Top 20 Greatest Consoles of All Time

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Top 20 Greatest Consoles of All Time

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
A world without the likes of Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox would be a lot less joyful. For this list, we'll be looking at the most influential and beloved video game consoles ever created. Our list includes the GameCube (2001), Sega Dreamcast (1999), PlayStation 4 (2013), Nintendo Switch (2017), Xbox 360 (2005) and more!
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Top 20 Consoles of All Time

Without these wonderful machines, life would be a lot less joyful. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Consoles of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most influential and beloved video game consoles ever created. We will not, however, be including PC as that’s too open ended.

#20: Magnavox Odyssey (1972)


In 1972, Magnavox and inventor Ralph Baer released the very first home video game console. It wasn’t exactly a commercial hit, but it was undoubtedly revolutionary. Its games were black and white and it could only display a few square dots on the screen. But Baer enhanced the limitations of the time by including physical pieces with the console. Players used things like dice, cards, and poker chips to play along with what was happening on screen, while plastic overlays could be placed over the TV to create different visuals. The Odyssey came packaged with 13 games, and there were a total of 28 available. Though it would quickly become primitive during the age of Atari, it accomplished a lot with what it had.

#19: Xbox (2001)


Microsoft has come a long way since its first console, which is saying quite a lot given just how impressive the Xbox actually was for its time. Released in 2001 alongside the revolutionary
Halo: Combat Evolved”, the console featured more powerful graphics than its competitors thanks to Microsoft’s expertise in the PC market. Massive fantasy titles like “Fable” and “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind” really proved its graphical fidelity. It was also the first console to do away with memory cards by including a hard disk drive. But more important was how Microsoft used the console to popularize online console gaming. Xbox Live was launched in 2002, bringing an unending era of competitive FPSs, including Bungie’s monumental “Halo 2.”

#18: GameCube (2001)


Though it didn’t sell as well as the competition, Nintendo’s first disc-based console is home to a lot of esteemed classics. Strong improvements on graphics and gameplay made Mario and Link’s next adventures a joy to play. New franchises like “Pikmin” and “Animal Crossing” also got their start here. But the console was also home to more adult exclusives like “Metroid Prime,” “Eternal Darkness,” and what many still consider to be the best “Resident Evil” game. Additionally, it was a couch multiplayer juggernaut. The GameCube alos benefitted from stronger third-party support than Nintendo’s next two consoles would. That said; it’s 3rd party library struggled in comparison to the Xbox and PlayStation 2, but still, when it came to 1st part offerings the GameCube was a real contender.

#17: Game Boy Advance (2001)


Nintendo’s handheld line has usually done incredibly well, but in 2001, they made their greatest leap forward seen up until that point. The GBA featured a longer battery life and a larger screen than its predecessors. Though it launched without a backlight, the later SP model would rectify that. And with 32-bit graphics and more buttons, the games were very impressive for the time. There were strong entries in established series like “The Minish Cap” and “Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire.” But much like the GameCube, it would launch several would-be franchises like “Mario & Luigi” and “Golden Sun.” Also, the handheld’s sprites were so remarkable that Nintendo converted several SNES classics to take on the go; a business decision Nintendo would learn to rely on.

#16: Sega Dreamcast (1999)


It may have only lasted a couple of years, but Sega’s final console was certainly ahead of its time. Coming off of the disappointing Saturn, Sega released the first console of the sixth generation before the PlayStation 2. A few things made it a notable console, like its crisp graphics and the fact that it was the first to include a built-in modular modem for online play. Unfortunately, the Dreamcast lasted only long enough to use it for a few notable titles like “Phantasy Star Online.” Still, games like “Sonic Adventure,” “Shenmue” and a plethora of strong arcade ports have made it a cult-favorite console. While the PS2 and Xbox would quickly eclipse it, Sega’s console swan song deserves more recognition than it ever got.

#15: PlayStation 3 (2006)


Sony’s third home console was definitely hurt by a high launch price, but that by no means a sign of a bad console. The complicated processor architecture admittedly made it difficult for developers to design their games, but it also resulted in some of the best exclusive titles of the generation. The PS3 saw the cinematic rise of Naughty Dog through respected franchises like “Uncharted” and “The Last of Us.” Of course, must-play franchise entries like “Metal Gear Solid 4” and welcome newcomers like “Little Big Planet” also gave Sony fanboys plenty to brag about. In addition to great games, the PS3 was Sony’s next step in crafting a convenient multi-purpose platform. It was the first console to play Blu-Ray discs and Sony’s first to include social gaming via the PlayStation Network.

