Last week I took a trip down memory lane with the top 10 arcade games of all time. Not ready to end the nostalgia road trip quite yet, this week we turn to the console wars that have spanned decades. What was the greatest console of all time? Part of that answer is total sales but there’s more to a console’s legacy than just money made. Other things to consider are the influence and innovation the system had compared to other consoles of its time, and of course the games available to play on it. I did my best to put personal bias aside otherwise the Genesis would fill spots one through three. So let’s get to it. Here are the Top 10 Game Consoles of All Time.
10 – Atari 2600
- Released: September 1977
- Iconic Games: Yar’s Revenge, Pitfall
My friends and I spent most of the summer of 1980 over at Eddie’s house because he had just gotten the first Atari 2600 in the neighborhood. Blocky graphics. Horrible sound. A crappy joystick with a single red button. And it was FABULOUS!
9 – Sega Dreamcast
- Released: September 1999
- Iconic Games: SoulCalibur, Marvel Vs Capcom 2
Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. But didn’t. Twenty years ago the Dreamcast hit the market long before the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox, but even with the head start the Dreamcast wasn’t enough to keep Sega in the console manufacturing business. It does have the distinction of being the only console I ever bought to just play a single game. That game was SoulCalibur. Well worth the price.
8 – SNES
- Released: August 1991
- Iconic Games: Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid
The successor to the NES, the Super Nintendo was a latecomer to the fourth generation console battle but still became the best selling console of the 16-bit era. A super-strong stable of games eventually beat out that pesky blue hedgehog. The SNES recently had a resurgence with the SNES Classic, and now you can nab many of your favorite SNES titles on the Switch.
7 – Nintendo Wii
- Released: November 2012
- Iconic Games: Wii Sports
Now here’s a console built on casual play. With accessible games like Wii Sports, even grandma could get in on the action. The Wii was the oddball console that everyone loved. Strange controllers combined with that weird little sensor bar to get people up off the couch and moving around. And Nintendo went with tried and true hardware while everyone else was going with new tech, resulting in a price tag that didn’t turn parents could accept.
6 – Nintendo DS
- Released: November 2004
- Iconic Games: Chrono Trigger, Pokemon Black & White
If you already skimmed the list to see if your favorite made the list, you may already be asking yourself how the DS made the list and not the Gameboy/Color/Advance? Simply put, I don’t like having to sit under a lamp to see the action on the screen. With its backlit display, the DS could actually be played anywhere. Isn’t that what a mobile system is all about? Oh, and it could play your favorite Gameboy games to boot.
5 – Sega Genesis
- Released: August 1989
- Iconic Games: Sonic the Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim
I loved my Sega Genesis. With so many great games I never even purchased a SNES. Sonic is arguably one of the most iconic video game characters ever and his games were pretty damn awesome. As an added bonus the cable company where we lived had the Sega Channel that came with a wired cartridge allowing you to download games for a flat monthly fee long before Xbox Live or PlayStation Network existed.
4 – Nintendo 64
- Released: September 1996
- Iconic Games: Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 007
The first Nintendo system to find its way into my home, the game catalog that came with it were beyond anything my Genesis could give me. For the first time in my eyes, Mario was better than Sonic. Even the wonky controller couldn’t keep me away.
3 – Nintendo Switch
- Released: March 2017
- Iconic Games: Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Nintendo finds its way into this list for a fifth time with the Switch. Both a mobile device and a console, the Switch once again proves that Nintendo can find a way to thrive every generation. Along with a strong stable of Nintendo exclusives I would likely wager my paycheck that every developer has at least a portion of their studio focused on porting every game ever made to the Switch.
2 – Xbox 360
- Released: November 2005
- Iconic Games: Halo 3, Gears of War 3
The Xbox 360 was a great follow-up to the original Xbox and hasn’t been matched by a Microsoft system since. It had a chance to bury Sony and their PS3 but it was plagued with problems. The red ring of death was a black eye in the fight against the PS3, but the bigger blow in the fight was the backing of the HD-DVD over Blu-Ray. Microsoft would put a beating on Sony this generation but the 360 couldn’t land the knockout punch with so many people picking up a PS3 to double as their Blu-Ray player (mine still does).
1 – PlayStation 2
- Released: March 2000
- Iconic Games: Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII
If there was a single console that became a household appliance it would be the PS2. Even with Microsoft pushing its new console, the big and bulky Xbox, into the fray the PS2 crushed all previous (and future for that matter) sales figures, with over 150 million units sold. The PS2 is one of those rare systems where its life extended well into the next generation, finally being put to pasture in 2012, six years after the release of the PS3.