Monday, August 24, 2009

The 10 Greatest Consoles Ever

Usually I avoid doing lists that go in any sort of order, I just name 10 of something. But today I'm breaking convention and bringing you the top 10 best consoles (handhelds included) to grace our Earth. Disagree? Well, then you're just wrong. This issue can be remedied simply. Just quit it.

Seeing as how it's this type of list, let's do something exciting and slightly unnatural, and count DOWN!

10. Atari 2600

Made by: Atari
Also known as: VCS, Video Computer System, 2600 Jr.
Lifespan: 1977 - 1992

You didn't read that wrong. The Atari 2600, usually called "The Atari" or perhaps "The Fucking Atari" if you're feeling daring, debuted in glorious 1977 and stuck around until Atari officially kiboshed it in 1992. By that time we were enjoying glorious 16 bit consoles and Atari was thought of as something from the long long ago. It outlasted it's two successors, the ill fated 5200 and 7800. It's lifespan of 15 years is no mistake, as it personified and defined video games for a generation of gamers. Mostly a way to play very watered down versions of arcade classics, the 2600 had pretty much everything, and this is despite it having one button on the joystick and looking like a damned clock radio. To this day, homebrew 2600 games are made and enjoyed by Atari enthusiasts and old-school gamers alike. Making the list for it's lifespan and significant historical importance, if you make a list like this and the console isn't there, then you're a damned tool.

9. XBox 360

Made by: Microsoft
Also known as: Xenon, Nextbox, XBox 2, XBox FS, XBox Next
Lifespan: 2005 - current

Let's face it. Unless you're a fratboy or gramer, the original X-Box was a dud. Poor market penetration in Japan (the largest gaming market), bad design and a library of games with very few exclusives that weren't either gramer fare. Microsoft got it right the second time around. Firstly the design is great. It's still kinda fucking huge, but it at least looks like something you'd keep in your house and not be ashamed of. The ridiculous controllers of the original (the shoddy Type S and the even shoddier original) were replaced by the best new controller design in a long ass time. These simple changes, as well as upgrades and poor choices by Sony, have led to a big switch in placings. It used to you'd have a hard time getting people to play XBox games with you online because they all had Playstation 2. Now they all have XBox 360 and the poor schmuck with the PS3 is sitting there trying to pretend "Home" is interesting or fun. The 360 shows no signs of slowing down. It may play second fiddle to Nintendo's Wii console, but it absolutely dominates Sony, which is something that five years ago would have been a laughable comment worthy of being put into the stocks and pelted with canned sardines (still in the cans, of course.)

8. Genesis

Made by: Sega
Also known as: Mega Drive, MK-1601
Lifespan: 1988 - 1997 (with a trickle of games up until 2008)

The Sega Genesis is an interesting beast. It was Sega's FIFTH attempt at a gaming console, after their SG1000 line and Master System failed to penetrate the most important markets (Japan and America) You figure they'd have given up. Fifth time the charm, right? The Sega Genesis played second fiddle to Nintendo for it's entire lifespan, first to the NES and then to the Super NES, and the end of it's lifespan was marred by ill conceived add ons and poor support, leading to a number of high profile games being cancelled, or only available with addons. The Genesis however was quite the distinguished competition, with it's focus on sports titles, platformers and run and gun action titles. The Genesis also gave us Sonic, for what that's worth. Trust me, back in the day, Sonic was awesome. New Genesis games pop up from time to time, with the most recent coming out in 2008. The system still has a loyal fanbase, a group of gamers who never cared that they had the second place system and simply enjoyed it. Forget about "Blast Processing" and all the shit you could plug into it and just remember classics like Sonic and Knuckles, Ristar, CastleVania Bloodlines, Phantasy Star and Rocket Knight Adventures. Sega would never achieve this sort of success again, leading me to believe that it just wasn't meant to be. The Genesis is a sort of beautiful fluke, from a company that was great at making games, but questionable at making consoles.


