The NES Zapper (known as the Beam Gun in Japan) is an electronic light gun accessory which was released with the original NES in 1985. The gun would continue to be packaged with various NES packages, including most notably the "Deluxe Set" and the "Action Set" throughout the life of the NES. The Zapper was also available for purchase as a stand-alone peripheral. Early versions of the Zapper were dark grey. Nintendo eventually changed the gun to be bright orange per US regulations on toy guns.
When the trigger on the Zapper is pressed, the game draws one frame of the screen completely black. On the next frame, the on screen target(s) are drawn in white while the rest of the screen remains black. The light sensor inside the Zapper is able to detect the change from very low to very bright light, as well as the screen position where the change was detected, and relays that information back to the NES where it can be processed by game software in order to register a hit or a miss. All of this happens extremely fast and is barely noticable to the naked human eye. As an interesting side-note, the Zapper only works on CRT TVs, and is not compatible with LCD or Plasma TVs.
R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy)
R.O.B. originally came packaged with the NES Deluxe Set, which included the NES console, two controllers, a Zapper light gun, R.O.B., and the Duck Hunt and Gyromite game carts. R.O.B. was also sold separately in his own packaging. Only two games were ever released for the NES that were designed to work with R.O.B., Gyromite, and another game called Stack-Up which was sold with its own game peices. R.O.B. runs on four AA batteries, and has the ability to move his arms and turn his torso and head. Like the NES Zapper, R.O.B. only works with CRT TVs.
R.O.B. was very confusing to use and according to most that have used him, not much fun. Most reviewers speculate that for these two reasons, R.O.B. production was very short lived and only two games actually use R.O.B. I remember hearing a rumor when I was very young that you could put a game controller in R.O.B.'s hands and he would play NES games for you - a rumor which is obviously not true, but was fun to think about way back then.
The NES Advantage was a high-quality first party arcade stick controller for the NES. The Advantage required itself to be plugged in to both controller ports on the NES and features a toggle switch to switch between Controller 1 and Controller 2, which allows two players to share the Advantage in games where the two players alternate gameplay. This obviously poses a problem with games that require control by two players simultaniously.
The Advantage features adjustable speed turbo A and B buttons where users can adjust the rate of the turbo by adjusting the respective turbo dials located above both buttons. Turbo can be toggled on or off with a turbo on/off switch located on the controller. The Advantage also features a "slow motion" feature which basically just repeatedly presses the Start button to pause/unpause games. This makes games very difficult to play and is not compatible with all games.
The NES Max is a first party game controller released by Nintendo for the NES. Unlike any other first-party gamepad released by Nintendo since the Max, the Max doesn't feature a traditional cross-shaped directional pad. Instead it has, what Nintendo called, a "cycloid." The cycloid is a small button shaped pad that is used similar to a directional pad. Unlike a traditional modern analog joystick, the cycloid does not automatically return to the center when released. Also unlike a modern analog joystick, moving the cycloid in any direction doesn't actually count as a directional input. To provide directional input, you must move the cycloid to the direction for which you desire input and then press down on the cycloid - thus making input direction more work than a standard D-pad. Suffice it to say, the Max wasn't well received.
The unit also features two turbo A and B buttons (located under the normal A and B buttons). Although the rate of turbo fire is not adjustable on the NES Max like it is on the NES Advantage, it is common Internet lore that the rate of turbo fire on the Max is higher than the highest setting on the NES Advantage.
The Power Pad (known in Japan as the Family Trainer), is a floor mat game controller, manufactured by Bandai, which uses pressure sensors embedded in between two layers of plastic. The unit has an "A" and "B" side. The A side has 6 blue dots and 2 red dots and is typically used for single player games. The "B" side has 6 red and 6 blue dots which are arranged in four columns, with the first two columns being blue and the second two being red. Dots on the B side are individually numbered (1-12) and are typically used for 2 player games, but can also be used for some single player games, like Street Cop.
There were only a handful of games released for the Power Pad in the US, including World Class Track Meet (which came bundled with the pad), Athletic World, Dance Aerobics, Street Cop, Super Team Games, and Short Order/Eggsplode. The Power Pad was packaged with an NES package called the "Power Set" which contained a NES console, two controllers, a Zapper light gun, the Power Pad, and a single game cart that contained Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet. The Power Pad was also available for sale on its own with the World Class Track Meet cart as a pack-in.
NES Four Score
The NES Four Score was a wired four-player adapter for the NES, released by Nintendo in 1990. The Four Score connects to both controller ports on the NES console and provides controller inputs for up to four players on games that support four player play.
