Top-10 Consoles of All Time

Well this has been a long time coming and I felt it was finally time for me to list, what I think are the Top-10 consoles of all time. I’ve dreaded doing this list for a while, particularly since I’m a Nintendo fan myself and that always puts objectivity at a risk, but I believe I’ve made the most objective list I’m capable of producing with this one. Hope you all enjoy it…

10. Atari 2600

Of course I have to give credit to the console which pretty much created the whole concept of modern gaming. The Atari 2600 was the progenitor which effectively introduced all the major conventions and standards that came with a console. And it’s still highly beloved to this day. The 2600 deserves massive credit for being a console from the late 1970s that is still so well received to this day.

Even if the Atari company caused its own destruction, they were the first providers of high-end home video-gaming at a time when the video-game experience was still mostly reserved for the arcades.

However, by modern standards, the 2600 is a hopelessly archaic piece of machinery, but one has to remember it was a system developed for a very different kind of era, but it certainly constitutes as one of the most important milestones in video-game history.

9. Nintendo Wii

While the Wii is a console which divides opinions sharply, one can’t overlook the fact that it was the only system to introduce something new with the current generation of consoles. As a direct result it became the best-selling system of its generation and opened a whole new market of casual gamers. Nintendo took back the position that it lost to Sony and its first two PlayStation consoles.

However, the reason I’m putting Wii on the list is not because of the motion-controls which were (poorly) imitated soon after by both Microsoft and Sony soon after. The reason I fell in love with the Wii was for one thing only: The Virtual Console.

Nintendo bagged itself the single most impressive back catalogue of retro games. Of course we have all the classics from NES to the N64, but in addition Nintendo also collaborated with other companies to bring NEC’s, Sega’s and the Commodore company’s classic titles to the download service. The Wii is still a retro gamer’s top choice console and for this service Nintendo has my eternal thanks.

8. Xbox 360

Microsoft was the first company to put out its console in the current generation and I have to applaud them for their efforts. Whereas the first Xbox was looked upon with some derision, everyone was immediately taken by the 360 and it showed that Microsoft was serious about its video-gaming venture. The 360 became immediately a legitimate gaming platform.

A high-end console with tons of features and probably the most extensive internet services out of all the current systems, the Xbox also worked as a stepping stone for PC gamers who had previously stayed away or simply not seen the appeal in console gaming. Microsoft also showed it had balls by going head to head with undoubtedly its biggest competitor, the PlayStation 3.

The 360 is a solid system despite some early hiccups with the insidious red ring of death. However, as a console it didn’t really introduce anything really revolutionary, but it’s certainly the system with which Microsoft has shown that it is a legitimate force in the console industry.

7. Sega Dreamcast

Ask anyone, there isn’t a single person who didn’t love the Sega Dreamcast. Therefore it’s quite the puzzle why it never became a massive success. But then we remember that its only competition at the time of release was the PlayStation 2 and it all unfortunately makes sense form there on out.

Never the less, Sega wasn’t deterred by the failure of the Saturn but instead ploughed ahead with the Dreamcast, a system which seemed light years ahead of all other consoles. The gamers loved it, the critics loved it, even people who weren’t that wild about Sega loved it. It was the definitive sixth generation console with a sleek, smart design, enough performance power to put the PS1 and N64 to shame and a catalogue of titles the owners of those systems could only dream about. So why did the Dreamcast fail?

Well,  the crushing effect of the PlayStation 2 and Sega’s own problems with the Dreamcast’s online features were probably part of the problem. Another might have been that despite the fact that Sega didn’t show it outward, the Saturn’s failure dealt a bigger blow to the company financially than anyone expected. Sega just flat-out ran dry and had to stop making consoles, but at least they went out with a bang and not a whimper.

6. Microsoft Xbox

Many people, myself included, laughed at the arrival of Microsoft’s first console. We all believed this trial at video-gaming by the world’s biggest computer company was going to go in the way of the N-Gage and bomb after a few years. However, Microsoft stuck to it, they fixed the problems people had with the console and pretty soon the system enjoyed a very sustainable existence alongside the market juggernaut, PlayStation 2, and the more hip and now Nintendo system, the GameCube.

What lands the original Xbox this high on the list is a feature introduced with the system, for which I’m eternally thankful for and which thankfully became an industry standard from there on out: an Internal Hard-drive for Consoles. The move to optical media in gaming lead to increased memory capacity for games and more flexible technological platforms. It also meant we all had to buy fucking memory cards just to save game data, which was both pointless and wasteful. The Xbox’s internal hard-drive of course allowed the console to be capable of many other things besides playing games, but its inherent advantage was the fact that you didn’t need a separate hunk of plastic to save your game data.

As a system, the Xbox was mildly succesful – as a technical innovation, it was a gift from Bill Gates.

5. Nintendo 64

I’ve had my fondest gaming memories on the only true 64-bit console of its generation, but the Nintendo 64, generally speaking, deserves far more recognition than it’s been given. It’s true that the system was dominated 3-1 by the first PlayStation and unfortunately Nintendo lost its position as the number-1 console manufacturer during its existence. The system also provided some of the most highly and critically praised titles in Nintendo’s history.

