So you're a fanboy and you want a definitive list in order to justify your favourite... whatever in the world of gaming. In our new weekly feature, we'll count down various top ten lists referring to the world of gaming. Everything from titles, characters, power ups, game controllers, and lots more that you wouldn't expect will be counted down, analyzed, and torn apart. Don't forget dear readers, if you don't agree with our rankings, it's because your opinion is wrong.
Without further ado, we present to you our inaugural top ten countdown... of the top ten home consoles of all time. Cliched? Perhaps. Been done before? Without a doubt. Are you going to read this article all the way down anyway? You bet.
(Note: The PC doesn't count as a game console, but fear not PC gamers, the versatility of your platform of choice would have ranked it number one. Whatever helps you sleep at night. Also, current generation consoles have been omitted, since their long reaching impact is impossible to measure at the moment.)
10) The Sega Dreamcast
This system featured a Microsoft operating system and a horribly oversized and cumbersome controller. No, it's not the original Xbox, but rather Sega's last crack at the hardware market. The Dreamcast certainly had potential, but as any Sega fanboy will tell you, this system never even really had a chance at success.
What was it about the Dreamcast that caused it to fail so spectacularly? Was it the idiotic controller with only one analog stick, uneven D-pad and fewer buttons than every other system on the market at the time? Maybe it was the complete lack of piracy protection and the ability to play pirated games without a mod chip that killed any software momentum. It's also possible that everyone was holding out for the heavily hyped PlayStation 2, and the original PlayStation was still running strong with many excellent titles. Also, publishing giant Electronic Arts released nothing for the console. Any of those answers are acceptable.
Regardless of the Dreamcast's short lifespan and failure at the cash register, there were and continue to be many game experiences that are well worth your time and effort to track down.
While there wasn't a huge library of Dreamcast games, the overall average quality remains high. Sega's special deal with Capcom in particular resulted in many awesome and exclusive titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Power Stone, Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Sega was no slouch in the first party game either, with the overblown Shenmue, the hilarious Seaman and Jet Grind Radio, and the frantic Crazy Taxi. By the way, if you're a fan of any of the 2K sports series, they got their start here.
9) Atari 2600
What kind of top ten consoles of all time list would be complete without the inclusion of Atari's influential 2600?
Picture yourself in the early 80s. Bad frizzy hair is the norm, skin tight jeans that leave little to the imagination abound, and Friday the 13th series hadn't even introduced Jason Voorhees yet. If you wanted to play any of the best games of that era, you were playing it on the Atari.
Simply put, the home console market started with Atari. There's so many influential classics on the system with the single joystick and button, it reads like a hall of fame of the pioneers of gaming. Pong, Asteroids, Defender, Pitfall!, Dig-Dug, Yar's Revenge, Breakout, and even the world's worst Pac-man conversion are all available for this classic wooden box.
Yes, the graphics are nearly unbearable today, the gameplay simplistic beyond belief, and calling those bleep-bloops ‘sound' is an insult to actual sound. Still, as a gaming relic, you can't find a more valuable window into gaming's roots without checking out the Atari. Besides, without all the mistakes that Atari made with this system, Nintendo wouldn't have a frame of reference so as not to repeat the same mistakes. Nintendo and every other game developer, publisher, and console maker since owe a huge debt to Atari.
8) Nintendo GameCube
How quickly they all forget. The little lunchbox that could has already been cast aside to the sands of gaming history, not even a year after its quiet death. While the system was far from a failure, it didn't ignite the gaming world like so many other Nintendo systems, and even comparative generation systems like the PlayStation 2, or even Microsoft's original Xbox.
Despite its competitive shortcomings and ridiculously goofy controller, the GameCube was home to some of the greatest gaming experiences of its day. You could make some great arguments that while the Xbox and PS2 had greater quantities of top shelf gaming, the GameCube had the highest level quality. Who can argue with a software lineup that includes Resident Evil 4, two Zelda games, the Metroid Prime series, Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and Super Mario.
