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The 24 Best Gaming Consoles of All Time

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Video games have long since existed as one of the most captivating pastimes anyone could ever indulge in.

While they enraptured gamers young and old within the smoky and dingy arcades of the past, video games also commanded everyone’s attention back at home. The mega-successful Magnavox Odyssey that launched in 1972 gave way to a handful of commercial console units that pushed gaming forward to where it is today. Some of the major home console manufactures, such as Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and beyond have produced a handful of the very best machines money can buy. Many of the warmest memories you can concoct around your many gaming escapades can be linked back to the living room hardware you played for hours by yourself or with friends.

Gaming has been so good to us and now we’re ready to shower it with some much-deserved love by remembering the very best gaming consoles of all time.

1. Atari 2600: Released in September 1977

Thanks to the innovative Fairchild Channel F ROM cartridges technology introduced by engineer Jerry Lawson, Atari, Inc. implemented it and ended up developing one of the most iconic second-generation consoles. The Atari 2600 was the definitive gaming console of the early 80s - it earned major acclaim thanks to a number of quality arcade ports and original home releases. Games such as Pitfall!, Space Invaders, and Joust are just a sample of the bonafide classics that were housed on the Atari 2600. It may seem primitive by today’s standards, but the Atari 2600 was and always will be gaming royalty.

2. ColecoVision: Released in August 1982

The ColecoVision gave Atari quite the challenge during the golden age of its 2600 and 5200 consoles. Atari’s rival console provided stronger arcade ports during its original run - the ColecoVision eventually featured an add-on that was compatible with Atari 2600 cartridges! From a game library standpoint, this early 80s gaming hardware provided gamers with standout titles such as BurgerTime, River Raid, and Donkey Kong.

3. Nintendo Entertainment System: Released on October 18, 1985

The great video game crash of 1983 looked like it would spell the end of the interactive medium as a whole in the US. But a little-known company at the time sought to revive it by showcasing its Nintendo Entertainment System as something more than just a video game console. This Trojan Horse PR move ended up being a smashing success as young gamers everywhere got themselves an NES and a R.O.B. robot to keep them busy. The NES gave the gaming world Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and a slew of other 8-bit classics that will continue to stand the test of time.

4. TurboGrafx-16: Released on August 29, 1989

You can point to the TurboGrafx-16 as the first 16-bit console marketed to a flood of gamers in the US that were ready to move beyond 8-bit pixelated worlds. While it didn’t make much headway within the States due to poor marketing, the TurboGrafx-16 still deserves to be mentioned among the greats due to its impressive library of available games. Devil’s Crush, Bonk’s Revenge, Soldier Blade, and so many other enjoyable titles defined the TurboGrafx-16 as one of the more slept-on gaming consoles from back in the day.

5. Sega Genesis: Released on August 14, 1989

Nintendo finally got some worthy competition once Sega entered the scene with a true 16-bit machine that was far superior to the NES. The Sega Genesis came onto the market and quickly earned itself a ton of distinction among gamers thanks to its striking visuals and wide assortment of incredible games across every genre imaginable. Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Phantasy Star, and Desert Strike are shining examples of just how varied the Sega Genesis library is to this very day. Lord knows we’ll never forget all those awesome Genesis commercials that dominated the airwaves back in the 90s.

6. Game Boy: Released in September 1989

Those Tiger Electronics handhelds were cool and all, but they only offered a couple of minutes of entertainment at best. When Nintendo hit the market with its second handheld gaming device, they took over as the leader in that genre of gaming. The original Game Boy became every kid’s go-to device for those long car rides and all those super competitive Pokémon link cable battles during recess. Gaming on the go excelled thanks to the Game Boy’s library of handheld classics, such as Tetris, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, and Metroid II: Return of Samus.

7. Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System: Released on July 1, 1991

If your parents had it like that when it came to finances, then you were one of the lucky ones who got to bring the SNK arcade experience home with you thanks to this console. The Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System (AES) perfectly converted a wealth of arcade games into living room entertainment. It may have cost an arm and a leg to own, but the Neo Geo AES’ high price tag was worth it back then. Getting to play arcade-perfect versions of The King of Fighters, Metal Slug, Magician Lord, and more thanks to the AES was a blessing back in the day.

8. Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Released on August 23, 1991

Nintendo entered the 16-bit race against Sega with one of its greatest consoles of all time - the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The successor to the NES hit the scene with sharper graphics, more pronounced audio, and new & improved renditions of Nintendo’s most prominent IPs. Gaming’s most Hall of Fame-worthy experiences call the SNES home - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario World, and more are among that lineup. Later in the SNES’ lifecycle, gamers were brought into the world of 3D thanks to the likes of Star Fox, Stunt Race FX, and Donkey Kong Country. The SNES managed to thrive in two different graphical realms and endure for a very long time.

