It’s weird to me how cool the original NES controller still looks. Simple, sleek, and future-y.
For most of my life, I’ve been a computer gamer. Computers simply offered me more titles and more of the types of games that I liked, including RPGs, strategy, adventure, and simulators. Yet I wasn’t that picky as a kid and stuck my nose up at consoles; a game was a game, in my book. So while I certainly haven’t owned a lot of consoles over the years, and the last mainstream one I got was the Wii, I’ve managed to rack up about eight systems (not including handhelds) over the years. Thought about ranking them from best to worst, so here we go!
Best: Super Nintendo
Man, I was and am still in love with this system. It was mind-blowing at the time of its release, with way better-looking games than the NES — and ones that played a lot better, too. The controller felt great, the colors popped, and the library of titles contained so many classics, including Super Castlevania IV, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario World, StarFox, Turtles in Time, and Contra III. Ever since we got it back in 1990 or 91, it remained the console fixture in our parents’ basement. I think there’s still an SNES there to this day, although I have a few decks and a handheld version at my house as well.
For most of my college years I went without a console, but when Final Fantasy VII came out I couldn’t stand not being on board with the fun. So one summer I got the PlayStation and was sucked into 3D gaming — grainy and low-performance though it was. So many terrific titles on that system: Chrono Cross, Silent Hill, Resident Evil 2, Castlevania Symphony of the Night. Playing video games on discs instead of cartridges felt really futuristic — if flimsy — and I will never forget the pain of managing save spots on those little memory cards.
You never forget your first, and the Atari 2600 was mine. We played this wood-laminated system to death during the ’80s, enjoying it far past the video game crash of 1983. Graphics were horrible, sure, but clever designers still managed to make some wonderfully addictive games. I sunk so many hours into shooting asteroids and navigating Ms. Pac-Man’s maze.
I was initially so excited for the PS2 after having lived with the original system for several years, but for whatever reason the PlayStation 2 didn’t quite meet the same awesome factor as the first. Sure, the graphics were better and the system had taken a technological jump forward, but I found myself really desperate for good games and (for the first year or two) not finding many. I have vivid memories of blowing $50 in a game every week for a while, only to be dissatisfied with it a couple hours after taking it out of its packaging.
I think the Gamecube deserves a lot more credit than it got. We even still own one, to play Mario Kart Double Dash on our TV, since that was my wife’s favorite back in the day. The system looked a little weird and the small discs felt like they were being cute at the expense of having enough storage space. But I really enjoyed the controller and there were some memorable titles, including Eternal Darkness.
The Wii always felt like a party console rather than something you’d ever seriously game on. I only ever played Wii Sports, Guitar Hero, and the Dance Party games on it. It’s intuitive for a pick-up-and-play crowd, but I didn’t like the wiimote controller and how many batteries I had to use for it. I did use this system for an exercise program a while back, which was interesting if ineffective.
It seems like a lot of people sport fond memories for this system, but for me it was a massive let-down after the SNES. The 3D that the N64 pumped out looked like butt — crude polygon tushies. I couldn’t even bear to play Super Mario 64 or Zelda or any of the “classics” that people rave about. It did get some play in our youth room for Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, which were — to be fair — enjoyable multiplayer shooters. But EGADS was that one of the worst controllers I’ve ever held.
And then we get to the bottom of my personal console barrel. I briefly got excited about this crowdfunded console and convinced my family to buy one for me for my birthday. Now it sits in my closet, a hidden monument to dashed dreams, pointless design, and wasted money. I should’ve known better.