What went wrong with the Philips CD-i? What happened, which games were available, and why did the console fail to take off?

The Philips CD-i was a fascinating console, but why did it flop so hard? Here’s everything you need to know about its games, sales, and what went wrong…

by Daryl Baxter
Philips CDi what went wrong games nintendo flop sales

If you’ve ever wondered what went wrong with the Philips CD-i, this is the article for you!

As soon as you think of Philips, you think of accessories like speakers, cd-players and even tapes from back in the day.

But once upon a time, it was also briefly known as a player in the games-console market, alongside many others.

This console was a remnant of what happened with the Nintendo PlayStation of which we spoke about previously, where Sony and Nintendo had a falling out over contract terms, and after Nintendo went behind Sony’s back, the PlayStation was eventually released in 1995.

So what was it, and what happened, is what we’ll be going into.

Philips CD-i history

The ‘Compact Disc-Interactive’ system, or the CD-I, first began its development in 1984 with an aim to design a system that could display interactive video but in an affordable way, so a household could have one in their living room. A common feature now, but something that was alien in 1984.

It caught the attention of a fair few technology companies at the time, as they also believed that the disk was going to be the future, as a way of moving away from video and cartridges.

And so after a time, the Philips CD-i was born, with its design looking more like a ‘Betamax’ player, with a controller that faintly looked like a Mega Drive controller, if a Sega controller had lost its way that is.

Released in 1990 for $999, it was certainly seen as a ‘premium product’, thinking that the CD-i was a standard that was going to become very common during the nineties.

With it being able to display videos, up to a point, alongside karaoke CD’s, photo CD’s and other types, other eyes were on games, and what could occur there.


And it turns out that Phillips had a trump card to end all trump cards, even compared to the present day.

READ MORE: The most underrated retro consoles

Which games came to Philips CD-i?

There were just under 200 games released for the CD-i, most of them forgotten about, while others still live on today thanks to the entries being on more-successful systems, such as:

  • Arcade Classics
  • Dragon’s Lair
  • Flashback
  • Myst
  • Micro Machines
  • Pinball
  • Rise of the Robots
  • Tetris

Granted, Rise of the Robots wasn’t as successful as it was hyped up to be at the time, but it was still notable to see that on the CD-i, especially in 1994.

There were also full motion video games, similar to ‘Dragon’s Lair’, where you could use the controller to manipulate the video with quick-presses. Games such as Burn Cycl, Mad Dog McCree, and Thunder in Paradise were all terrible, there was no question of that, but it did show potential in what could occur if real-time graphics could be implemented instead of video. And we did get that in the form of ‘Quicktime-events’ from games such as Shenmue.

What about Nintendo games on Philips CD-i?

The partnership of Nintendo and Philips began as a way of developing something for the Super Nintendo as a CD-expansion unit for the console, but ultimately it led to nothing. Looking back, it seemed as though that Nintendo was unsure as to what the next product to follow the SNES would be, especially with the plans that Nintendo had with Sony at the time as well.

But due to the way that the Nintendo and Sony deal ended in 1991, Phillips had the very unique opportunity from the contract-terms that they and Nintendo had agreed on. They were allowed to use Nintendo characters for games, and to be developed by themselves, with next to no input from Nintendo themselves, so they essentially had free reign to do as they wished. And of course, the opportunity was jumped upon.

One of the games that came out of this opportunity was Hotel Mario. Released in 1994, this was a puzzle-platformer that required the player to venture through different levels on each stage through elevators, collecting certain pick-ups when needed, across seven hotels, with ten levels in each. An average game, but one that had colourful graphics at least.

Link: Faces of Evil, Zelda: Wand of Gamelon and Zelda’s Adventure were also available on the Philips CD-i. Each of these games had the style of Zelda, but in a terribly-thought out way. It’s as if the developers had taken a memory-loss potion, and was then challenged to try and remember the Zelda series in some squiggles and voice acting.

That’s what these games were, while the haunting voice acting and frustrating controls caused anger across the CD-i land, especially when they would each retail for $40.

A cancelled sequel to ‘Super Mario World’, called ‘Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds’ did in fact exist, and even received positive feedback from Nintendo, but due to the low sales of the console, it was cancelled. But leaked prototypes have since been uncovered to show what could have been.


After 1995, sales rapidly dwindled, until the console was found in bargain bins across America and then quietly discontinued in 1998.

It’s surprising that it even reached eight years, especially by then with the Playstation and N64 fully showing off polygonal games such as Mario 64 and Tomb Raider.

Oh dear…

The Philips CD-i is merely an example of how a series of flukes became a console, and a bad one at that. It was bulky, it was slow, and it was expensive.

But it had one of the greatest opportunities that other companies could only dream about, and instead we got one of the worst Zelda games to ever grace our eyes and ears.

So whenever you can, sit back, and watch the Angry Video Game Nerd’s takedown of Wand of Gamelon from 2008, to save you from playing it.

READ MORE: Best retro consoles to buy in 2020

Daryl Baxter