Staring out at the vast sprawling gaming metropolis in front of us now there’s so much going on: the overpopulated Steam district buzzing with indie and shovelware; Sony & Microsoft towers, each continually building to be the tallest in the land; and the pleasant Switch district with its artisan shops and quirky antiques. It’s easy, in this metaphorical kingdom, to forget that things weren’t always like this. A striking example of this is a gradual shrinking of the population in each region’s “Console Exclusive” zone. As a consumer in the 90’s and early 2000’s it was widely understood that you picked a console and purchased rights to brag about the titles that you were privileged to play whilst secretly being jealous of the standout titles on the systems that you couldn’t access. Many of us still remember vividly the rivalry in the early 32-bit era and those of us who survived can barely bring themselves to think about the 16-bit wars that came before that with playgrounds divided between Sega and Nintendo. Even seemingly cross-platform titles at that time could be vastly different; now we discuss slight variations in framerate and shadow detail whereas if you bought “Jurassic Park” on the SNES you were treated to a top-down adventure with first-person sections compared to the Mega Drive’s sidescrolling action where you could play as a raptor.
Given this vast gulf between system content and that it was unthinkable to be able to own more than one console, it was easy to miss out on what the other side had to offer. I’ve mentioned this theme before on a couple of occasions and regular readers will know that I grew up firmly in the Sega encampment until the dawn of the PlayStation age, but there were systems that I missed due to those allegiances that I would like to have owned. In that spirit, here are my “Top 5 Consoles That I Would Like to Have Owned“:
5: GameBoy Micro
Hitting the stores in 2005, the Micro is a slimmed down version of the GameBoy Advance boasting a sharp colour screen but without the backward compatibility of the original. The Micro also holds the honour of being the last ‘GameBoy’ to be released before the age of the DS.
… it’s staggering how Nintendo has managed to release so many iconic handhelds…
In all honesty I’d struggle to name many GBA titles (erm, Sonic Advance?… Is that a thing?). Regardless, I’ve spent many an idle eBay browsing session picking through the listings for GameBoy Micros trying to work out of I can justify the outlay for one very simple reason; it’s so cute! Weighing just 80g and only 4″ long this neat little oblong lights up some specific part of my brain that craves clean and compact design. Couple that with changeable face plates, a plethora of different designs & editions, and the only thing steadying my hand from the “Buy it Now” button is the thought that this would be a slippery slope into the world of collecting.
4: Sega Saturn
Growing up with the Sega MegaDrive (Genesis) left with with that unavoidable mourning at the decline of the once great console manufacturer. The Saturn represented the next step in the Sega story from its 16Bit monster, but a string of questionable business decisions coupled with the draw of Sony’s bright eyed and bushy tailed entry into the market (with an undoubtedly older-teen target audience) stole me away.
This didn’t stop me being enchanted by the console through the pages of “Mean Machines Sega” however, and there were releases on the Saturn that I would love to have gotten to grips with. Around that time I was a big “Street Fighter” fan (although didn’t really graduate past button mashing) and the draw of the freshly released Street Fighter Alpha was strong.
I’d also have been enthralled with “Nights into Dreams” had I managed to play it at the time. Being (in some ways) the next evolution of the Sonic games, the images of this bright harlequin-esque character swooping and looping through a jaw-dropping 3D world was clearly the “future” of gaming. I finally played Nights a few years ago via the Steam release and found it to be disappointingly linear and awkward playing from a more current perspective.
From the UK perspective, 80’s/90’s gaming in the U.S. appears to have been entirely dominated by Nintendo’s 8-Bit powerhouse. It’s interesting to read retrospectives about iconic games like “Castlevania” and “Contra” from a place where these games were seemingly ubiquitous. By contrast the UK around the same time seemed to be much more of a melting pot of competing home computers offering gaming functionality and even competition between the NES and Sega’s Master System.
I have a very early memory of playing a NES in a Shopping Mall … somewhere… it may have been in the U.S. as my family spent some time there whilst I was growing up (in Houston Texas… go Astros…), but despite not knowing where I was, I can remember the experience vividly enough to know that I was playing Metroid despite not knowing that at the time.
I actually do own one of these grey boxes now. I picked it up a few years ago complete with zapper, but it sits gathering dust in a box somewhere. It certainly represents a hole in some of my gaming knowledge (as I’ve mentioned previously) and given how many iconic titles found their way on to the system it would have been interesting to have experienced that first hand when i was relevant.
2: Mega CD/ Sega CD
In the early 90’s, CD’s ruled supreme, the world was obsessed with “Interactive CD-ROM’s” and “Full Motion Video” (I have a fascination with trying to work out what Half Motion Video might be). Sega’s CD drive add-on to their established home console was, possibly not the first, but certainly one of the more financially accessible options for console gamers to get some of that CD goodness in their own homes.
It hit the stores right in the sweet-spot of my own Sega fandom at the height of Sega’s popularity and before the 32X debacle. More than anything at the time these new CD games held a mystical appeal; the product of an industry wrestling with how to deal with this new tech. With comparatively vast storage capacity, but a relatively minor overall improvement in processing power, these games could be roughly split into two different categories: Standard looking MD/Genesis games with CD soundtracks and bizarre interactive FMV style games. There were of course some that I longed to try; in the former category “Sonic CD” with it’s weird “time travel” mechanics, and in the latter the controversial “Night Trap” and … of course… “Jurassic Park“.
I feel like we’re at a similar moment now with VR technology; each developer wrestling with how best to use this new ‘thing.
1: Nintendo GameCube
This plucky little underdog of a console often gets overlooked when compared against some of the grand entries in Nintendo’s history. I lived with a housemate who had one and it really was an excellent console sadly overshadowed by the more popular and powerful systems at the time. Once again I’m enamoured with the form of this system; the cube is just so neat and functional, the tiny tiny game discs so quintessentially Nintendo, and the controller (sometimes ridiculed for its “toy-like” appearance) I found pretty great to use with its friendly green A button and large-movement-range triggers. Nintendo once again including four controller ports (compared to Sony’s stingy two) highlighting that this was a console to be played with friends.
The GameCube also had a solid lineup of games (although many were cross-platform releases). It briefly had exclusivity of Resident Evil 4, the Resident Evil remake, and Resident Evil Zero which (given my pro-Resident Evil stance) instantly warmed me to this little purple box. My housemates and I spent many happy hours playing “Super Monkey Ball”, and “Timesplitters 2”; still my favourite console based FPS. I would also have liked to get my hands on “Pacman Vs.” with its innovative GBA integration, and “Luigis Mansion”, often cited as one of the best offerings on the console.
If I were to become a collector, I think a GameCube would be right up there on the top of my list for consoles I’d like to get hold of…
…but what about you? Feel free to jump in to the comments and let me know which consoles you felt like you “missed”, or would love to get your hands on!