The 10 Best Games Consoles of All Time
History has provided gamers with a vast selection of games consoles. Some have been downright awful, some have been absolutely incredible, many have lingered somewhere in between.
It is those absolutely incredible consoles that, when released, changed the gaming landscape for good. The gaming industry moves fast, and with each new generation comes exciting possibilities that gamers had never imagined they'd see.
Let's look at the best consoles to have ever existed, and why they deserve such an accolade.
The Best Games Consoles... Ever
From the 70s all the way through to modern day, we've got a LOT of great consoles to choose from. Here, in no particular order, are the home video game systems we consider being the best to exist.
1. Home Pong
You can't have a list of the greatest games consoles ever without mentioning Home Pong. Atari's first home "console" (which it released in conjunction with Tele-Games, initially, before ditching the Sears brand and going it alone) spawned about a billion imitations and blew around the same number of minds when it landed on screens in 1975.
At that stage, people were still marvelling at the fact that TV was no longer in grey scale, never mind the fact that they could now use a TV to play a game. Sure, Atari's Home Pong was a simple premise, but that was the beauty of it; anyone could play, be they a child, a teen, or a fully fledged, serious adult.
By bringing the arcade into the home setting, Atari opened the floodgates for home video gaming as we know it and, without the success of Home Pong, we probably wouldn't have the same video game ecosystem that we do now. With Home Pong, Atari showed us that in order for us to define it as great, a console doesn't always need all the bells and whistles we enjoy with our current-gen consoles.
2. Nintendo Switch
The Switch might be Nintendo's most recent addition to the games console market (ignoring the forthcoming Switch OLED), but that doesn't mean we should deny it a place on this list. The Switch is a magnificent contraption, as proven by its immense popularity and continued position as the US No.1 selling games console.
The Switch was a boon for Nintendo. Against the ropes thanks to the failure of the Wii U, Nintendo knew it was make-or-break time with the Switch. As we've seen over the last four years, the console has gone from strength to strength, offering a wealth of first party titles that go unmatched, even on superior consoles, while also bringing excellent third party IP into the fold.
The outstanding game library, innovative controls, and the ability to go 100% handheld or dock to a TV—your choice—cemented the Switch in the hearts of Nintendo fans old and new.
3. PlayStation 2
There is a reason the PS2, Sony's second games console, sold 155 million units. Well, actually, there are many reasons it sold 155 million units, but, for that fact alone, it stands as one of the greatest games consoles we've ever seen.
OK, so Sony's timing was shrewd when it released the PS2. The GameCube and Xbox were but a twinkle in their prospective creators' eyes, and SEGA's last-ditch attempt at saving hardware face, the Dreamcast, was floundering like a fish that had seen far too much land for its liking.
However, timing aside, Sony had created something truly special with the PS2. It had backwards compatibility with PS1 games, it was a DVD player, and it had some incredibly popular titles like God of War and Ratchet & Clank, both of which are still seeing releases to this day.
4. SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive)
SEGA's 16-bit beast was an incredible home video games console. Not only did it kick sand in the eyes of its older 8-bit sibling, the Master System, but it kicked sand in the eyes of many of its competitors, too. The SEGA Genesis was the cool kid's console.
Everything from its sleek black chassis to its six-button controller (favored by many Street Fighter II players, no doubt) screamed danger and daring, and while the SNES was busy turning Mortal Kombat's blood into grey blobs, SEGA was on the other side of the fence encouraging you to mash your foes into a crimson pulp.
Of course, in 1991 the system reaped the benefits of a much snazzier version of its iconic mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, compared to the 8-bit variant. With its blue, spiky speed-demon leading the charge, the Genesis (and Sonic the Hedgehog) placed SEGA as a true competitor to Nintendo and its SNES.
5. Nintendo Game Boy
If you haven't spent hours staring at a grey brick with a green screen, are you even a real Nintendo fan? Arguably not, but this isn't about video game gatekeeping, this is about how the Game Boy broke the mold when it came to home gaming. Why? Because now your video games could go anywhere with you.
Bringing us classics like Tetris and Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the Game Boy was the device to be seen playing way back when it launched in 1989 and into the 90s. It might not have been graphically impressive by today's standards, but this was an innovation in gaming (something which Nintendo has a track record for).
