Given the limited availability of the PS5 at launch, I should consider myself lucky to even be in its presence. Many would love to be a proud owner of this white and black behemoth, and I am honestly loving the experience of actually playing games on this beast, but be damned if it isn’t an absolute affront on the eyeballs. Completely dwarfing my quiet achiever Xbox Series X with its imposing presence and crudely bolted on (not to mention upside-down) disc drive, feng shui is all but a thing of the past in my loungeroom now. People have been quick to praise the PS5 in general and straight hero worship the (admittedly quite beautiful) controller, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who claims that the gargantuan console really ties the room together. So I found myself wondering, is the PS5 the ugliest console ever created? Then I did some research. Turns out the PS5 is basically the Mona Lisa compared to some of the true horrors out there…
Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995)
The mid-90s was a wild time for gaming and consoles in general, but if you wonder what the Half Life series’ inspiration was for their head crab zombies, then look no further. Just as uncomfortable to play (unless you were a diehard fan of the colour red and craning your neck for extended periods) as it was to look at, this is one of Nintendo’s well meaning attempts at innovation gone sideways. On the plus side, you could cannibalise it for use in obscure cosplay based on the Short Circuit films.
Johnny 5 is alive
Miscellaneous bolted-on extras (mid 90s)
The race to increase processing speed in the 90s was cutthroat to say the least. But why go to the trouble of making a new console when you could simply bolt on an adaptor that made them increasingly resemble toilets? The unsightly 32X (for Genesis/Mega Drive consoles, released in 1994) effectively doubled the processing speed of the beloved console (I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to receive anything at Christmas than one of those bad boys with NBA Jam), but the Atari Jaguar CD really took things to the next level. The CD drive add-on (released in 1995) wanted to take advantage of CD-ROM technology, but given the apparent difficulty of developing for the Jaguar in general, lack of software and simultaneous rise of Sony’s PlayStation in the mid-90s, the Jaguar and its turd receptacle add-on where doomed to failure. Still, if you want to play Highlander: The Last of the Macleods as the artist intended then you might have to track down one of the only 25k units sold.
I am honoured to accept your waste
Apple Bandai Pippin (1995)
Long before they were taking headphone jacks and chargers away from people, Apple dipped their toes into the console market. A squat, off-white VCR doppelganger, you just know that these things are made of a plastic that slowly develops that unsettling yellow tinge akin to the fingers of a pack-a-day smoker. As an added bonus, the controller is shaped in such a way that even if you try to throw it away it will spin around and come straight back.
Not Pippin hot
Original PS3 (2006)
While viewed alongside some of the other hideous creations in this list the PS3 doesn’t look that bad, but considering it came out in 2006, they should have known better. In many ways the PS5 apes the ludicrous dimensions of its grandfather, whose bubbly architecture earned it the title of the Fat Boy. Perhaps the fact it cost 1000 AUD at launch also made it look visually less appealing. A bit like the original Duke controller for the Xbox, the Fat Boy PS3 did make its way into people’s hearts, but more likely on the strength of its (eventually) incredible software than its portly architecture. The Slim model rectified a lot of the design issues, but as a sidenote I’ll never forgive the woeful controller with its 3 cm charge cable that felt like it was designed to be only comfortably held by a five-year-old child.
Mattel should have stuck to Barbie dolls. If you’ve ever looked at a toasted sandwich maker and hoped that it would also steal money from you by locking content behind paywalls, then the HyperScan is a must have. With predatory pay-to-win mechanics linked to collectible cards baked into its edgy black and red design that kind of make it look like one of those cheap wallets you put pirated CDs in, this one was an EFTPOS machine in (terrible) disguise.
Throw money at it until it goes away
View-Master Interactive Vision (1989)
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to decrypt Morse code from a Yugoslavian bunker on this thing or just set it on fire and hope it’s enough to kill it, but this abomination redefines what it means to be ugly on the inside and outside. From the brilliant minds who brought you View-Master toys (those binocular-type things where you click through pictures) comes this monstrosity, which cleverly combines the worst conceivable controller with the unmatched reliability and fidelity of VHS. Sometimes relics of the past make as smile and think of simpler times, other times they have us reaching for a bible in the vain hope that there is some sort of redemption in this Godless world. The View-Master Interactive Vision is the latter.
Where is your God now?
There are all manner of consoles out there that time had almost forgotten, but the beauty of the Internet has allowed us to look upon them once more and have them live forever in our nightmares. All things said and done though, I imagine video game historians will look back at the PS5 decades from now and still wonder what the hell they were thinking. Is it a horrifying example of overly bold design choice whose dimensions make it impossible to arrange aesthetically in most modern TV units? Yes. Do I love it all the same? Also yes.