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Top 5 Consoles and Handhelds – The Cubist

Top 5 Consoles and Handhelds – The Cubist

There’s no use in hiding it and no shame in admitting it: I’m a Nintendo sort of guy through and through.  I’ve played and enjoyed almost every system out there, and though my selection doesn’t hinge on the fact that these are Nintendo products, these are the 5 that immediately sprouted forth from my fingertips.

Nintendo

Samus AranIf you’re into simulated war or wearing a headset during your 94-player deathmatch, you’ll probably scoff at my favorites.  But where else can one experience some of the greatest series of all time?  Nintendo’s got Pokémon, Metroid, Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and most importantly, Mario.  It’s hard to ignore such an impressive list of achievements.  Call me old fashioned, but these are the kinds of games I want to play.  Most of the time I’m uninterested in frame rates and resolution; it just needs to be fun.

Click on the headings below to find out why which consoles and handhelds are my favorites and why!

Number 5

5.  Game Boy Advance SP

Original Game Boy

An ‘A’ for effort…

While the GBA’s predecessors, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, were in no shortage of quality games, they often fell short in terms of presentation.  These tiny, grainy, dark screens were difficult to play for long periods of time, and for all but the most console-deficient players, handhelds often found themselves relegated to car trips, waiting rooms, and vacations.  The first proper Game Boy Advance began giving us better screen quality, and by the time of the upgraded Game Boy Advance SP, we had quality graphics, a powerful backlight, a rechargeable battery, vastly improved sound, and true portability with its folding design.

Game Boy Color

…Getting warmer…

Other, more powerful handhelds (mostly Nintendo’s own DS and 3DS) have overshadowed the GBA in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s time to discount the GBA’s extensive library.  With everything from re-released NES games, to some of the most highly celebrated Pokémon games thus far, to the gyroscopes in the WarioWare: Twisted! cartridge that would foretell future controller advancements, there are some amazing releases on the GBA that shouldn’t be missed.  With full backwards compatibility, one was also free to continue enjoying their Game Boy and Game Boy Color collections on a single device!

Original Game Boy Advance

…Too big…

Though I sometimes lament that several of these games were passed over for release on home consoles, I’m also rightfully reminded how dedicated Nintendo was and is to making sure that their portables actually served a purpose in the marketplace.  If anything, the high quality of GBA games cemented the practice of embracing the limitations of handheld devices rather than simplifying popular console titles and giving handheld owners transmuted, castrated, even unrecognizable versions of games they had at home.

Game Boy Advance Micro

Too damn small…

In addition to the unit itself, Nintendo developed an interesting range of support products for the device.  One of these, the Nintendo e-Reader, plugged into the cartridge bay and supported the use of special cards with dot codes printed along the edge.  When swiped, the e-Reader read and translated this data to the GBA.  The add-on never made much headway in North America, though it remained popular throughout the GBA’s life in Japan.  Game & Watch classics and early

Nintendo e-Reader

The e-Reader! This thing is actually cooler than it sounds.

Nintendo games were “embedded” into these cards, but one could also augment existing games (such as Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3and add in certain objects.  One of the most novel releases for the e-Reader was Mario Party-ea hybrid board/card/video game.  Players used a playmat and cards as a substitute for the typical Mario Party game board, and then played minigames on the GBA itself, scanned from cards that came with the set.

Game Boy Advance SP

Goldilocks.

GBA / GameCube Link Cable

Although under-utilized, it was a pretty cool idea.

Nintendo also dabbled in using a second screen via the GBA and GameCube link cable.  With a GameCube, any GBA, and the appropriate cord, one could plug the GBA in as a controller.  The idea was implemented sparingly yet put to good use most memorably in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

Game Boy Player

I wasn’t sure how much use this would get when I first bought it, but it’s consistently been one of my favorite toys. Bringing Game Boy games to the big screen is awesome.

My favorite development surrounding the GBA was the adaptation of its hardware into a GameCube add-on.  The Game Boy Player, as it was known, could be affixed to the underside of the GameCube and provided support for original Game Boy, GBC, and GBA games.  I must confess that I often use this method to enjoy my own GBA games.

