The 5 best video game consoles ever made – Reader’s Feature
A reader details the five consoles that have meant the most to him over the years and why the Nintendo Switch is not yet one of them.
Recently, GameCentral ran an article stating the Switch is one of the best consoles ever made. The Switch is shaping up nicely but for me it’s got some travelling to do before I would say it’s one of the best consoles ever made. In fact, I would put three other Nintendo consoles alone before it in the Super Nintendo, N64, and Wii U. I know the Wii U bombed but thanks to its backwards compatibility with the Wii, it’s Virtual Console, and a chunk of exclusives – many ported to the Switch – it’s an absolute hotbed of Nintendo goodness.
But this isn’t an article about the Switch’s place in the pantheon of greatest console, just an excuse to list my personal top five favourite consoles. It’s not an incisive or comprehensive piece on the strengths of each console, a feature could be written for each console on its own, but a rambling nostalgia binge.
The 3DO didn’t have much of chance. It launched in late 1993 in the US and 1994 in the UK. These quotes from Computing History sum up why it failed:
‘Despite a highly-promoted launch (including being named Time magazine’s ‘1994 Product of the Year’) and a host of cutting-edge technologies, the 3DO’s high price £599.95 at launch, limited third-party developer support, and an over-saturated console market prevented the system from achieving success comparable to competitors Sega and Nintendo. The console was released in North America on October 4, 1993, and in Japan on March 20, 1994.’
‘Any success the console may have had was effectively snuffed out by the arrival of the Sony PlayStation, which soon had ports from the 3DO library, as well as its own stellar line-up of games.’
The reason for the high price was the cutting edge tech but more so the fact the 3DO Company didn’t manufacture the console but licensed the specs to whoever wanted them to make the console themselves, meaning the console hardware had to make a profit. Sony and Microsoft initially sell their consoles at a loss, the Xbox One reportedly had a production of cost of $471 and sold for $499, The PlayStation 4 $371 and sold for $399. When you factor in shipping, marketing, etc. they sell at a loss.
The console manufactures make the money mainly by taking a cut from third party sales, digital stores, and digital services like PS Plus, Game Pass, and Xbox Gold. They make money from exclusives too, but their main job is to attract consumers to their consoles, to make money on third party and the digital eco system. The combination of being supremely optimised and selling at a loss is why consoles can offer such bang for your buck.
The 3DO didn’t succeed but that cutting edge tech at the time made for some spectacular-looking games. The jump from the SNES to the 3D0 was pretty staggering. Diminishing returns mean generational leaps visually aren’t now as arresting. Transitioning from the 16-bit consoles to the 32-bit systems like the 3DO and PlayStation was big.
But as much as I like cutting edge tech it’s the games that live in the memory and the 3DO, by the end of its short life, had a really good collection of games that I have warm and fond memories of playing. Excellent arcade perfect versions of Samurai Shodown and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Need for Speed was the big system seller, which looked amazing at the time and was a treat to play. Brilliant versions of FIFA and Road Rash. It’s the console that I first played the supremely written and enjoyable Star Control 2 on, with its improved audio and some nice cut scenes for the inventive alien ships.
I forgot to write in to the recent Hot Topic of gaming disappointments, but Star Control: Origins would of been my shout. The 3DO had good version of multiplatform titles like Cannon Fodder and Theme Park. It’s the machine I first played the atmospheric Alone In The Dark on, that is considered the forefather for titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Return Fire was great too. There was heavy use of FMV in a lot of games, I assume as you had the space to put them on the colossal 700MB CD, which did provide a lot of fun and novelty. The daisy-chained control pads on the Panasonic 3D0 where a bit annoying though as a disgruntled player 1 could easily and quickly disconnect player 2.
In 1994 I only knew one person with a high-end PC and looked forward to sleeping over at his house to play on it, as the visuals and audio on it felt like a cut above my SNES. The 3DO felt like I was playing on a gaming PC. I was lucky, or unlucky, to have two brothers where we could opt for individual Christmas presents or a joint more expensive large one. Wouldn’t of been able to get this console otherwise. The 3DO would probably make a few worst consoles ever lists but I loved it.