The unit has toggle buttons with an on/off state, similar to the power button on the control deck, which allow for turbo functionality on standard controllers plugged in to the Four Score. Turbo can be turned on for the A button, B button or both buttons, and applies to all connected controllers whne turned on. The unit has a switch which allows the user to switch between four player play, and two player play (where only ports 1 and 2 are used) for compatibility with non-four-player games.
The NES Satellite was a wireless four-player adapter for the NES, released by Nintendo in 1989. The unit is similar to the NES Four Score, which was released a year later, but is wireless. A small infared receiver plugs in to the front of the NES console, and the Satellite unit itself is powered by 6 size C-cell batteries. Up to four wired controllers then connect to the Satellite. The Satellite must retain a line-of-sight path to the IR receiver on the NES console. Like the Four Score, the Satellite has a 2/4 player switch and A/B turbo switches.
Not many four-player games were released for the NES which were compatible with either of these devices. Games include: Bomberman, Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat, Gauntlet II, Greg Norman's Golf Power, Harlem Globetrotters, Kings of the Beach, Bagic Johnson's Fast Break, Monster Truck Rally, MULE, NES Play Action Football, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nintendo World Cup, RC Pro AM II, Rackets and Rivals, Roundball 2 on 2, Spot, Smash TV, Super Off Road, Super Jeopardy, Super Spike Volleyball, Swords and Serpents, and Top Players' Tennis.
Popular Third Party Accessories
Mattel Power Glove
The Power Glove (manufactured by Mattel in the US and PAX in Japan) was an officially licensed Nintendo accessory, but Nintendo wasn't involved with the design or release of the controller. The unit featured micro-switches that measured when the users fingers were bent and straightened and was able to send input based on those movements. The unit was also able to track hand movement via a large bar that must be placed around the television. (The bar only supports televisions up to 25" in size.) In addition to having onboard sensors to detect roll movement, the glove contained ultrasonic transmitters, and the large receiver bar that wrapped around a television set contained ultrasonic receivers (microphones). A triangulation based on sound was used to determine the position of the glove relative to the screen. As you can imagine, this system wasn't very acurate and thus the glove was not very popular.
Only two games were ever released for the Power Glove in the US - Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler. No Power Glove-specific games were ever released in Japan, which resulted in poor sales and the ultimate bankruptcy of PAX. The Power Glove sold just over 100,000 units in the US with gross sales totalling roughly $88 million. The Power Glove is highly regarded as a critical and commercial failure.
Miracle Piano Teaching System
The Miracle Piano Teaching System is a combination MIDI keyboard / game cart for the NES (among other systems - namely the Genesis, SNES, Amiga, PC, and Apple Macintosh) which was designed to teach piano. The periperal and game were licensed by Nintendo, but were manufactured and distributed by The Software Toolworks. Due its its high price (approximately $500 at launch), the system didn't sell well on any console.
The Miracle Piano was not used to generate sounds from the NES' hardware, rather it used its own built in software to convert user input from MIDI information and play sound through the piano's own analog speakers. MIDI information was sent to the NES controld deck via a controller port and was processed by the game to track user inputs.
Galoob Game Genie
The Galoob Game Genie was a game enhancement device which was used to manipulate variables used by NES games. Variables might contain values for life, power, whether or not the player has certain items, what level a player starts on, and many other things. The unit was used as a cheating device. Each Game Genie supported 3 modification codes, or the user could stack up to 2 Game Genies together to support a total of 6 codes.
Physically, the user inserts a game in to the Game Genie, and then inserts the Game Genie - game attached - in to the NES. This requires that the door to the NES stay open and beacuse of the obvious length of the Game Genie with game attached, the combination cannot be "pushed down" like a normal game once inserted. The Game Genie was designed in such a way to put pressure on the 72-pin connector inside the NES so it didn't need to be pushed down in order to play. This lead to broken 72-pin connectors which would then not work with normal NES games by themselves and would only work when the Game Genie was inserted due to the angle at which the pins would bend.
The Game Genie came with a codebook which, as new games were released, quickly became outdated. Galoob used to charge a fee for updated code books, but magazines at the time would regularly publish new Game Genie codes on a monthly basis. Now, codes can be found online for free.
The U-Force is a "power field controller" for the NES. It was advertised as being a game controller which didn't require a game controller and worked with all NES games. The unit was supposed to translate hand movements in to game commands via multiple infared sensors placed around the U-Force control board. Thnk of it as a small XBOX Kinect but for your hands - the only difference being that there are no cameras, no fancy software, and it didn't work.
The U-Force regularly pops up in "worst game controller" and "worst console accessory" top 10 lists even to this day - some as recent as 2009. The U-Force would be a fun collectable item, but isn't good for much else.