Six forgotten games consoles you (probably) didn’t know existed
Anyone fancy playing CAD Professor with me?
OK. We get it. You love your Playstation and your Xbox. You still have a soft spot for Goldeneye on N64. Perhaps you still even crack the old Dreamcast out for a blast on Shenmue. When home gaming first started gaining popularity, people went crazy over two lines whacking a square from one side of their CRT TV to the other. Most people at the time would’ve raised an eyebrow at any mention of the word “joystick”.
But there were plenty of game consoles that didn’t really stand the test of time. We’re not talking about the notoriously unsuccessful Atari Jaguar, here, either. Or the joyless vacuum that was the Philips CDi. I’m talking about stuff that made so little an impact that it isn’t even remembered for being shit. As Oscar Wilde said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
So, let’s resurrect some consoles from the dustbin of history. Let’s give them their time in the limelight. Let’s see what about nineteen other people were doing while millions threw an Italian plumber around the TV screen.
The VTech Socrates
What could possibly be worse than your parents buying you a Sega Master System when literally ALL of your buddies had the vastly superior Mega Drive? We’ll tell you what. If they bought you a GAME (operative word here, folks) console for educational purposes.
Sorry, but have you ever heard ANYONE in the history of gaming say “Hey friends, does anyone want to pile back to mine and have a marathon Facts N’ Fractions sesh?!” No. You haven’t. That’s because it is a shit offer and if you did utter these words then you don’t deserve human companions.
OK, so we get that VTech makes educational variations on whatever is popular at the time, like their VTech Challenger pre-school laptop, but this is just woeful. Exciting titles like Amazing Mazes and Memory Mania (which sounds like something you might need Ritalin for) never really grabbed the attention of 3-year old hardcore game nerds and the console kind of just sidled off into the annals of history where it belongs.
There is a reason why we think Amstrad’s Alan Sugar is an absolute fuck here in the UK. That’s because he is an absolute fuck. But did you know he released one of the least popular games consoles in existence? Unlikely, as it was on the market for approximately sixty seconds before Sega and Nintendo came along, stole its ice-cream, and kicked sand in its face.
To be honest, of the 27 games produced for this lame duck, some of them were actually pretty good (on other systems). It boasted the likes of Batman and Switchblade and had a handful of titles produced by Ocean, who made some ace games back in the day.
Sadly, the GX-4000 didn’t manage to gain any popularity. With a tag-line like “Bring the whole arcade into your home!” you’d be forgiven for expecting something pretty exciting. Well, you didn’t get it, so welcome to your shattered dreams.
If you put the word “supervision” in the title of your console, then you’re asking for trouble. Nobody wants to be supervised while they play a game, they want to be able to tell the controller to fuck off in peace, without a slap on the wrist from Grandma.
Obviously we know it should really have been Super-Vision, but given that there was very little “super” about this blob of plastic, we’ll run with the joke, thanks. The Watara Supervision was released as a contender to the Game Boy’s crown. It even had its own version of Tetris, which was called Pyramid and featured interlocking triangles instead of blocks. Imaginative.
Despite a global marketing campaign that saw the Watara Supervision released in several countries and with a number of different variations (the UK version had a tilting screen – haha!) it flopped massively. We’re sure this had literally nothing to do with the awful games or blurry screen that made even your calculator look futuristic.
Epoch Cassette Vision
Excitingly named after the moment at which a computer system starts measuring time, the Epoch Cassette Vision was available only in Japan, so you may not have heard of this weird little console at all. The fact is, it actually did fairly well in Japan. It shifted 400,000 units, which isn’t too shabby when you consider that it was released in 1981 when console gaming was barely even a thing.
The Cassette Vision was an odd machine. It didn’t come with separate controllers. Oh no, that would be far too easy! Instead, the controls featured on the console itself. If you had a friend over to play on your Cassette Vision, then their controls were also on the console. Sounds uncomfortable, right? You try turning your entire torso to the side while your head and legs remain facing forward. Hurts, right? No doubt Epoch’s console was responsible for between 400,000-800,000 torsional spine injuries during the early eighties.
In all, 13 games were released for the Cassette Vision, many of which were copied from other more popular consoles. At least they made a pink, girls version, called the Super Lady Cassette Vision, eh?
Sounding like some sort of murderous mech from the Robocop movies, the Sega SG-1000 is widely regarded as Sega’s first game console. Sadly incapable of tearing flesh from bone using two side-mounted miniguns, the console was actually pretty neat, with Galaga and Wonderboy both seeing incarnations on the machine.
Perhaps one of the most forward-thinking games that the device saw was called Zaxxon. Forward-thinking, why? Because it was the first-ever game to use an isometric viewpoint, meaning that it appeared to be in 3 dimensions instead of just the two that all other games at the time were limited to.
Unfortunately, the SG-1000 didn’t achieve the popularity it should have, which is no surprise given that the console was released on the same day as Nintendo’s infinitely more popular Super Famicom game system.
The exhilarating childhood version of a self-service checkout; the Barcode Battler did exactly what it said on the tin. It battled with barcodes. I admit to actually owning one of these. I will also admit to actually requesting the thing for Christmas one year. What can I say? I was a sucker for any commercial in which a giant mech loomed over whatever was being advertised.
The premise of the Barcode Battler was simple. It came with a bunch of barcoded cards that you swiped through a reader at the front. This, in turn, displayed numbers on the screen, which were assigned to the character on the card and which (you hoped) would statistically beat your opponent; think of it as electronic Top Trumps if you will. You could even use the barcodes from regular household items.
Sadly, the Barcode Battler was total shit. Most of the time it wouldn’t even do what it was supposed to (scan a barcode – incidentally, even the barcode from the Barcode battler box didn’t gift you a powerful beast) so you were just left with an error message instead of the fantastic monster you hoped your Lucky Charms barcode would yield. Absolute garbage.
OK, so with the exception of the Barcode Battler, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are now without one or two of these dusty old consoles. Conversely, it is also probably a good job that the likes of the Cassette Vision didn’t do well outside of Japan, lest the entire planet evolved to have a torso positioned 90 degrees to their head. If retro-gaming is your bag, though, check out our favorite 90s games.
- Call of Duty: Warzone first impressions – fun, but needs solo play ASAP
- Fall Guys is what happens when you mix Ninja Warrior, American Gladiators, and battle royales
- It looks like 4K streaming is now rolling out for Google Stadia
- You can now snag the original Halo: Combat Evolved on Steam
Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here for more.