The Virtual Boy And Other 3D Gaming Failures Throughout Time

With Sony releasing 3D-capable games for the PS3 and Nintendo readying its 3DS, it would seem the video game world is trying something new and innovative. Not so. As those with long memories of pathetic game products from the past will remember, the industry has danced with the third dimension for decades.

Game Informer rounds up gamedom’s trysts with 3D, cataloging misfire after ambitious misfire dating back to the 1980s. Think Virtual Boy, the SegaScope 3D and a host of games packaged with those headache-inducing, color-destroying red-and-blue glasses.

Gamers, what sort of 3D, if any, would you like to see invade your pastime?

A Look Back At 3D Console Gaming [Game Informer]


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  1. ehrgeiz says:

    I loved virtual boy it was a great console, really ahead of its time.

    • SenorBob says:

      Yes, it also caused loss of depth perception, which in children could be permanent. It was neat idea, but it tanked for a very good reason.

      • chaesar says:

        I played it once and had an instant headache. Too much red

        • womynist says:

          I never played it, but my bf still has one in the basement. Perhaps we’ll have to bust it out for some old-skool gaming.

  2. SanDiegoDude says:

    LOL, Virtual Boy. My buddy had one. you had to lean into them (they were conceived to be worn like glasses, however they were so heavy they had to have a tripod under them to hold them up to prevent neck strain) and they were seriously headache inducing, even after just a few minutes. The concept wasn’t bad, just technology wasn’t up to par at the time. (1995ish)

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I would actually lay down on my back and rest the unit on my face. It would have been the most fun I’ve had while on my back but I had already started puberty.

  3. chaesar says:

    I had the SegaScope 3D glasses, and they ruled.

    • PanCake BuTT says:

      Excellent follow-up. Kudos to you !

      • chaesar says:

        And to you as well, douchebag. The Sega Glasses would’ve been successful if the 8-bit system itself were more popular in the US. Sega didn’t catch on here until after Genesis came along and with it Sonic the Hedgehog. The 3D games were great, in full-color with realistic dimensional effects; its two setbacks were considerable cost for the glasses and they were bulky, becoming pretty uncomfortable after awhile.

  4. satoru says:

    The only thing I think would work great with 3D is if you combined Kinetic with 3D. I can envision something like a 3D cockpit, where you would reach out to the 3D HUD to activate things. Essentially having a real “Minority Report”/”Iron Man” styled 3D HUD interface. At least then from a gaming perspective, the 3D would be essential to the gameplay, instead of tacked on as some kind of gimmick like the Avatar game.

    Maybe you could get a virtual controller of Steel Batallion working this way.

    I’m thinking a great way to bring back the Mechwarrior series too :)

    • Azzizzi says:

      I agree that something like a 3D cockpit would be good. My problem with playing games is that you always have some very limited perspective that suffers from tunnel vision. You have no peripheral vision. One game that addressed this was Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. You could put up multiple screens and set the view for each of these.

    • mac-phisto says:

      how about we concentrate on getting a good mech fighter game first. it’s been a long time since we had one of those. that would be much better than a shitty mech game in 3D, imo.

      i guess what i’m saying is 3D is a gimmick (like HD). you can’t design a game around that concept & expect it to be good. you have to make a really good game first. then, make it 3D.

    • BobOblah says:


  5. mac-phisto says:

    for those that haven’t seen it yet, AVGN does an excellent (arguably the BEST) review of the Virtual Boy.

    NSFW. really NSFW. you’ve been warned.

  6. Erich says:

    I had this virtual-3d headset for the Genesis. It was a big monstrosity that weighed too much to wear for any decent length of time, but it was pretty cool. It gave you a stereoscopic image to simulate the 3D. but DAMN, after 30 minutes or so, my neck would ache from having to hold this big-ass thing on the front of my face.

    • Erich says:

      for clarification, you used the giant headset instead of a TV. it plugged into the tv-out on the back of the Genesis.

  7. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    I’m really looking forward to “enhanced reality,” where the game interface is overlaid over the real world. It’s not just a grocery run, it’s a quest through a dangerous dungeon, where you must collect a dozen things from the Great List, then make it through the gauntlet of terror (checkout) and then the perilous journey back home.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      You can do this now with a little LSD.

  8. Outrun1986 says:

    How about the Virtuality pods that were seen in arcades during the 90s, if anything was puke inducing it was those. There was an early model based on the Amiga computer and the headset was downright scary and very heavy, but it actually did make people throw up (not to mention having to wear a heavy headset). The later models (some might still be in use today) were a bit better, had a much lighter headset and didn’t make people throw up so much.

    Sometimes I am glad I never had the opportunity to play one.

