Top 10: Best Peripheral-Based Games

Steel Battalion Controllers

Without a doubt, peripheral-based gaming is going away and while most people who play games on a regular basis got sick of collecting plastic guitars, bizarre controllers or dance mats, I definitely miss those days. There are numerous reasons why the industry is moving forward (backwards?) and peripheral-based gaming is now a thing of the past: lack of space, the fact that people lost interest, most plastic controllers are used as a gimmick and so on and so forth. Nevertheless, I can’t help but thinking about those days when you needed something else besides the game itself to make the experience of playing it a little bit better.


10. Pokémon: Heart Gold and Pokémon: Soul Silver (Nintendo DS)

Pokewalker (Nintendo DS)

Peripheral: Pokéwalker

I always though that the Pokéwalker was a peripheral that was included in Pokémon Heartgold and Soulsilver remakes only to encourage Japanese players to engage in some physical activity. Nevertheless, the piece of hardware was more than a simple pedometer device, since it added a lot to the core experience. Basically, you could transfer one of your Pokémon to the pedometer and according to the number of steps registered in the device, you raised the level and happiness of your creature. But there were a handful of entertaining minigames included in the pedometer: you could collect special items and capture Pokémon that were only available on the Pokéwalker. Nintendo should consider bringing back an improved version of the Pokéwalker, since this little device was one of the reasons why I had so much fun with the Pokémon remakes.


9. Steel Battalion (Xbox)

Steel Battalion (Xbox)

Peripheral: Steel Battalion Controller

Steel Battalion is an original Xbox title where the player controls a bipedal tank. To control that tank, a large controller (a really large controller, in fact) is necessary. The controller has over 40 buttons, 2 sticks and some pedals and when the game launched, the bundle that included both the game and the controller was available for $200. If you think about it, everything about Steel Battalion is utterly stupid and that’s a huge part of what makes the game so great. Steel Battalion: Line of Contact, a sequel that used the controller, came out in 2004 and Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, a Kinect-only title that was poorly received by critics, came out in 2012.


8. The Typing of the Dead (Arcade, Dreamcast, Windows, PlayStation 2, iOS)

The Typing of the Dead

Peripheral: Keyboard

The Typing of the Dead eschewed the traditional lightgun action of the House of the Dead series and replaced it with a silly concept. Instead of defeating zombies using a gun, players had to type the words that appeared on screen. The ridiculous premise and the originality of the concept worked extremely well.


7. Donkey Konga (GameCube)

Donkey Konga (GameCube)

Peripheral: Donkey Bongos

As far as innovative rhythm games go, it doesn’t get more innovative than Donkey Konga. Although titles such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero popularized plastic guitars, drums and so on, Donkey Konga made one of the least popular instruments (read: bongos,) popular. The list of tracks is impressive and you wouldn’t believe some of the songs that can be played with bongos: blink 182’s All the Small Things, Queen’s Don’t Stop me Now and The Might Mighty Bosstones’ The Impression that I Get are some of them.


6. Samba de Amigo (Dreamcast)

Samba de Amigo (Dreamcast)

Peripheral: Maraca controller

So you’re telling me that there’s a game out there that has Ricky Martin songs that I’ll enjoy playing? Samba de Amigo is a rhythm game developed by the Sonic Team. As its name suggests, the game let’s you play samba and popular latin songs using a pair of controller shaped as maracas. On top of that, Samba de Amigo’s gameplay was unique and addictive.


5. Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand (Game Boy Advance)

Boktai - The Sun Is in Your Hands (GBA)

Peripheral: Ultraviolet sensor

Boktai’s cartridge uses a photometric light sensor that measures the amount of sunlight. So to charge an in-game weapon, the player needs to go outside when it’s sunny. If the sensor doesn’t detect sunlight, the player must avoid enemies. Although one of the main draws about the game is the sensor, Boktai is still a great portable game in its own right.


4. Dance Dance Revolution (PlayStation)

Dance Dance Revolution (PSX)

Peripheral: Dance Dance Revolution mat

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a video game out there that teaches you how to dance. By hitting colored arrows with your feet and following simple visual cues, players could learn some basic choreographies. The Dance Dance Revolution series gained critical praise for its originality and for encouraging players to do exercise. Nowadays, most people are playing Kinect-based dance games (mostly Dance Central and Just Dance) and while most of those series remain true to DDR in spirit, no game will replicate the cultural impact that DDR had back in its heyday.


3. DJ Hero (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii)

DJ Hero

Peripheral: Turntable

I remember what I thought the first time I heard about DJ Hero: “A game where you use turntables to play songs I don’t even like? Man, those Activision guys must be desperate.” Luckily, I was wrong. DJ Hero departed from the standards set by Guitar Hero in terms of gameplay and that was one of the reasons why the turntable controller was a really innovative peripheral. If you really think about it, with DJ Hero, Activision was ready to reset the music genre. But disappointing sales and the fact that interest in the genre was fading away prevented DJ Hero from being the successful title it should have been.


2. Rock Band (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii)

Rock Band

Peripheral: Guitar, bass, drums, microphone

Rock Band took the concept from Guitar Hero and improved upon it. Instead of playing guitar solos, Rock Band allowed you to be part of a band. A guitarist, bassist, singer and drummer could get together to play songs or, alternatively, you could choose your favorite instrument and play by yourself. On a more personal note, Rock Band is one of those titles that I’m constantly going back to and one of the reasons why I refuse to move on and embrace the next generation of consoles.


1. Guitar Hero (PlayStation 2)

Guitar Hero 2 (Xbox 360)

Peripheral: Guitar

Konami, you were so close… But when Harmonix polished the concept the house of Pro Evolution Soccer and Metal Gear Solid invented, one of the most revolutionary games in the the industry was born. The cultural impact of Guitar Hero was undeniable: people who weren’t interested in video games were suddenly picking up plastic guitars, Guitar Hero tournaments became popular, children were dropping out of school to become professional guitar heroes and NFL players (read: Joel Zumaya) were suffering injuries while playing the game. The rhythm genre will never be the same.


These are some of the games that didn’t make it to the final cut: Eyetoy: Play, Time Crisis, Duck Hunt, Beatmania, Rez, Wii Fit, Mario Paint, NBA Baller Beat, Sega Marine Fishing

  • You didn’t include the trance vibrator in Rez for PS2 (2001). That was sick!
    Shit list. Should do more research 5/10 will read again.

    -Brett

    • As far as I know, the Trance Vibrator was only available on a special package that only came out in Japan, so I never played Rez with this controller. Also, while I was doing research for this article, the peripheral came out a couple of times, but it was mentioned for comedic purposes and that’s why I decided not to include it. That said, maybe I should check Rez HD. I know this update uses extra controllers to provide a similar functionality to the Trance Vibrator.