I would of loved to put the Xbox in this list. Halo blew me away. Halo 2’s online multiplayer and matchmaking was pioneering in the console space and I played it so much. I dearly wish Microsoft would put Jet Set Radio future on backwards compatibility. But the 360 has way more going for it. Excellent third party support, often with the best running versions of multiplatform games due to the PlayStation 3’s difficult to program for architecture.
Ushering in the console indie revolution with titles like the gorgeous and delightfully devious Braid. Oblivion released on 360 a year before the PlayStation3 and it was a big release. For me the 360 is tied in my mind with popularising the PC style Western role-playing game on console, good work had already been done on Xbox with games like Morrorwind and Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic. Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout’s natural console home will always feel like the 360 to me. Halo 3 was a massive deal, as was Gears Of War with that arresting Mad World trailer.
There was the Red Ring of Death and the console released without a HDMI port, but that was soon rectified, and Sony did eventually rally and sell a few more million consoles over the generation than Microsoft. But Microsoft deservedly took a massive market share from Sony, who must of been feeling pretty confident going into the generation after the wildly successful PlayStation 2. But the fiddly hardware of the PlayStation 3 and Incorporated Blu-ray player produced a console that was more expensive than Microsoft’s but had inferior multi-platform games. It’s amazing Microsoft would repeat similar mistakes with the Xbox One.
The Xbox 360 though was a truly fantastic console.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
There’s no Sega consoles on my list. The one that would come nearest is the Dreamcast. Nintendo’s consoles and games have just always been superior to Sega’s for me. I thought Daytona USA on the Saturn was an awful port that looked like a dog’s dinner. I now have that game on my Xbox One through backwards compatibility and it’s an absolutely glorious version. I did love going round a friend’s house when I was around 14, other than he lived in a cemetery, as his dad was the groundskeeper for the local cemeteries, to play on his Mega Drive. Streets Of Rage 2 was awesome and his dad used to let us have one or two of his Miller beers. The decision not to put netting or curtains up in your bedroom window when the view was of a load of gravestones was a bit unnerving when sleeping over, but it was worth it for the beer and Rage.
But for the most part I thought Mega Drive games were quite a bit inferior to the SNES. OK, except Mortal Kombat which looked worse than the SNES but didn’t have the heavy censorship and played smoother. The 16-bit hardware was not the off-the-shelves slightly tweaked identikit hardware we see now. They produced significantly different audio and visuals with unique techniques like the SNES’s Mode 7.
Some Sega games had great tunes but the graphics and sounds on the SNES were just fuller, richer, better. In the latter days of the SNES it continued to blow socks off with titles like Star Fox, Super Metroid, and Donkey Kong Country. On a side note I don’t really miss the days of unique, bespoke hardware. The consoles now may have almost identical hardware, but it allows for a far greater range of visual and audio styles than the old consoles could ever muster; even if you do lose that uniqueness that made the 16-bit hardware interesting.
Flagship titles Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario World Mario sum up how I feel about the gaming output of the two machines. Sonic is a breezy fun game that I got bored of quickly, I found the controls loose and unsatisfying. Super Mario World is as good today as it was on first release thanks to excellent level design and tight pinpoint controls. The graphics and audio feel as vibrant and rich as they did on first release too.
The SNES had really good third party support, something Nintendo has taken decades to get back with the Switch. But what really impresses me about the SNES is how many titles haven’t aged from it and are pretty much perfect video games. I’d class Super Mario World, The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, and Super Metroid in this list.
I’m being a bit mean on Sega as the Mega Drive was a fantastic console, it’s just for me the SNES is in a different league. If it wasn’t for the fact I had to work six weeks of my paper round to afford a game I might put it higher.
PlayStation 4: one of the best consoles ever made. That’s the article GameCentral should of run instead of the Switch one. As I said at the start, the Switch is great but has a road to travel before we start talking about it as one of the best consoles ever made. Whereas the PlayStation 4 for me is unarguably one of the best consoles ever made. Sony get the commercial success they deserve but I still feel not the critical praise they deserve for their immense contribution to gaming.