Perhaps the most shocking element of the GameCube is that despite its kid-friendly design and software, it was actually home to some of the most twisted and disturbing games ever played. Who can forget the way that Eternal Darkness screwed with the player's mind? Or the famed Psycho Mantis Battle from Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes? The less said about Resident Evil 4, the better I'll sleep tonight.
Since the Wii is a glorified GameCube, complete with controller and memory card ports, it's never too late to check out what made Nintendo's lunchbox worth a bite.
7) Nintendo 64
Time has not been kind to the last mainstream cartridge system, and understandably so. The blurry textures, tinny music and sound effects, and bulky cartridges are all relics of a bygone era in gaming, mercifully forgotten. Seriously, what is up with that three pronged controller? Last time I checked, the average human being only has two hands. At least my three-handed cousin Steve didn't have to feel left out on gaming nights anymore.
Ok, so I don't actually have a three-handed cousin Steve, but I do still own an N64, and I can attest that it's nearly unplayable nowadays. The games all feel simplistic, the choppy framerates and hideous textures and character models are an eyesore, and everything seems to be stuck in that awkward transition from 2D to 3D.
So, why would a system that's aged worse than a year-old glass of coke be ranked so high? Simply put, the N64 was one innovative system. The N64 pioneered many gaming technologies placed in wide use today, such as four controller ports, analog sticks for 3D control, lock on targeting, and rumble packs. Also, one can't forget to mention how the N64 showed that first-person shooters were possible without being gimped doom clones or requiring mouse and keyboard control. Who needed to study for exams or go to class when there was 4-player GoldenEye 007 afoot? While the N64 has been long surpassed in every conceivable way, it deserves to be honoured for the techniques it pioneered.
6) Sega Genesis
Where would the gaming industry be today without "Blast Processing?" I don't know, but that's a gaming industry that I wouldn't want to be a part of.
If you were a gamer in the early ‘90s, you were in the middle of a gang war. You were either part of the Super NES crew, or you were a Genesis gamer. Forget bloods and crips, many a schoolyard brawl were ignited from a Sonic versus Mario argument. Much like the U.S. and Russia declared peace after years of nuclear posturing, so too did Sonic and Mario put aside their differences in time.
In my youth, I bled grey and purple, and that's why you haven't seen the Super NES ranked on this list. Still, as time has passed, one can truly see the Genesis for the gaming milestone it was. The world's first 16-bit system is home to many timeless gaming moments, and made Nintendo re-evaluate its 8-bit system. While the Super NES indisputably won the battle, the Genesis put up one hell of a fight.
Highlights for the Genesis included the plethora of add-ons, the advent of 16-bit graphics, the first controller to feature more than two buttons, an ergonomic controller meant to fit nicely in the hand, and one of the greatest gaming mascots the world has ever seen, and no, it's not Alex Kidd. Viva la Sonic!
5) Microsoft Xbox
By all accounts, the Xbox should not be on this list. The sheer amount of design mistakes, coupled with a horrible beast of a controller, and a piss-poor launch line up spelled doom for Microsoft's oversized black box.
Too bad it was fuglier than Rosie O'Donnell in a tutu.
But, like a pin of light in the darkest cave, came the Xbox's saviour. It's only appropriate that the title went by the religiously significant name of Halo. Halo not only made the Xbox worth owning, it made putting up with that colossal controller tolerable. It made the slim line-up of games ignorable. In fact, the Xbox would not see another note-worthy release until Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic.
Despite the early stumbles, Microsoft went and fixed their mistakes in a hurry. They redesigned the controller to be far more comfortable and ergonomic. They made custom soundtracks the norm in games. They spearheaded graphics nicer than anything seen on a console to date. Most importantly though, the Xbox legitimized online gaming on a console, something that Nintendo, Sega, and even Sony was unable to do. With the advent of Xbox Live, console gamers the world over got to know what PC gamers had already known since the days of Doom. Online multiplayer was here, and it sure beat playing against the AI all the time. Some may be a little bitter about the introduction of chatty idiots with loud headsets into their living rooms, but hey, that's the cost of progress. Other innovations included making Direct X plausible on a console, making life much easier for developers. The breakaway cables ensured that you wouldn't pull the behemoth off your shelf and strike oil. The Xbox was the first system to support high definition graphics. Finally, it was the first system to include a standardized hard drive in lieu of memory cards and cache memory for faster load times, a success that Microsoft screwed up by not making hard drives standard in their follow-up, the 360.
