It’s that time of the calendar year again — next generation gaming consoles are coming. XBOX Series X has already made news. And now, gamers everywhere are geeking out over what could be with PS5. There’s also that grand hullabaloo over the Nintendo Switch and going swimming with ‘Animal Crossing.’
All three companies — Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo — are thinking of new ways to reinvent their wheel of the gaming consoles Winnebago and, so far, have done quite a respectful job.
Yet, when you think about where gaming got its start, the glorious Magnavox Odyssey, technology has come a long, long way since three dots were shown on the screen when connecting to a game. (We’re talking before Pong!)
That was 1972, then came games like the prehistoric Bally Astrocade (1977) and the one that brought us all to the party, the beloved Atari 2600 (1977). Ever since then, can you name the best ever? What gaming consoles grabbed the world’s attention through technology, ability, agility, and marketing mastery?
Here are the 10 best gaming consoles ever…
10. Sega Dreamcast (1999)
There is one reason why this made the top 10 — broadband gameplay. Yes, Colecovision is romanticized. Xbox was magnificent. The Wii got us all off our ass. Even the Gameboy made every gamer tear up with portable joy, but when Sega unveiled the Dreamcast, the excitement was through the roof.
This was considered the sixth generation of video game consoles — two years before our number two seed — and it was supreme in its couple of years before DVD technology made it obsolete. And that built-in modem? Forgive the pun, but that was an absolute game-changer.
9. Nintendo wii (2006)
As gamers started to get a little rotund with clammy meathooks grasping their controllers (and gave them all a dusty, orange malaise thanks to the bowl of Cheetos at their side), Nintendo once again reimagined itself with the creation of the Wii. Gaming’s answer to the Jazzercise.
This was a turning point among gamers because it made “players” of anyone — kids, parents, grandparents, and even the dogs got involved with the Wii Sports festivities (an all-time top-seller in the industry). Who knows how Nintendo does it but they always seem to know what we need — and when.
8. Sega Genesis (1989)
One bit. Two bit. 16 friggin’ bits. A dollar! A few years after the market was supersaturated with “Itsa-me, Mario,” gamers demanded something more advanced, and they got eight more bits of processing magic. This was the fresher, hipper cousin to the kid-friendly NES, the Sega Genesis. Just look at Sonic. Nintendo clearly looked like the geriatric version of gaming within months of the Genesis’ release.
7. PlayStation (1995)
Can you imagine if the Nintendo/Sony merger talks would have happened? The 64-bit gaming console generation was up-for-grabs, and instead of fighting, the two companies were thinking a joint attack. Thankfully, that never took place and we got the Sony PlayStation as a wondrous result.
Many of us grew up with the joy of playing each other in fighters like ‘Tekken’, shooters like ‘Metal Gear Solid’, or open worlds like ‘Final Fantasy VII.’ DVDs worked as games and CDs worked for music. Who needed a jam box when you had this gaming console of efficiency? And to this day, it is only the fourth gaming console to sell more than 100 million units (behind the Nintendo Wii, and Sony’s fourth and second iterations, respectively).
6. Xbox 360 (2005)
What a glorious time when Microsoft decided to enter the gaming wars with its original version of the Xbox, but when the Xbox 360 dropped, it was a definite experience. Not to mention, the wide-open door to play online created the avenue for things like headsets, game mobs, and then Twitch (although the jury is out for a symbol of good from that yet).
The OG Xbox showed gamers there was a new sheriff coming to town. The 360 shouted that sheriff was here and meant business. If not for anything else other than ‘Halo’ could really dominate the gaming scene where there was no other competition. You enjoying playing online? Pay homage to Xbox Live. Always.
5. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1991)
Super. Mario. World. The Super NES was precisely that — a transformation of what would become the GOAT in gaming consoles. When the gaming industry hit the 16-bit space, the SNES was the leader, largely because it tried to introduce us all to 3D and novel games. Think about that library — ‘Donkey Kong Country,’ ‘Super Metroid,’ ‘Earthbound,’ ‘Zelda: The Link,’ and even another super Mario and his Kart.
That’s one of the most enchanting things about the Nintendo Switch, young gamers have an opportunity to become introduced to the SNES catalog thanks to digitization. More seasoned gamers remember the first time we learned about SNES. Personally, I envy those days. Enjoy them, like more than 50 million owners did back in the day.
4. Nintendo 64 (1996)
Although it took the advent of the PlayStation to bring gaming into the third dimension, the Nintendo 64 (N64) brought gaming consoles into “the future.” Gamers everywhere marveled over what this system showed us how Mario and Zelda lept off the screen and into our homes for good. Sure, the controller sucked and the games were doorstops, but Nintendo was trying to make it Avant Garde, so kudos for that.
We are spoiled because of 3D games. They’re everywhere. In the late 90s, they weren’t, unless you were among the 40 million people who bought an N64. It was awesome and paved the way for the joys we have today. Oh, and not for nothing, but the predecessor of all first-person shooters was ‘GoldenEye’. And yes, you’re talking to the master.
3. Atari 2600 (1977)
God bless Nolan Bushnell, the gaming juggernaut’s founder and wunderkind. Removable cartridges. Marketed games. Licensed creative. And so many arcade games to tickle the fancy of kids and parents alike. It didn’t immediately catch on in the marketplace, but when it did, its trek was a supernova. By 1982, the Atari 2600 was a $2 billion business. In 1982!
For the techie gamer, the Atari 2600 introduced the gaming market to two things that created emerging technology’s ability to fit in the palm of your hand — read-only-memory cartridges and a commodity processor. You miss the games but feel like they never left? That’s because several Atari engineers left to form a small upstart in the gaming community called Activision, the first third-party game developer.
Atari 2600 is the granddaddy of them all, which means “gramps” deserves all your respect.
2. PlayStation 2 (2000)
Ironically, this gaming console was released in 2000 and supplied as many games to the general public. It sold games in droves — more than 400 million (and $155 million worth of gaming consoles) by some calculations. This was the DVD format all cartridge-lovers hated. Whatever your gaming fancy, the PlayStation 2 provided it. The gaming console was the crack cocaine of the gaming universe — shooters, RPGs, open worlds, licenses, racers, and even softcore porn. This gaming console redefined what it meant to be a gamer.
There was a cornucopia of games because this system was notoriously easy to develop and so obsessive to play. Name a top 10 game you have ever played and odds are, PS2 fed it through your schnoz, veins, or any other orifice you provided. It was just that good.
1. Nintendo Entertainment System (1985)
When Atari fatally jumped the shark and finally allowed E.T. to phone home where he belonged, the gaming console market was a cesspool. A catalyst needed to happen, something that would galvanize all gaming geeks. Then the N-E-S showed up. It was a gala affair. Technology was better. UX was greatly improved. And all those games! Kirby. Zelda. And that Mario guy.
The games are perpetually inspiring new generations of fans. From games to toys, TV to movies, the NES provided a full array of giddiness and glee. Regardless your age and acuity within gaming, this is the gaming console that continues to feed addiction. It was 35 years ago and those games still hold up today. Truly, the GOAT in the industry, if ever there was one.