The best home video game systems of the '90s — ranked

The best home video game systems of the '90s — ranked

Oh, the '90s.

For many, this was a golden era of movies, TV and video games. The beauty of it all! We’re going to ignore the fact that it’s 2020, and the '90s were now three decades ago. In my head, it’ll always be last decade.

For those of us fortunate enough to grow up in the '90s, we were incredibly fortunate to have such a variety of home video game systems to choose from—no offense to the Odyssey or Commodore 64 lovers out there, but the options were like 8 billion percent better.

For all that we had, which home video game systems were the best of the 1990s? Let’s jump in.

5. Sega Dreamcast

The best home video game systems of the '90s, ranked
Photo by Shane Avery on Unsplash

Though this system was released in the late '90s—not until 1999 in North America—Dreamcast was Sega’s best and final console.

I would argue, and I think many would argue that this console was ahead of its time, with its ability to support online gaming and downloadable content. Though this console didn’t experience the commercial success of others, those who loved it most are still avid fans to this day.

And NFL 2K was the first time people legitimately walked in and thought an actual football game was on TV.

4. Super Nintendo

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was a decade-defining console. The graphics, playability and overall functionality of the system made it a home run.

The games for this system are beyond superb: Super Mario World, Star Fox, and who could forget – The Legend of Zelda? C'mon man.

Though this wasn’t Nintendo’s most famous system, these games planted the seeds of our deep-rooted love for Nintendo that persists to this day. These games told incredible stories while pushing graphics further than previous systems; visual charm combined with sheer entertainment value made for a perfect system.

And like The Beatles did for the incredible rock bands that followed, SNES did for the mind-blowing games of the future.

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3. Game Boy Color

The best home video game systems of the '90s, ranked
Photo by Elias Castillo on Unsplash

One of my first and truest loves; the GBC. It felt more sophisticated, a little bigger to hold, and… drumroll please… BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY.

No car ride, flight, even walk felt right without this bad boy in your backpack or pocket. I had the atomic purple (the translucent one), and the 10 hours of gameplay felt like a lifetime without the need to get new batteries.

If the Game Boy Color was a revolutionary hand held game, then Pokemon Gold and Silver was its ammunition. Hours upon hours of my life were spent playing that game—a five-minute car ride to the grocery store, just ten minutes before bed—I even tried to sneak it into my first grade classroom. Oops.

Game Boy Color earns the third spot on the list because, in short, Game Boy changed the way we played handheld consoles, and blew what boundaries we thought existed away. Though we went on to the Advance, the SP, and the DS, the Game Boy Color was the landmark device of the '90s. Who could have ever dreamed that we could play Pokémon, in our hands, in color?

2. Nintendo 64

Even if you don’t know a single video game console, you know what the Nintendo 64 is. In fact, even if you haven’t owned a video game system in your entire life, you’ve likely played a Nintendo 64 game.

For many kids, this console was the first non-handheld video game console in their house. For someone who dearly loved my Game Boy, and then my Game Boy Color, the Nintendo 64 was nothing short of absolutely revolutionary.

The 3-D graphics were the best any of us had ever seen. In fact, they were better than anything we had dreamed of, short of actually being the protagonist in our favorite games. This console provided the platform for some of the most extraordinary games of our time: Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, GoldenEye 007… the list is endless.

But for so many of us, this system is what made us true gamers. We went from casual Game Boy fans, occasional Sega players to true, true gaming marathoners. We spent hours hooked on each little cartridge; transfixed by the colors, music, and stories of the games that unfolded before our eyes.

The Nintendo 64 may almost be three decades old, but the joy it brings and the interest it sparks is still as bright as it was the day I unwrapped it under my Christmas tree.

1. Sony PlayStation

Photo by Cláudio Luiz Castro / Unsplash

Pack it up, and go home. While I could argue that the company Nintendo had a stronger presence in the '90s, and therefore in our childhoods, the PlayStation was just pure sophistication. The games were darker, more complex, and the controls expanded what limits we thought there could be for our games.

The idea of opening a container, pulling out a sleek, shiny disc, and putting it into a console felt lightyears beyond the clunky, dust-filled cartridges of the Nintendo 64.

The PlayStation took games we loved to an entirely new level, like Final Fantasy. But the PlayStation also created an entire new universe of games. From Tomb Raider to Resident Evil, Spyro the Dragon to Sly Cooper to Crash Bandicoot it transformed our expectations of gaming from fun little plumbers in karts and pipes to elaborate, beautiful new worlds.

As a current owner of the PlayStation 4, I feel that we have reached the nexus of what video games can be. Our freedom, controls, and the storylines we love have peaked, but they carry on.

Yet, no matter how modern and sleek today’s PlayStation gaming is… I will always love the console that truly made me fall in love with gaming.

About the Author: Kelcey McClung is a freelance reporter who has been featured in a variety of publications. She loves Star Wars, Animal Crossing, and almost every PlayStation game ever made. If you think you’ve completed all the park objectives in Roller Coaster Tycoon more times than she has, she’ll take you up on that bet.

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