Gaming isn't a very old medium, so when you make a list of the 10 Best Game Consoles, you are going to see a lot of repeats. There are a lot of PlayStations on this list, a lot of Nintendo consoles, and more than one Sega entry as well. That says something about how few competitors there are in our industry. Regardless, each of these consoles had a profound impact on gaming history in one way or another. These are the 10 Best Game Consoles of all time.
It’s time to start making people mad right away by including a system that few people have heard of and even fewer have cared about. The Magnavox Odyssey is probably the most important console that you’ve never heard of. Why? Because it was the world’s first commercial game console. Sure, you had an incredibly limited selection of games without any real rules that required plastic graphical overlays, lots of other cards, and plastic pieces to even operate, but it was undoubtedly a game system that used video on your TV. Arguably, we wouldn’t have home video games if not for this peculiar over-designed box.
From the very old to the very new, the Xbox 360 should go down in gaming history for several reasons. First of all, it was the first HD game system and the first game system to use HDMI outputs. Second, it drew a hard line between the casual and hardcore with its lineup and the way it competed with the Nintendo Wii. Third, it was the first console to start delving into home multi-media beyond rudimentary CD and DVD playback functions. It was also the first console to start integrating itself with social media and online services. Finally, it was the first console to charge a monthly blanket fee for online access rather than an individual fee per game. Heck, it was even the first console to hit shelves in this generation! The Xbox 360 sure does have a lot of firsts.
While the Magnavox Odyssey may have been the first technical gaming console to ever come out, the Atari 2600 is the “first” in most people’s minds. It had extremely low definition sound and graphics, but boy was it fun. The simple games of the 2600 created some of the earliest “gamers” we had ever seen. Everyone remembers their friend that had Boxing, Football, Asteroids, Joust, or Missile Command or any of the other awesome games that we would waste ours of our time on.
For as influential as the Xbox 360 was in this generation, the Wii was even more so. It was the first console to integrate motion controls and basically kicked off the motion control craze. It beat two hardcore consoles in sales, even though it didn’t jump on the HD graphics bandwagon. It also introduced a whole new market of gamers to games: the casual market. Before the Wii, it was unlikely that you would see a video game system in a bar or a nursing home. Now game consoles are showing up in both those places and more.
Say what you will, but the Dreamcast was an amazing system with some amazing games. Power Stone, Dynamite Cop, Sonic Adventure 2, and the original Marvel vs Capcom 2 port; all of these games were phenomenal for their time. However, the Dreamcast simply came out at a bad time. Not only were people just getting the hang of CD-based piracy, but it also paled in comparison to the next entry on our list.
The PlayStation 2 was arguably the king of the DVD-era of gaming. It blew both the original Xbox and the GameCube out of the water and brought some of the most popular franchises, from Final Fantasy to Metal Gear, into the next generation. The PS2 brought us hits like Shadow of the Colossus, Grand Theft Auto 3, Prince of Persia, Devil May Cry, and much more. It was the console that started swinging modern gaming in the direction it was going and that's why it's on our list of the 10 Best Game Consoles.
The Sega Genesis was a relic from a time when console wars were really console wars. Today, cross-console ports are nearly identical. In the days of the Genesis, the cross console ports were completely different. Some ports simply had different characters and options like Mortal Kombat. Others were completely different games made by completely different companies like Aladdin. If you were a Genesis kid, you swore by the console’s blast processing and superior sound chip. So what if your controller only had three buttons? You had Sonic the Hedgehog, and the "Blue Blur" was better than any jumping plumber!
The PlayStation One was incredibly influential for a number of reasons. It popularized the use of disk based media in home consoles. It allowed game developers to use high-quality audio and video formats in their games. It totally opened up the import scene with its rear accessory slot. It was on this console that the Final Fantasies reverted to their Japanese numbers, that the term Metroidvania was coined, and that games, for the first time, really started experimenting with 3D. It was also the first appearance of the DualShock controller, which is the design that Sony has been using ever since.
OK, so all of those people who said Sonic was totally better than Mario were just wrong. Even though the Genesis put up a great fight in the 16-bit wars, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System definitely won. So many ageless titles were made on this system. Nintendo had first-party blockbusters like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Kirby Super Star, Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, and every Mario game period. Third party titles ranged from the brilliant Mega Man X to the timeless Chrono Trigger. It was one of the first consoles to toy around with remakes and updates with Super Mario All-Stars. It was the first console to introduce fighting games to a home setting with Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. This console ushered in a golden age of gaming, and it is highly unlikely that we will never see as many classics and blockbusters come out of any system as much as they did for the SNES.
Though the Odyssey was technically the first game system and the Atari 2600 was the first commonly available home game system, the Nintendo Entertainment System popularized video games as we know it. The NES gave birth to not only Mario, but the modern platformer genre as we know it. The NES brought us huge innovations in shoot em ups, sports games, RPGs, and more. We had our first pressure sensitive mat controller via the Power Pad, our first light gun with the Zapper, and a million other peripherals from the greats of the NES Advantage, to the horrible nature of the Power Glove. The NES introduced us to Game Genie, popularized the game-pad and directional-pad, and let us know that 8-bit music didn’t suck. It was the birth of Mega Man, Samus, all of the Final Fantasy classes, and the Konami code. It also had the longest successful run of any system to date, lasting more than 10 years in America and nearly 20 years in Japan! Congrats NES, you're the #1 pick in our list of the 10 Best Game Consoles.