Retro games consoles: 7 of the best old gaming consoles from Nintendo 64 to Sega Dreamcast - and best games
Sony continues to carve out gaming legacies with each of its new PlayStation consoles, yet fewer gaming companies transcend the medium quite like Nintendo
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Gaming’s come a long way, and in an industry that moves with each new technological advance in computing power and networked processing, innovation comes thick and fast.
But sometimes it’s nice to look back to the past, and see what has led us to this moment. Retro games consoles from yesteryear still harbour some of the best catalogues of video games out there, and while their big hitters might not look the shiniest or run the smoothest by today’s standards, they’re still a damn good time.
With that being said, here are the seven best video games consoles from the 90s and 00s that should have the memories flooding back (just try to make it through this list without reaching for the nearest SCART lead).
We’ve also included five classic games for each system. If you’re lucky enough to still own a copy of any of these, and a corresponding retro console to play it on, fire it up immediately for an instant retro hit!
Putting the Wii at the start (or bottom) of this list doesn’t feel very fair. But hey, this ranking system is mostly arbitrary, and Nintendo have a couple more heavy hitters coming up so they’ll get their dues.
The Wii absolutely catapulted gaming into the stratosphere, with its motion controls system meaning anybody of any ability could pick up and play a vast multitude of its games. Oh, you can swing a tennis racket in real life? You can do it too in Wii Sports (the best selling video game EVER no less).
With a tonne of classics to enjoy, the Wii could easily be placed at the other end of this list and nobody would bat an eyelid. But those motion controls ushered in a divisive, gimmicky era of gaming that still ignites debate to this day.
- Super Mario Galaxy
- Super Mario Galaxy 2
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Full disclosure: I have never played a single game on a Sega Dreamcast. Not back in the day, nor in more recent years. Yet here is a console with such a strong identity that it can somehow elicit a strong, nostalgic response in somebody who has (probably) never even seen one with their own eyes.
Maybe it’s the plucky, underdog story of Sega’s final console offering going down swinging. Maybe the vast array of quirky, console exclusive games (many of which I have since played ports of on other, more modern machines). Maybe the innovative, clip-in save unit, which slid into the controller and featured a built-in screen for displaying in game stats.
Whatever it is, the Dreamcast represents a more fertile console landscape of a time gone by, one that’s likely to never be seen again.
- Jet Set Radio
- Samba de Amigo
- Shenmue II
- Crazy Taxi 2
The original Xbox deserves to stick in the memory much more for its unwieldy size (not only was the console a big, black brick, the first ‘Duke’ controller to be bundled with it required hands the size of frying pans to navigate successfully).
Classic game franchises like Halo and Forza Motorsport were launched on the platform, which saw Microsoft enter the console space for the first time. Thankfully, the brand has endured, and gamers are still enjoying boundary pushing games on Xbox consoles to this day.
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Ninja Gaiden Black
- Forza Motorsport
- Project Gotham Racing 2
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Sony PlayStation 2
Taking the groundwork laid by Sony’s first PlayStation and taking it even further, the PS2 was the moment console gaming went fully ‘mainstream’.
It remains the best selling games console ever, and it’s not hard to see why. A cracking line-up of games, coupled with a sleek black design and a branding campaign that worked hard to shake off the ‘nerdy hobbyist’ tags gaming had previously been saddled with, meant the machine was found in millions of living rooms up and down the country.
If you haven’t got one of these knocking about in the loft, gathering dust, were you even around for the early 00s?!
- Grand Theft Auto III
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- Devil May Cry
The legacy of the PlayStation one is undeniable, and you can chart a direct path from the classic games of the mid-90s right through to some of the biggest and brightest blockbuster gamers of the modern day.
Five consoles and nearly 30 years later, Sony is still pumping out exceptional console-exclusive games, and franchises like Gran Turismo are still going strong. Others, like Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid, branched out to other platforms, but have still produced excellent entries in recent years, while plenty of new IPs have joined the PlayStation fray, like God of War and Horizon.
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
- Gran Turismo
- Metal Gear Solid
- PaRapper the Rapper
- Tomb Raider
If the N64 proved 3D games were here to stay, Nintendo’s Gamecube took the concept and ran with it. Sporting genuinely stunning graphical features that still hold up today (see the SpaceWorld 2000 GameCube Tech Demo to get a feel for what I’m talking about), and wrapping it all up in a glorious plasticky package (that handle! that purple! that bizarrely excellent controller!), the Gamecube still sets nostalgic hearts racing today.
If you’ve got one sitting in your attic and you manage not to dig it out after reading this article, you’re made of stronger stuff than most.
- Metroid Prime
- Resident Evil 4
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
- Super Mario Sunshine
While Sony carves out gaming legacies with each of its new PlayStation consoles, fewer gaming companies transcend the medium quite like Nintendo, with a company history just as revered as any of its standalone home entertainment devices.
All of its consoles to date have included a raft of innovative hit titles (even the ill-fated Wii U had a decent library of first-party games), but perhaps no console holds as much of a special place in many gamers’ hearts than the N64, which perfected 3D video game graphics in their embryonic stage, and essentially brought two new genres to consoles in the 3D platformer (Super Mario 64) and the first-person shooter (Goldeneye 64).
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Perfect Dark
- GoldenEye 007
- Super Mario 64