10 Game Consoles That Exclusively Released In Japan
It’s no surprise that there are still a lot of games that are exclusive to Japan. It may be a bit more shocking to hear that there are also plenty of consoles too. Besides full consoles, there are a lot of limited-edition releases such as the 3DS systems with special branding that never made it out of Japan.
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These are some very well-known exclusives out there, although a few caveats have resulted in a couple of consoles not making the cut for this list. As one example, the Famicom, aka the Japanese NES, got the Famicom Disk System. It was exclusive to Japan but it was more like an add-on than a full console, and the same goes for the Super Famicom’s Satellaview.
10 Hitachi Game & Car Navi HiSaturn
The Hitachi Game & Car Navi HiSaturn launched on December 6, 1995, in Japan. It was essentially a normal Sega Saturn at its core. The big difference was the power adapter that was made to plug into a car lighter’s slot. Sold separately to the console was a mini TV screen.
The idea was to make the console portable, at least in terms of being able to play it in a car. This was before the PSOne screen Sony made which seemed to make and market it better.
The Super Famicom Naizou TV SF1 is a Sharp branded TV with a built-in Super Famicom, the Japanese Super Nintendo, on top. Like the normal console, it also offered two controller ports.
It launched on December 5, 1990, in Japan with 14 and 21-inch model sets. The exclusivity is odd considering Sharp released an NES version with the same idea in North America.
8 Panasonic Q
One of the biggest reasons why the PS2 was such a hit was because it had a built-in DVD player. At the time, the prices of the console and a good DVD player were about the same, so the PS2 was a steal.
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That is seemingly why Nintendo experimented with the idea by teaming up with Panasonic to make this special GameCube. The Panasonic Q launched on December 14, 2001, in Japan. It could play DVDs and CDs but notability the quality did not seem to be that good.
Sony was not without its own failed sets of experimentation during this period. What they did for DVD players, the company thought it could do with DVRs too. The PSX then was a PS2 and DVR combo that launched on December 13, 2003, in Japan.
It did not pick up steam as much as the normal console, which might explain why it never released here or stayed on shelves that long in Japan. It is notably the first Sony console to debut the XMB interface.
6 Sega TeraDrive
The Sega TeraDrive launched on May 31, 1991, in Japan. It is like the Sharp Super Famicom TV except it is a console and computer hybrid. Players could plug in their Sega Mega Drive cartridges, which was Japan’s Sega Genesis, and play them like they could on a normal TV.
They could also use the system as a normal PC. There were plans to have both systems interact with one another but that didn’t amount to much.
5 Dreamcast Divers 2000 CX-1
While the Dreamcast Divers 2000 CX-1 may look like a PC monitor similar to Sega’s other experiment, it’s actually a TV set. The release date is unknown other than pinpointing to the year 2000.
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The set itself is a TV plus a built-in Sega Dreamcast. This included the four controller ports as well as keyboard access to basically make it like a computer. It’s notably shaped like Sonic’s head.
4 Game Gear Micro
The Game Gear Micro line was the latest official release from a big company to market a classic console in tiny form. There were four units, all of which came prepackaged with a handful of games unlike something like the NES Classic which had one model and thirty games attached.
These mini Game Gears released on October 6, 2020, in Japan, celebrating the 20th anniversary. The North American anniversary was back in April but no news came out for a planned Western release sadly.
The WonderSwan line of handhelds began in 1999 with the original. Then, a year later, a colored version came out. These were designed by Gunpei Yokoi who is known most notably for creating the Game Boy line for Nintendo.
Yokoi also made the Virtual Boy, one of Nintendo's more notorious failed projects. This played a part in Yokoi eventually leaving the company to help Bandai out. Sadly, he died before the original WonderSwan came out.
2 PC Engine LT
The PC Engine was known as the Turbografx-16 in the West. This change was done to more fully advertise its 16-Bit graphics, which is what the company thought would attract Western customers.
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That said, this strategy did not work out as it did not sell well here. That’s presumably why this portable version, which looks like a laptop, remained exclusive to Japan. It released on December 13, 1991.
Because the Turbografx-16 was not a hit over here, its sequel console, the PC-FX, was also not brought over. It launched on December 23, 1994, in Japan. Unlike the first console, this better reflected the PC term in the title as it looked like a computer tower.
One of the more notable releases for it was Castlevania: Rondo of Blood in 1993. North America eventually got a SNES port via Castlevania: Dracula X in 1995, although it was a very trimmed-down version.
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Tristan Jurkovich(487 Articles Published)
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Tristan Jurkovich began his career as a journalist in 2011. His childhood love of video games and writing fuel his passion for archiving this great medium’s history. He dabbles in every genre, but he’s particularly fond of RPGs and portable consoles. Aside from writing, Tristan also produces a plethora of videos on his YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer. Check it out!