For anyone looking for a faithful DIY experience in the world of modern video gaming, all you truly need is a Nintendo Labo and its Toy-Con Garage feature.
For the uninitiated, the Labo is a Nintendo Switch-exclusive title that lets you build your own toys out of cardboard and various other parts, including washers, rubber bands, stickers, and grommets. Each toy has its own unique minigame, whether it’s fishing, controlling a robot companion, or playing a miniature piano. The surprisingly complex suite of tools comes with the main Labo software and allows you to create your own custom inventions. If you can dream it, you can make it—as long as you’re determined enough.
Ever since Labo made its debut, eager creators have set about bringing to life some of the coolest creations they could imagine. Many have gone above and beyond anything Nintendo had in mind, and their out-of-the-box methods are inspirational, to say the least. People are endlessly creative, and Nintendo has held several popular contests seeking the most innovative Labo applications users could think of.
With that said, here are some of the coolest, most awe-inspiring Labo builds imaginative users have put together since it hit retail shelves.
Automated cardboard roulette table
Chalk up this creation, by YouTube user zanza_klaus, as one of the most intriguing spins on Labo you’ll find online. The fully functional table requires four Joy-Con controllers, plenty of cardboard, and smart coding that will track your score as you play. When you make a wager, reflective stickers on the backs of the chips tell the Switch which number you’ve chosen. Then, place the roulette ball, spin the wheel, and the contraption will go to work, reading reflective stickers on the little white sphere to determine which number it landed on.
If you score three points with three correct guesses, the Joy-Con controllers will vibrate and you’ll receive a bounty of special Nintendo coins—or whatever you decide to load the table with. This intricate setup also uses a fidget spinner as part of the roulette wheel, and there can be no doubt it took plenty of effort to bring the project to fruition.
Game & Watch “Fire” recreation
If you think this project looks ridiculously intricate, you’re correct. Its talented creator took the time to recreate the 1980 Game & Watch title, “Fire,” which involves firefighters using a life net in an attempt to rescue people jumping from a burning building. The Labo version of the game features a dark piece of paper with several cut-outs in the shapes of falling sprites and the rescuers who are trying to save them. The Switch itself is nestled beneath the paper, illuminating the characters as they “fall” toward the bottom of the screen.
It’s hard enough to cut out the shapes in a way that so closely matches the original game, but it’s even harder to program the game via the Labo’s coding language. All in all, this is a good example of how the Labo can help put a modern spin on a classic game.
With Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the horizon, it’s a great time to revisit one of the coolest Nintendo-centric creations made by a fan. No, this wasn’t an official Labo project. YouTube user Pikaaroon (Rare community and design intern Aaron Nielsen) created his own Poltergust—a vacuum Luigi uses to hunt ghosts in his mansion. The real-world version, similarly, lets players take part in hide-and-seek game modes in which they can find and capture “ghosts” around their homes.
Nielsen’s Poltergust includes a cardboard outer shell worn as a backpack, real-world parts such as a vacuum hose, and custom-made pieces that have it looking as close to Luigi’s in-game weapon as possible.
People love to use the Labo to create their own instruments and musical items. This cat, as YouTube user Douglas Hoyt says in the video, is made out of cardboard, detailed with black marker, and held together with hot glue and tape. The Switch itself makes up the cat’s face, with an expressive mouth and two lines for eyes that manage to communicate an adorable, anime-style look despite its overall mech-like appearance. The little bell on its chest ties the whole creation together.
The cat is controlled by two left Joy-Con controllers inserted into its paws, which allow it to create a full chromatic scale, depending on what button you push. And of course, its cries are different octaves of meows.
But it’s not just the technical prowess that impresses here. It’s how well the design fits the overall Labo aesthetic and homegrown Nintendo look. It really does look like something the company could have included as one of its official Labo projects, and that’s part of what really sells it.
The Switch’s screen is just about the perfect size for miniature versions of larger mechanisms, so making a vending machine seems like a no-brainer. This particular project, by YouTube user JapaneseHacker, uses the Labo’s programming to make it accept 500-yen coins and spit out candies in return. The Switch itself serves as the vending machine’s display, set inside a boxy cardboard body with a coin slot at the top right.
The user needs to simply insert the correct coin and the program will spit out a candy from the slot beneath the screen. It happens at about the same speed as a regular vending machine, which is perhaps the most impressive part of it all. Following that, a quick “Thank You” flashes on the screen. It’s quite simple, and while there’s no way to select which candy you wish to receive, if you built it, you get to stock it.
The Nintendo Labo Variety Kit already allows players to create their own piano, but this custom project takes things to another level entirely. Built by YouTube user Momoka Kinder, the accordion uses Joy-Con controllers, reflective stickers, seven holes for the musical notes, rubber bands, and, of course, the Switch. It makes sound when the camera can no longer sense sunlight shining through a hole, and each hole can play three octaves of the same note, so players can create some pretty familiar accordion sounds.
Seeing it in action is quite surreal, especially when you realize it’s really just a bunch of household items controlled by a Switch. You could do it too, and that’s what makes it such an awesome example of how the Switch is the perfect console for DIY projects.
Labo tea time
Care for a spot of tea? You will, after playing Youtube user Joseph France’s time management game involving filling and pouring four different types of tea with specially-made cardboard teapots. Each pot has a Joy-Con controller beneath its lid that can detect when the teapot is open or being poured. In a fashion not unlike the time management game Diner Dash, you must serve Nintendo-themed teas to thirsty customers as they mill in and out of your imaginary coffee shop.
To fill the pot, open the lid and watch the screen as the hot water level rises. Simply tilt the teapot to pour. When a customer comes in, you earn a point if you serve them on time, but you lose one if they get fed up and leave without their tea. The customers come in waves of increasing difficulty, and you’ve got to be especially efficient as you manage the pots.
It’s a simple premise, but one that wouldn’t have been out of place in a game like the Switch’s debut party game 1-2-Switch, which had players using Joy-Con controllers to mimic answering telephones, untangling chains, or even picking locks. France also put a lot of effort into making functional teapots out of a material that isn’t exactly the easiest to work with, either, and it shows.
If there’s anything the earlier Labo creations have shown us, it’s that people love cats and music. In that sense, then, this particular invention is, as they say, the cat’s meow. Instead of being a simple instrument, it’s actually a rhythm game that rewards you for keeping time with the music.
With three targets that need to be pushed down in time to a tune, it’s a simple affair that took plenty of work to become functional. The targets (called plungers by YouTube user Vix Chan) are cardboard tubes wrapped with reflective infrared tape that pop in and out of the game’s makeshift box via the power of elastic bands. Once one goes down, the Joy-Con recognizes the reflective tape and tallies the plunger push. When released, the tubes spring back up and behave like regular buttons for you to continue tapping along to the game’s music.
The Switch screen itself gets a special overlay of adorable kitty faces and sits by the sensor at the front of the machine. If you push the plungers in time with the music, you’ll eventually come out on top. It’s simple to understand and execute, but like most rhythm games, it will take some practice to master. Luckily, a crowd will cheer you on when you do well (but they’ll boo you if you don’t). With a bit of work, this fun little creation could easily turn into a more mainstream rhythm gaming experience. Given the fact that the Switch is home to several music-oriented games such as Musynx and Gal Metal, this isn’t too much of a stretch.