Simply buying a console is never enough — both the platform holders and third-parties will always want to sell you something extra. They’re not all terrible ideas, but our shelves are full of barely-used console add-ons.
I should note that there are a number of third-party accessories for other consoles, including the Switch, that I can’t get to here. But rest assured that I plan on covering ’em in the future.
Now, let’s take a journey into overpriced-but-rad gaming history. You’ll soon find that even the outright bad ones still hold some perverse novelty.
HD-DVD Player — Xbox 360
Part of the appeal of the PS3 was the built-in Blu-Ray player for full HD movies at a decent price for the time. Of course, the 360 only had a DVD drive inside, but Microsoft did see fit to put out an external HD-DVD drive. As luck would have it, that format died off in just two years, so the add-on became worthless shockingly fast. When the Xbox One released, Redmond relented and just added a Blu-Ray drive.
Plus, the first iteration of the 360 had interchangeable face plates that seemed neat at first, but ended up an abandoned flourish with the following hardware revisions. In a way, they’re a bit like the wings of a PS5. I still kind of like the premise, honestly.
DVD Remote — Xbox
The Xbox was capable of playing DVDs, but Microsoft wasn’t willing to pay a specific licensing fee for the surround sound audio technology with every unit sold. Instead, if you wanted to watch a DVD on your OG Xbox, you needed to buy a remote with a receiver that plugged into a controller port to unlock the functionality.
Some folks did that, but many more people just hacked their Xbox and used custom firmware to bypass that requirement. Still, that remote was probably more pleasant to use than The Duke.
Game Boy Player, Et Al — GameCube
The GameCube’s shape invites stacking, so this all makes sense. In the video above, you’ll see a third-party screen, the adapter for the wireless controller (Wavebird), the Game Boy Player for GBA carts, a third party audio device and a stand with built-in disc storage. Plus, there’s probably a network adapter or 56K modem in the bottom of that console that you can’t easily see — Nintendo was sneaky like that.
64DD — N64
The Nintendo 64 was a bit of a disaster for Nintendo with pricey cartridges that simply couldn’t match the space required for the AV needs of the day. As such, Nintendo developed an awkward magnetic disk attachment called the 64DD that didn’t even make it out of Japan. It did lead to the development of a handful of neat games (like “Animal Crossing”), but it was absolutely a flop.
It’s also worth calling out the RAM expansion that some games like “Donkey Kong 64” required. It did make the experience workable with minimal expense, but it made renting and borrowing a huge pain in the butt in the ’90s.
Portable Screen — PS1
Sony was an innovator with the semi-portable screen that snapped onto a later revision of the first PlayStation. It was great for kids without TVs of their own and maybe you could make an argument for using a power converter to run it in the car for long road trips. But I’d rather play on the big screen.
The PS1 had plenty of other less-notable accessories, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out the Japan-only PocketStation. It plugged into the memory card slot and offered some second screen features that didn’t amount to much. A similar idea was explored with the Dreamcast’s VMU, but that didn’t fare much better.
Tower Of Power — Genesis
When people think about game console add-ons, this is the console the comes to mind. The Sega CD and 32X relied on the base Genesis to run games, but they had their own exclusive catalogs. Heck, some games even required having both expansions connected at the same time. Neither one did particularly well, and consumers were mostly happy playing 16-bit hockey and running around as a blue hedgehog.
Add in some extra cartridge extenders like the Game Genie, the Xband modem, “Sonic & Knuckles” and the like and you’ve got yourself the coveted tower of power. It will probably fall over though, so don’t leave it up overnight.
Also consider: The Most Ridiculous Gear Ever Made For The Game Boy