We are currently in the early days of the newest video game generation with the Xbox Series X|S and the PS5. As I prepare to move states, I’m looking to make my relocation even more expensive by researching what console I want to dedicate the next few years of my life to, but neither are readily available. I probably would have bought one out of loss of self-control already if I could easily find one but we all know how that is going.
Despite that, I have been reflecting on what I appreciate in a video game console and what I need for it to be worth the 500 dollar investment. The primary focus of a console is to play games, so features and the form factor are usually secondary considerations for me. What console gives me unique experiences. I will be judging them based on how I remember these consoles during their prime. Of course, that means I am limited to only the console generations that I have participated in. Also, I’m not differentiating between “pro” editions. I am going by the base model of all of these consoles.
I bought the PS3 on three separate occasions because I was a child who didn’t know what he wanted. The PS3 is one of the best worst consoles to me. The UI was both streamlined and clunky at the same time. The games were as available as Xbox games, but for a lot of its lifespan, the online populations were low, and the base model was very heavy. There would also be terrible download times when first playing a game (the PS3 was truly ahead of its time), BUT when you got to play one of those games, it was great.
The PS3 era had tons of great third-party and first-party games: Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, the Last of Us, God of War 3, LittleBigPlanet, and InFamous. The sheer amount of new and old franchises that came out during this time was amazing. Sony proved that even if they struggle on the hardware side at times, their software library will continue to be competitive.
One of the only handhelds on the list, the 3DS was an absolute powerhouse in terms of the install base. I think it has the record for the most editions that I personally owned though it might be tied with another entry later on. The 3DS single handily kept Nintendo afloat during the 2010s as they struggled to boost sales of the Wii U.
With titles like Pokemon X and Y, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, there were plenty of high-quality Nintendo titles on the little system. Though the 3D would prove unnecessary by the end of its lifespan, Nintendo still made a good console that didn’t get held back by its gimmick. Though I think this should be the last 3D console. Let the fad die.
My first console was technically the original Playstation, but my tiny kid brain couldn’t even read when I had it, so beating games was very difficult. Crash and Rayman were my original games, and I loved them despite not being able to clear their levels. My early gaming preferences were partially molded by the library of games I had at the time.
The console didn’t have much else going for it other than its large library, which was all you needed back then. It even had one of the best start-up sounds in Sony’s console history. I wish I still had my PS1 just to hear the fresh synth start-up noise. Transports me back to 1998.
The PS4 was unstoppable for a while during its lifespan. With a large catalog of exclusive games that focused on story, it was the console that I wished I had started the generation with. You may have second thoughts if you like Microsoft’s ecosystem, but the releases don’t lie. From God of War, Spiderman, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Ghost of Tsushima, they all felt like entirely new worlds that only the PS4 could offer. That is exactly how you make worthwhile exclusives.
Plus, I think it walks the line between modern design and still looking like a video game console. It’s sleek without looking like just a DVD player, and I know some people don’t like that, but I think it’s nice. The same can not be said for the PS5, though. Whew, that monster would take up half of my new apartment.
For whatever reason, the Gamecube I associate with childhood more so than any other console on this list. Every audio and visual cue from the little purple lunchbox sends me back to a time where I didn’t need to worry about how much sugar was in my cocktail. The Gamecube’s library wasn’t massive, but it had a lot of quality titles both from Nintendo and third-party developers. Nintendo had defined itself in my eyes as the party developer after my experiences on the N64, but the Gamecube showed me that there were reasons to play Nintendo games by myself.
Super Mario Sunshine captured my imagination with one of my favorite settings in gaming. Luigi’s Mansion was an easy kid version of a “horror” game. It honestly creeped me out when I was young, but that creepiness evolved into a charming appreciation for such a unique release. Then there were things like Super Monkey Ball, Resident Evil, and Need for Speed. What an excellent library, and you could even carry it around like some confused adolescent who doesn’t know how to pack his own lunch.
My favorite Nintendo console for the majority of my life, the N64 was my introduction to the company. I long jumped my way through Bob-Omb Battlefield, rolled my way through Hyrule Fields, and free-fell off a hydroelectric dam. It may have a counterintuitive controller, it doesn’t read games 100 percent all the time, and the game library isn’t nearly as large as competitors were, but the games it did offer were solid.
My gaming journey truly started here after friends would come over, and we would compete to see who could beat levels faster or take it to the battle mode in Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. to settle any differences. There are just a lot of good memories here, and I still boot it up from time to time which can’t be said for most of these other systems.
GameBoy Advance SP
I wasn’t at home too much as a kid. I lacked autonomy like most 10 year olds, but that was where the Gameboy SP came in. No matter what grueling errand or game I had to attend came around, I had my trusty Gameboy with a few dozen games in my backpack. I was always ready to pop in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, Yoshi’s Island, or any of the Pokemon games. Hours were spent chipping away at Gameboy’s catalog while sweating in some parking lot.
It became even more important to me when I joined the swim team. If you are familiar with swim meets, the majority of the time is wasted waiting for your race. Luckily, the entire team seemed to have Gameboys, so we all set up Pokemon tournaments while we waited. The Gameboy encouraged these little moments of shared gaming, and I am incredibly grateful for what it was able to do at the time.
Kind of sort of cheating here. If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that the SNES couldn’t possibly have been played by me during its initial run and while that’s true, let me explain why I think it should still make this list. I did play this console at friends’ houses, but it wouldn’t be until my teens when I began to look into more retro games that I began to really appreciate the SNES.
Everyone points to the SNES’s improved visuals over the NES, but the improved sound was always the most impressive thing for me. The tracks that came out during the SNES era are legendary such as the Mario World tracklist. The SNES improved upon or created some of the most iconic franchises in Nintendo’s catalog, such as Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, Starfox, and Super Mario RPG. The legacy of the system can still be felt to this day through its legeacy content and hordes of fans.
The Xbox 360 was a movement. The number of people I met or was able to continue to have long-distance relationships with was amazing. It was the first and last time that I dedicated so much time to online features. It’s also the only Microsoft console where I didn’t spend most of my time playing one Halo game. I played several Halo games … as well as a plethora of other new IPs. I was in the sweet spot where I didn’t have any personal expenses yet, and I was earning a modest amount of money.
I played everything I could get my hands on, and it was incredibly insightful to see where my interests lay. Halo 3 was most of my early years on the console, but soon Bioshock, Call of Duty, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Batman, Portal, Half-Life, Super Meat Boy, Castle Crashers, and many more all joined in to show me what gaming could be. It was a transformative time. Though I wish I had some of that money still, I’m thankful for the experiences that I did have.
I had fallen out of gaming for a while. I had sold my Xbox One in 2016 to help pay for some textbooks, and I didn’t even feel too bad about it. The Xbox One had been a Halo MCC machine to me and nothing else. I also was trying to work on my social life at the time, so gaming fell to the wayside. The Switch’s marketing completely won me over, though, by promising a more traditional way to play along with its impressive initial catalog.
Combined with a bit of friendly peer pressure, I gave in and bought the console in late 2017, and I have been thankful I have ever since. The console gave me back my passion for video games by offering Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild within the first year. Those titles combined with well-known indie darlings had me playing long into the night. I was also able to share these experiences with the friends I had at the time with games like Mario Kart and Jack Box. It was doing everything I wanted a console to do: provide fun, whether alone or with friends. The old Nitendo was back.