Do you remember your first video game console?
If you’re a millennial like us, it was probably a Sega.
It had some pretty awesome titles, like Super Street Fighter II, Streets of Rage, Beyond Oasis, and, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
We’ve come a long way since then.
And though some things are still the same (there’s another Street Fighter game coming out next year, and Paramount Pictures recently announced a third live-action Sonic film), others have changed – a lot.
Take video game units, for instance.
Every three to five years, gamers are treated with a new generation of consoles with better graphics, performance, and games.
But it wasn’t always like this.
In fact, one of the first successful video game systems, the Atari 2600, was in production for 15 years before seeing the light of day.
So, you should be thankful for all the gaming systems that paved the way for the Xbox and PlayStation series to become famous. If you’d like to know which, we’ve got your back.
In this blog, we’ve compiled a list of the greatest video game consoles of all time, in no particular order of release, popularity, or units sold.
Let’s discuss more in detail.
“With Odyssey, you participate in television; you’re not just a spectator!” was the official slogan of Magnavox Odyssey, the first ever video game console. Ralph Henry Baer developed it while he worked at Sanders Associates. Interestingly enough, due to Ralph’s work, he earned the title ‘the Father of Video Games.’
Magnavox Odyssey was released in 1977 in the US. Despite having no color video output or sound, it sold over 300,000 units.
The console was pretty simple, and so were its game, like Ski, Basketball, Baseball, and others.
Today, Magnavox Odyssey is regarded as a masterpiece of engineering and structural design. Its stellar legacy has earned it a place in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Atari Inc. made several attempts to dethrone Nintendo’s Game Boy but lost every single time. The Atari 7800 and Atari Lynx were two of their many systems that failed to make an impression in the gaming industry.
With nothing to lose, the video game developer made one last shot at salvaging their reputation with Atari Jaguar.
While its competitors – Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Sega Genesis – were equipped with 16-bit technology, Atari Inc. went 64 steps ahead and gave their console 64-bits raw processing power – something no game developer had ever done before.
Atari Jaguar also replaced the cartridge-based hardware with a CD-ROM peripheral.
Unfortunately, the arrival of Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation signaled the death of not just Atari Jaguar but the whole company.
Still, Atari Jaguar deserves a place on this list simply because it showed what gaming consoles could achieve.
The SNES led the video game console industry in 1991, thwarting every other company that attempted to enter the market. Ultimately, Sega Genesis weakened SNES’s powerful grasp, forever changing the landscape.
Sega Genesis came out in 1989, and it went under the radar for two years. But then came Sonic the Hedgehog, immediately drawing all attention. The game borrowed multiple elements from Super Mario Bros.; colorful graphics, fast gameplay, and lots of jumping.
And Earthworm Jim and Disney’s Aladdin further contributed to Sega Genesis’s success.
The competition between Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was so intense in 1991 that it’s still considered the most heated console rivalry in history. Although the former eventually won the race by selling 49.10 million copies worldwide, the latter wasn’t far behind with 30.75 million.
As we’ve already mentioned, Sega and Nintendo fought to claim the top position in the early 1990s. Little did they know that a small grey box would take the baton from both of them.
Yes, we’re talking about none other than Sony PlayStation, PlayStation, or PS1.
The console brought a lot of exciting elements to the table: disc-based format, Dual Shock controllers, and an impressive lineup of 3D games that, to this date, help Sony rake in billions of dollars.
One of the best things about PS1 was that it offered something for all age groups; games like Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 2, and Metal Gear Solid were targeted towards adults, while kids enjoyed playing Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.
Most people don’t know this, but Sony wanted to partner with Nintendo to create a CD-ROM peripheral. Nintendo, though, rejected Sony’s idea and formed a partnership with Philips instead.
The gaming industry would’ve looked a lot different had Nintendo accepted Sony’s pitch.
But we’re very, very glad they didn’t.
Many video game consoles have appeared and disappeared, but none of them ever captured the attention of organized crime syndicates.