So why is the GBA, specifically the GBA SP, one of my favorite systems of all time?  The easiest answer is the games.  It has an enormous and diverse library of quality games.  Secondly, it marks a watershed in handheld development with its practical design and no need for bulky, inefficient batteries.  At last we were given a more modern and accessible portable gaming machine.  I may not cart it around as much as my 3DS, but it rarely sits alone long enough to gather dust unlike the majority of the handhelds in my collection.

Number 4

4.  Nintendo Wii

Nintendo WiiSay what you will about Nintendo’s groundbreaking Wii; it has unquestionably changed the face of gaming forever.  Even though Microsoft and Sony have yet to adopt the technology on such a large scale, it’s hard to ignore the influence that the Wii’s popularity has had on these other 2 giants.  Maybe it could’ve been called a fad a few years ago, but with Sony and Microsoft’s own AR (augmented reality) peripherals available at the outset of the 8th generation, I think it’s fair to say that what the Wii pioneered is here to stay.

Motion controls may not have been anything new to industry insiders and frequenters of high-end arcades, but the Wii’s sales figures don’t lie – the public was intrigued by this new way to play video games and eager to experience it for themselves.  I actually find it a little strange that the more strictly AR systems of the Xbox 360’s Kinect and the PS3’s PS Move didn’t captivate audiences any better than they did, but then again, Nintendo has gone to great lengths during the past few years to establish themselves as “the people’s choice,” and apparently it worked.

Motion controls aren’t without their flaws, but like any new technology, sometimes all we have is time and experimentation to tell us what works and what doesn’t.  As the concept behind gaming changes and as new generations who grow up with these controls mature, we’re sure to see bigger and better applications of tracking sensors, cameras, gyroscopes, and accelerometers.  I see an amazing amount of potential for this new way of thinking and fully support its advancement as long as we can get a few traditional games in here and there.  Personally, I find these systems of control ultimately more fun than distracting and while the novelty can wear thin, there’s still something to be said for a game that almost anyone can pick up immediately and start playing, and have a damn good time doing so.  Anything that gets people who normally aren’t into video games into video games is a true achievement for the industry.

Wii Accessories

Silly controller-holders? Maybe. But fun? Without a doubt!

Apart from motion controls, the Wii has also brought us a couple of Mario’s finest moments in the form of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2.  Several other first-party releases mark high points in the Wii’s library as well.  And let’s not forget which Mortal Kombat game truly features all of the series’ characters: that’s right, Mortal Kombat Armageddon for the Wii.  (All of the other ports left out the female “Khameleon” whose only other appearance was on the N64 version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy.)  Alas, there is a glaring hole left in all of my praise of the Wii, and probably one that many gamers can’t get past.  The vast amount of shovelware that made its way to the system would almost be impressive if it wasn’t so god-awful.

It’s difficult to ignore the reams of utter crap that Nintendo let fall into their system, and while the Wii has a ton of great games, it also has a lot that are hardly worth the plastic they’re printed on.  In fact, the percentage of top tier releases in the Wii library is probably pretty small compared to many other systems; the odds are not in your favor if you decided to randomly pluck a cheap Wii game off the shelf.

Although somewhat irrelevant today, the Wii boasted some impressive attributes when it first came out.  It may not have supported the extensive online multiplayer networks of the 360 and PS3 (or the games to warrant such), but at a significantly lower price point, it offered built in wi-fi from the start.  Early budget-model PS3s required a wired connection and it took the 360 years to come around, instead preferring to offer up a ~$100 wireless network adapter.  What’s more is that Sony and Microsoft began engaging in somewhat subversive pricing strategies: a handful of models at different price points, only for unknowing parents to bring home “the wrong 360” (I’m looking at you “360 Arcade!”) on Christmas morning.  Oh, and let’s not forget that the Wii included Wii Sports even after pack-ins were relics of a bygone era!

Wii with GameCube

Support for GameCube games, 4 controllers, and 2 memory cards…well played, Nintendo!

