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A friend of mine recently posted a link to this Guardian article about the best video game consoles ranked. This absolutely pile of trash disguised an article got me so outraged that it forced me to sit in front of my computer on a Saturday afternoon and write my first blog post in three years and write about the 15 best video games consoles of all time instead of helping my girlfriend paint the utility room.
Despite the fact that I have written the list in usual-listicle-reverse order ensuring there is zero suspense, here is my personal list of the greatest video consoles of all time which absolutely nobody asked for nor is interested in.
1) Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom
Whilst Atari were dumping copies of ET into the Nevada desert Nintendo were readying the system which would single-handedly save the gaming industry and sell over 61.91 million consoles worldwide, whilst amassing something like a 92% market share in the USA alone. The NES cemented Mario as the most recognised mascot in the world with Mario Bros 3 (and the Wizard movie, fuck yeah) surpassing even Micky Mouse.
The NES allowed developers to not only create new types of games but entire genres and in Japan was at the forefront of technology with the Famicom Disc System and the Famicom Network System for online access. Mario, Zelda, Megaman, Tetris, Metroid, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear. All these were all essentially born, or at the very least popularized on the NES. In my opinion, if it wasn’t for the NES the gaming industry would be at least 10 years behind where it is now.
2) Nintendo Game Boy
The Game Boy sold over 118 million units worldwide with the lion’s share of them being in the 90’s. This little system absolutely dominated the handheld gaming space and utterly destroyed any competition who meekly stepped into the ring with the handheld heavyweight. This green screened gem brought the world Pokemon, which is the highest-grossing entertainment media franchise of all time with $90 billion (billion! With a B!) worth of sales. Surprisingly though, the 340 million units Pokemon has sold still pales in comparison to Mario’s 623.4 million units sold, and that data is from December 2017!
3) Super Nintendo Entertainment System/Super Famicom
The SNES took everything its older brother did and improved upon it. The slick machine allowed developers to truly bring their ideas to life in an era where CPU power was still very limited. The system had online functionality in Japan with the Satellaview (man, living in Japan in the 90’s would have been so freaking cool) and sold a total of 49.1 million copies worldwide.
4) Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
The other key player in the greatest console war of all time, Sega does what Nintendon’t. The Mega Drive took up the mantle of being the cool console with its technologically questionable “blast processing” and took massive advantage of Nintendo’s reluctance to do anything that might appear kid unfriendly. Sega’s own downfall may have arguably already started before the end of the Mega Drive era with their insistence to keep it on life support at any cost with the 32X and the Mega CD. As mentioned, Sega did a fantastic job of coming across as cool, and it was a marketing strategy which would be picked up by a new player and blown up to epic proportions.
5) Sony PlayStation
Born from the betrayal of partnering up with Nintendo for a SNES CD add-on (oh what could have been), only to have Nintendo stab Sony in the back publicly at E3 by announcing that they were switching to Panasonic. The PlayStation has a ton of flaws, but its CD based system allowed it to flourish in Japan with RPGs, and in the west Sony went whole hog on marketing to the young adult crowd. Sony expertly capitalised on everything Sega’s marketing team did right and ran with it to great success whilst using CD technology.
Whilst not a dedicated gaming machine due to being able to do a multitude of other tasks, I don’t think you can talk about the greatest video games consoles without including the PC. It’s a bunch of electronics in a box in the same manner as the rest of the losers on this list, so it can be included.
Alongside the single best digital distribution platform, Steam, the PC has given us games that created entire genres such as the FPS (with Wolfenstein and Doom), the RTS (Command and Conquer being the most notable), along with driving and flight sims. With the release of dedicated 3D hardware graphics cards, the PC could spit out visuals that made the PlayStation and Saturn look like an Amiga 2600. Let us not forget to mention that you could play online and for free, or at a LAN party with your sweaty stinky pubescent friends.
Whilst consoles and PC’s converge ever closer, today the PC’s raw power means you can do insane things like SLI 4 GTX 1080TI graphics cards together and output about 20x more terraflops than a PS4. The PC also continues to push boundaries of graphics technology that later find themselves as staples in traditional gaming console hardware. Finally, a decent spec PC can emulate all the games from at least 11 of the 14 other consoles on this list whilst upscaling the resolution and even loading in custom shaders and HD texture packs.
7) PlayStation 2
Whilst not a particularly overly-power console when compared to the Nintendo GameCube and the OG XBox, the PS2 did the same as what the SNES had done with the NES and built upon everything its older brother, the PS1, excelled at. Alongside being a solid console with a great gaming library it also had a DVD drive and sleek design which has earned it the mantle of the best-selling games console of all time with over 155 million units sold.
