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Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Best ever video game console

GameCentral readers discuss their favourite video game consoles, from the original PlayStation to the PC Engine.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Simon and inspired by the imminent start of the next generation of consoles.

We must’ve had almost every console ever released mentioned by someone, although we were surprised that the Mega Drive didn’t get more nods than it did, given it’s usually considered the most popular retro console in the UK.

Nostalgia plays a part
My favourite console would have to be the SNES. At the time it was a little powerhouse of a console with near arcade quality graphics and sound. Mode 7 was amazing, Pilotwings and F-Zero are certainly showing their age but it’s impossible to state how impressive they seemed at the time. The controller felt pretty much perfect and accessories like the multitap became built-in standards in later console generations.

The library of games was superb, including excellent first party games and great support from third parties; Konami and Capcom impressed me a lot (Konami knew how to rock that SNES sound chip) but there were many others.

I initially wanted the SNES to play quality arcade conversions but it was the first time I had properly played a Super Mario or Zelda game and I’ve been hooked ever since. Undoubtedly nostalgia plays a large part in this. However, I think the SNES library still holds up very well today and the popularity of the mini version was testament to that.

For purely sentimental reasons I’ll pick the PlayStation 2 for my favourite ever console.

I’d dabbled with gaming ever since I was a kid but it was on the PlayStation 2 in the early 2000s when it became a real passion of mine.

This was due to suddenly being disabled and unable to do a lot of the physical activities I used to enjoy, but I could still find joy and escapism in gaming on Sony’s second console.

For that reason the PlayStation 2 will always have a very special place in my heart.

You never forget your first
Best console for me would have to be the PlayStation original. It was the first console I bought with my own money. Coming from a Commodore 64 to this was a massive leap forward in graphics and gameplay. I can even remember the first game I got, Destruction Derby. Mind-blowing. Destructible cars? Wow. Graphics, wow. Gameplay, eh… got old fast but I exchanged it for the first F1 game and I got back on board again. Not long later came Resident Evil. My goodness, a zombie game for the zombie head. Gore, atmosphere and horrible acting. It had the lot.

Then came the Tony Hawk’s games and the ability to connect up two consoles together for a Doom session. So many good times were had with the PS1. That plus the ability to easily play ‘back-up’ games made this console my favourite.

I’d put it above the PlayStation 2 due to that console having no proper Resident Evil games (I had a GameCube when 4 came out) and special mention has to go to the Xbox 360 for the two reasons mentioned above. Zombie games in Dead Rising and the fantastic online features along with the many hours of Borderlands 1 and 2 split-screen sessions.

I liked the PlayStation 2 but I didn’t love it and I almost hated the PlayStation 3, save for the fact it was a Blu-ray player. The PlayStation 4 could push the PS1 with its accessibility to reasonably cheap VR and exclusive games, namely God Of War, but at this moment in time the PS1 s the console to beat. Could be nostalgia talking because of the great memories the console provides, not something that has happened since due to people aging, moving and responsibilities. Sigh.

Current champion
The longer the Nintendo Switch has been out and the amount of time I’ve played it increases, the more I think it is quite possibly my favourite console, if not the best console there’s ever been. What the hardware is capable of is really unique and changes the way you play. Even just the two features of having multiplayer out of the box and the ability to be a home console and immediately become a handheld are reason enough to make it standout and be more versatile than previous home consoles.

From the swathe of amazing games including The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle to loads of indie releases makes the plethora of games available, both in terms of exclusives and genres, really broad.

If I needed to justify and quantify why Switch is one of the best consoles, I’d point to the fact that it is the console I have likely played the most, with several of the games I’ve completed on it being ones I have the highest total playtime on. Breath Of The Wild is the sole game I’ve amassed the most time playing, clocking in at over 300 hours and several other games topping 75 hours too. The pick-up-and-play nature of the hardware means you can chip away at even huge games which all adds up.

Overall, despite its limited technical capabilities when compared against consoles such as PlayStation 4, Switch has been the platform which has captured my attention more than any other and for that, it sits at the very top as the best console of all time.

The stage of history
I believe it was the great Deborah Harry who once said, ‘Imagine something of your very own, something you can have and hold. I’d build a road in gold, just to have a Dreamcast…’

It’s weird. because she said that in 1979 – 20 years before the Sega Dreamcast came out! I don’t even think Sega had entered the video games business yet. Also, while dreaming is certainly free Dreamcasts are most certainly not. Nor are its games. Especially these days.

It’s weird that it would be my favourite, as I have far more nostalgia for the Mega Drive or even Master System (yes, I am well old), the PlayStation 2 has a larger and more diverse library and there are no 10 out of 10 games – either at the time or to this day. The closest you would get is Soulcalibur, but not quite. Had the inventiveness of the single-player translated into multiplayer, then yes. But it doesn’t, so no.

I wasn’t able to get it online, I doubt that puts me in the minority of Dreamcast owners, but Sega’s ambition there was admirable, if insane. It was too early to be releasing a console with online capability. The infrastructure wasn’t there and Sega were sure as hell in no position to create their own.

