Friday, December 11, 2009

The Best Video Game Consoles Ever: #5-1

So sometimes I am a bit of a slacker, or I get busy livin and forget to get busy writing. That said, here we go, way late; my top 5 consoles of all time. If you ignored me per usual, time to pay attention and read parts uno y dos. Below you’ll see my score and justification for the best 5 video game boxes ever produced, followed by the final chart showing all of the 15 scores in line. Per usual, tear me apart in the comments as you please!

5. Nintendo 64
Score: 36
Games: 7
Graphics/Sound: 6

Controller/Interface: 10

Durability: 9

Intangibles: 4

Sheer, absolute, uninhibited joy. That is what I felt free running as Mario in an open world on that first encounter with Super Mario 64. The N64 innovated more genres of gaming than any console before it. While it did not create these modes of play, the first person shooter with Goldeneye, flight with Pilot Wings, sports play and management with any of the EA Sports games all got a significant console level boost on the N64. Mario Kart was stronger and more fun here than in any other iteration. The controller? A sheer pleasure to hold, a perfect extension of your palm. It is a bit of a sin I don’t have this system higher up the list.

4. Playstation 2
Score: 37
Games: 8
Graphics/Sound: 7
Controller/Interface: 9

Durability: 5

Intangibles: 8

The first console to have wireless controller attachments, the first console to go (successfully Dreamcast!) on-line, the first console to put a plastic guitar in your hands, the PS2 was more anticipated than any unit ever. Remember waiting in line to buy one? Remember them selling for $1,000 on eBay? Remember the sheer shock of amazement at those graphics when you loaded NHL or Madden and saw individually drawn crowd members cheering for your team? The PS2 started all that chaos. Game selection was already into the hundreds when the original Xbox came out, and the horrid size, power usage and missteps of Microsoft never allowed it to match Sony’s most successful console ever. That said, we all had a few optical lens issues and feared for our lives each time that disc drive slid open. But seriously, you could watch DVDs on your game console(!) How amazing was that?

3. Sega and the 32X
Score: 39
Games: 9
Graphics/Sound: 8

Controller/Interface: 7

Durability: 8

Intangibles: 7

The Sega was the preeminent system for an era. Games out the wazzo. Sonic, Desert Strike, Earthworm Jim, NHL 94, Mortal Kombat, Streets of Rage, on and on they go. That controller? Divine intervention. Nothing ever seemed so amazing and comfortable in your hands. The console was a step forward from the 8-bit era in all the right ways, and in many similar to the Super Nintendo. The basis for designation as the 3rd best console comes down to iconic themes and what we think of when some classic games or characters are brought up. Sonic? Sega. Mortal Kombat? Sega. For the SNES era games, if you mention Mario, Metroid, Donkey Kong; you don’t think of the SNES, you think of the original Nintendo. The SNES only defined itself with the Star Wars series, and that just was not enough.

2. Microsoft Xbox 360
Score: 40
Games: 9
Graphics/Sound: 9

Controller/Interface: 10

Durability: 2
Intangibles: 10

The Xbox 360 is the current champion of the industry. Innovation in graphics, sound, design and community interactivity all start and stop here. Sure the PS3 can boast a Blu-ray player and just as powerful a graphic/audio experience, but the PS3 completely bones the community involvement, which sends so many throngs of friends to the Xbox. The ability to group up in parties, talk to each other across different games, interact and meet new friends, the Xbox makes distance gaming almost feel like on the couch gaming did for the N64 or Sega. With exclusive titles like Gears of War and the Halo series, along with getting some titles before the PS3 will, the 360 is your top choice for today’s gaming addictions. The 360 controller feels like a controller should, compared to the too light and bumbling PS3 unit with its poorly modified triggers. The console obviously has its downfalls. Yours will break. $100 on the mat right now, buy one and it will break, probably soon. It is loud, it is too big, it does not have built in wireless internet, and it does not have a great hard drive system. Still, this unit forced a gaming revolution, who can say they play today without thinking about Achievement Points? Microsoft has come a long way with the 360, and should knock it out of the park with whatever their third console is.

1. Nintendo Entertainment System
Score: 44
Games: 10
Graphics/Sound: 7

Controller/Interface: 8

Durability: 10
Intangibles: 9

The big dog, queen bee, lord and savior of all indoor entertainment; the NES started everything for real. This was the first platform to transcend geeks and reach average people. For true gamers, how many games do I have to list to convey the importance of game quality during this era? Mario Bros, Zelda, Metroid, Contra, Mega Man, Battle Toads, Ninja Turtles, it goes on and on! 61 million of these consoles were sold, and at the time they include two games, two controllers and a light gun! What value! The 8-bit graphics and sound still hold up today for a basis of design, just look at the recent Mega Man 9, or exploding market for 8-bit emulators on the iPhone, hand-helds and PC. The controller was simple, move-jump-shoot, and today, sometimes I just wish that was what they all still were. There is something to be said for nostalgia in a contest like this, and something to be said for acknowledging a trend setter and rule breaker. The NES did more than sell so many million units or start a whole generation of video game lovers, it brought about the first real design elements of games as stories/art/culture as opposed to pong or asteroids; it started it all.

Thanks for hanging around for the ride, feel free to tear apart my opinions in the comments and please, just go game a little. Give a programmer his wings.