With every new console Generation The Fanboys always come out and start to ask the question, who won that particular console generation.
The question we never asked though his which console generation was the best. That’s the question I want to try to answer if I can.
I’m not going to number the generations partially because there’s too many of them and I really don’t know if I can keep track of all of them. Instead I’m thinking about just focusing on the generations as a whole or specific console Wars depending on the circumstances. For example the bit Wars covers the 8-Bit 16-bit 32-bit and 64-bit generation; but those Generations can further be divided up. So let’s get started.
First up the classic generation:
Discounting the pong consoles this generation refers to everything that starts with Atari 2600 and Magnavox Odyssey 2 and goes up to but not including the NES.
I’m not going to look at all of the different consoles I’m only going to look at this 3 that matter batard 2600 intellivision in the ColecoVision. For all intents and purposes the 5200 might as well have not even existed. ate same can be said for the Channel F and the Bally Astrocade.
Taken as a whole the Atari 2600 is really the standout. Now while I won’t discount the importance of the Intellivision or the ColecoVision in terms of their historical significance. I will say that the Atari 2600 pretty much defines that generation.
So when you look at it I do have a lot of fond memories as do most Gamers of the Atari 2600 and the other Atari games. What most people are remember from this early console generation is the Primitive arcade ports as well as the early attempts at differentiating console games from computer games.
Some standout games from the time include Frogger, Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers, Popeye, Haunted House, Superman, ET, Q*bert, Asteroids, Millipede, Centipede, Moon Patrol, Pac-Man, Missile Command and Aventure. That’s not to say these were all the best games or that there weren’t other games but for the most part these are the ones that most people remember or that really stood out.
From a purely nostalgic perspective I have nothing but admiration for the Atari 2600. From historical perspective the significance that played could not be understated. However when you take it as a whole you could almost consider it the forgotten generation.
The 8-Bit era:
There are four machines that make up the 8-Bit console generation. You could argue there are more but the ones were going to focus on or the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System, the Turbo Graphix-16, and the Atari 7800 Prosystem.
This generation lasted a little bit longer than the classic generation and has a little bit more overlap. Most people depending on what region you live in are going to say that the NES is the only one that matters. But in certain regions the Sega Master System, or the PC Engine as the Turbo Grafx-16 mattered more, if not as much as the NES.
Most people remember the NES as the most standout system of this generation the Sega Master System, at least in the US, didn’t really have a breakout library or didn’t stand out as much as the NES (Famicom) did. If you’re looking at North America or even Europe the TG16 barely even existed.
Still because of YouTubers like the Angry Video Game Nerd & Pat the NES Punk, among countless others, the NES has become a defining console generation all on its own.
Some of the most memorable classics from the period include Ninja Gaiden, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Battletoads, Super Mario Brothers, Contra, Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Ghosts and Goblins, Metroid and countless others.
The NES was also the first generation that really broke out from the arcades. While it did have a significant number of arcade ports most of them were intentionally redesigned for the Home console Market rather than just being inferior ports due to the hardware limitations as with previous console Generations. This allowed the NES library to stand on its own. The NES by itself could carry the entire 8-bit generation and taken as a whole when you add the TG16 and SMS library, (we won’t even count the 7800 because there’s no point), the generation itself is still very impressive and most memorable.
But I still don’t know if I could argue that it’s the best console generation. Certainly one of the more fun consoled generations though.
The 16-bit Wars:
It’s been debated all across School yards internet discussion boards and countless YouTube videos: who won The 16 bit Wars?
I’m going to limit this to the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. I’m not going to include add-ons like the Sega CD or the 32x partially because I consider those not technically consoles themselves but more or less accessories to the Sega Genesis.
If you limit yourself to the base systems the Super NES versus the Sega Genesis I’m not going to pick a winner because to me they’re about equal. Taken as a whole it’s certainly a superior generation to the 8-Bit generation in my opinion. Not only do you get to see continuations of series taken to their potential such as Super Metroid Super Mario World Zelda A Link to the Past Super Castlevania 4 TMNT Turtles in Time Contra 3 and dozens more. But even better you get to see the introduction of some really new, exciting iconic, gaming franchises. Some of the breakouts include Sonic the Hedgehog, Toejam & Earl, Vectorman, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, and one of the best selling console game franchises of all time, Madden NFL football.
Another thing that you see in the 16-bit generation, and one of the things that often defines it, is the rise of the Japanese RPG game or jrpg. Games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 3, Super Mario RPG, Breath of Fire, and Avtraiser; as well as Sega’s very own Shining Force and Phantasy Star, all make the RPG one of the defining genres of the generation.