Made by: Nintendo
Also known as: Star Cube, Dolphin
Lifespan: 2001 - 2006

The GameCube is one of my very favorite consoles. I still to this day find it an underrated wonderbox full of fun and win. The GameCube was Nintendo's first foray into the world of optical disc media, and they chose tiny little discs that can only hold about 1.5GB for whatever reason. However the little box got a lot of punch out of those little discs, with shockingly good looking games such as Resident Evil, Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and hell, even the launch title Rouge Leader still looks great to me. GameCube came in third to Playstation 2 and XBox, due partly to the fact that those systems were selling themselves as DVD players and Nintendo's family friendly image (something that helps them immensely now, ironically enough. The GameCube was the little system that could, easily out performing the Playstation 2 in terms of graphics, if not it's library. The system's semi-niche status led to innovative little gems such as Pikmin, which is basically what happens if you take pure joy and burn it onto an optical disc. And for once, add ons didn't hurt the system, as the Game Boy Player let you play GBA, GBC and GB games on your tv, and the design didn't mar the system in any way. The system's design is compact and it even has a fucking handle. Seriously, how could you not love this thing? (P.S. get used to seeing Nintendo stuff on here..)

6. Wii

Made by: Nintendo
Also known as: Revolution
Lifespan: 2006 - current

Aside from sounding like something you can do with your cock 2 to 5 times a day, depending on your diet, the Wii is a great innovative console. After coming in second to Sony with their Nintendo 64 console and then in third place with the GameCube. The Wii is the current dominant system (except for a few months where the DSi outsold it.) There's a lot going for it. Instead of trying to make a powerhouse, Nintendo crafted a system not much more powerful than it's GameCube, but gave it increased capacity, backwards compatibility, actual support for online gaming and...oh yeah the big thing the Wii is known for, motion control. The controller, which people call the Wiimote, is a shockingly great piece of tech that has led to many gameplay innovations. The Wii changed the meaning of Video Game and challenged non gamers to join in the fray. "It's just a video game" turned into "It looks like fun" as Nintendo finally stopped whining about their family friendly image and fucking CASHED IN on it. Get the kids involved, get grandpa involved and hope he doesn't break a hip or put the Wiimote through your TV. That's not to say the system doesn't have normal games, as gems such as Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, The Conduit and Madworld have shown. Add things like the virtual console and Nintendo channel in and the fact that it costs a measly 250.00 and it's an easy sell. And as much as I love the GameCube, this thing finally retired my GameCube as Nintendo didn't pull a Sony and included backwards compatibility for GCN games, controllers and memory cards.

5. Nintendo Entertainment System

Made by: Nintendo
Also known as: Famicom, Family Computer, NES, NES2, The Nintendo, The Goddamn Nintendo, The Real Fucking Deal

Lifespan: 1983 - 1995 (with a trickle of games afterwards)
The NES, we used to just call it the Nintendo. We didn't say we were playing video games, we said we were playing Nintendo. Sometimes people said they were "playing Nintendo" when they weren't playing a Nintendo console. That's how prevalent this thing is. I could talk about the games, the innovation, the classic good time feelings of warm fuzzy nostalgic wonderfulness with kittens, fluffy clouds and Bill Cosby. But you've heard it all before and honestly isn't nothing you couldn't say about the Sega Genesis. The reason the NES ushers us into the top 5 for a simple reason. Video games were dead like liberal credibility, and the NES was a savior, a beacon, a holy light, a fucking righteous deliverance of the return of video gaming as credible, financially supported and a household name. Gaming died in 1983 and the NES rose from the ashes like some sort of red bird that does that sort of thing. The NES ushered in an age of gaming prosperity that continues to this day. And for that, we raise our goblets of gaming and say "Fuck yeah, NES".

4. PlayStation 2

Made by: Sony
Also known as: PS2, PSTwo
Lifespan: 2000 - current

Let's get the bullshit out of the way. It killed the Dreamcast, it's launch was marred by hardware delays and shortages, the release games mostly sucked and bla bla bla. Then the PS2 suddenly was like, BOOM I'M THE FUCKING PS2. And it was great. In a lot of ways, the PS2 is the Atari 2600 of this generation, as it was launched in 2000, a year before it's now slain competitors XBox and GameCube, and is still being sold today. The PS2 is considered as much of a current system as the PS3, as it has the largest user base out there, even larger than the Wii. Playstation 2 isn't just a gaming console/DVD player, it's everything it's name embodies. It's the successor to the PlayStation, it's backward compatible, it uses an evolution of the same controller (with the same design) and it's full of familiarity, good feelings and everyone fucking has one. The PS3, by comparison, is an overpriced overhyped machine that has spotty backwards compatibility (plays some PS1 games, most models won't play PS2 at all) and is basically a massive tool. The system will celebrate it's 10th anniversary next year and Sony says it will support it until 2012 (and unless things with the PS3 turn around, they'd probably have to go past that.) And then there's the games. Almost any game you can find on XBox is on here, and most of the GameCube ones, and the system has many great exclusives. Big name titles are the name of the game, but innovative little gems like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are still there. Oh and it has high profile series such as Final Fantasy and Metal Gear all to itself, not to mention somehow bamboozling Namco into making Soul Calibur III exclusive. The PS2 is the old standby, and it ain't going anywhere, not for a long ass time.