9. Sega Saturn: Released on May 11, 1995

Sega didn’t really do any favors for its Genesis follow-up in the US due to an early launch that was misplaced at the time in order to get out before the PlayStation. Even though the Sega Saturn tripped out of the gate and ultimately fell to Sony’s first gaming console, it still delivered a wealth of amazing games through it all. The Sega Saturn put forth classics such as Virtua Fighter, Panzer Dragoon, Nights Into Dreams, etc. And when it came to arcade ports of Capcom’s finest 2D fighters, the Saturn definitely had the very best ones. Sega’s 32-bit gaming hardware may have faltered during its time on the market, but it’ll always be remembered as a console that offered the best games in every genre.

10. Sony PlayStation: Released on September 9, 1995

Just imagine if Nintendo didn’t curve Sony during its CD-based console partnership and leave them behind for Philips. If Nintendo and Sony went through with their deal, then we probably wouldn’t have gotten the very first PlayStation. Funny how life works, huh? Due to Nintendo’s switch-up, Sony decided to enter the console race on its own. And the rest, as they say, is history. The PlayStation dominated the 32-bit market as it brought with it some of the greatest games of all time ever contained on a compact disk. Tekken, Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear Solid, and Gran Turismo are just a sample size of the games that defined the PlayStation's legendary run.

11. Nintendo 64: Released on September 29, 1996

Nintendo’s full foray into the world of 3D culminated in the creation of the Nintendo 64, a console that always springs up as a nostalgic piece of gaming history for 90s babies. While its controller has been lambasted as one of the most cumbersome, the N64’s games library always sticks out as one of the very best. Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, and Mario Kart 64 are GOAT material when it comes to N64 classics. And with some of the greatest wrestling, racing, and party games existing on its platform, the N64 proved to be a multiplayer gamer’s dream machine.

12. Game Boy Color: Released on November 18, 1998

Before a true successor to the original Game Boy landed on American shores, owners of the console were treated to slight upgrades in the form of a slimmer model and different colors. Once the Game Boy Color hit the scene, handheld gaming got a huge boost when it came to graphical fidelity. It felt so good to hit the playground with your thirsty Atomic Purple Game Boy Color model to indulge in some heated Pokémon Gold and Silver battles. This handled gaming gem also offered up amazing experiences through Wario Land 3, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, and even a surprisingly great rendition of Metal Gear Solid.

13. Sega Dreamcast: Released on September 9, 1999

As the final piece of official Sega console hardware, the Dreamcast went out with a bang. Even though this console will always be looked back on as a financial failure for the Japanese gaming publisher/developer, fans of the machine always refer to it as one of the greatest entries within the sixth generation of video game consoles. The controller and its cool Visual Memory Unit (VMU) add-on were revolutionary, plus the amount of amazing arcade fighting game ports on offer must be applauded. Sega went all out with its first-party titles by introducing the Sonic Adventure series, the Shenmue franchise, Skies of Arcadia, and so much more. The Dreamcast will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

14. PlayStation 2: Released on October 26, 2000

Sony’s legendary follow-up to the very first PlayStation ruled its generation and stamped out the Sega Dreamcast in short order. The big, black box known as the PlayStation 2 arrived with the ability to not only play disc-based games but also provided non-gamers with a much cheaper DVD player in comparison to the competition. The DualShock 2 was a greatly improved version of the original controller. And we damn sure used it to play a mammoth array of amazing games. The strong combination of quality first-party titles and third-party classics placed the PS2 at the very top of the mountain for the sixth generation of video game consoles.

15. Game Boy Advance: Released on June 11, 2001

The next iteration of hardware within the Game Boy family pretty much put forth a portable SNES. The Game Boy Advance put forth a 32-bit handheld gaming console that was more comfortable to wield from a horizontal standpoint. Its notoriously bad lighting made it a complete struggle to play in darkened settings. But with some proper lighting nearby, it became easy to get sucked into the Game Boy Advance’s strong gaming lineup. Gems such as Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Metroid: Zero Mission, Golden Sun, etc. solidified the Game Boy Advance as a must-have portable system.

16. Nintendo GameCube: Released on November 18, 2001

As Nintendo left its cartridge-based home consoles behind, it decided to accept the CD-ROM medium for its latest piece of hardware - the GameCube. That cute little purple box with the lunchbox handle on top looked so cool and offered a suite of even cooler games to enjoy. The four controller ports at the front of the console made it easier to play alongside your buddies in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, TimeSplitters 2, etc. The controller may have been a nightmare for some, but it felt like a dream for many others. The GameCube looked great, sounded great, and most certainly played great. Now, where’s that copy of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg we used to have?

