With this console generation coming to a close, and with the strong likelihood that this will mark the end of buying modern consoles for me, I thought I'd look back and rank my top five consoles of all time. These are my rankings, my criteria, and my words. Your mileage can and will certainly vary.
5. Nintendo 64
I recently wrote an entire piece about the Nintendo 64 and why it's the console that I'm hoping to add to my collection next. Interestingly enough, many of my favorite N64 games were third-party offerings, which is something that I really haven't been able to say about a Nintendo platform since then. Aside from RPGs, which the PlayStation really dominates, the N64 has a decent variety of games to choose from. Great platformers, solid coin-op conversions, a few quality first-person games, a couple of really good Star Wars games, and more. I have more than a few fond memories of the platform, even though I took it for granted when I had it during the late 1990s.
It was a short but eventful and highly enjoyable run for Sega's final hardware platform. My favorite memories of the Dreamcast are of the arcade-perfect coin-op conversions that we saw for it. Midway ported NFL Blitz 2000, Hydro Thunder, and NBA Showtime and it was like having the arcade machines in my apartment. Crazy Taxi and Virtua Tennis were fantastic, too. I can't forget about SoulCalibur, either; that game still holds up more than 13 years later. Dreamcast original games like Shenmue, Seaman, Metropolis Street Racer, Skies of Arcadia, and others expanded the experience beyond arcade roots and blew my doors off. The 2K sports games were also noteworthy. It's a shame that the Dreamcast couldn't hang in there a bit longer, but I'll always look back on it fondly.
3. Super Nintendo Entertainment System
It was tough to decide between the second and third spots, but the Super Nintendo gets the third spot. The SNES represents a lot of personal firsts: the first console I ever bought on my own, the first RPG I ever played (Final Fantasy II), the first Castlevania game I ever played, and the first time I (irresponsibly) chose buying a game over paying bills (Street Fighter II). The games were (and still are) are generally good to great, the controller was arguably the basis of controllers that would come later, the sound was amazing for the time, and Mode 7 graphics showed us things that we'd never seen before with scaling and rotation. A surprising number of SNES games still hold up well nearly 20 years later, too. The Genesis might have done a few things better in terms of CPU speed and fewer instances of slowdown, but to me, the SNES was the winner of the 16-bit war.
2. PlayStation 2
After being impressed by Sony's first console, I was prepared to be impressed by the PlayStation 2. The Dreamcast held my interest at first, though… and it wasn't until the Dreamcast's demise that I finally jumped on board the PlayStation 2 train. From that point on, in February of 2001, I was hooked and haven't looked back since. It wasn't the most powerful of the platforms during its generation, but the variety of games available for the PS2 was unmatched. Arcade ports, quirky titles, RPGs, music/rhythm games, sports games, racing games, action games, compilation discs, and many more genres all found homes on the PS2. It was still the exclusive home for Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken, Ace Combat, and other major IPs while also playing games like Mister Mosquito, Mad Maestro, Katamari Damacy, and several more. Backwards compatibility also means that the also-great library of games for the original PlayStation is largely playable and adds to the huge number of games available. The PlayStation 2 will be awesome for many years to come.
1. Nintendo Entertainment System
To me, the Nintendo Entertainment System really marked the beginning of several things. It was the beginning of the merge into mainstream culture that video games had never seen before. It was the the beginning for series like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and others. It was also the beginning of my genuine fascination with consoles and a gradual move away from arcades to arcade-at-home experiences. The NES controller is a picture of simplicity with its two face buttons and directional pad. Many NES games are highly accessible, although the difficulty curve on some of them can be daunting. Some of my first attempts at writing video game reviews were based on NES games, so the platform has personal significance in that regard, too. Perhaps the most important thing is that I find the games to still be highly enjoyable, even some 25 or more years later. NES games may not be the prettiest-looking games, the passwords may be miles long at times, there may be an inordinate number of princesses that need saving, and the games may not be complex by today's standards… but I can honestly say that the NES is the one system that I'd take if I was left on a deserted island or if I had to choose one platform to play solely for the rest of my days. To me, that alone earns the NES its #1 spot.
So, there you have them: my top five consoles of all time. For what it's worth, the Genesis is in the sixth spot, just outside of the rankings and based solely on its sports games. I didn't include handhelds on this list.
I open the floor to you, if you'd like. What are your top consoles of all time? List as many or as few as you'd like in the comments below. Feel free to cite reasons, too– it makes list entries more fun and I'm certainly interested in your reasoning. Have fun with it… and thanks a lot for reading my own list.