We’re just a few days away from the launch of the next-generation gaming consoles: the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and the Xbox Series S. But before some of you get their hands on these much-awaited gaming consoles, let us not forget the iconic and first-generation gaming consoles that changed the way we play today. These consoles were once considered groundbreaking with its special features that developed the way we play today. Let’s go back to memory lane and reminisce about these predecessors that paved the way for gaming globally.
Author’s note: Our list is limited to gaming and handheld consoles from various launched 17 years ago and beyond. These gaming consoles also became popular internationally.
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Dubbed as the first-ever commercial home video game console, it was manufactured by American electronics company Magnavox. It consists of a box that connects to a television set and two rectangular wired controllers. It is also the first gaming console to have a light gun, which was sold separately. The Odyssey displays three square dots and one line of varying height on the screen in black and white, with differing behavior for the dots depending on the game being played. Players may place plastic overlays on their TV screen to display additional visual elements to compensate for the device’s sound incapability. One of the first games playable on the console is ping-pong. Players control their dots with the knobs and buttons on the controller.
Atari’s second-generation video game console brought the arcade game Pac-Man, Combat, and Space Invaders into everyone’s home. It is the first to popularize the use of microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on ROM cartridges. Also known as Atari Video Computer System, it is bundled with two joystick controllers, a pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge. It debuted in September 1977 in North America, 1978 in Europe, and in October 1983 in Japan.
Nintendo Colour TV Game Series
In the late 1970s, Nintendo has partnered with Mitsubishi Electronics to develop dedicated home video gaming consoles featuring limited, built-in games. With a Magnavox license, Nintendo initially released the company’s own take of Pong gaming consoles with a colored screen. The Color TV-Game 6 features six variations of Pong, while the Color TV-Game 15 has 15 games. The third unit, the Color TV-Game Racing 112, comes with two paddle controllers that allow multiplayer mode. The last one from the series is the Computer TV Game with a port of Computer Othello and was built from its arcade system board. Its success prompted Nintendo to pursue the video game console market, leading the company to produce Famicom.
Sega’s 16-bit, 4th generation home video game console is the main competitor of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It has a library of over 900 arcade games, which most appealed to teenagers and adults. An audio player and automobiles mostly inspire the bold design of the Sega Genesis. To go against its competitor, Sega launched Sonic the Hedgehog in Genesis, which helped the company gain market share in the US.
Nintendo Entertainment System
NES, as others fondly called it, revitalized the video game industry in the US after its crash in 1983. It was introduced in the same year in Japan and recorded a total of 61.91 million units sold worldwide. As the redesigned version of Nintendo’s Family Computer, the third-generation home video game console based on an 8-bit architecture featured legendary and groundbreaking games such as Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
This gaming console introduced a number of upgrades from its predecessor starting from the audio quality and improved graphics. It was Nintendo’s follow-up to the Famicom and NES and second programmable home console. As a rival to Sega Genesis, the brand marketed the device as child-friendly. It also secured the conversion of Capcom’s arcade hit Street Fighter II. It was a global success, becoming the best-selling, 16-bit gaming console after its official roll-out in the early ’90s with 49.10 million units sold.
Also known as N64, it is the first gaming console to sport four controller ports and a four-player split-screen without significant slowdown. It features ROM cartridge-based, which varies from 4 to 64MB, including Super Mario 64 that adapts 3D gameplay and GoldenEye 007, where first-person shooter games are primarily based. It was first released in June 1996 in Japan, September 1996 in North America, and March 1997 in Europe and Australia.
Nintendo Game and Watch
Nintendo’s first handheld electric game console has a single game to be played on an LCD screen. It comes in 10 series: Silver (1980), Gold (1981), Wide Screen (1981–1982), Multi-Screen (1982–1989), New Wide Screen (1982–1991), Tabletop (1983), Panorama (1983–1984), Super Color (1984), Micro Vs. System (1984), and Crystal Screen (1986). G&W has a total of 60 games, including Mickey Mouse, Popeye, and Donkey Kong.
The pioneer gaming console from Sony is much bigger in size compared to its later versions. It has been the brand’s catalyst in its venture to gaming as it is capable of running 3D games with an arcade-like experience and supports CD format, which runs video games at high-fidelity. Together with the PS One, the first-generation PlayStation sold102.4 million units worldwide, making it the first video game console to sell such numbers within a decade.
First introduced in China, the retro handheld game features a 10 x 20 LCD grid screen. As a more affordable alternative to Nintendo’s Game Boy, it features more built-in games such as Tetris, Snake, and Battle Tank. It also uses two AA batteries, and comes in many different sizes and shapes.
Long before smartphones were invented, Nokia initially attempted to make a handheld game console that can also function as a mobile phone. Released in 2003, N-Gage’s lifespan was shortlived, with only sold 3 million units worldwide, including the N-Gage QD, partly because of the control buttons, which consumers find too cluttered for a handheld console.
Nintendo’s second handheld console manufactured in 1989 combined the Nintendo Entertainment home system’s hardware and its predecessor Game & Watch. As an 8-bit handheld console, it is equipped with a black and green reflective LCD screen, an eight-way directional pad, two action buttons (A and B), Start and Select buttons, and plays games from ROM-based media contained in cartridges. With 69.42 million units sold globally, it became one of the most recognizable devices from the 90s.
Released in 2001, it was Microsoft first foray into the gaming console market. Xbox’s name was a reference to Microsoft’s graphics API, DirectX, and a contraction of the words DirectX box. It comes with an integrated Xbox Live service that allows subscribers to play online games with or without a broadband connection. A player may also download new content online through the said service and may use the Ethernet port to connect to its online servers. Among its first games is Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, which are all FPS games.
Nintendo’s first handheld gaming console with a clamshell form factor features dual-screen (one regular LCD and one touchscreen) and stylus. Launched globally in late 2004, it brought backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance titles, which claimed its fame to consumers. Among the popular games in the console were Mario Kart DS and Pokemon. Itncluding the Lite, DSi, and DSi XL variants, the Nintendo DS sold a total of 154.02 million units worldwide.
The PlayStation Portable, or PSP, allows players wireless connectivity and options to extend its display on previous PlayStation consoles, as well as Windows and Mac desktops. It sports a large screen that’s capable of running titles with intensive graphics and has a dedicated Universal Media Disc drive for playing games and movies. Meanwhile, the removable Sony’s Memory Stick Pro Duo provides more storage for multimedia files such as videos, games, and music. Sony’s seventh-generation console also sold around 80 million units including its Slim & Lite, Go, and Street versions until December 2014.
When Nintendo decided to venture to gaming console, it made sure that it will be more inclusive. To do this, Nintendo integrate motion sensors on the Wii remote, redefining the way people play. It has brought a number of sports simulated games which led to a good sales record, garnering a total of 101. 63 million units sold, including the Wii Mini, from its launch in November 2006 up to March 2016.
And there you have it, folks. Without these legendary gaming consoles, we won’t be able to enjoy games like we do today. It has made gaming more immersive, mobile, and convenient with its cross-platform capabilities and realistic gameplays. Have you played some gaming consoles from our list? Share with us your experience in the comment section below!