#14: Nintendo Wii (2006)


With the financial troubles of the GameCube behind them, Nintendo chose to go after the casual audience for their next console. And it was one the company’s wisest decisions in quite some time. The Wii’s innovative motion controls brought in curious players of all ages. Its wide appeal made it Nintendo’s best-selling home console at over 100 million units. Games like “Wii Sports” and Mario’s usual array made it fun for everyone. But other titles like “Skyward Sword,” “Metroid Prime 3,” and “Xenoblade Chronicles” made sure Nintendo’s more hardcore fanbase wasn’t left out in the cold. It may have struggled with third-party support and online functionality, but it was a massive success in the categories that Nintendo really prioritized.

#13: Atari 2600 (1977)


The Magnavox Odyssey may have been the first home video game console, but the Atari 2600 was much more influential. There were other consoles available around the same time, but the Atari 2600 rose above them all by bringing arcade ports to the television screen. The 2600’s versions of classics like “Space Invaders” and “Dig Dug” proved home consoles as a worthy investment. But it also brought us titles that would define entire gaming genres such as “Adventure” and “Pitfall!” We owe a lot to this wood-paneled box, even if its oversaturation of the market led to the infamous 1983 crash. Regardless, gaming would that be what it is today without it!

#12: Game Boy/Game Boy Color (1989/1998)


While it wasn’t the first handheld console ever, Nintendo’s Game Boy is undeniably one of the most important. The simple pleasure of taking your favorite franchises like “Mario,” “Zelda,” or the insanely popular “Tetris” on the go was literally a game changer. And an affordable one. Battery life was better than other handheld consoles of the time like the Atari Lynx. In 1998, things became all the sweeter; the cultural phenomenon known as “Pokemon” gave the console an incredible 2nd wind, and Nintendo released a new color version. The Game Boy/Game Boy Color was a resounding accomplishment and it began an era of portable console domination for Nintendo that would last for decades.

#11: Nintendo 3DS (2011)


Nintendo’s 2011 portable console had a troubled launch. But its novel 3D capabilities and strong graphical improvements on the DS, coupled with critically-acclaimed releases later in life, more than earn it a spot on this list. Just like Nintendo’s Game Boy family, the 3DS was backwards compatible with all DS games. Its glasses-free technology was a bit gimmicky, and Nintendo ultimately had to give the handheld a massive price-cut early on when players weren’t buying in. But once the 3DS found its groove, it saw a steady release of fantastic titles like “A Link Between Worlds,” “Pokemon X & Y,” and, of course, the beloved “Animal Crossing: New Leaf.” It just goes to show that a problematic release doesn’t necessarily mean that a console is doomed.

#10: PlayStation 4 (2013)


The PlayStation 3 had its struggles, but it set Sony up for one of their best platforms. The controller’s improved analog sticks and touch pad, while not completely necessary, made it an improvement on the DualShock 3. More important, however, is the PS4’s exclusive line-up. “God of War,” “Uncharted 4,” “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” “Horizon: Zero Dawn,” and “Bloodborne” are some of the best games of this generation, and console gamers can only experience them on the PS4. Players also have the option to experience many games at a discount through subscription services like PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now. It’s now one of the best-selling consoles of all time and it’s easy to see why.

#9: Nintendo 64 (1996)


On paper, it was strange that the N64 was vastly outsold by the PlayStation given Nintendo’s power and the console’s many beloved games. “Super Mario 64” and “Ocarina of Time” superbly transitioned their respective franchises into 3D for the first time. However, the 64 is best known as a haven for couch multiplayer with four controller ports instead of two. Games like “GoldenEye 007, “Mario Party,” “Super Smash Bros.,” and “Mario Kart 64” are still considered multiplayer gems. Even the controller, while certainly bizarre looking, brought about innovative features. It normalized analog sticks in home video game consoles. And the later addition of the Rumble Pak was the first case of controller vibration. Both of those features would be included in later controllers for the PlayStation.

#8: Sega Genesis (1989)


Sega’s second console is arguably its best. With the Genesis (or Mega Drive outside the US), Sega achieved 16-bit greatness 2 years before the release of the Super Nintendo. But it wasn’t just an earlier release that set it apart. The Genesis’ audio was stronger than that of the SNES. The console also had better sports games and a famously superior version of “Mortal Kombat.” Then there’s “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which arguably rivaled the likes of Mario during the fourth generation. Other titles like “Golden Axe” and “Ecco the Dolphin” lent credence to the catchphrase “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” Of course it’s decline was mainly attributed to Sega’s reliance on expensive hardware add-ons, but the Genesis itself was still a fantastic console that impressively managed to compete with the king.

