, its light gun is still pretty darn cool.
The early 2000s were a wild time, as the line between “video game system” and “entertainment device” started to blur, mostly thanks to the PS2’s inclusion of a DVD player, and the Nuon concept hoped to capitalize on it.
The Nuon concept is difficult to categorize, but it was essentially a technology that was implemented in devices to create an advanced DVD player that could also play video games.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, very few titles were released that took advantage of the technology.
5 Action Max
The only thing missing from a name like “ACTION MAX” is “SUPER” or “EXTREME.” Alas, no such luck.
The Action Max is controlled solely by light guns, and uses VHS tapes for its games.
Unfortunately, none of the available games had any sort of depth, with all of them strictly falling into pursuing high scores through arcade-style gameplay.
4 Super A’Can
A console designed and exclusively sold in Taiwan, the failure known as the “Super A’Can” teeters so precariously on the razor’s edge between “immense obscurity” and “total oblivion,” that its very existence is at risk of being totally forgotten.
As you might expect, very little solid information exists… in regards to the system’s games, at least. What is well documented is the A’Can’s devastating failure, which cost its creator, Funtech, so much money that they literally destroyed every remnant of the system and its production to sell as scrap.
3 Game Wave Family Entertainment System
Living up to part of its name, the Game Wave has a delightfully wavy design. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to the latter portion, with hardly any “family entertainment” to be had.
Somewhat like the aforementioned Nuon, the Game Wave was a DVD player with a small library of playable “games,” and, just like the Nuon, it failed to gain any kind of meaningful traction.
2 View-Master Interactive Vision
When it’s 1989 and you see a tag line that promises the system will “make you a part of the show,” you should know you’re in for disappointment.
The first thing you probably noticed is the weird asymmetric look of the system itself, which is certainly unusual… but then there’s that controller, which is easily the most perplexingly illogical design we’ve ever seen.
The main gimmick come through the use of VHS tapes, which allows for the illusion of the on-screen characters “interacting” with the player.
1 BBC Bridge Companion
Did you ever wonder how your Grandma became the Destructor Goddess of Bridge?
Wonder no more: she merely acquired the BBC Bridge Companion.
Launched by the BBC (yes, the British Broadcasting Corporation, of all things), this system is an 8-bit dedicated to teaching people how to play Bridge for the low, low price of about 200 British Pounds.
A small price to pay for Bridge supremacy.
Sources: IGN, Kotaku, EuroGamer