You even get to see the beginnings of 3D gaming on home consoles with the likes of Star Fox, Doom, Donkey Kong Country, and a handful of other forgotten titles. Overall the 16-bit era is probably more fondly remembered than the previous generation. It’s debatable if the generation could be considered as historically accurate is the 8-Bit generation with the NES getting credited with Reviving The us video game Market.
Still I think taking is a hole I would put the 16-bit generation above the NES generation, excluding nostalgia.
The multi-media ara:
There’s not a lot to say about this one you have the Sega CD, the Turbo CD, the 3DO, and if you want to count it, the Philips CD-i. What you really saw what this generation was a push into full motion video or FMV and you saw a lot of ports of point & click adventure games from the PC. Pretty much all the rest that you saw or just a few slightly improved ports of games usually would just see the audio added or occasionally bonus levels, not typically anything worth getting excited for.
The downside of this generation, however, was it was priced out of the range of most consumers. The Sega CD was a $300 add on to $150 console. The turbo CD was a $200 add on to $150 console. The CD-i, if you want to count it as a game system, was about $500 to $600 depending on if you wanted to get the video CD capabilities through the MPEG card to play those FMV games. And the Infamous 3DO was a whopping $700 when it launched. So most people didn’t even get an opportunity to experience the games for these four systems. Not to mention the fact that there was some overlap between these systems and the 32-bit generation that would follow immediately. Taken as a whole there’s really nothing at all worth getting excited about from any of those for platforms.
The 32-bit era:
Well this is going to technically include the 64-bit Nintendo 64 it’s going to focus mostly on the 32-bit CD based consoles: the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation.
For a lot of Gamers this is where things finally start to get very interesting. I’m not going to run down everything that makes this generation one of my personal favorites, because I do rag on it a lot. Instead I’m going to just say that the launch of the Sony PlayStation pretty much changed the entire landscape of the video game industry.
Taken as a whole the three library from these 3 consoles have dozens if not hundreds of masterpieces and hidden gems as well as several above-average to excellent games. On the Sega Saturn you have stuff like Panzer Dragoon, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Nights into dreams, the Virtua Fighter and Virtua cop series, as well as a few choice games.
On the N64 side you have masterpieces like Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Star Wars Rogue Squadron, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, and the introduction of the world famous Super Smash Bros.
Once you get to the Sony PlayStation you start finding awesome games like Tekken 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Crash Bandicoot, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, Twisted Metal, Grand Theft Auto and of course the game-changing Final Fantasy 7.
For me personally I typically have a hard time choosing between the Super NES and the Sony PlayStation as either my personal favorite or the greatest game console of all time. So for me taken as a whole that’s going to make this generation a contender for the best game console generation.
The PS2 era:
By the time the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, a Nintendo GameCube all come along, the Bit Wars no longer matter.
Some people disagree over should the Dreamcast be included in this generation or the previous generation and I just lumped it in here to make this easy.
I did a whole podcast or at least a section on the podcast on why I believed that this was the greatest console generation even if you take the Sega Dreamcast out of it. The Nintendo GameCube combined with the Gameboy player and even for good measure the eReader by itself make this one of the most unique and interesting console Generations. Once you add the massive PS2 Library, including all of the countless amazing titles too many to list, and you see the definitive PC in-a-box for the living room in the form of the Microsoft Xbox, you start to realize that home consoles have finally surpassed PC’s for the most part. You also start to see for the first time cutscenes combined with full motion video and pre-recorded dialog done in a way that almost matches a Hollywood production. I also look to this generation as one of the better ones because it is also one of the last Generations where the focus was still on Gameplay at its core. Still you have to take into consideration the nostalgia factor of some of the previous generations, as well as the historical significance.
The modern era and postmodern era:
Basically everything that came after the Xbox 360 to me is more PC than home console, Nintendo Wii excluded.
the games felt for the most part more like interactive movies or intentional Throwbacks to previous generations. Even the Nintendo Wii, for all of the Innovation it gets credited for, it’s mostly known for its strong nostalgic Library not just in the form of the Virtual Console, but also the constant reissuing of games and compilations as well as all the remasters that were released for the system.
looking at the PS3 and 360 Library I don’t see a whole lot of standout games that I think will be remembered fondly in the future. To that and I’m not seeing a whole lot of differentiation from the current generation as well considering it’s mostly just the same games with higher resolutions.
I think when you look at the whole of Gaming the period that starts in 1989 and ends in 2004 is what I would consider the best years of video games.
If I had to pick a true best console generation I think it would be a tie between the SNES/Sega Genesis 16 bit era and the Sony PlayStation/Sega Saturn/N64 era. What’s a very slight edge going to the 16 bit stuff.