You read that right.
When Super Nintendo was released in Japan in 1990 (under the name Super Famicom), it gained instant success, quickly outselling its rivals. In fact, it was so popular that the Japanese government requested the manufacturers to release the consoles only on weekends so that people wouldn’t crowd stores, disrupting traffic.
But social disturbance was the last thing the government needed to worry about.
Another party was interested in getting their hands on Super Nintendo, and their methods were, let’s just say, not legal.
Yakuza, a Japanese organized crime group, wanted to acquire the consoles. So, Nintendo shipped them during the night to not get robbed by the Yakuza.
Things weren’t so different in the US, minus the Yakuza thing.
Despite facing intense competition from Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo became the best-selling console of the 16-bit era.
The console’s games also played a significant role in its success.
Search ‘Best Games of All Time’ on Google today, and you’ll most likely find the names Super Mario World, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and other Super Nintendo titles.
Xbox was Microsoft’s foray into the gaming world. A direct competitor to Sony’s PS2 and Nintendo’s GameCube, Xbox had a rather unimpressive design. But three qualities made up for it.
The system introduced Xbox Live, an online multiplayer gaming service that allowed people to play games with or without the internet.
Xbox introduced Halo: Combat Evolved, one of the greatest video games of all time.
DLCs (downloadable content), additional content created for a game that’s already been released.
The console had a record-breaking launch in North America, selling over 1.5 million units in the same year it came out. Despite this, Microsoft claimed they couldn’t make a profit from the sales.
Xbox’s manufacturing price was far greater than its retail price.
And it didn’t do well outside the Western market, particularly in Japan.
Experts suggest that it was because of the unit’s large size and that most games focused on the American audience.
In 2005, Microsoft stopped the production of the system altogether. Fortunately, it had made enough noise to warrant multiple successors, including Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S.
Launched in 2000 worldwide, PlayStation 2 or PS2, holds the record for being the best-selling video game console. 22 years have passed since the system was released, but none could surpass its record.
For clarity, PS2 sold 155 million copies.
So, what exactly made the console so successful?
Well, it would be wrong and unfair to credit its popularity to just one factor; there were plenty.
For instance, until the day Sony Computer Entertainment discontinued PS2, 4000 game titles had been made available to play.
Secondly, PS2 was marketed as the first official console for adults compared to Nintendo 64, whose target audience was kids and young teens.
And PS2 was equipped with backward compatibility – a feature allowing people to play games compatible with the previous software version. This means that you could run PS1 games on PS2.
PS2 continued to be produced until 2013, one of the longest lifespans of any gaming console. Its popularity continued roaring even after Sony Computer Entertainment launched PS3.
And judging from the success, it seems highly unlikely that any other console would ever come close.
Microsoft has released many video game consoles, starting with Xbox. Yet its successor, Xbox 360, is the best we’ve seen – hands down. That must be why it remains the best-selling unit of the company.
Like PS2, Xbox 360’s popularity can be credited to its expansive game library, including Call of Duty 2, Saints Row, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Dead or Alive 4, Gears of War, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.
Some of them sold over 3 million copies.
This is a massive feat, especially considering the ‘Red Ring of Death’ fiasco. For those unaware, it was a technical problem that caused a lot of Xbox 360 consoles to stop functioning.
The system’s three of four ringed lights would light up red, shutting down the machine and preventing it from starting again. Microsoft responded to this glitch by extending the consoles’ warranty period.
But all was well in the end, as Xbox 360 sold 84 million copies throughout its lifetime.
We know plenty of other video gaming consoles should’ve been on this list. But we can’t include them all in one go. So, let’s save them for another day. Meanwhile, you can appreciate the effort developers put into making the perfect video game console for you.
Michael found his calling in writing ever since he hit his teens. As a content writer, Michael loves delving deep into the latest eCommerce and fashion trends and adding his unique touch to everything he writes.
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