A Historical View of Retro Video Game Consoles

If you’ve ever been interested in collecting old video game consoles, you’re in for a treat. Old video game consoles are literal treasure troves of fun. There are what feels like an endless sea of classic games from the past that are still a blast to jump into playing today.

The hard part of getting into retro gaming is deciding which video game console to start with. There are many options available, and it’s not easy to choose because of the variety and quality of legacy video game systems.

Let’s start by looking at how some of the earlier video game consoles were developed and what games made them infamous.

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), responsible for the video game craze in the late 80s, is the prototype for many of the modern console features you see today: a console, plugged-in controllers, and a video game (in the form of a cartridge). The NES also holds the great distinction and honor of having the first releases of the Super Mario, Zelda, and Final Fantasy series. Each of which is a titan in today’s gaming world.

The Original Nintendo NES
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Despite the existence of older game systems like the Atari 2600, the incredible success of the NES set video games as a mainstay of popular culture for the decades ahead.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

In the early 90s, a competitive rivalry started to heat up the video game industry. The following console release from Nintendo, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), went up against the Sega Genesis in a duel for video game dominance.

The SNES Console
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

As the NES slowly faded into the background, these two systems battled it out by releasing a steady stream of video game classics while breaking new technology barriers and enhancing the consumer experience. While Nintendo had Mario upgraded, the Genesis had its edgy lightning-fast mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog.

The Super Mario and Sonic mascots, each representing their respective and exclusive brands, had their own game series in development. In addition to a wealth of video game classics, such as the original Mortal Kombay trilogy, released on both systems.

The Sega Saturn

Sega, in 1994 had released their next console in Japan: the Sega Saturn. This release would be their first 32-bit video game console, and it would soon arrive in the United States in 1995; however, with much chagrin, the future would not be so kind to this console.

Sega Saturn

This console was Sega’s sixth official video game console and took inspiration for its name from the planet Saturn, which is also the 6th planet in our solar system. Cheeky, right? The Sega Saturn would have two models released, each with slight differences, before ultimately bowing out of the rat race.

The Sony Playstation

In 1995, a third player entered the arena. The electronics titan Sony attempted its first foray into the burgeoning video game market with the aptly named PlayStation (now known as the PlayStation 1). Using a CD format in place of a cartridge, the PlayStation took over the Sega-Nintendo rivalry and rapidly dominated the market.

 Sony PlayStation
Sony Playstation

Games started to evolve from 2D to 3D, with pioneers like Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot gracing the pages of video game magazines. Just like the consoles before it, the PlayStation launched several franchises that are now household names. The first 3D version of Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, and Tekken all had their first appearances on the PlayStation.

The Playstation singlehandedly dominated the video game console market until the late 90s. Its closest rival, the powerful but poorly marketed Sega Saturn, ran a distant second and soon sputtered out.

The Nintendo 64 (N64)

It was not until 1998 that Nintendo once again decided to enter the highly competitive video game console market with the Nintendo 64 (N64). Stating an obvious leap up from the Playstation’s 32-bit architecture, the N64 competed by adapting its classic games to the 3-D platform.

Nintendo 64

Already popular titles such as Mario, Kirby, Pilotwings, and Zelda were all upgraded to 3D for the N64. The Nintendo 64 system proved as formidable as the N64 bit into a large portion of the PlayStation’s market share. Some of the most popular titles, including Pokemon, sold in excess of 14 million copies alone. When you add other popular titles such as Zelda, Donkey Kong, and GoldenEye, to name a few, the numbers are staggering.

The Dreamcast

As its old rival Nintendo chipped at the PlayStation’s lead, Sega was planning a comeback of its own. Failing to compete with the ill-fated Sega Saturn back in the PlayStation’s heyday, Sega decided to release a console to top both the PlayStation and the N64. On the iconic release date advertised 9/9/99, Sega released the Dreamcast with a $199 price tag.


Similar to the NES, the Dreamcast was the harbinger of a revolution. It had garnered robust support from 3rd-party developers and had a long lineup of unusual, original games upon release. Games with unique titles like Chu Chu Rocket, Space Channel 5, Jet Grind Radio, and Crazy Taxi lived up to the hype and were acclaimed creative successes on their own.

The Dreamcast hardware was superior to both the Playstation and N64. It allowed developers to port nearly identical versions of arcade games direct to the console, which was no easy feat at the time. Most of all, Dreamcast was the first console to link to the internet through a built-in modem. For the first time, console gamers in their living rooms played their games in real-time with other gamers worldwide.

Sadly, the Dreamcast proved to be the proverbial candle that burned twice as bright but half as long. Dreamcast support would decline steadily and rapidly with Sony’s announcement of the PlayStation 2 release. After having sold over 9 million units, Sega pulled the plug on the Dreamcast in March 2001.

Long after its dying breath, the Dreamcast legacy lives on with the ubiquity of online console gaming. Like its forerunners, it played an invaluable part in the rich history of console development. And like the other video game consoles of the past, you can get it cheaply today and replay a beloved part of video game history.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Justin Mermack

Justin is a gaming enthusiast that relishes replaying and reminiscing with fellow gamers about the retro video games we all grew up loving. Using his spare time, he writes on all things Nintendo, but you'll be hard-pressed not to find a controller in his hand.

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