Video game consoles have come a long way. First starting with Atari’s PONG in 1972, a game where you just bounced a white dot back and forth, we now have hyper-realistic 3D graphics, online play, and virtual reality headsets. In 1972, it’s unlikely anyone could have imagined what video games would be like today. Throughout the past few decades, consoles have come and gone with great virtues and some even worse flaws. Some systems were great but flopped in the market, while others succeeded beyond everyone’s wildest expectations.So, how do these systems rank? You’re about to find out. Here are 25 Best Video Game Consoles Of All Time.
Released in 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey was one of the first video game consoles ever released. It had just entered the market months before Atari released the run-away success of Pong. Despite the Odyssey being arguably superior, it only sold 300,000 units and was not a commercial success.
Created by Mattel in 1979, Intellivision saw a relatively considerable amount of success at the time, selling over three million units and releasing 125 games. It boasted superior graphics to its rivals in a major ad campaign and secured a solid footing in the industry. But, by 1983, its successor, the Intellivision II, saw major losses and increased competition from Atari. It eventually was forced out of the market in 1984.
If it weren’t for the video game market collapse in 1984, it’s quite possible ColecoVision would have become one of the most popular video game consoles and Nintendo Entertainment System wouldn’t have even become a thing. By copying a lot of Atari’s tech and finding a way to make partnerships with a number of game developers, it dominated the market for a short period. The other thing that made it a success was its expansion modules, but that model later backfired.
The Atari Jaguar was Atari’s last foray into the console business and unfortunately, it flopped hard. With a high price tag, a poor gaming library, and a deceptive ad campaign that backfired, the Atari Jaguar didn’t last long among the dominance of the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Despite some of its major flaws, it was a relatively powerful system and foresaw the emergence of CDs as a format to play video games. If executed correctly, it might have snuck up on its competitors, and that’s exactly what Sega’s president was scared of.
During its heyday, Atari unleashed the Atari 5200 in 1982 with the hopes of crushing Intellivision and countering ColecoVision. While it certainly had stellar graphics at the time, both its horribly designed controller and rehashed games gave people a bad taste in their mouth. Despite that, it outsold its competitors but likely also brought about the great video game crash in 1984.
Despite being ultimately flawed and overhyped, the 3DO had a few unique things going for it in 1993. It was the first multi-media video game system, allowing to play audio, video, and pictures along with video games. It also utilized CDs and boasted a 32-bit system. But, its business model did it in. The company made the mistake of licensing out its hardware to other companies like Panasonic, Goldstar, and Sanyo. It’s high price tag for both the system and games didn’t help it either. However, it would certainly be a precursor to the systems to come.
The TurboGrafx-16 was created to counter the Nintendo Famicom in Japan and actually succeeded in outselling systems there until the Super Famicom. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same luck in the United States. It was an instant flop when Sega released the Genesis. Still, it wasn’t so much a bad system as a badly timed system. Looking back, it had a good library of games and was a solid system all around; it just got snuffed out by bigger competition.
The Atari 7800 was actually a pretty good system, all things considered. It had 100% backward compatibility with the 2600 and for the first time allowed for high scores to be saved. It also had much better processing capabilities. But, the 1984 video game crash and bad management among the owners squashed any real chance it had. Once the Nintendo Entertainment System came out in 1986, it was game over.
In many ways, the Sega Saturn was Sega’s Atari Jaguar, which makes it even more ironic seeing as the Atari Jaguar scared then Sega President Hayao Nakayama. In retrospect, he should have been scared of Sony’s upcoming Playstation. Either way, the Sega Saturn was slated to release in the fall, but the company panicked and released it so early there wasn’t any marketing for it to build anticipation. Few retailers carried it, it had few games, and the price tag was way too high. Once Sony announced an even lower price tag, that was the last nail in the coffin.
Developed by Japanese video gaming company SNK, the Neo Geo took on a variety of forms but is most memorable for it’s AES (Advanced Entertainment System). At the time, the price was astronomical, making it a rare commodity. Still, hardcore gamers with money to spare shelled out the cash for SNK’s games. Despite a clunky controller the size of the system, Neo Geo had incredible graphics and sound. Today, the system is a retro-collector’s dream.
With the failure of the Sega Saturn, Sega needed a hit and fast since Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 was dominating the market, and Sega was nowhere to be seen. They carefully marketed and hyped their latest system, hoping that a powerful system, stellar graphics, and Sonic Adventure could seal the deal. Unfortunately, while the Dreamcast didn’t flop as badly as the Saturn, it barely sold as many units as the Saturn, making it their last system.
With the massive success of the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo was eager to replicate its success. While the Wii U boasted a large touchscreen, HDMI connectivity, Wii backward compatibility, and more powerful graphics than ever, their poor marketing of the system and a high price ultimately drove customers away. It was an instant flop and the lowest sold product in their history. Despite that, it’s still a pretty great system with a bevy of quality Nintendo games.
