As the title states, I take a look at each video game console generation, talk a little about it, and declare the best of each proverbial bunch (excluding the current one of course).
The Consoles - Magnavox Odyssey, Odyssey 200, Pong, Caleco Telstar, Nintendo Color TV Game
This one's kind of hard to determine as video games were in their infancy and quite frankly, none of these are very good. Pong is famous as the first arcade game to garner mainstream popularity. The Odyssey is the very first home console, and to be honest, it shows. Every game is more or less the same thing, 2 white hovering dots. The only thing that brings diversity to these games is the overlays you put on the screen to simulate variety. Caleco Telstar basically took pong and rereleased it a few thousand times with different sports variations, ie Pong Hockey and Pong Tennis. Ok for the time but not exactly original. But after a view versions they did come out with the first shooting games (target and skeet), with a gun peripheral. Very new and innovative, but unfortunately, not very good. The Odyssey 200 is basically an updated odyssey, but with multiplayer function and scoring (of sorts). Nintendo also released their Color TV Game or CTG consoles in rare quantity in japan only. It's nothing new, jus what everyone else did with slightly better graphics.
The Verdict: Odyssey- The very first home system, insanely unique for its time, more creative than the other systems, and at $100 at the time, the best value.
The Consoles: Fairfield Channel F, Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey 2, Intellivision, Atari 5200
The 2nd generation, commonly knows as the "Early 8-Bit Era" started with the Fairfield Channel F. Released in 1976 under the title Video Entertainment System, it quickly changed its name when Atari released their system. This short-sightedness and belief that there'd be no competition lead to a quick demise as only 26 games were released on a system that technologically held up to nothing else at the time. I'm sure everyone's at least heard of Atari. The kings of 8-bit gaming was the first to use cartiges, and with a flurry of classic games, and over 30 millio units sold, is one of the legendary (if that can be used for the subject matter0 consoles in gaming. The Odyssey 2 was the first system to feature built-in programs for its games (nowadays id use this to rent games, load the data up and return), and the first to feature D&D-style games (one of the best kinds), keyboard add-ons and 2 separate controllers for playing (not a good thing but it's there). Next is the Intellivision ("Intelligent Telivision"), this console was a solid competitor to the Atari 2600 as far as graphics and game-quality, but at over 100 dollars more at the time, it was bound to lose the war. The Atari 5200 is just a big, ugly, awkward waste. Let's not waste time on it.
The Verdict: Atari 2600 - As if you had any doubts. The 2600 was the father of 8-bit gaming, hosted the biggest and est catalog, and outsold its closest competitor by 10 times as many units (30 million to Intellivision's 3 million). E.T. is a bit of a stain on the 2600, but not enough to knock it from possibly the clearest top spot on this list.
The Consoles: Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega SG-1000, Casio PV-1000, Epoch Cassette Vision, Sega Master System, Atari 7800
Well, this is barely worth my time. I'm sure we all know the NES wiped the floor with everything else here. A host of classic games such as Castlevania and Super Mario Bros, as well as being a technological marvel for its time, a flurry of add-ons, and a fairly decent price, nothing else could imagine competing at the time. The Sega Master System was the first system to feature backwards compatibility with its Japanese-only counterpart, the Sega SG-1000, but none of the other systems did anything worthwhile outside of that.
The Verdict: If I have to tell you, you're skipping my paragraphs and I don't appreciate that. Though I'd understand.
The Consoles: TurboGrafx-16, Sega Genesis, CD-i, Neo Geo, Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
There's no need to go into all the systems. CD-i isn't even truly a video game system. Anyway, this generation was dominated by Nintendo and Sega. Both the SNES and the Genesis boasted gorgeous 16-bit glory, a large cast of great games, and flagship franchises (Nintendo's Mario and Sega's Sonic). But the slightly smoother gameplay of the Nintendo, plus its compatibility with the Gameboy, accompanied by Sega's money-wasting accessories such as the 32x, gives Nintendo the edge here.
The Verdict: Super Nintendo. I may need to reinvest in one after all this reminiscing.
