With talk of a new generation of consoles on the horizon, we tend to forget about those old-timey consoles that paved the way for newer and better ones. As gamers, we have a habit of focusing on the new and forgetting the old. There is something about those retro consoles, their blocky shaped plastic shells, their cartridge slots that functioned as dust collectors and even their unwieldy controllers that tugs not only on the hearts strings but brings back wonderful nostalgic memories of a simpler time where bits were king and Blast Processing was the newest technology. With modern consoles and games getting shinier and better with each iteration, we thought we’d put together a list of retro consoles that any self-respecting gamer needs in their collection.
NES (Nintendo Entertainment System)
Arguably one of the most well-known retro consoles, the NES is the console that is not only responsible for helping shape the gaming industry and culture into what it is today but also helped launch an obscure company called Nintendo into one of the most recognised companies in the world. The console single-handily helped revive the gaming industry in North America after it came crashing down just a few years before the release of the NES.
There are still many who fondly remember playing such classics as Contra, Ice Climber and, most important of all, Super Mario Bros. on their NES console. The NES is still revered today, with an updated mini version of the console being released recently that includes classic games pre-loaded on the system. While many might be attracted to the thought of owning a mini-NES, it is still worth owning one of the original consoles. There is nothing that brings back childhood memories like blowing the dust from a cartridge and plugging it into the NES.
The NES has become a badge of honour amongst those who collect retro consoles. If, like me, you still have some of your old NES cartridges lying around then getting your hands on one of these consoles is a given. Alternatively, the mini-NES is equally cool.
Before Mario and even Sonic, there was Space Invaders, Frogger and Pitfall! on the Atari 2600. The Atari 2600 was one of the first consoles to bring gaming into the comfort of your living room, setting the stage for future consoles to come, and while this oddly shaped console and its pixelated graphics might not be to everybody’s liking, there’s no doubt that these games are still just as much fun as they were when the console first released.
Not only does owning one of these consoles mean that you will own a piece of gaming history but that you will get to play games that helped jumpstart the gaming industry. Without the Atari 2600, the granddaddy of home consoles, your shiny Xbox One or PlayStation 4 might not have existed.
Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Known as the Sega Genesis in North America and Mega Drive in most of the other regions, this was the console that would take on the legendary Nintendo SNES. It was a console that would help start one of the first console wars between Sega and Nintendo. What followed was a slew of marketing material that tried to prove that one console was better than the other. The famous slogan “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” was created during this period along with the much talked about Blast Processing, a technology which the Genesis supposedly had that made it much better than the SNES.
In those days you were either a Sega kid or a Nintendo kid. No matter what your preference, few would dispute that the Genesis had some really awesome games. With games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage and, of course, Mortal Kombat, the Genesis quickly became a worthy competitor to Nintendo’s mighty console. The console was especially loved by sports fans as many of the leagues like the NFL, NHL, NBA and FIFA released games on the console.
So, if you have a hankering for retro sports, a blue hedgehog and all the power Blast Processing can give you, then a Sega Genesis/Mega drive might just be the retro console for you.
SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
As mentioned the SNES and the Genesis were fierce rivals and, while there wasn’t a clear winner, the SNES put up more than a tough fight. Seen by many as one of the best retro consoles out there, the SNES brought many of our favourite Nintendo franchises smashing into the 16-bit era. Not only could we now play Super Mario World in glorious 16-bit, but the console also introduced us to Donkey Kong Country, one of the most visually impressive games of the time.
Nintendo also dipped their toes into the realm of 3D games, thanks to its Super FX chip, which helped make games such as the amazing Starfox possible and that allowed them to port the PC game Doom to the console. The console also had a strong third-party support which saw games such as Street Fighter II being released on the system. If you love ’90s gaming then the SNES console undoubtedly is for you.
Sega’s swansong was the Dreamcast. Sadly, it was the last console produced by Sega and, while the console does remind many of the gaming giant’s downfall, it’s also a reminder of just how great their consoles were. Delving into the realm of 3D graphics way before the PlayStation 2, the Dreamcast was a powerhouse of its day. It introduced a whole slew of new features including online play, crisp graphics and controllers that had their own screens. The console also used one of the best memory card systems to date called the VMU (Virtual Memory Unit).
The Dreamcast launched with a strong line-up of titles including Sonic Adventure, the cult classics Shenmue I & II and one of my all-time favourite games, Crazy Taxi. Unfortunately, while at the forefront of gaming technology the Dreamcast just couldn’t match up to the popularity of Sony’s first console, the PlayStation. This meant that the console suffered a premature death.
Still, one of the most advanced consoles of its time, the Dreamcast is fondly remembered by many and is a worthy addition to any retro console collection.
The granddaddy of the modern PlayStation consoles, Sony’s gamble to go it alone in the gaming industry, after a joint venture with Nintendo left a sour taste in their mouths, paid off in spades and the PlayStation quickly became the number one console of its generation.
One of the first consoles to use the CD format for games, it was powerful enough to render amazing 3D graphics (at least for its time). While the console itself became the poster child of what consoles of the future would be, it was the collection of great games that launched beside it that helped make it such a success. Games such as Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil and Ridge Racer, among many others, set the precedent for what future games and franchises would be. This lead to many calling the PlayStation one of the greatest consoles of all time.
While the PlayStation had its fair share of teething issues, thanks to its huge library of great games, it became one of the most popular consoles of its time causing the premature death of Sega’s Dreamcast.
Nintendo once again proved that they could produce a console that would enamour gamers. The Nintendo 64 and the games that launched alongside the console helped revolutionise many of the gaming genres out there today.
Games such as the fondly remembered Mario 64, F-Zero X and GoldenEye 007 each helped define the various gaming genres. Unfortunately, the popularity of the PlayStation and the fact that the cartridge system the console used was so expensive meant that the Nintendo 64 never reached the heights it should have.
In the end, while the Nintendo 64 introduced us to its bizarre yet strangely functional controller and amazing genre-defining games, such as Mario 64, it just didn’t have enough third-party support to match up against the power that was the PlayStation. Most gamers missed owning a Nintendo 64 and that’s why it should make a great addition to any console collection as this means you’ll be able to experience many of its games that are still loved to this day.