5 Crazy Nintendo Patents that were almost turned into real products

Did you know Nintendo *almost* made a smartphone case with a built-in Game Boy? Well, now you do…

Nintendo has always been a pioneer in the gaming world, known for its innovation and creativity. Starting out selling gaming cards, the company practically led the charge on gaming innovation, starting with their entertainment systems, to the birth of the world’s first handheld gaming console (Apple TV has an entire movie on how Tetris made its way to the first Game Boy). That was just a milestone for the company, which went on to revolutionize gaming with Super Mario, Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, and an entire host of other games that hold legend-status in the gaming world. The Game Boy then transformed into the Nintendo DS, which led to the Wii, and finally the wildly successful Switch. But did you know that not all of Nintendo’s ideas have seen the light of day? Or rather, some of their less-than-brilliant ideas that remain languishing in a patent office.

The folks at NeoMam Studios partnered with Guide Strats to bring some of these patents to life and let’s say, we would have loved to be a fly on the wall at the Nintendo office when these products were being pitched. From a Joy Con-enabled horse saddle to a smartphone case with a Game Boy built into it, these concepts are bizarre, to say the least…

Designers: NeoMam Studios for Guide Strats

Nintendo Inventions That Stayed On Paper

1. Nintendo Playable Game Boy Smartphone Case

(Patent No: US20180275769A1)

Somewhere down the road execs at Nintendo saw the rise of smartphones and thought – what if we turned the iPhone into a GameBoy?! This slap-on case for your smartphone basically acts as a physical emulator, blocking most of the screen to allow you to only see a small portion of it, where the game would be displayed. Buttons on the front tap the screen when pressed, allowing you to effectively get the Game Boy experience on a modern-day smartphone. The pros? Peak nostalgia and tactile buttons. The cons? Pretty much everything else, including the clunky GB cover that would practically consume your smartphone’s entire aesthetic.

2. Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons with Hinges

(Patent No: JP2019146737A)

A little less weird conceptually, but equally absurd on a technical level, Nintendo patented ‘bendable’ Joy-Cons for their Switch device. The reason? Ergonomics in general, given that the Joy-Cons aren’t as ergonomically shaped as other controllers on the market like Sony’s DualSense controller or Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Controller. These unique controllers, however, have hinges in them that allow them to bend away from you, enabling a natural gripping position while still having the screen facing you clearly. Given that ‘drifting’ is already a problem within the Joy-Cons, having more moving parts that could compromise accuracy seemed like a bad idea, which is why the patent was left as it was.

3. Nintendo Wii Football Controller

(Patent No: EP2090346B1)

Given how the Wii’s controllers made them perfectly suited for workouts and sports like boxing, skiing, and table tennis, the good folks at Nintendo thought it would make sense to have a football (or rugby ball) accessory for the Wii remote, allowing people to pass, throw, dodge, and run in the game. The solution was an incredibly odd-looking accessory that felt like shoving a remote control into an existing football. “The game-playing public generally expects a football video game to provide a reasonably accurate model of at least some aspects of the actual game of football,” argued Nintendo’s patent. What Nintendo didn’t realize at the time, was that it wasn’t realistic to expect people to play football indoors without breaking bones, furniture, and possibly even your Nintendo Wii. Luckily, sanity prevailed and the Nintendo Wii Football Controller was scrapped.

4. Nintendo Portable System with Interchangeable Controls

(Patent No: US20140121023A1)

This one might be the least absurd because you can really see Nintendo’s thinking at the time. The “Nintendo Portable System with Interchangeable Controls” was filed as a patent 10 years ago, long before the Switch was released. The idea – a Nintendo 3DS-style handheld console with interchangeable controls that could slide in and out, allowing you to swap between joysticks, action buttons, and a D-pad based on the game you wanted to play. Eventually, this concept evolved into the Switch as we know it today, and these tiny removable modules were effectively adapted into removable joy-cons, which many will argue was a much better idea in hindsight!

5. Nintendo Wii Inflatable Horseback Riding Peripheral

(Patent No: US8277327B2)

Let it be known that the Wii years should go down into the annals of history as some of Nintendo’s weirdest years. As the company saw success with its motion-sensing console/controller system, the company decided the best way to build out the Wii ecosystem would be to create accessories. If the football accessory wasn’t enough, the Nintendudes decided to patent this ridiculous exercise-ball-inspired “Inflatable Horseback Riding Peripheral”. The idea, you’d sit on it with the Wii remote docked between your legs, rocking back and forth to control the horse’s movements. Thankfully for Nintendo and all the gaming fans out there, a particular Jim and Dwight scene from The Office helped Nintendo understand exactly how ridiculous this would look…

Image Credits: Guide Strats