One more point worth waxing messianic about is backwards compatibility.  Were it up to me, we’d see a hell of a lot more of this stuff than we already do, but the Wii did it right – straight up GameCube compatibility from the start, and they were even nice enough to included controller ports!  I think a few peripherals were absent (I don’t think the GameCube Mic is supported; unsure about the Bongos Controller), but overall Nintendo left little to complain about.  There’s some confusion as to how many North American Xbox releases there are (799?  824?  914?), though most sources indicate that roughly 50% of the Xbox library is backwards compatible with the 360.  Keep in mind that this is after 8 years of working on the issue, and these titles trickled in slowly over time.  I still remember when less than 200 had made the cut sometime back in 2006 or 2007.  The PS3 did little better; although all models support PS1 games, you needed a diagram to determine whether, which, or how many PS2 titles would work.

The Wii really lost some steam late in the 7th generation, but hey, with Nintendo you get Mario, with Sony you get shot or trampled or hacked, and Microsoft has the distinction of manufacturing a machine with an 82% fail rate.

Number 3

3.  Nintendo 3DS

When I first got my hands on the original DS, I remember thinking that handhelds would never be the same.  The quality graphics, the possibilities involved with having two screens, the touch screen, the comfortable size…everything really came together to make the DS feel like a handheld for all ages and persuasions.

Fast-forward a few years, and Nintendo follows it up with the amazing 3DS, taking all the great features of the DS and amping them up.  Most people might cite the handheld’s 3D ability as its defining aspect, but personally I feel like it’s one of the system’s weakest features.  The 3D itself is beautiful, but the unit must be positioned exactly right.  Otherwise the image blurs, which is bound to happen since it’s difficult to keep the device 100% stationary while held in one’s hands.  Specs of dust on the screen can cause huge disturbances whereas they’re nearly unnoticeable with the 3D off, and high levels of light can interfere as well.  And yet despite it all, here the 3DS sits at Number 3 on my list.

Nintendo 3DS

Nope, 3D visuals are not what keep me coming back to the party again and again.  Like the Game Boy Advance, the 3DS has an amazing library of games.  Many of Nintendo’s finest achievements have been exclusive to the handheld in recent years, and so many of them are fun, addictive, and high in replayability.  There’s no question about it; the 3DS can be a tough toy to put down.  The library of games available to the original DS is no slouch either, and with almost full backwards compatibility (any games using the GBA slot aren’t supported because the 3DS doesn’t have one), players have access to scores of games showcasing Nintendo at their best.  I’d prefer that more of these made it to the big screen, but even so, in terms of visibility and comfort, it’s hard to top the 3DS (though the PS Vita gives Nintendo a run for its money; if only it had better games!).

Nintendo 2DS

It’s easy to make fun of the 2DS, but apart from the cumbersome design (and being released so long after the 3DS), it’s not a terrible concept. I can’t be the only one that rarely uses the 3DS’ 3D feature, and honestly, the selection of games is fantastic even in 2D. A cheaper way to play? Sounds good to me. Don’t be ashamed; games like New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Kirby Triple Deluxe should not be missed!

Besides the wonderful games, the 3DS is a nice piece of machinery on its own.  It’s got wi-fi abilities allowing the player to connect with nearby users, as well as an eShop and Virtual Console similar to the Wii with many classic Nintendo titles available in addition to exclusive content.  Even without the 3D, the graphics are sharp; the touchscreen is accurate and amazingly durable, and the sound pumps out at a very respectable volume with zero distortion.  Also included is a sound recorder (which allows you to alter the tone, pitch, and speed of recordings), and 3 total cameras: 1 on the inside, and 2 on the outside to provide for decent 3D translations of real-world photographs.  The handheld can then make use of these photos in some interesting AR games that while not fully formed, are decent showcases of the technology at work.

A 3DS belongs in the hands of any serious gamer these days.  If you’re not taking Nintendo seriously, then you owe it to yourself to snatch up a 3DS or hell, even a 2DS.  While I tend to think of Sony’s PS Vita as the most powerful handheld around right now, it lends proof that Nintendo’s dedication to innovation and outright fun outweighs raw technical power.

Number 2

2.  Super NES

Earthbound - SNES

One of the priciest non-rare Super Nintendo games.

We absolutely can’t talk about Nintendo without touching on the Super NES.  The SNES marked a period of heightened creativity for the industry where all sorts of media were translated to games.  Comics, TV shows, films, and even toy lines were the inspiration for dozens if not hundreds of titles.  We also saw a major shift from the blocky, pixelated graphics of the 8-bit era and wildly different artistic visions were able to flourish due to technological advancements.  Games were longer, more complex, faster, and everything in between.