As time went on, the Xbox built a very respectable library of games, one that became even more enviable with their next console effort, the Xbox 360. There are still loads of fantastic gaming experiences that you can only get on the standard Xbox, so check your local bargain bin for them.
4) Sony PlayStation
You may not realise it now considering Nintendo's runaway success with the Wii, but back in the day when the Super Nintendo reigned supreme, storm clouds were forming on the horizon. Nintendo was engaged in serious negotiations with Sony to create a "PlayStation" add on for the Super NES, which would upgrade the system to 32 bit and add a CD-ROM drive to the unit. Negotiations fell through however, and Sony said to Nintendo "whatever you can do, we can do better!"
... Boy were they ever right!
The PlayStation didn't release to widespread acclaim in 1995. The launch lineup is generously described as crap, with only Street Fighter Alpha and a gimped version of Ridge Racer the only games of note. Many gamers passed it by, expecting another colossal bomb along the lines of the Panasonic 3D0 and Phillips CD-I.
But then something happened that changed Sony's gaming fortunes forever...
Final Fantasy VII was announced as a PlayStation exclusive, due to the extra storage capacity of the CD medium. As more and more information about the game trickled out, it became apparent that FFVII was going to be a force to reckon with. The game featured fantastic CGI visuals, a captivating story with an eclectic cast of characters, and one wallop of a marketing campaign. Final Fantasy VII was to Sony what Halo was to Microsoft, a lifeboat for a fledging console.
Next thing you knew, the PlayStation starting leaving the N64 in the dust. Some PS1 games still look pretty decent today, they all have better sound, and featured full on cinemas. After a while, if you wanted a killer exclusive game published by anyone other than Nintendo, you were finding it on Sony's little grey box.
A look at the PS1's catalogue makes choosing only a top ten an daunting proposition. It's simply mind-boggling to think of all the series that achieved mainstream appeal or got their start on the PlayStation. The list includes Resident Evil, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Twisted Metal, Medal of Honor, Driver, Tekken, Syphon Filter, WipEout, Ridge Racer, Need For Speed, Silent Hill, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, and many, many others.
I'll bet Nintendo wishes they had negotiated better with Sony in the early ‘90s now!
3) Nintendo Entertainment System
What can we say about the NES that hasn't already been said? All you youngin's with your fancy Wii's and Xboxes don't know how good you had it. Back in MY day, we had to blow into our cartridges and slap our system around just to get it to boot up those glorious 8-bit graphics.
While Atari did everything in their power to bury the video game industry in the early 80's, Nintendo did everything in their power to bring it back. After some strong success with Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong in the arcades, Nintendo took the home console world by storm with two games: Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. It wasn't long until Nintendo bundled the two games with the NES, and history was made.
Super Mario Bros. was a revelation. The controls were pitch perfect, the graphics bright and colourful, and the game was expansive and challenging. It's a testament to the game's timeless design that it remains infinitely playable today.
Shall we run down the list of game series that got their start on the NES and continue to be ultra popular today? Try these heavy hitters on for size: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Metal Gear, Castlevania, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest (then known as Dragon Warrior), Ninja Turtles, Tetris, Bomberman, Blades of Steel, Gradius, Battletoads, and Double Dragon, just to name a few.
Thanks to the Wii, it's now possible to re-experience some of these classics in their pixel perfect glory, and it's shocking just how well a lot of these games have aged. Just like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Casablanca, or the Mona Lisa, time has only strengthened these game's legacy. Do this old reviewer a favour, and give them a try, then share them with your children one day. I know I will.
