Lost but not Forgotten: The Best Old Video Game Consoles
Today, the video game industry belongs exclusively to old-blood, name-brand consoles. The Playstation 4 (and 5), Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch consoles reign completely unchallenged.
That’s because no challenger could possibly stand a chance against them. Even ambitious billionaire Elon Musk wouldn’t dare!
But there was a time when there were many consoles on the market from various companies. Sure, there were two major companies, Sega and Nintendo, who mostly dominated this market in the ‘80s/early ‘90s. But the relentless competition between the two giants led to a dozen or so gaming systems throughout this era.
Some of these competitors were already big names in the VG industry, like Atari and SNK. Others were known by absolutely no one (Who is “Smith Engineering?”).
In any case, we’ve gone through a complete list of dusty, old, forgotten systems to determine which were the greatest. Read on to discover 8 of the best retro gaming consoles ever made.
Magnavox Odyssey 2 (1978-1984)
When you hear “Magnavox” and “video game” in the same sentence, you better believe you’re back in the ‘70s. To be sure, this system makes the list more for its place in history rather than any great gaming it offered. Plus, it looks so ‘70s/‘80s kitsch for you retro tech collectors out there.
The Odyssey 2 was the sequel to the Magnavox Odyssey released in 1973. This second iteration, released in 1978, included a keyboard—quite handy for all those video game/board game hybrids.
Unfortunately, the gameplay was even clunkier than the Atari 2600. Even so, it’s hard not to enjoy a highly pixelated Frogger, or that Pac-Man rip-off K.C. Krazy Chase. Q’bert and Popeye even made an appearance on this console.
Commodore 64 (1982-1994)
The Commodore 64 is a bit of a controversy in regard to this list. Technically, it’s a home computer system, not exclusively a game system.
And it was priced accordingly. Retailing at about $600, it was expensive for a game system but very affordable as a personal computer.
In any case, games made up 60-70% of the Commodore 64’s software library by 1985. Many of these were ports of classic games originally released in arcades, on home consoles, or on other computer systems.
Aside from that, there were plenty of original games made exclusively for this home computer system. Some of the more innovative Commodore 64 exclusives were way ahead of their time. This includes Lucasfilm Games’ revolutionary MMORPG Habitat.
Habitat was one of the first MMORPGs, supporting up to 20,000 players at once. It was also one of the first RPG video games to include graphical environments, as most RPGs of that era were text-based.
Remember the Utopic fever dream that the 1980s thought the future would look like? The ColecoVision is the technological embodiment of that dream—an amazing invention with enormous potential.
Right off the bat, it’s an excellent home game console with high-quality ports of hit arcade games like Pac-Man, Burger Time, and Spy Hunter. On top of that, you could upgrade the system with loads of add-ons. Many of these are special game controllers like steering wheels and trackball peripherals.
One add-on allowed the system to run Atari 2600 cartridges. Another turned the console into the Coleco Adam home computing system.
This device was designed to be upgraded into anything that users/hardware developers could imagine. On top of that, it was made by the creators of Cabbage Patch Kids!
But, like flying cars and hovering skateboards, this dream was not meant to be. Unfortunately, the video game crash of 1983 destroyed ColecoVision. That’s what you call bad timing.
Retro gamers who keep an Odyssey 2 on display will want to enhance their collection with one of these bad boys as well. With its blocky, space-helmet-like appearance, the Vectrex seems to be made entirely of early ‘80s nostalgia.
Like the Odyssey 2, though, the overall quality of this console is debatable. Still, the vector-based graphics were sleek for their time.
Notably, this home system even offered an arcade-style controller long before SNK came up with the idea.
Sega Master System (1986-1992 [North America])
Yes, Sega released a game console before the Sega Genesis—3 game consoles, actually. The first, Sega’s SG-1000, was gradually outmatched by the success of Nintendo’s Famicom, which was released the exact same day.
Next, Sega gave the SG-1000 some minor upgrades for style and convenience and dubbed it the SG-1000 II. Not surprisingly, though, 80s gamers didn’t really care what their game systems looked like. They cared about playing the best games on the market, like Donkey Kong, Excitebike, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Duck Hunt.
That was the real problem with Sega’s early consoles: Nintendo held the rights to all these hit franchises. And they were not interested in sharing. Even Nintendo’s third-party game development partners were under contract not to port their NES games to other consoles.
So, Sega had to come up with its own games to rival the Famicom /Nintendo entertainment system. That’s the good news about the Master System. We all know how awesome Sega is at making video games, even to this day.
As such, there are loads of excellent titles that were exclusive to the Master System. Our favorites include Golvellius: Valley of Doom, Zaxxon 3-D (playable via the SegaScope 3-D Glasses peripheral), and the numerous Wonder Boy and Alex Kidd games.
NEC TurboGrafx-16 (1987-1994)
The TurboGrafx-16, or PC Engine as it was originally named, saw decent success in Japan. After all, it was the first video game console that offered a CD drive attachment, signaling a new age of home gaming.
Given this revolutionary gaming technology, NEC executives were positive they could replicate the console’s popularity stateside and corner the market. But sadly, like so many other early retro gaming consoles, they underestimated the importance of price tags.
The CD drive attachment cost a whopping $399, on top of the price of the console itself. Plus, NEC released the TG-16 in 1989, amid the frenzy of Sega and Nintendo releasing their own, very affordable 16-bit systems.
In hindsight, this was sort of like an unranked club fighter taking on a prime Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali at the same time. Obviously, the TG-16 was KO’d and quickly faded into oblivion.
But that certainly doesn’t mean it was a horrible system. In fact, the console had an excellent library of fun and unique games. The console was best known for its extensive library of Shmup Titles or shoot'em up games. Not to mention the Super Mario Bros. clone Bonk’s Adventure and the gory horror classic Splatterhouse.
SNK Neo-Geo (1990-1991)
SNK’s Neo-Geo was a great idea on paper and a nightmare in execution. The notion was revolutionary: a home arcade game console that matched the graphical and audial capabilities of arcade machines. But turning that dream into reality required powerful, therefore expensive hardware—$649.99, to be exact.
Despite its awesome arcade-style controller and top-quality games, the Neo Geo priced itself right out of the competition. Notable Neo Geo titles include Samurai Showdown, Metal Slug, and Aero Fighter 2. Seriously, the quality of most Neo Geo games is unmatched to this day.
Sega Saturn (1994-2000)
When going back to the glory days of console gaming, this piece of hardware often gets lost in the shuffle. But while people tend to remember the Sega Genesis and the Sega Dreamcast, no one should forget Sega’s breakthrough 32-bit console, the Saturn.
Oh, the sadness, the tragedy, the lament over what could have been! This system is responsible for some of Sega’s most imaginative titles, including Panzer Dragoon Saga and Nights Into Dreams.
Sadly, though, Sony’s then-up-and-coming PlayStation console eclipsed the Saturn. After that, Sega’s console-producing campaign basically shriveled up and died.
Today, players who are lucky enough to experience the Sega Saturn will enjoy amazing games with high replay value. Many of these old games were the first to introduce the lush, open-world game environments that are so popular today.
Remember: The Best Forgotten Old Video Game Consoles
We hope you enjoyed this historical excursion into the best forgotten retro gaming consoles. If you want some of these rare artifacts in your collection, check out our shop. You may be surprised at our large assortment of Sega Saturn and ColecoVision games.
The turbo grafx is the best console for shumps hands down!