10. Atari 2600
Pong might have been where it all started for console gaming but the Atari 2600 is where our favourite pastime was born. Before the launch of this console you bought a console with one game on it. Yes, an entire console for one crappy game. Like arcades back in the day joysticks were used to control your tank or to move your player (read ‘stripe’) up and down when playing your game of tennis. Before games went commercial nerds around the world bragged with this fine piece of technology and though it lacks sexiness in this day and age one thing remains: We still play for high scores.
9. Nintendo Gamecube
Seen by many in the industry as Nintendo’s last ‘real console’ it does not take too much imagination to comprehend just why it’s loved so much by Nintendorks. It spawned one of the most comfortable controllers ever and hosted the highest percentage of AAA titles at the time. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, F-Zero GX, WarioWare Inc., Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Resident Evil 4 (its original home for those not aware) were reason enough to buy the purple bundle of joy. This one comes from a time when the gold seal still meant something.
8. SEGA Mega Drive
Finish Him! Need we say more? Of course we do! SEGA tore into our hearts around the world by confidently stating that they do what Nintendon’t. Everything was fast, loud in your face and the MegaDrive version of Mortal Kombat has real Fatalities and ‘red’ blood. Sonic the Hedgehog had the attitude to match the console and SEGA had countless arcade classics (Outrun, Super HangOn, Streets of Rage) to back it. The controller featured two extra face buttons and the elusive mode button to become one of the most loved gamepads for 2D fighters. The MegaDrive was SEGA at the top of their game and if you did not buy into the ‘coolness’ you were very uncool.
7. Super Nintendo
Nintendo might not have had the attitude that SEGA had in the 16-bit era and ended up being a late bloomer. Super Mario World was a great showcase for the system but it was titles such as Super Metroid, Contra III: Alien Wars, Street Fighter II: Turbo, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country, Starfox and Final Fantasy III that ultimately propelled Nintendo past SEGA’s efforts to dethrone them. The SNES also brought with it a new controller by adding a left and right shoulder button which is commonplace nowadays. In 1994 everything the SNES could do was out of this world, but the 16-bit fanboi title bouts still continue to this day.
6. PlayStation 3
Going into this generation Sony had their tails high and this was supported by a very cocky attitude. It was not long before their “you’ll need a second job” statements smeared their credibility. They were late to the party and the PS3 wound up being very expensive. It was a rough time for PlayStation fans. Six years on and the PS3 has done a complete 180. If you’re looking for Kratos, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid 4 and The Last Guardian (fingers crossed) this is the only place you’ll find it. Online gaming is still free and the PSN service has grown over the years to host one of the best catalogues in the business. If only they would reinvent that 1994 controller. It’s so last… two decades.
5. SEGA Dreamcast
The console that could… just not make it. Entering the 128-bit era was a tough task for any manufacturer other than Sony. But it was especially hard for SEGA. The Saturn was a complete flop and then they had to compete with the PS2. Other than maintaining a CD-Rom drive everything else on the Dreamcast was revolutionary. The first console to take online serious and the mostly risky controller decision paid off – we call it the 360 controller today. Coloured buttons – check, Triggers – check, crap d-pad – errr… check. To seal the deal you could take your VMU (Visual memory Unit) on-the-go and play your game when you were not at home. What else? Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure, Shenmue, Power Stone, Soul Calibur, Jet Set Radio – that’s what.
4. PlayStation 2
Sony’s successor to the PlayStation was always going to be on the front foot. This was helped even more so when they announced that the console would launch with DVD video playback functionality and that the console was completely backwards compatible with all PS1 games. The PS2 literally towered above the Dreamcast and created a thorny path for Nintendo and Microsoft’s efforts to follow. Exclusive titles once again made the PlayStation brand stand head and shoulders above the competition by producing classics such as ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, Final Fantasy X, the Grand Theft Auto series, SSX and Metal Gear Solid… and 11 years later it’s as strong as it’s ever been. Think about it, do you know anyone who did not own a PS2?
3. Xbox 360
Hate it or love it, the reason online gaming means anything in the console market today is because of Microsoft’s efforts with the Xbox brand. The Xbox 360 was first and foremost a gaming platform backed by influential concepts that the big dogs at Microsoft got right. Everything that was wrong with the Xbox was corrected on the 360. One of the secret ingredients was the media centre capabilities and the bit that connects you with a game: the controller, described by many as the best controller of all time (and the special edition controller sorted out that crap d-pad). Exclusives might not have been as fantastic as other brands but third-party games have been running better on the 360 platform for years, which makes it an important aspect next to Gears of War, Halo and Forza.
2. Nintendo Entertainment System
How could we not praise a console that did everything so well that it saved the games industry from crashing in 1983? Without it you might not have had this Top 10 in the first place. The NES gave birth to the classic controller (D-pad and buttons) and hosted some of the best games of our time: Super Mario, MegaMan, Metroid and Castlevania. If you never had the experience of blowing on a cartridge to get the game to work or owned a NES altogether you should check if you have a pulse – you might be dead. Or a lot younger than the G3AR team.
This is the most important console in the history of the business and Sony has Nintendo to thank for a Super Nintendo add-on deal that went sour and turned to their favour. Before the mighty PlayStation you had format mascots (Mario and Sonic) going toe-to-toe for the respect and money of ‘nerds’ worldwide. Once the PlayStation came to town it made gaming cool. Gamers were not ‘losers’ (in the eyes of the general public) as they had Wipeout, Tekken, Twisted Metal, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy 7 and 8 and Resident Evil all aiming for the mature market. Gamers had moved on from being kids to being adults and Sony were the first to pick up on this. The system that made the jump to three dimensions more prominent could be found in nightclubs and not in general toy shops for demonstration – it was that cool.
Though Nintendo’s N64 was the first to add analogue and vibration features to their controller Sony was the one who took the ideas a step further by adding another analogue stick and building the rumble feature into the controller. Everything Sony did with their 32-bit system was pure perfection. The SEGA Saturn and the N64 did not stand a chance as Sony made the business theirs by developing a console that is easy for developers to work on and creating a new experience that to this day is unequalled. As Sony said back then, “Never underestimate the Power of the PlayStation”.