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Turkey Day: The Unappreciated Video Game Systems We’re Thankful For

The term “Turkey” is synonymous with failure and disappointment in the entertainment industry. But everything is subjective, especially when viewed through the prism of time. Time is the ultimate shaper of things. Video game systems we love don’t get enough support to endure. A lack of quality first-party games doom them. And sometimes, the masses just plain don’t get it. In this moment of thankful remembrance here are some game systems we have no problems being thankful for.

Nick Nunziata on the 3DO

Trip Hawkins is a visionary guy. His involvement in the video game world amounted to some terrific advancements. The 3DO is looked upon as a failure in the grand scheme but there’s no denying its place in history. Ahead of its time. Bold. And odd. It’s a quirky machine, one which attempts to be everything for everyone. That’s also its Achilles Heel. The controller is a bit below par. The games vary from pitiful to amazing. It doesn’t have a ton of value for non-gamers. What it has is Road Rash, Star Control II, Escape from Monster Manor, Myst, The Need for Speed, and others. It wasn’t the answer but it created so many new questions. I love my 3DO.

Matthew Allen on the Sega Dreamcast

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The Dreamcast is the perfect example of a perfectly good console that became a victim of bad timing and poor business decisions on the part of Sega. The system launched in September 1999 to great reviews, but many factors — not the least of which was growing anticipation of the PlayStation 2’s release — contributed to its untimely demise and discontinuation in March 2001.

In many ways, the Dreamcast was ahead of its time. It’s inclusion of a modem for online gaming and downloadable content, microphone support for voice chat, and second screen experiences through the use of the quirky VMU were all things that would eventually become standard for consoles, but at the time were unheard of outside the PC.

The system shared technology with Sega’s arcade boards of the time, resulting in near-perfect ports of some of the most popular arcade titles at the time, including Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Crazy Taxi. It was also home to an eclectic library of original titles, such as Rez, The Typing of the Dead, Seaman, Jet Set Radio, and Shenmue. Many of these would go on to find audiences on other platforms, but got their start on Sega’s little machine that could.

Though it may have only lasted a little over a year and a half, during its short lifecycle, the Dreamcast managed to develop a cult following of sorts. I count myself amongst this group. After the announcement, retailers began offering the system and games at clearance prices. You could often find the top hits for less than $20. I remember picking up the system and a bunch of games for a steal, and loving every moment I had playing the system that I knew was doomed, but didn’t care one bit. Thanks for the memories, Sega Dreamcast.

Nick Nunziata on the Sega Genesis Nomad

You have a stack of Sega Genesis cartridges. You love them and want them forever and wherever. The Genesis Nomad is a handheld device that plays Genesis games. There’s no catch. It does that. In fact, you could even run it back into a TV to use as a portable Genesis. It’s quite literally magic in your palms. Problem is, the machine came out way too late in the life cycle of 16-bit games and by the time the Nomad arrived the Super Nintendo had really taken over the marketplace.

The screen is small and it feels a bit cheaply made, but the Nomad is magical. To be able to play those games to this day is something no emulator can truly achieve. It will forever be considered a failure but playing Shining Force II on the 17-hour train ride from Atlanta to New York is a memory I won’t be able to replace.

Henry Gilbert on the PlayStation Vita

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From a tech standpoint, the PlayStation Vita is the ultimate handheld device. A lovely screen, powerful hardware, impressive connectivity to the PlayStation 4 are just some of the Vita’s positives. Those facts can’t beat Vita’s biggest negative — it has very poor sales. With few consumers buying Vitas, the handheld has been abandoned by both Sony and just about major game maker. But even as it quietly disappears as PlayStation’s possible final handheld, I still love my PS Vita, partially thanks to its unpopularity.

Vita’s lack of blockbusters like Call of Duty and Uncharted has opened the floodgates for Japanese oddities and indie ports to keep the system alive. Weird visual novels like Danganronpa and Virtue’s Last Reward became cult hits, big fish in Vita’s small pond. Meanwhile, just about every intriguing indie on the PS4 is also playable on the Vita, making the machine a treasure trove of titles that’d normally be ignored. Add in the ability to play dozens of PSone and PSP classics, and the Vita is an indispensable gaming machine — if only the rest of the gaming world would realize it.

Drew Dietsch on the Virtual Boy

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Yes, we all know that the Virtual Boy was a travesty. It was one of the most misguided ventures ever undertaken by Nintendo. It was an awful attempt at a portable system and playing it became a physical strain on your eyes. The system tanked within its first year of release.

Now, I’m not arguing for the Virtual Boy as a system. However, what people never really bring up when talking about this misfire are the games. And guess what? Most of the games are good. In fact, some of them are great.

Virtual Boy Wario Land is the biggest standout. It’s a shame that it has never been remastered for a modern system because it’s one of the best platformers in Nintendo’s library. There’s also Teleroboxer, a sci-fi boxing game that utilized the Virtual Boy’s mock 3D effect extremely well. The game is simple but extremely well-crafted and fun. There’s also the insanely addicting Bomberman: Panic Bomber puzzle game. Granted, it’s a port but the game is still a blast. And the rare Jack Bros. is a simple but effective Gauntlet-like action game.

Even the simpler fare is enjoyable. Mario’s Tennis isn’t anything special but it’s more than worth your time. Galactic Pinball is the same but has some more visual flare thanks to its sci-fi aesthetic. Nintendo even managed a nifty update of a classic with 3D Tetris.

If Nintendo could find a way to release some of these games in remastered versions, people could see how the Virtual Boy wasn’t as terrible as its hardware made it out to be. I sunk plenty of time into the system and still remember it fondly. I also suffer from terrible vision but I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.

Bob Mackey on the Wii U

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Nintendo’s last console amounted to a misfire, but it certainly hung in there longer than any other console deemed a “failure.” If you have any familiarity with Nintendo’s hardware over the last two decades, you know the Wii U‘s main function: To play games made by Nintendo. That’s been the case since the Nintendo 64, and most of us gaming veterans understand Nintendo systems aren’t known best for their third party titles. That said, the Wii U hosts an amazing collection of games you can’t find anywhere else. In fact, I wrote a recent article about the best Wii U games out there. Those ten selections alone should provide a pretty compelling reason to pick up this underappreciated little system. And, with the upcoming release of the Nintendo Switch, it definitely helps that Wii Us aren’t too pricey these days.

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