  9. Buckus says:

    3D is doomed to failure until holodecks are available. It will remain a niche market, and the only way people will buy 3D in en masse is if they don’t know they’re buying it. In other words, in my opinion, there is no gain to be had by manufacturing 3D devices over non-3D devices. Discuss.

  10. hatemonger says:

    I currently run two projectors through polarized filters onto a silver screen. Most computer games work in 3D after a little tweaking. It’s heavenly. It really doubles or tripples the enjoyment I’m getting out of some games. Racing games are way more immersive. Aiming in FPS’s is more difficult, but talk about losing yourself! Mirrors Edge was a rush from start to finish. Riding rides on Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 has been a blast. If only the market went for polarization instead of shutter glasses…

    • Kam K. says:

      Wait really? Can you explain a little bit more? That sounds awesome.

      • hatemonger says:

        Sure. A lot of my inspiration came from TomsHardware, which occasionally runs articles on 3D gaming. A good one is at,1581.html. The term is stereoscopy or stereoscopic gaming, either of which you can google for more information. Assuming you know the basics of how 3D works (right eye/left eye images and all that), you can imagine that it would be pretty easy for video games to render an additional frame offset 6 inches and then send one stream to each eye. Programs like iZ3D can make that happen. I have 2 projectors, both of which have their own HDMI cable to my video card. I’ve aligned both projectors to project close to on top of each other, but your brain works surprisingly well at correcting a little offset. I put a small polarized film in front of each projector, and then toss on a cheap set of polarized glasses. IZ3D has an option to use dual projectors, so once I get the settings right (antiailasing kills 3D, and some other settings can be funky) I am up and running.

  11. johnrhoward says:

    TVs games, movies, they all need to give up on this 3D push. 3D is a novelty, and it wears off quickly. As long as you have to wear glasses, it will never be anything people want to use regularly.

  12. trimetrov says:

    Rad Racer on NES, anaglyph mode…awful.

  13. Wolfbird says:

    I would like to see exactly 0 of it forced on me. If companies want to make alternate versions or options where you can use 3D in games, whatever, but when I play I don’t want to be distracted by stupid googles that interfere with my perscription lenses or by possible headaches.

    Also, is everyone forgetting that the “3D” effect just plain suck? Avatar was like looking at an animated pop-up book.

    If they can one day make a 3D effect that doesn’t involve a contraption that I have to duct-tape to my head AVGN-style or that just looks like living cardboard cut-outs I’d be open to the idea.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      I agree 100%!. I have a vision problem (nearsighted in one eye, farsighted in the other, along with other complications) and I cannot see 3-D. My brain, after years of trying to get my eyes to work together, has resorted to just picking one or the other and using it alone. I wear glasses to minimize this, and I’ve had 2 surgeries. I can get by fine.

      But I can’t see 3-D! Not only can’t I see it, but attempting to see it makes me ill. I’m not alone on this, either. (And even if there aren’t a lot of people like me, Avatar was proof that there are at least quite a few people made mildly to moderately nauseous by 3-D.)

      And I really, really hate when there’s a movie I want to see, but the local theater is only showing it in 3-D, like they’re doing us all a favor. I just have to miss out.

      So go ahead and develop it, but please give us a choice.

    • StitchPirate says:

      Yeah, I have a slight case of amblyopia (lazy eye). It’s not enough to make it really visible (my best friend had no idea until I joked about my “crazy eye” one day), and my vision is basically okay. It gets a little lazier if I’m really tired or really drunk. But I cannot handle watching 3D for extended periods of time. It gives me an awful headache, and eventually the lazy eye just drifts off and I end up seeing the image in 2D anyway. I can watch up to about a half hour or so, but not nearly enough for a whole movie or serious gaming session.

  14. webweazel says:

    I don’t really care about 3D this & that, glasses, no glasses. The games I like are pretty basic puzzle-type anyway. But you can sign me up for one of these:

  15. Beeker26 says:

    I’d rather game studios spent their time and money making better, less buggy games instead of focusing on this fad.

  16. Cleo256 says:

    See, I would agree that 3D is stupid. But Nintendo’s had a pretty good track record the last few years of taking some idea that was tried back on the NES that the technology wasn’t ready for, and turning it into something that works.

    Wireless controllers? NES idea that didn’t work. Nintendo brought it back in 2003 with the Wavebird, and now it’s a standard.

    Motion controls? Ever heard of the Power Glove? Total junk, but Nintendo brought it back with the Wii, and now Sony and Microsoft are struggling to keep up.

    The 3DS just might be the thing that makes 3D work. Haven’t seen it myself yet, but Nintendo’s track record has me determined not to pre-judge it.