SNES

Although platformers would dominate the high-profile landscape of SNES games, many other genres began to come into their own as well.  Vague concepts from the 8-bit era began to coalesce into stylistic patterns that would define much of our current understanding of video game genres.  Several franchises began to cement their places in the annuls of gaming history when their second and third installments starting dropping on Super Nintendo, and we saw a clear emergence of distinctive icons and discrete entities that would develop followings of their own.

The NES started many of these trends, but it was the Super NES that really pushed these concepts further and proved that the industry could (and would) evolve and advance.  If anything, it proved that the 3rd generation was enough of a cultural hit that a 4th generation was possible.  By the time we saw many of these magnificent games take form, even the most crotchety luddites would have a hard time denying the artform of gaming.

Super Metroid - SNES

How can you willingly pass this up???

Personally, the SNES takes me back to a time when I was able to first notice major improvements in the quality and complexity of gaming.  After growing up on the NES, I was in awe of all that was possible as I witnessed the first major gaming evolution of my lifetime.  Having so many new options available was like re-discovering video games all over again.  The system also represents the pinnacle of 2D, animated artwork.  As time wore on, most companies began to invest in 3D modeling and full motion video.  The 4th generation is really the last time we’d see such a prevalence of simple, animated graphics, and to me, the fantasy-like look and bright colors are much of what makes games aesthetically pleasing.

SNES Super Scope

It’s irresistible, isn’t it?

As far as mainstream consoles go, the Super Nintendo boasts some of the most valuable games out there.  The creative potential for video games was at such a point that developers really let loose and as a result many of the industry’s best (or at least influential and groundbreaking) games were created.  Though the SNES did have its share of duds and cash-grabs, the gaming world was a little different back then and I can easily forget this shortcoming due to the number of exceedingly high quality titles.

Number 1

1.  Nintendo Entertainment System

Is it cliché to have such a popular, iconic, and widespread system as my Number 1 pick?  Maybe so, but the original NES has attained its near mythic status for good reason.  I grew up with the NES, and the first 2 or 3 dozen games I ever played were NES games, and even as I got older and got new systems, I found myself quite regularly spending time with the old gray box.

NES

YES

Defender

Defender comes closer than many early 8-bit games at delivering a well defined concept and fully formed idea…and it still isn’t all that fun.

There was a time when video game creation could hardly be considered an “art.” For the early part of the industry’s life, developers were more interested in understanding what was possible rather than adapting an existing idea to the medium.  Once the technology had solidified, it really became a case of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck.  Early video games were tests of reflexes more than anything, and the industry had a difficult time pinpointing its target audience.  Were video games for kids?  Adults?  College students?  Techies?  Who could tell?  Concepts were largely relegated to the abstract, shapes were simple and geometric, goals seemed arbitrarily defined by the constraints of a square screen, and there was a great deal of repetition both within and throughout games.  Although the popularity of video games would soar in the late 70’s and early 80’s due to their initial novelty, widespread prevalence, and increasing home availability, it didn’t take long for the fad to wear thin.

And then, in 1983, video gaming almost died for good.  Well, in America at least.

Suddenly, with some smart business savvy and a whole new approach to the medium, Nintendo burst onto the North American scene and changed gaming forever with the Nintendo Entertainment System.  What’s really interesting here is that it didn’t take a major technological breakthrough for the NES to be successful.  On both sides of the Video Game Crash of 1983 were 8-bit systems; it wasn’t processing power or a new sound card or fancy new GPUs that saved our favorite pastime, it was a new way of thinking, and, well, Mario didn’t hurt either.

Super Mario Bros. was one of the first games that used multiple screens of animation and background, a linear approach instead of “clearing a screen,” secrets and exploration, and firmly established the use of concrete characters, objects, and environments.  These concepts had all shown up before, but this was the game that really put them together in way that made sense and managed to be both fun and challenging, and without the distinctly repetitive nature of previous games.  Finally video games had become an experience instead of an exercise.  And SMB didn’t do it alone.  Nintendo’s attention to quality standards kept up the trend and we saw an explosion of amazing games, particularly the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Metroid which stand strong even today.

