It starts with a black screen. A woman’s voice. She speaks Japanese, and your eyes are wired to the subtitles. You have waited many months – if not years – for this game. Finally, you are sitting here. With sweaty hands and light in your eyes. The rest of the world disappeared around you, when you inserted the game disk into your console. Now it is only you, your controller and a long game. The graphics come up on the screen, the familiar melody starts to play, and your head explodes in a wild euphoria. FINALLY!
Welcome to the eighth game console generation. The rise of 4K gaming. The remarkable arrival of the hybrid console-handheld. It's been several years since the Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony PlayStation 4 came out, with both systems getting more powerful variants partway through their life cycles. If that isn't enough, the newer Nintendo Switch has established itself as a retail powerhouse (even if it isn't a graphical powerhouse), with the ability to play connected to a TV like a home console or on the go like a handheld. Let's see how these systems compare against each other.
For a good 10-something years, Nintendo was the undisputed champion of the home video game console market, thanks to their brilliant marketing, exclusives strategy, and overall tech. But the closest they ever came to being dethroned in that time was at the hands of Sega and their Genesis console. Granted the SNES still outsold the Genesis by around 20 million units, but that was a big deal for the much smaller game developer. The Genesis also introduced the world to one of the mainstays of gaming that’s still around today, Sonic the Hedgehog. This gaming machine would go on to become Sega’s greatest achievement from a hardware perspective and still sparks debate today over whether it or the SNES was a better console.
The PlayStation is not just another console, it’s the classic gaming console. While Xbox has emerged as a major contender for the top spot, it’s hard to beat the Playstation’s appeal. The PS 4 does not disappoint, unlike the bulky PS 3 did when it was first released. Right out of the box, the PS 4 is capable of 4k Ultra HD gaming! It comes with high dynamic range graphics. If you want to upgrade the graphics of older games, use the “boost” mode on the PS 4. Now you can play games with the PlayStation VR headset for a truly immersive experience.
As the name suggests, shooter games are about shooting. You have to be fast on the trigger. This applies, no matter if you are on a space station far into the future or at the front in the Second World War, where the bullets are flying past your ears. Shoot or be shot. That is the essence of it. Shooter games are often played with others, and here is where the game activity becomes about more than just mastering the techniques. For example, when playing in a team, it is also important to coordinate your actions with teammates and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
"It's sad the TG-16 didn't catch on here, but after being the most popular game system in Japan (where it was called PC Engine), NEC was sure it was going to explode in the U.S. Developers and publishers I spoke at the time said that NEC was hard to work with and charged high fees to put games on the system, so many of them decided to wait for the TG-16 to build for a larger user base before devoting their efforts to it, which in turn made for a pretty weak game library at its debut (and with few third-party games). It's very likely that NEC's cocky attitude ended up destroying the potential for a game console that should have sold much better here."
In 1996, Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket: a smaller, lighter unit that required fewer batteries. It has space for two AAA batteries, which provide approximately 10 hours of game play. Although, like its predecessor, the Game Boy Pocket has no backlight to allow play in a darkened area, it did notably improve visibility and pixel response-time (mostly eliminating ghosting). The Game Boy Pocket was not a new software platform and played the same software as the original Game Boy model.
As of July 22, 2018, over 80 million PlayStation 4 consoles have been sold worldwide, and 10 million Xbox One units have shipped to retailers (by the end of 2014), both outpacing sales of their seventh generation systems. In contrast, the Wii U was a commercial failure and ceased production in January 2017, having sold only 13.56 million units after four years on the market. The Nintendo Switch sold 2.74 million in its first month, making it the strongest hardware launch in the history of the company, and surpassed the Wii U by the end of 2017.
Alternatively known as the PC Engine (which is a better and more approachable name, in our opinion), the TurboGrafx-16 was originally developed to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and was the first console released in the 16-bit era of gaming. It was also marketed as a 16-bit console, though it actually functioned on an 8-bit CPU. The confusion over the name, the deception in regards to performance, and poor marketing across the board led to this system failing to break into the American market effectively. And it didn’t help that it eventually had to compete with the Genesis and Super NES, the two best consoles to come out of the era. All told, the system was a valiant effort, thwarted mostly by circumstance.
Gaming consoles are designed primarily for adults, as they can advertise mature games with scary or inappropriate content. Additionally, their interfaces can be rather utilitarian, making them hard for young children to use. Also, if you save your credit card information on the system for game purchases, it may be easy for your child to buy games without your permission. Some consoles have media streaming apps on them as well, making it easy for your kids to access shows or movies they shouldn’t view.
The 16-bit era saw Nintendo at the peak of its creativity, releasing popular acclaimed games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid alongside cult hits like Earthbound. Third-party companies didn’t take a backseat, with Square Enix’ Final Fantasy VI and Konami’s Super Castlevania IV among the best games of the entire decade.
"My best friend had an Odyssey 2, and I have to say that even though I loved my Atari 2600, I secretly wanted his console as well. K.C. Munchkin was so much better than Pac-Man, Pick Axe Pete was way beyond Donkey Kong on the 2600, and Smithereens was one of the most fun two-player games I had ever played at the time. It may not be as well-known as the Atari 2600, but I will always remember the Odyssey 2 with kind regard."
Nintendo was the last to release a fifth generation console with their Nintendo 64, and when they finally released their console in North America, it came with only two launch titles. Partly to curb piracy and partly as a result of Nintendo's failed disc projects with Sony (as SNES-CD) and Philips, Nintendo used cartridges for their console. The higher cost of cartridges drove many third party developers to the PlayStation. The Nintendo 64 could handle 3D polygons better than any console released before it, but its games often lacked the cut-scenes, soundtracks, and voice-overs that became standard on PlayStation discs. Nintendo released several highly acclaimed titles, such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the Nintendo 64 was able to sell tens of millions of units on the strength of first-party titles alone, but its constant struggles against Sony would make the Nintendo 64 the last home console to use cartridges as a medium for game distribution until the Nintendo Switch in 2017.
The company was already seeing insane success with the Famicom in Japan with its release in 1983, and after two years, it was time to bring that success to a new territory. After a failed attempt to partner with Atari to bring the system to the US, the company decided to do the job itself. The Famicom hardware was given a sleeker, more Western-friendly appearance, and the NES was born. The initial release in 1985 was only a test in specific US markets, but it was shipped across the country after the Holiday season in 1986.
A very large majority of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One libraries are available on both platforms. Though both platforms have popular exclusive franchises, the PlayStation 4 (Pro or standard) sees more exclusive games each year. The PS4 also has access to a small number of less well-known indie games and niche titles, such as Japanese role-playing games, that the Xbox One does not.
Second only to the NES, the Atari 2600 was the first truly revolutionary step in home gaming from a sheer numbers standpoint. For a long time, this console was far and away the most popular in the world, which was only bolstered by an excellent development platform that allowed for a wide variety of interesting games. From Frogger, to Space Invaders, to Asteroids, and more, the Atari 2600 was many folks’ introduction to the concept that you could play video games at home and the experience could be great. Hell, even the bad games (like the legendary E.T. ’80s movie tie-in) have a great story behind them.
All major gaming consoles give you an impressive mix of cross-platform and exclusive games, from Gears of War to Fifa 16. If you’re keen on multiplayer action, the Xbox offers you Xbox Live, allowing you to hook up online with the worldwide Xbox player community. Across all of our major gaming consoles, jaw-dropping graphics combine with substantial system memory so you can download and store games, videos, music and more for a complete home entertainment system.