Also, the N64 innovated many things that were quickly imitated by its competitors and became industry standards. Whether we’re talking about the wide-open 3D spaces of games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, rumble features or even something as elementary as analogue control-sticks, all of these innovations go back to the Nintendo 64. It was also the last major home system to use cartridges and not CD-Roms, which meant that on the N64 you would never had to make time waiting while the games were loading, unlike on the PlayStation.

Unfortunately, what made the Nintendo 64 so revolutionary and user-friendly was also its down-fall. The game cartridge was seen by many companies as a thing of the past which caused a mass migration of some of Nintendo’s strongest supporters to the competing PlayStation. Nintendo resultedly suffered from a shortage of third-party titles and found it extremely difficult to coax companies to make games for its system. At the same time Nintendo was swimming in dough from its massive succesful Pokémon franchise, which also lead to Nintendo letting its side down with the N64 as well.

4. Sony PlayStation + PlayStation 2

I really couldn’t pick which of Sony’s first consoles was more significant so I decided to simply include both. Sony originally was going to enter the video-game market as Nintendo’s partner back in 1990, but a contractual betrayal by the big N caused Sony to go off and develop its own system which would eventually become the Sony PlayStation. And the rest is video-game history…

The first PlayStation’s success was the result of two major things. For one, Sony convinced third-party developers that 3D gaming on a home console was a reality and not just a fantasy. The PS1 possessed the necessary hardware to produce (for the time) impressive 3D environments and characters and really opened the door to 3D gaming for the general market. At the same time, Sega, whose Saturn console arrived at the same time, did some major mistakes by rushing the release of its own console and ruining its marketability. The PS1 gained a market headway which was only increased when Nintendo experienced some trouble with the N64.

The PS2 didn’t even have to try all that hard. Everyone was expecting a new PlayStation in 2000. Not only was the PS2 highly praised upon its release, it was also an affordable DVD player which only increased the system’s popularity. Though Sony’s marketing with the PS2 can even be considered a little underhanded, some good did result from it. The gaming market grew dramatically in the early 2000s because of the PS2 which also meant more people were playing other video-game systems as well.

3. Game Boy et al.

Since 1989, Nintendo has been the undeniable King of the handheld gaming market. Many have tried to compete with Nintendo and their iron grip on the market, but almost all have failed. The PSP is the only one that has even managed to show a little fight and even it dwarves the success of Nintendo’s 20+ year history of handheld gaming.

The Game Boy was launched into popularity when Nintendo acquired the official licence to the popular Soviet puzzle game Tetris. The system immediately beat the competing (colour) Lynx and Game Gear systems. The early 90s were the era of the Game Boy with major titles of the day often having a “little brother” port released for the little brick of a console. The mid-90s introduced the Super Game Boy Adapter and the Game Boy Pocket and finally the full-colour GBC in 1998.

The popularity of Pokémon only helped to increase the system’s sales and the Game Boy Advance, despite some early hiccups, finally brought handheld gaming to the modern age. The DS and the 3DS now dominate the handhelds and its fair to say that no-one will ever be able to beat Nintendo at the game its won every time since the late 80s.

2. Sega Mega Drive a.k.a. Genesis

Without a doubt, one of the most impressive rises from video-game obscurity to instant success is the story of the 16-bit blast processing system known as the Sega Mega Drive. Released originally in 1988, during the height of popularity for Nintendo’s NES system, Sega used an aggressive marketing campaign to impress audiences and make its system seem superior and the coolest thing since sliced bread. Unlike practically every console manufacturer since who tried the same method, it worked for Sega…

The Mega Drive broke the industry dominance of Nintendo and lead to the most even competition amongst consoles in history. When the Super Nintendo finally came out in 1991, Sega was releasing its new hip mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. Nintendo also shot itself in the leg by censoring controversial games of the day like Wolfenstein 3D and Mortal Kombat – while their 16-bit competitor left such titles untouched and won gamers over with their more mature image.

The Mega Drive wasn’t just an aggressive outwardly “hard-core” system. It was a genuinely well put together machine with an impressive and varied library of games. It has become one of the most beloved and highly praised consoles of all time, despite some of its more embarrassing features (like the Sega Mega CD and 32X).

1. Nintendo Entertainment System

Of course the NES was going to be number-1. How could it not be? It was the console which revived the industry after Atari crashed and burned to the ground. It was the system which effectively created the new era of video-gaming. It introduced the D-pad. It introduced video-game licensing and quality control (though admittedly Nintendo did the latter somewhat poorly). The NES redefined what video-games were all about.

In addition, the NES just has a solid library of games: Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, CastleVania, Metroid, Kirby, Tetris, Contra, Rad Racer, The Legend of Zelda, Dr. Mario, Ninja Gaiden and many, many more. It’s safe to say that almost any game that was released on the NES has since become either a true or a cult classic. It’s a console with an unbeatable universal appeal.

Just to prove a point, I still play my NES. What about you?