Sony’s consoles have always had bigger and more diverse gaming libraries than the competition. They really put a shift in making sure there’s plenty being developed and released on their machines. But up until the PlayStation 4 I feel Nintendo and Microsoft had better exclusives. This is why only one Sony console makes my list, as until the PlayStation 4 I was being distracted by games like Halo, Super Mario 64, and Metroid Prime. But this gen Sony, for me, are the first party exclusives kings and have also ensured a stellar line up of third party exclusives.
Bloodborne and God Of War join Zelda: Breath Of The Wild as my top three games so far this gen. The gen did start slowly but the last three to four years have been really good. I have 200 PlayStation 4 games in my digital library, many of the titles can only be found on the PlayStation 4 format. Sony are seeing this gen out with a bang too: Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Ghost Of Tsushima, and The Last Of Us Part 2 all look like they will deliver on their promise.
The Switch deservedly gets a lot of praise for nailing the hybrid model. But for me PlayStation VR is the most impressive piece of hardware this gen. It’s truly a feat that Sony got such good gaming VR working on the base model PlayStation. The X-wing VR mission is the most impressed I’ve been by a new experience on console hardware that just wasn’t possible on the previous generations hardware.
Sony have offered excellent support for the device too and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and the WipEout VR patch are two of the most amazing gaming experiences I’ve ever had. The PlayStation VR is showing its age, with a low resolution headset and poor tracking, but it’s tantalising what PlayStation 5 and PlayStation VR 2 could produce. I don’t think there’s a soul alive now who that thinks VR is the future of gaming but I love it, PlayStation VR has enriched my gaming life hugely and I will happily buy PlayStation VR 2.
Due to Microsoft’s stupid and abandoned parity policy at the start of this gen, where indies had to release first or at the same time as other formats on Xbox or it wouldn’t be allowed to release on Xbox at all, along with Sony recognising the important role indies had in bulking out its early release schedules the PlayStation 4 has been the go-to console for indie games for much of this gen.
The Switch has now taken that role, as Sony don’t need indies now as much as they did at the start. My most anticipated indie game is Hollow Knight: Silksong, which is a timed Switch console exclusive, for example. I hope Sony refocus on indies with PlayStation 5, as indie games have been a huge part of why I’ve enjoyed PlayStation 4. The release of Hotline Miami, possibly the greatest indie game ever, at the tail end of the PlayStation 3’s life really caught my attention on Sony’s platform.
The PlayStation 4 is an absolute blockbuster of a console and deservedly a huge success, even if they did have extremely weak competition at the start of the generation.
The N64 had atrocious third party support, it was really grim. But it had a handful of the best games ever made and the best couch co-op sessions I’ve had.
Up until PlayStation VR, Super Mario 64 was the most impressed I’ve been by what was possible with a new generation of hardware. PlayStation and Saturn had been doing 3D for a few years, but the 3D of Super Mario 64 was so much better. Most of the 3D games of the PlayStation and Saturn have aged badly but Mario 64 is still as good today as it was when it released, thanks to Nintendo’s talent but also the smoother, less pixelated 3D the N64 could produce.
I picked up my N64 with Mario 64 and Wave Race 64. It’s the first time I remember using an analogue stick and I was blown away by how responsive the controls felt on both of those games. Controlling Mario is absolute joy in Mario 64, as are the jet skis in Wave Race 64 – from doing gentle turns and arcs to tight turns with was complimented by the superb wave physics. I love Wave Race 64 to this day. Although not quite as great, 1080° Snowboarding was another great feeling game.
I played so much GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, and Mario Kart 64 four-player at work or friends houses. We all brought our own controller and had a blast. It’s the last time I had regular couch co-op sessions, as everyone moved on with their adult lives. Just great times.
Then there is The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. Often voted as the greatest game of all time and something that occupied my life for a huge chunk of time. The N64 didn’t have many games but the ones it did have were so good, and felt just so much better than anything else on the market, I think it’ll always be my favourite console.
I really like the look of the N64 too. I like consoles looking like toys with chunky tactile buttons, smooth curves or loads of sharp angles, both are good. Modern console looks are terrible, just boring black boxes. The N64 looked like the sleekest toy ever made.
I know factually how barren the N64 release schedule was, but I only have dim memories of that and instead I just have a list as long as my arm of fantastic gaming sessions. Best console ever.
By reader Simundo
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