Like many men in their 30s and 40s, gaming consoles have been a defining part of my childhood and a huge part of my life growing up. We have seen the evolution of gaming into what it has become today, and have spent countless hours enjoying the cultural revolutions of Nintendo, Sega and many more as they happened. With that in mind, here is a list of the top 10 gaming consoles. Ever!
We were there at the birth of gaming as the first tapes and cartridges were loaded into the Commodore 16 and 64’s, our childhood playgrounds were filled with arguments over the Sega vs Nintendo wars, we developed funny feelings over Tomb Raider and even now get to immerse ourselves in the latest MMO RPG games.
But now we get to look back at that history of pure gaming fun not just with a hint of nostalgia that is so popular now, but with the experience of what it was like to hold those controllers in your hand for the first time and spend hours playing your favourite games, and with that in mind, and not including my beloved Commodore 64 or Amiga because they aren’t technically dedicated gaming consoles, here is my list of the top 10 consoles of all time.
Nintendo 64, 1996.
The Nintendo 64 is a bit of a strange addition because in most respects it was a huge failure for Nintendo and saw them crash out of the console market for quite some time. At the same time however it is also a mid 90s icon, and I have fond memories of my very first job working in a video rental shop spending a few quiet hours playing on the display model! It’s epic Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye games were definitely half way houses between the console games of the 80s and the games we know and love today, and not to mention that all later consoles pretty much ripped off the controller design too!
Neo Geo, 1990.
The Neo Geo was an absolute legend in its time, the very definition of something burning bright and quickly, it was one of the most superior machines around when it first came out and brought truly arcade level quality games to your bedroom. The only issue was the eye watering price tag, which saw it sink without trace in the market dominated by Sega and Nintendo, but that still doesn’t mean the true successor to the arcade machine doesn’t deserve a mention! You can’t call yourself a gamer if you haven’t mashed those controller buttons designed to replicate the experience of an actual arcade machine!
Playstation 4, 2013.
This console has been the gold standard of gaming for the last decade, and whilst arguably not as iconic as its forebears, yet, it still deserves a place on any top 10 list for that reason alone. It’s huge catalogue of exclusive games have really pushed what gaming is able to achieve, and that is before you get into its virtual reality tech.
Atari 2600, 1977.
Although this came out before I was born I still remember my dad managing to get hold of a second hand one of these when I was a kid, it was the very first console I played and the very first console ever made that was dedicated to gaming too!
Okay, so by today’s standards it is nothing. It doesn’t even have the power of your smartphone, but this was the progenitor of all consoles that came after it and dominated until Nintendo came along. This is the console that spawned classic Space Invaders and Pong at home by licensing them from the arcades! How could it not be on the list?
Atari Lynx, 1989.
Can a handheld be counted as a console? Well I don’t care because I’m counting it anyway. The Atari Lynx was the first ever colour handheld and despite the fact it’s price let it down and it ended up not doing as well as other handhelds, it kicked the Gameboy’s arse all the way back to Nintendo HQ in terms of quality! The colours and graphics were revolutionary at the time and it had some awesome arcade conversions that you could play anywhere.
Playstation 2, 2000.
This console earns a top spot for the sheer longevity of the console and the unrivalled diversity and complexity, not to mention the sheer number of the games it had on offer. The games that were developed on the PS2 can legitimately claim to be the foundation for the open world gaming classics we enjoy today and whilst the 3D rendered graphics are dated by todays standards in a way that 16 bit graphics strangely aren’t, many of the titles are still considered classics even today and the console still holds the record as one of the biggest selling consoles of all time.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1991.
Okay I admit completely I was team Sega all the way, but there is no way that the SNES couldn’t make this list too. My friend had one and after I had kicked his arse at Sonic we still spent hours playing Super Mario Brothers and shouting Hadouken at Street Fighter 2! The iconic design of the SNES control and controller, much like the NES before it, still holds up today as a beacon of retro cool (as well as the model for all controllers that came after it), and back then the tech capability under the hood was unbeatable.
The SNES did outlive the Megadrive a little, and marked the end of a truly epic and never replicated age in gaming, an age of truly innocent platforming fun, no messing about with DLCs or online gaming, just true, pure gaming.
The other side to the Sony vs Microsoft wars of the early 2000s, the mirror to the earlier Sega vs Nintendo battle, Xbox won the culture war outright. The term Xbox became part of everyday language the same way Netflix has now, and marked the first time gaming became mainstream. It revolutionised the way we used our consoles with Xbox live and definitely deserves a place in the top three.
Sega Megadrive, 1990.
I still remember the Christmas morning my mum and dad got me my Sega Megadrive, it was one of the best days of my young 9 year old life and I played it endlessly! I actually still have it, in its original box to this day! Like the NES before it, the Sega Megadrive launched the second revolution of the console age and led to the great Sega vs Nintendo wars of the late 80s, beating the Super Nintendo hands down as the ‘cool’ console to own. Iconic characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, the support of major developers and groundbreaking games like Ecco the Dolphin and Mortal Kombat made this the grown up console to own.
Nintendo Entertainment System, 1985.
There is no way that the Nintendo could not be at the top of any ultimate console list. For any kid growing up in the 80s the Nintendo was a cultural revolution. It was the first real dedicated gaming console that pushed everyone away from the tape obsessed Commodore 64 and the more grown up Amiga, and gave us absolute iconic titles like Mario and Zelda. At the time this cultural explosion could not be beaten, there were Saturday morning cartoons based on the games and even a film that no one cared was essentially one long advert! Practically though it was the sheer range of games and titles, not to mention the accessories like the Duck Hunt gun and the awful power glove, that kept us all playing for hours and hours.
These are my favourite consoles of all time, some didn’t make the list of course because there were only 10 spots, and some decisions were made on personal nostalgia rather than on technical merit or market superiority, but one thing that is for sure, I am truly lucky to have grown up to see the entire development of the gaming industry first hand, and kids nowadays can suck it with their downloadable content and MMO games. Gen X are the TRUE gamers!