8) Nintendo Wii
As the industry become completely male dominated with Sony and Microsoft pushing solely for power, the then codenamed Nintendo Revolution came so far out of left field that even the clearest of crystal balls in North East Europe could not have anticipated it. Barely more powerful than its GameCube father the controller was actually originally developed as a GameCube add-on alongside a 3D capable LCD screen attachment (that later made its way into the 3DS), but eventually moved over to its own dedicated console. The Nintendo Wii managed to pull the gaming industry away from the core audience it had built and, in a manner reminiscent of its great-grandfather, the NES, brought gaming to the masses.
Granting uncles, grandparents and eggnog-induced mothers the opportunity to fling the Wiimote into TV’s on Christmas day across the globe, the Wii Sold 101.63 million units making it the second most successful home video game console behind the PS2. Satoru Iwata’s crowing achievement as a young Nintendo President in a list of outstanding career achievements by the late great man.
9) Nintendo 64
Originally codenamed the Ultra 64, Nintendo promised an extremely powerful machine after partnering with SiliconGraphics to develop the hardware and boy did they deliver. The Nintendo 64 brought us the analog stick and crafted a 3D game which set the standard for every other 3D game henceforth.
Mario 64 was so revolutionary at the time I still get goosebumps thinking about it today. Not only did they make a fantastic looking game, they absolutely nailed moving Mario around in 3D space. Zelda Ocarina of Time came along and with it the most perfect reviews a video game has ever received. It thoroughly deserves the title of the greatest game ever made, especially when you stack it up to what else was being put out in that era. The N64 simply blew the PS1 and the Saturn out of the water visually and even went toe to toe with the PC for a while. Goldeneye then essentially brought FPS’s to home console gamers and the ill-fated 64DD was supposed to be the next step in bridging the gap between home consoles and PC-like capability.
I still vividly remember the day the N64 was released and I was able to pick it up as a 15-year-old lad. After a drunken night at a party I was awoken by the female hosts parents getting home way earlier in the morning than expected. A friend and I made haste and had to jump out of an attic window and slide down the roof to drop two stories into the garden before running to the bus and picking up this beast of a machine from Electronics Boutique.
In my opinion, the sexiest console ever made and I have nothing but fond memories of this magical piece of electronics equipment. If it had not been for the lack of CD’s and Nintendo losing developer confidence due to cartridge size limits then there is little doubt it would have sold a boatload more.
10) Xbox 360
I am loath to put an Xbox console onto the list because each step of the way they have simply been a PC in a box that is slightly more powerful than the other consoles in the same generation. However, it must be said that the online functionality the 360 brought gamers with Xbox live was extremely important to the industry and set the benchmark for things to come.
11) Commodore 64/Atari 2600/Spectrum ZX
Without these three old-timers and guys coding on them in their bedrooms we wouldn’t have a video games industry at all. Check out the documentary “From Bedrooms to Billions” if you have any interest of how the industry was founded in this era.
12) Nintendo DS
Not far off the best-selling video game console of all time with 143 million units sold. Brought touch screen gaming to the masses and arguably helped the explosion of mobile gaming. A solid and innovative handheld.
13) Sega Dreamcast
A little ahead of its time to be fair to it. Kind of launched in-between generations whereby it was much more powerful than the PS1/Saturn/N64 but nowhere near as powerful as the PS2/GameCube/Xbox. Sega’s last attempt at console hardware was somewhat ambitious and innovative but even with Sega’s stella arcade line-up it couldn’t pull through. Plagued by piracy it would ultimately see Sega give up and leave the hardware race.
14) PlayStation 4
If I am loath to add the Xbox to this lists because it doesn’t “innovate” then the PS4 should suffer the same fate. However, innovation does not an industry solely make and the PS4 does everything it needs to do, and it does it very well. Continues to keep gaming at the forefront of the masses and hasn’t stepped a foot wrong in delivering quality modern games. 106 million units sold tells you all you need to know about its success. I will say, though, that 106 million figure makes the numbers the early innovators pushed in an industry less than 1/20th the size it is today even more impressive.
15) Nintendo Switch
The first real successful merging of handheld and home consoles. The Switch could do with some more power under the hood to be taken seriously by the hardcore crowd, but that unmatched Nintendo innovation on their hardware, and the insane polish that no other developer seems to come close to on their software see this make my list. With 55.77 million units sold despite only being launched in March 2017, I think we could see the Switch hit 100 million sold sooner rather than later.
Honourable Mention: Amiga CD32
Codenamed “SpellBound” (because you’d need to be under some type of spell to play this pile of shite) the Amiga CD 32 sold just a single unit in the UK to the namesake of the 37th President of the United States. Just look at the state of that controller, FFS. Although it did have Zool, which was kind of cool, I guess?