Super Mario Bros. - NES

It’s still difficult to describe the feeling of awe I had when I hit World 1-2 for the first time.

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Metallica, Ataraxie, Electric Wizard, Venom, Gris, Drudkh, Shade Empire, Cryptopsy, Gorguts, Moonsorrow, Enslaved, Mournful Congregation…it all came from this handful of tracks.

For most people the NES may be more of a symbol of progress than a practical means of enjoyment.  It’s kind of like music (for me at least): any major rock group popular during the 90’s – be it Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana, or Fuel and Matchbox 20, have at some time probably mentioned the Beatles as an influence.  So then I try and get into one Beatles album after another without ever finding the appeal.  Most of the time I can hardly tolerate the muddy vocals and tinny percussion.  But I would be remiss to dismiss them as artists because of their nigh universal reverence by generations before mine.  Are you into extreme metal; death, doom, black, and thrash?  Speed, power, gothic, sludge, and even plain ol’ heavy?  Well, by most estimates, every damn bit of it can be traced back to Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut (and their sophomore album Paranoid to an extent), but I challenge you to find me an …And Oceans or Monolith Deathcult or Ahab fan who would count Black Sabbath among their favorites.  Oh, and punk rockers be honest; can you really get into Wire’s “Pink Flag” or Television’s “Marquee Moon?”  Do you hip-hoppers out there truthfully spend hours each month engrossed in records from Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, or hell, even early work from the Beastie Boys?

Wire - Pink Flag

Seriously, I’ve listened to this thing like 20 times, and I just don’t get it.

Kid Icarus - NESMy point is that while the original Nintendo is well known and generally respected, it has become less and less of a destination for gamers.  Perhaps the eclectic selection of games isn’t for everyone, and it’s true that not every single NES game was a masterpiece.  There was a lot of experimentation happening and it took a few years before we really saw the maturation of the NES, but progress was made in leaps and bounds.  Just look how far we came from games like Excitebike and Urban Champion to TMNT II and Final Fantasy.  Such progress without significant advances in technology is rarely seen in gaming, even today.

The Addams Family - NES

I rented this game (The Addams Family) about a hundred times before my parents finally went out of their way to get it for me.

My age and exposure plays no small part in my love for the Nintendo.  I was part of one of the first generations to grow up without not knowing what a video game was, and it just so happened to coincide with the birth of the gaming industry as we know it today.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about the majority of NES games that appeals to me above all others.  Maybe it’s the balance of simplicity and complexity, the low-tech worlds that stimulate the imagination, or the wonder and awe that these games inspired in me that I still can’t shake (or top!) to this day.

Faxanadu - NES

To this day I nerd out to Faxanadu more than any other game. I can’t explain it, but I also get deeply immersed in the Faxanadu experience during my yearly play-through.

The ol’ NES will be harder and harder for new gamers to get into as more advancements are made, much like how I can’t nurture any internal interest for popular ColecoVision and Atari 2600 games, among other older systems.  (Believe me, I’ve tried.)  Surely though, it’ll never be forgotten, and a few key titles will always persist and generate interest, similar to how, even today, film buffs will still explore a handful of immortal, untouchable silent flicks.  Fortunately, various popular and significant NES games have been released numerous times in digital format over the last few years, ensuring that curious gamers will always have access.

Honorable Mentions

Nintendo may have dominated my best-of-the-best, but there are a few others that I wouldn’t feel right about completely ignoring!

PlayStation Vita

Sony’s latest handheld, the PS Vita, is criminally overlooked.  It’s a hell of a machine with incredible power, yet suffering due to a perceived (and somewhat realized) lack of support as well as a thin, derivative, and ill-publicized library of games.  The device itself is staggering in its hi-tech presentation.  With a touchscreen (that’s also nice and wide), the graphics are beautiful and almost make you forget you’re using a handheld.  The implications for the back touchpad are far-reaching, though the concept seems to have settled on the backburner.  Both the storage and games are relatively high capacity with a small physical size, making even a large PS Vita collection easy to store.  Sony has seemingly tried to distance the PSV from physical media altogether, encouraging users to download content rather than promoting physical release dates.  It’s a cool idea, but the utter lack of visibility isn’t helping to keep the system alive in the minds of potential buyers.