The fun didn't stop in your hands, though. With the aid of a Super Game Boy peripheral, you could play Game Boy games on your SNES. So, this obviously means you can see your game on the TV instead of a small, handheld device. Plus, this even improved the graphics in the cases of some games!
The original Xbox was Microsoft's first venture into the world of the video games console. Released in 2001, it was a direct competitor to Sony's PS2 and the underappreciated Nintendo GameCube.
The console may not have proved as popular as the PS2, but it brought a whole new world of gaming to the console's owners when it became the stage for Xbox Live in 2002. With this new service, gamers could play against other Xbox owners no matter where in the world they were. As well as this, Xbox Live paved the way for console DLC; something that is now commonplace across today's gaming landscape.
This is something SEGA had failed to achieve with the Dreamcast, and was a risk that ultimately paid off for Microsoft. Particularly given that the modern iteration of Xbox Live is arguably the best online console gaming experience we have in the current day.
7. Atari 2600
OK, so the likes of Nintendo and SEGA rode on the accessibility of the game cartridge, but Atari popularized all of that with its 1977 hit home console, the Atari 2600 (formerly known as the Atari VCS).
The 2600 was one of the first consoles (although not the first) to store game files on swappable cartridges, meaning you could have lots of different games in your collection, all of which loaded quickly and required no extra peripherals (like the 1982 Spectrum 48k and its cassette-loaded games).
It also came with two controllers—the iconic black and red joystick—meaning you could go head-to-head with your friends and family the minute you unpacked your console and loaded a cartridge. Instant fun. Plus, this was the console that gave us Adventure, the first ever dungeon crawler. We wouldn't be playing Souls games without the 2600.
8. SEGA Game Gear
Yes, the SEGA Game Gear deserves a place on this list. The hulking Game Boy competitor first saw light of day in 1990 and, admittedly, it is this writer's favored of the two handheld consoles.
Sure, the bundled game, Columns, was a blatant Tetris copy, but it was in color and featured shiny gems, so there. But playing other games on a color screen, and in the palm of your hand, was a priceless experience the Game Boy didn't offer.
The Game Gear may have had its shortcomings, like woeful battery life, but it was worth being tethered to a power source just to send Shinobi flying round the screen in 4,096 glorious hues.
Not only that, but you could use an adapter to play Master System carts. OK, they weren't Genesis games, but at least you could play titles from another system, if you owned it.
9. Xbox 360
Of all Microsoft's home consoles, the Xbox 360 is arguably the best we've seen. The device certainly gave this writer a lot of pleasure, being the first platform upon which he played the likes of the Fallout and Skyrim games (both of which are now, ironically, owned by Microsoft).
The 360 was Microsoft's best-selling console of all time, and this is probably down to its expansive game library, which featured more exclusives than you could shake a stick at. Microsoft even dared to venture into Wii territory, with the motion-sensing Kinect peripheral proving popular among Xbox owners, with game critics giving the device a similarly warm reception.
Plus, the console brought us Forza Horizon and Gears of War 2; both amazing games which still stand the test of time. So we've got nothing to complain about here aside from the red ring of death (which this writer's 360 eventually fell foul of).
10. PlayStation 5
To finish on a thoroughly modern flourish, we're adding the PS5 to our list of the greatest consoles. Why? Because it is a modern masterpiece. You only have to look at its DualSense controller as a starter for ten, and you'll realize why the PS5 is the current-gen king.
It has expandable internal storage capabilities; something that is of utmost importance in today's download culture. Alongside which, it offers the kind of performance we've never seen from a games console before. Plus, 8K-readiness will be a real treat when such resolutions become mainstream.
Not only is it backwards compatible with pretty much all PS4 games, it also has a growing selection of its own titles; no mean feat considering developers are still climbing on board the new-gen bandwagon. PS5 remakes like Demon's Souls are unmissable on the console, and current-gen upgrades to existing games like No Man's Sky have seen such titles improve in terms of visuals and smoother gameplay. A class system all round.
These Are the Best Consoles, in the World, Ever
We're sure you'll all have plenty to say when you read this list. Comments like "What about the N64, idiots?" and "YOU FORGOT THE SERIES X" are likely to litter our social media comments sections.
However, the consoles here truly deserve to go down as some of the best we've ever seen, even if we have missed a couple of excellent devices from the list. At least we don't count any of these games consoles amongst the worst of all time.