#7: PlayStation (1995)


Sega challenged the video game status quo, but it was Sony who forced the entire market to evolve. The original PlayStation launched in 1995 and led the charge on cartridges being replaced with CD-ROMs. This shift, coupled with the consoles’ superior hardware, allowed the Playstation to deliver a more visually impressive gaming experience. The extra storage space meant games on the Playstation were more grander than on the N64. The early days of 3D console gaming were made more expansive and varied thanks to titles like “Resident Evil” and “Tomb Raider.” But Sony’s collection was also boosted by family friendly titles like “Spyro the Dragon” and “Crash Bandicoot.” It’s a classic in every sense of the word.

#6: Nintendo Switch (2017)


Early market analysis didn’t look great for the Switch, but it’s runaway success certainly proved the naysayers wrong. Nintendo learned from the Wii U by streamlining the design to create a hybrid console. The Switch allows gamers to transition seamlessly between gaming at home and on the go. Not only is the design revolutionary, but the Switch also boasts some of the very best instalments of popular Nintendo franchises to date. Plus, the console’s success has led to more support from third-party developers, which means that the Switch experience is only getting better. With 55 million units sold in just 3 years, it’s now officially the fastest selling console of all time, and with no signs of letting up.

#5: Xbox 360 (2005)


Microsoft’s Xbox was clearly a stellar first console, but what came next blew it out of the water. The original system began Xbox Live while the 360 improved upon and popularized it. New entries in “Halo” and “Forza” established both as long-lasting franchises, while new titles like “Gears of War” and “Left 4 Dead” made sure the online multiplayer ball kept rolling. And even third-party titles generally seemed to run better on the 360 than they did on the PS3. The Xbox 360 helped establish achievement awards as a big part of gaming, and it had one of the best console controllers of all time. Unfortunately, the Red Ring of Death keeps it from rising any higher in the ranking.

#4: Nintendo DS (2004)


The 3DS reached great heights by building upon what came before it. Released in 2004, the DS paid homage to Nintendo’s classic “Game & Watch” line while simultaneously being unlike anything we’d ever seen. Its use of dual screens, one of which implemented touch controls with the system’s stylus, made for inventive gameplay. It made gaming far more interactive than the button-only handhelds that came before it; whether it was through drawing out the trajectory of Link’s projectiles or creating Kirby’s path. The DS quickly defined itself as Nintendo’s most accessible portable system. It had games for everyone, from the more laid-back “Nintendogs” to the less casual “Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.” Its versatility is why it remains Nintendo’s best-selling console, handheld or otherwise, to this day.

#3: Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1991)


Even with the pressure of matching its success with the NES and Sega nipping at its heels, Nintendo managed to produce one of the most adored consoles of all time. The improved 16-bit graphics feel timeless, even today. The gameplay is as smooth as it ever was thanks to an upgraded controller scheme. And the library is endlessly spectacular. Sequels to NES hits significantly expanded on the originals with bigger worlds, new power-ups, more engaging stories, and some of the most famous chiptunes ever recorded. But it wasn’t all sequels to established Nintendo titles; new series like “Donkey Kong Country” “Star Fox,” and “Super Mario Kart” were welcome inclusions. And strong 3rd party support made the SNES the goto system When thinking of the best games ever made, it’s likely that a few SNES games come to mind.

#2: PlayStation 2 (2000)


The original PlayStation was groundbreaking, but Sony’s follow-up was a magnificent evolution of technology. The first console to double as a DVD player, it foreshadowed the future of consoles as multimedia devices. It also didn’t hurt that the PS2 brought a laundry list of breathtaking exclusives that competitors simply couldn’t compete with, including “God of War,” “Jak and Daxter,” “Kingdom Hearts,” “Ratchet & Clank,” “Killzone,” “Shadow of the Colossus.” The console invited an incredible level of creativity and variety in terms of game design. But the PS2 was also backwards compatible with original PlayStation games, which was a huge plus. With such impressive hardware and games, it’s no wonder it remains the best-selling console of all time.

#1: Nintendo Entertainment System (1985)


Known as the Famicom in Japan, the NES was Nintendo’s first home console. But it’s got far more going for it than just historical significance. Two years prior to its US release, the home console market went through a horrific crash due to an oversaturation of terrible games.If it wasn’t for Nintendo’s model for authorizing third-party developers, the world would be an entirely different place. And it would be a much sadder one without “Super Mario Bros.,” “The Legend of Zelda,” “Metroid,” and all the other classics the NES gave us. The console should be celebrated for its addictively simple gameplay, but even more so for the role it played in saving the video game industry as a whole.
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I Like The PS3 Because Of FREE Online Play, Backwards Compatibility With Most PS2 And PS1 Games, And Great Exclusives Such As LittleBig Planet, Demon's Souls, The Last Of Us, And The Ico And Shadow Of The Colossus Collection.
Love the Atari 2600. Love the Sega Genesis. Love the Nintendo 3ds. I wonder if Namco and Konami got their consoles too. I vote on it.
I think u forgot the OG Nintendo %u201Cfamicom%u201D