PS Vita Games

There are games for the PS Vita…somewhere out there…

It also supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and optional 3G that can be subscribed to via AT&T.  Evidently, Sony has endeavored to make online gaming as simple as possible, and indeed PS3/PSV intra-functionality has been a main selling point since the beginning, allowing the 2 systems to communicate over a network.  It’s a bit debatable how well the idea has worked out in practice, but the company promises to uphold their bargain throughout the transition to the PS4.

PS Vita Logo

PS Vita - Little Big Planet & Wipeout 2048

These are the 2 best reasons I can think of to own a PS Vita, but is it enough? I’m not sure…

The PS Vita didn’t make the top 5 because I can’t really recommend this pricey device to everyone.  In principle it combines the oft-demanded technology of tablets and similar devices with the heart of a gaming console, but it’s not pulling enough weight on its own to be a true standout.  With more focus on its innate capabilities and its existence as a standalone entity rather than vague notions of a PS3/PS4 second screen (the connection is poorly understood by most and often times vaguely articulated by Sony), no one is paying much attention to this technological wonder.  Now with Morpheus on everyone’s mind, it’s tough to tell what will become of the PSV, but I for one would love to see the machine really blossom based on its own merits.

Sega Genesis
Sega Genesis

The Genesis Model 2 is nice and sleek, lightweight, and smaller than some of today’s DVD players.

A tough contender to leave off, the Genesis was certainly a capable and worthy machine during its heyday.  By most measurements, including the all-important sales figures, the Sega Genesis won the great “console war” against the Super Nintendo.  Sonic was everyone’s favorite Mario-alternative, and though the blue hedgehog has suffered a marked fall from grace in recent years, the early and mid 1990s saw our speedy erinaceine at the top of his game.  It was during this time that several games were made for both systems, yet contained enough minor (occasionally major) differences to spark lengthy discussion over which system was better.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Vectorman

Vectorman would’ve never looked this good on the Super Nintendo.

The Genesis undoubtedly possessed a technical edge over the Super Nintendo.  Nintendo may have had the more advanced sound card, but Sega took the lead when it came to graphics and processing power.  Game for game, the Genesis was faster, sharper, and more vivid.  Even when compared to some of the SNES’s most vaunted graphical advancements like Donkey Kong Country and F-ZeroSega’s Sonic franchise still boasted a superior visual experience.

Ristar

Check out the Genesis’ rendering of light and shadow as well as its smooth gradients and transitions between colors.

So then, why is the Super NES #2 and the Genesis bumped down to a mere “Honorable Mention”?  Two reasons, the first of which is immediately apparent to me: the Genesis’ library has not aged gracefully.  Yes, the Genesis and SNES share many, many titles that were the same and even with their differences it isn’t really enough to tip the scales, but out of the titles exclusive to one system or the other, the Super NES’s games are stronger by a long shot.  The Genesis  by no means has bad games; in fact, they have some great exclusives besides those centered on Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, including Vectorman and its sequel, Ristar, several installments of the Phantasy Star franchise, a pair of Tiny Toons games, and the applauded TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist (although I understand this to be somewhat derivative of Turtles in Time) just to name a few.

For whatever reasons though, these games lack a sort of contemporary relevance.  They’re well made and fun to play, but I feel like their interest rests solely within the context of their retro status, and they fail to ripple across future consoles in the way that Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, Yoshi’s Island, Starfox, and many other SNES exclusives have continually resonated with gamers and developers from all eras.  Sega had solid offerings, but they never did much to push the envelope when it came to concept, complexity, and gameplay conventions.

Sega CD

In comes the Sega CD (the one that fits the Model 2 anyway)…easily 3 times the size of the base system, and 4 or 5 times heavier.

Sega 32X

The mothership is landing…

As for the second reason that the Genesis failed to break my top 5, well, maybe it’s a tiny bit unfair, but I feel strongly about it nonetheless.  Despite the success of the Genesis, Sega began its slow but steady decline almost as soon as it reached its zenith via the company’s tireless proliferation of add-ons.  Not yet content with the overwhelming prosperity and acclaim of their 16-bit masterwork, Sega was eager to push forward into new technologies, and began their slow, downward spiral with the lukewarm Sega CD.  Disappointed with the device’s ho-hum sales, they took another crack at amping up the Genesis and released the even more derided 32X.  The Sega CD might could’ve survived history with a reputation as a noble gesture and only marginally unsuccessful piece of hardware, but the shoddy design of the 32X coupled with an underwhelming library was enough to push consumers over the edge.  As if that wasn’t enough, Sega dug their grave even deeper with the release of the Sega Saturn just 6 months later.