2) PlayStation 2
The PlayStation 2 is the most popular gaming console of all time. There's something for everyone on this system, and with over 1,500 games and counting on the seven year old survivor, you're bound to find something you love on it too.
The system was released to crazy hype in fall of 2000, and it was nearly impossible to find one for at least the next year. It was easy to see why. The games looked amazing, it was backwards compatible with all the old PS1 games, the controller was tweaked instead of reworked, and it had a built in DVD player that would also play movies.
While 3D technology was already several years old when the PS2 came out, it was obvious that it wasn't quite as viable until the PlayStation 2 made it viable. Finally, you could gorgeous and expansive environments without having to compromise with blurry textures or great framerates. It was finally possible to have both at the same time.
The PS2's greatest innovation is probably that it's the first console that took itself seriously as an entertainment console rather than just a games console. Yes, games were the primary function, but here was a device that could also play movies, music, and go online.
But games were not neglected, not by a long shot. The list of the best PS2 games looks less like a list of titles for a console, and more like entrances into the hall of fame of gaming. Final Fantasy X, Tony Hawk Underground, Grand Theft Auto, Guitar Hero, God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Shadow of the Colossus, Twisted Metal: Black, Amplitude, Devil May Cry, Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil 4, Gran Turismo 4, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, Kinetica, SSX Tricky, Need for Speed Underground, and so many others that I won't even attempt to list them all here.
Amazingly, Sony has carried the momentum of the PS2 for what is almost eight years, and still shows no signs of slowing down. To this day, the PS2 consistently outsells Sony's other offerings like the PS3 and the PSP. Many awesome releases are still coming out in the next year as well, so the system is far from dead. It may be in its senior years at this point, but it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
1) Super Nintendo
Here it is, the Mack Daddy of all game consoles. It's placement at number one on our list is simple. It's simply the most timeless system ever created. It's best games still look great, play fantastic, and expanded upon ideas.
Its innovations are as numerous as they are important. The Super NES was the first system to feature trigger buttons and a six button controller, 3D effects with both scaling sprites and polygons in Star Fox, 3D models in games, scaling effects in backgrounds, 16 million colour palates, deeper storytelling with an emphasis on good writing, multi-layered digital sound for awesome music, and best of all, the evolution of Nintendo's premier franchises.
As awesome as Nintendo's games are today, the very best versions of every classic franchise is found on the Super NES. The Metroid Series? Super Metroid is the best. The Zelda Series? You can't beat A Link to the Past. Super Mario? Super Mario World remains a masterpiece of gameplay. Contra III is still one of the best shooters ever made. Star Fox destroys its sequels on the N64 and on the DS. Chrono Trigger is outstanding compared to it's middling PS1 sequel. Final Fantasy III still has one of the greatest storylines ever told in a video game. Castlevania IV is still the best Castlevania game in this reviewer's opinion, although many would argue in Symphony of the Night's favour. Even arcade conversions like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Killer Instinct held their own against the might arcade cabinets. The list just goes on and on and on.
Graphically speaking, it's shocking how good Super Nintendo games still look. Donkey Kong Country is still a powerhouse of animation and sound design. Mode 7 games like Top Gear and NHL Stanley Cup still impress with their ancient technology. Even Doom on the Super NES could hold it's own against another other console version.
What about their sound? Contra III's soundtrack still gets my adrenaline flowing. Nobuo Uematsu's soundtracks are just as powerful on the Super NES as they were on future DVD and CD based systems. It's amazing how much developers were able to squeeze out of the software.
Finally, the reason the Super Nintendo is the greatest system of all time, is that it found the perfect balance between imagination and actual gameplay. While the system's of today look great with photorealistic graphics and sound, there's no imagination necessary on the part of the user. With the Super NES, you were given the eye candy, but you could also still imagine what it would look like in the real world. With no voice acting, you could make up your own voices for the characters. Nowadays, it's all about making the game as much like a movie as possible. Back then, it was more like reading a truly great book.
That's why the Super Nintendo is the greatest system ever made.