17. Xbox: Released on November 15, 2001

Where were you the day that Bill Gates and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson debuted Microsoft’s first foray into console gaming? History was officially made at the moment as a third hardware gaming manufacturer entered the ongoing battle between Sony and Nintendo. The OG Xbox staked its claim as a machine worth taking seriously once it put forth the very first Halo. Alongside that genre-defining launch title, the Xbox offered up Dead or Alive 3, Ninja Gaiden, Jade Empire, etc. as must-play experiences. Special shout out to Sega for producing a wealth of exclusives that made the OG Xbox feel like a true successor to the Dreamcast.

18. PlayStation Portable: Released on March 24, 2005

Sony’s decision to venture into the world of handheld gaming resulted in the creation of the amazing PlayStation Portable, a slick piece of portable hardware that (in our humble opinion) was superior to the Nintendo DS. The PSP relied on its physical media format known as the Universal Media Disc (UMD), which gave way to a host of quality games and formatted films. Watching the latest movies on the PSP was always a simple joy. And the chance to play games such as Killzone: Liberation, Patapon, and Lumines right in the palm of our hands will always be one of our go-to hobbies.

19. Xbox 360: Released on November 22, 2005

The follow-up to the Xbox might just be the very best gaming console Microsoft has ever produced. Sure, the “Red Ring of Death” forced everyone to cop multiple versions of the console in order to stay within the Xbox 360 ecosystem. But it was all worth the trouble due to three main factors - a well-produced controller, a strong lineup of games worth playing, and a new & improved version of Xbox Live. The Xbox Live Arcade gave rise to an indie gaming revolution and the ability to download some retail games straight to one’s console. The likes of Halo 3, Gears of War, and Alan Wake are responsible for pushing the Xbox 360 to legendary status.

20. PlayStation 3: Released on November 17, 2006

We have to admit - the PS3 didn’t start out so hot. The lack of first-party killer apps made it look like the lesser option in comparison to the Xbox 360. But as Sony’s third gaming console kept building up its software library, it gained a ton of steam and eventually caught up to its quality competition. The PS3 is home to some GOAT-material games - God of War 3, The Last of Us, LittleBigPlanet, and the Uncharted series are just a few of the titles considered among that group of must-play experiences. The earlier PS3 models are capable of playing physical PS2 and PS1 games via backward compatibility, which makes the PS3 an all-in-one PlayStation console.

21. Nintendo Wii: Released on November 19, 2006

The Nintendo Wii practically dominated everyone’s living rooms when it first dropped. On a mainstream level, Nintendo’s motion-control console enraptured everyone that tried the revolutionary technology for themselves. Sure, some folks swung the Wii Mote a little too hard and threw it right into their expensive TV sets. But for those who had everything under control, the Wii was a revelation to them thanks to games such as Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Never mind all the shovelware that got haphazardly thrown onto this console - the Wii’s motion controls literally changed the game and earned the attention of the gamers & non-gamers alike.

22. PlayStation 4: Released on November 15, 2013

Just like the PS3 before it, the PS4 tripped out of the gate due to a weak launch title roster. And while the wait for even better games was excruciating, the PS4 eventually morphed into a juggernaut that made it a household staple. Sony’s fourth home console excelled thanks to a combination of top-tier titles, a controller that felt like a dream in everyone’s hands, and an easy-to-navigate user interface that was certainly easy on the eyes. With games such as The Last of Us Part II, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Horizon Zero Dawn, the PS4 flourished during the rest of its active tenure.

23. Xbox One: Released on November 22, 2013

Microsoft definitely confused everyone with its naming convention for its third home console. And during the grand unveiling of the new hardware during the Xbox E3 2013 press conference, the focus on TV and DRM reveal regarding software kicked the Xbox One off to a very bad note. But as the years passed, Microsoft’s powerful black box earned itself some goodwill thanks to a bevy of strong entries from the Halo, Gears of War, and Forza Motorsport/Horizon franchises. The Xbox One also marked the return of the beloved SNES fighter Killer Instinct, introduced new IPs such as Sunset Overdrive, and proved to be very beneficial for third-party software. The Xbox One didn’t start out so hot, but it eventually grew into an admirable machine.

24. Nintendo Switch: Released on March 3, 2017

Nintendo has always been known to split its attention between offering its followers a dedicated home console and one that’s suited to handheld play. By mashing together both types of hardware, one of the best hybrid gaming consoles of all time was born. The Nintendo Switch not only offers living room gaming, but it also gives players the ability to go mobile with the sorts of games that have always been relegated to home console hardware. Playing the latest versions of Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros., etc., on the go made everyone realize just how essential the Switch truly is. At this point, everyone and their grandmother have a Switch within reach.

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