The Consoles: Amiga CD32, 3DO, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, Playstation, Nintendo 64
So many consoles. Let's see, the Amiga was Commodor's first foray into gaming, and it fell flat on its 32-bit ass. The 3DO boasted graphical prowess for the time, but no one was gonna pay $700 for it, so it failed. The Jaguar was hyped as the first 64-bit console, but it really wasnt, add the fact that the games suck and its accessories failed to even work, and yea, didn't end too well. The Saturn was a decent enough followup to the great Genesis, but it only had a month of glory before the boys at Sony came out of nowhere and blew everybody out of the water. Stunning visuals, amazing games (Gran Turismo, Tekken, Metal Gear Solid, Syphon Filter, Final Fantasy VII-IX, Darkstalkers), the first to feature games so technically powerful and epicly long they needed multiple discs, and an assload of 3rd party titles, it clearly deserves the 102 million units sold (shattering the SNES' record of 49.10 million. Finally, a year and a half later, Nintendo gave Sony much needed competition with the Nintendo 64. The first true 64-bit console boasted a host of classic games such as Super Mario 64, Goldeneye (also the first multiplayer shooter), Super Smash Bros., and Zelda's Ocarina of Time, the N64 quickly soared over the 30 million mark, but it was just too late to the table.
The Verdict: While the N64 was a great system, the Playstation had a more consistent and much larger array of titles, as well as 2 extra years under their belt, and by far the best selling sytem to date. so... Sony wins.
The Consoles: Sega Dreamcast, Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, Microsoft XBox
The Dreamcast is a tragic story to me. The first system to support online play, to have its own modem hookup, by far the best graphics in gaming when it was released in 1999 in North America, and a criminally underrated selection of games. It was truly ahead of its time, it was a system that was truly like having an arcade at home, with a built-in computer and the only way outside of computers to play online. The problem was when it was released. Approximately 1 year before the Playstation 2 and 2 years before the XBox and Gamecube. This would be a good thing if the market wasnt still flooded by new releases for the Playstation and N64 and even on a smaller scale, the Saturn. The system still sold over 10 million units in its lifetime before the PS2 came along and destroyed them in sales. Boasting moderately superior graphics and bigger franchise titles along with a larger collection and a familiar name. A few months later, miserably losing the war with Sony and two more consoles on the horizon, the Dreamcast was discontinued in March 2001 in North America. It had some innovative features, some amazing games, and great graphics for its time. It just came out at the worst time. Too late to corner a market that was still in love with the Playstation and had a moderately new Nintendo 64 to wait for new games on, as well as being litered with other consoles with more recognized names on the horizon. It also came too early to utilize the kind of technology that the other three later systems had. It innovated everything but it was too rushed and perfected nothing. Making it a great system too revolutionary for its time but not revolutionary enough to compete with the next wave of systems.
Ok, now that I'm done with memory lane, time for the other three systems. The Playstation 2 came out in late 2000 with graphics far superior to the Dreamcast and an all-star launch lineup consisting of Armored Core 2, Dynasty Warriors 2, MAdden NFL 2001, Tekken Tag Tournament, Ridge Racer V, TimeSplitters, SSX, Unreal Tournament and more, the PS2 quickly mopped the floor with the Dreamcast's then-record $97 million opening day profits by breaking the $250 million mark on day one. The PS2 still has the biggest library of games and is the only system of this generation still recieving new games. Franchises like Gran Turismo, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Tekken, Final Fantasy, and Ratchet & Clank helped make the PS2 the highest selling game console of all time with over 150 million sold, and still going. Next up were the Nintendo Gamecube and the Microsoft XBox, both released 3 days apart approximately a year after the PS2. The Gamecube didn't have much of a launch lineup with mostly sports games the PS2 already had, the only noteworthy one being Star Wars Rogue Squadron II. But the namesake alone was enough to propel it to near 22 million sales. Not near Playstation, but about as close as anyone would get. Soon after release, games like Metroid Prime and Super Smash Bros. Melee helped the system keep a dedicated following. The XBox, Microsoft's first foray into gaming, came out to less than stellar numbers. But once some experts picked up Halo: Combat Evolved, that all changed. The high praise as well as stellar graphics and 10's across the board from every site and zine in existence (prectically), caused numbers to shoot upward. XBox then became the first console to support online gaming (aside from the no longer significant Dreamcast), with Halo 2 setting the standard by which multiplayer games are played. The Halo franchise along with other popular titles such as Project Gotham Racing, Jet Set Radio Future, and the beyond epic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic saw the XBox's numbers reach over 24 million in console sales by the time it was discontinued in 2006.
The Verdict: The Dreamcast did a lot of things, but its competitors did it all better. The XBox was the first console to perfect online gaming and establish it as the mainstay of gaming that it is today, as well as releasing the mega-popular Halo franchise and one of the greatest RPG's ever. Nintendo did pretty much what was expected, up the ante on their great franchises while releasing a few underrated gems. Playstation blew all sales records away, boasts the largest catalog of any system, and was the first to jump on the online bandwagon after XBox popularized it. Also, DMC, MGS, God of War. Winner: Playstation 2