3. Nintendo DS

Made by: Nintendo
Also known as: DS, DS Lite, DSi, That Game Boy Thing With Two Screens And The Plastic Pencil Thing, Yeah, That's The One
Lifespan: 2004 - current

I felt I needed to put a handheld on the list, and it's a rough going, but let's face it. The non-Nintendo handhelds pretty much suck balls. The DS is the cumulation of over two decades of handheld design. It takes cues from all of it's predecessors, from the original Game and Watch to it's direct predecessor, the Game Boy Micro. The DS is of course known for having everything all in one package. It has two screens, a touch screen with stylus, a microphone, more buttons than the GBA/SP/M and it plays games from that system. If it played GB and GBC games I might have tried to somehow graft it onto my body. The DS boasts amazing games, innovative design and an evolution that led us to the superior DS Lite and the not so superior DSi. The DSi actually pisses me off with having great features but losing the GBA support. But as Nintendo pointed out, it's just an excuse to own two DS systems. So Hail mighty DS, king of handhelds, into your warm plastic clasp we commence, and in your bright glow we totally play Mario Kart into the small hours. Amen, motherfucker.

2. PlayStation

Made by: Sony
Also known as: PS, PS1, PSOne, PSX
Lifespan: 1994 - 2006

Nintendo's biggest mistake was allowing this thing to exist. Despite the Sega CD being a joke, Nintendo momentarily felt threatened and pursued their own CD add on, first with Phillips and then with Sony. This supposed "Nintendo PlayStation X" never materialized but Sony retooled what they had into their own 32-bit machine. The looming PlayStation was such a threat that a rep from Atari (who were producing their shitty Jaguar system at the time) claimed that the PlayStation would cost 500 bucks and anything less was price dumping and would lead to legal action. The PlayStation launched at a more typical 300 bucks and quickly dropped to 200 once real competition started showing up. The PlayStation made previous efforts at 32 bit machines and CD-ROM based machines look like a joke, even outperforming the similar Saturn machine Sega put out. The PlayStation was more than an interesting origin story however, as it's library of more than a thousand games, many of them high profile series that once called Nintendo their home, coupled with a smart marketing campaign that changed Gaming from a nerdy niche to just what everyone does. Gaming was now being marketed at the jackasses that made fun of you for your hobby, and it's okay to feel a little bit stung by that, until you start playing CastleVania: Symphony of the Night, then you're pretty much required to shut the hell up. The system also launched the PlayStation brand which is alive today despite Sony's best efforts. I could go on forever but I'll just say this: How prevalent is this thing? My spellchecker knows that you have to capitalize the "S" in PlayStation.


1. Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Made by: Nintendo
Also known as: Super NES, SNES, Super Nintendo, God
Lifespan: 1990 - 2000

See that lifespan? This thing owned the 90's. The entire decade bows down and submits it's raw, supple bottom to Nintendo's thrusting gleaming "stylus". The Super NES put it right in the name: it's fucking super. So Super that if you thought for a second that anything else could occupy the top spot, then I would suggest a series of tests. Physical, to rule out anything like a sort of malignant tumor, and then a long, hard, penetrating battery of psychological tests.

But I digress.

I could talk about the actual system, but that'd be counter productive. So here is what I would like to call "Exhibit A".

Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, Final Fantasy IV (and VI), Super Mario Kart, Super CastleVania IV, Contra III, Super Mario RPG, Street Fighter II Turbo, Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong Country (and 2 and 3), Yoshi's Island, Mega Man X (and 2 and 3), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, F-Zero, Kirby Super Star, Lufia II, Star Fox, Mega Man VII, Soul Blazer, Breath of Fire (and II), ActRaiser, Dragon Quest V (and VI), Super Ghouls n Ghosts, Super Bomberman (5 of them), TMNT4, Secret of Mana....

and that's just off the top of my head.

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