Looking Back at Retro Gaming Consoles

When Consoles Ruled: A Look at the Early Consoles and their Impact

PCs currently dominate the video game market, but there was a time when consoles like the Atari 2600 and the N64 were the focus of the gaming world. While many of these older consoles look archaic by today's standards, they were instrumental in pushing technology of their time. A fond look back at the early consoles includes:

Atari 2600

One of the earliest major consoles, the 2600 had versions of arcade hits like Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Asteroids. Though they were not the same graphically, they were close enough that the console was an enormous seller. The money brought in by the 2600 helped a slew of companies work towards making their own consoles and/or games.

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Game Boy

The first handheld console of note, the Game Boy was memorable for spawning its own games that were not ports of arcade favorites. These included Pokemon, Wario Land, and Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. The popularity of these consoles was so great that Nintendo kept updating them, eventually morphing into the 3DS consoles of today.

Sega Genesis

One of the early challengers to the console dominance of Nintendo, the Sega Genesis boasted many console-specific titles that lured gamers into purchasing the system. These included the Sonic the Hedgehog games, Phantasy Star II, and Streets of Rage. The Genesis showed that games sell consoles. Without popular titles, it doesn't matter much what the specs of a system are.

Nintendo 64

The N64 was the last of major consoles to be cartridge-based. It brought about the age of 3D video games when Super Mario 64 was released. There had been some middling attempts at 3D platformers prior to the game, but Super Mario 64 set a whole new standard. Gaming has never been the same since.


Nintendo's first disc-based system, the Gamecube used a proprietary small disc in an attempt to prevent pirating. It rolled out many new games featuring popular Nintendo characters like Mario, Link, and Kirby. The console will be remembered more for what it didn't do as opposed to what it did. CD-based systems like the PlayStation 2 were showcasing superior graphics and crucial third-party support.

Consoles still have great appeal, but their success is built upon the bedrock of the early systems. It will be interesting to see if the next-gen consoles will continue to sell well when pit against PC-based consoles like Steam Machines.