Sega Master System
The Sega Master System was essentially a repackaged version of the Sega Mark III that was selling well in Japan. It was brought over to North America after the crash in 1984 since Nintendo had been showing overwhelming success in the market. However, Sega struggled to steal any ground from Nintendo, only selling 125,000 consoles. In comparison, Nintendo sold 2 million. Still, the system was arguably better than Nintendo’s with a solid lineup of games and features.
With Sony PlayStation popularizing CD-based video gaming into the console market, Nintendo had to make a choice between cartridges or CDs for their next system. They went with CDs and called their new system the GameCube, though it’d been rumored to be called Dolphin. While it competed with the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, it didn’t include online gaming and paled in comparison on a technological level…and while it wasn’t quite as popular, it had plenty of notable games and its own niche of loyal Nintendo followers.
In 2000, Gates went public with the Xbox console and it took off in North America. They sold 1 million Xbox’s in just three weeks. The powerful processing power along with the hit game Halo made the system an instant success. Halo also helped them popularize online gaming. However, critics quickly pointed out its unusually large console size, bulky controllers, and lack of quality third-party games as a major weakness to the system.
With Sega gobbling up much of its market share with the Genesis and Sony nipping at its heels, Nintendo needed to release a stellar new system to compete. That system was the Nintendo 64. While it struggled to maintain its dominance with a high price tag and lack of third-party support, the Nintendo 64 had many defining and revolutionary features and games, including the controller with a trigger button, the rumble pack, and the introduction of Mario 64, GoldenEye 007, and Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
The Sega Genesis was the first true 16-bit video game system. Sega released it in 1989, hoping to get a jump on the curve and steal Nintendo’s total dominance on the North American market. It took the Genesis two years to finally become popular all thanks to Sonic the Hedgehog, a new bundle, and a price drop. Many consider the Genesis to be one of the best consoles ever made with a fantastic line-up of games.
Released in 1990 by Nintendo, the Super Nintendo was the 16-bit sequel to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Upon release, it was a huge success. With Nintendo’s firm grasp on the market, millions purchased the system, though after a while it lost market share to Sega. Many of its games revolutionized the gaming industry, including Mario Kart, Final Fantasy, Zelda: A Link to the Past. Its controller was also one of the first to utilize the left and right pads.
The Xbox 360 learned from its mistakes, creating a smaller machine and a well-designed controller. It hit even harder with its lineup of games and came out a year before the PlayStation 3. However, its greatest flaw was the dreaded red ring of death. The system would suddenly crash and a red ring would appear on the usual green-ringed light on the system. Microsoft had to shell out $1 billion to recall the systems and replace them.
The Atari 2600 totally revolutionized video game console history, showcasing that video games can be played not just at an arcade but at home as well. At the time, the system sold thirty million consoles and totally dominated the market. Basically the godfather of video game consoles, video gamers have it to thank for the entire industry. Unfortunately, it also brought video games crashing down in 1984.
Coming off the heels of massive success with the PlayStation 2, Sony needed a successor that would do just as well if not better. When the PlayStation 3 came out, it was the most advanced system ever designed with an advanced processor, Blu-Ray support, HDMI, and high-speed internet connectivity. Its greatest downfall on release was that it had few games and a high price tag. But, eventually, the market leveled out, and people adopted the system. Increased competition from Nintendo and Microsoft made PlayStation 3 not as much of a success.
Originally an add-on to the Super Nintendo, the Sony PlayStation came about thanks to a contract dispute between the two companies. Sony dived in and developed their own system, introducing one of the first 3D gaming systems using CDs. Hot off the console wars between Sega and Nintendo, Sony totally shook up the market with its relatively inexpensive system and games. Things would never be the same.
With competition closing in from both Sony and Microsoft, and the GameCube doing subpar, Nintendo needed a serious win to stay in the market. Enter Nintendo Wii. While it didn’t have the most powerful processing power, its true power came from its innovative motion-sensing controls. Appealing to a large swath of casual gamers, the Nintendo Wii could be enjoyed by pretty much everyone. It also had a cheaper price-tag. Ultimately, it became Nintendo’s best selling system to date and put them back on top, forcing other systems to adopt the same motion controls.
PlayStation 2 is one of the most well-regarded and successful systems in video game console history. It sold the most systems ever with 130 million units and was able to kill off VHS for good with its DVD playability. Not only that, but its amazing lineup of games cemented its value and defined video games going forward.
Nintendo Entertainment System
After 1984, the video game market had collapsed due to lack of confidence by consumers. No one wanted those video game systems that didn’t work and weren’t any good. Then, in 1985, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System and saved the day, rebuilding confidence and completely overtaking the market share. The NES released tons of great games, like Super Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and more, which are still popular franchises to this day. Without the NES, video games wouldn’t be where they are today.