Sega Genesis / CD / 32X

Despite my familiarity with the setup, sometimes it’s still difficult to find the right words.

Sega Genesis / CD / 32X Back

Yes, when all is said and done, this is what it looks like: 3 power cables, a link cable, and the actual A/V out.

The once-flourishing shelf space occupied by Sega Genesis games (and many of the system’s most critically acclaimed releases appeared near the end of the console’s retail life) was now a mashup of games for 4 discrete devices provided in 2 different formats.  Sega was now competing with itself and worst of all, confusing consumers.  Why do I need to buy the cart-based 32X when the more advanced Saturn is available?  What should I expect from the Saturn after the apathetic response generated by the Sega CD?  Is it safe to invest in a new chunk of technology, or will Sega quickly move on to something else in a year’s time?  What the hell happened to my sleek little unobtrusive Genesis?  OH LOOK A PLAYSTATION!!!

Sega Saturn

6 months later, it’s time to shove Sega’s Frankenstein to the side and make way for Sega’s actual 32-bit CD-based console, the Saturn.

I can’t help but think of this disheartening unraveling when I think of the Genesis, and while it was certainly on top for a while, its reputation suffers from how badly Sega managed to mismanage their achievements.

Final Thoughts

Well, there it is, The Cubist’s favorite consoles (and handhelds).  When pondering the question, I didn’t want to weigh the technical merits or try to discern what was most influential, but even still, the performance and longevity does factor into my appreciation and by extension my enjoyment of the device.  These are really just my favorites and based a great deal on what I’ve been inclined to play the most.  As my experience and exposure grows almost constantly, these choices are bound to change over time.

I do have some true gems lying around, like the 3DO, Apple Pippin, Amiga CD32, TurboGrafx CD, and Neo Geo among others, and it might be expected that I throw in the occasional oddball amidst my favorites.  Honestly though, consoles like these are on the sidelines for good reason.  Were these systems truly amazing then they wouldn’t have been shoved aside by more popular companies.  Have I enjoyed my experiences with systems like the TurboGrafx-16 and Jaguar?  Of course, but it would be unfair to say that my time spent with them has been all inclusive.  My excursions into obscurity take place largely within a vacuum; if shelves were filled with HuCards and enormous Neo Geo carts then I’d be happy to snatch ’em up at random and fully digest these forgotten libraries, but the fact is, these sorts of games are in short supply and in some cases fetch high prices.  So when I get down with these sidelined systems, I’m often experiencing the top of the heap, because that’s what’s actually out there.

It’s difficult to really understand what a system is all about without going through all the highs and lows, the action games, the shooters, the RPGs, the beat ’em ups, and so on.  And because of my very limited contact, I don’t think I’m really qualified to make broad, sweeping generalizations and judgments be they positive or negative.  When you get right down to it, my favorite systems (naturally) are the ones I’ve played the most, and the ones I play the most usually end up becoming my favorites.

So what do you think?

Top 5 Consoles

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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4 Comments

  1. nerdberry
    nerdberry says:

    I forgot how great this top 5 is. Especially the article on Sega. I’m a Sega fan through and through, but I can’t disagree with you here. Financially, the Sega CD was actually pretty successful. But I feel like people only bought it bc of the whole novelty behind anything disc-based AND the pure success of the Genesis at the time. Either way, there are some decent games on the Sega CD but not enough. And the Saturn was actual one hell of a great system with some AMAZING games… BUT few of those came Stateside. Ah, what a shame.

     
  2. Pingback: Nerd Bacon's Top 5 Favorite Consoles - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  3. Awesome list, and I loved your reasoning behind every system. Long live Nintendo 😀

     
    • Thanks man! I was kinda surprised that it worked out that way (I was just loosely jotting down and ordering my favorites, not much thinking about the company) but then again it also makes a lot of sense based on what I spend the most time playing.

       

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