Bu, it’s such a sweet little console. It’s very pretty, the Olivia Wilde of consoles. Though keeping it clean is a challenge. And in good repair. Eventually, at some point, every Dreamcast will develop a fault with its power supply. Either it’s the cable or the connector at the back of the base but after some period of time the console will just switch off and on again. You better have saved! The consequences can and have been heartbreaking.

Those games, though. They’re incredible. By my reckoning, Soulcalibur began a golden age of fighting games, where not only were they quite prolific but pretty inventive in finding ways to broaden their audiences. I am lucky enough to still own Rez, Jet Set Radio, both Sonic Adventures, both Power Stones, both Shenmue games, Skies Of Arcadia, Resident Evil Code: Veronica, and Project Justice. Along with some PlayStation 1 ports such as Resident Evil 2, 3, and Soul Reaver.

Today, Skies Of Arcadia and Project Justice charge a hefty penny – even the GameCube version of Skies. Can you still get Jet Set Radio for last gen consoles? I haven’t checked. If not, that could be expensive too. And either that or its Xbox sequel is well worth you trying. Relax, I’m not crazy – I know that Jet Set Radio has some control issues. I would argue that they are minor and practise will make perfect. I promise!

Because of its power cut issues, I’m afraid to turn the Dreamcast on as I don’t know whether I’ll be able to play for a few hours or a few minutes. Which is a shame and I really hope that rumoured Dreamcast Mini happens as its sparkling, charismatic library does not deserve to be consigned to the stage of history. Its soul still burns…

Retro Engine
I’m going to sound like a hipster here but my favourite console is the PC Engine. I know, I know but I saved up my money for so long to get that little fella and I love it. As a retro gamer almost in the majority now it was the one major format I didn’t have until I managed to get it an a whole bunch of its games a couple of year.

I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little upset when they released a mini version but it was great to see everyone talking about the machine again. It really does straddle that 8-bit/16-bit crossover perfectly and has some of the best 2D games I’ve ever played.

Little purple box
Back in the early 2000s I’d been very attached to my N64 but being a fan of that console really was a labour of love at times. For every brilliant first party title that came along it felt like an eternity until the next release of any significance and even then, a lot of the games in question were (looking back now) pretty shockingly light on content.

Being a schoolboy, I didn’t comprehend at the time that that was because of the limitations of the N64 and its cartridge-based format. But it didn’t matter, because now the GameCube was here with its little discs, and it was going to bring Nintendo into the 21st century.

Loading up Super Smash Brothers Melee and watching that iconic intro video, then scrolling the through the menus and just seeing how many modes there were was a real ‘Welcome to the future’ moment for me.

There was so much to like about the console. The compact, kitsch design aesthetic of the unit itself was distinctive and memorable – it sounds stupid but pressing the button to make the discs pop out was so satisfying. The controller was a wonderfully well-conceived piece of kit as well and they were really built to last, a lot of Wii owners will attest to that.

And what about that software library. Melee was and still is one of the best launch window games ever, a bona fide killer app. Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Pikmin, F-Zero GX, Fire Emblem: Path Of Radiance, and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door were all fantastic first party exclusives. Resident Evil 4 and Tales Of Symphonia were two 10/10 games and also exclusives at the time.

Me and my friends poured probably thousands of hours between us into Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 and Mario Kart: Double Dash over the years. Unlike the darker days of the N64 lifecycle, we also got something resembling decent third party support as well – I remember playing great versions of the likes of Beyond Good & Evil, SSX, and Crazy Taxi when previously you didn’t always get to play those sorts of games on a Nintendo console. Getting a fantastic port of Skies Of Arcadia was a massive bonus as well.

I’m looking back with massively rose-tinted spectacles of course, because the GameCube still suffered somewhat from a comparative lack of releases, hosted probably the most disappointing mainline entries in both the Super Mario and Legend Of Zelda franchises (Twilight Princess), and offered little in the way of any real innovations other than the aforementioned switch to the disc-based format Nintendo’s competitors had been using for the entirety of the previous generation.

It’d be more sensible for me to choose the Wii, which essentially had a GameCube inside it with its very good backwards compatibility and peripheral support, but then had a lot of other great games and features on top.

But that little purple box will for whatever reason always be the console that occupies that special place in my heart. At the time, I remember Nintendo’s strategy for the GameCube being all about shunning what they saw as gimmicks (a DVD player, a proper online offering, a hard drive) and putting the quality of the games front and centre in their marketing pitch. It actually failed fairly badly and we’ve since seen them do a 180 and release perhaps three of the most gimmicky home consoles ever and find huge success with two of them.

What’s barely wavered through that period though is the quality of those first party releases – Nintendo’s games themselves are still a byword for excellence in an era littered with lazy remakes, annual sequels and shameless cash-ins, and for me that continued dedication to quality is the legacy of the GameCube shining through.

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The small print
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