Time Traveller's Guide to Game Consoles Which Rocked the Decades

Time Traveller's Guide to Game Consoles Which Rocked the Decades

December 19, 2016

/ by Tin Salamunic

Do you still remember unpacking holiday presents as a child? The simple joy of finding out what your relative bought for you, but also a slight apprehension, because what if you're getting another sweater from grandma? Regardless of when you experienced your childhood years, in the 80s, 90s, or maybe already in the new millennium, there is good chance you know one other thing, too. The hope of receiving a game console, or maybe just a game, as a present. Let's take a look at what gaming gear captured the hopes and dreams of children in the last four decades.

Important note: numbers given reflect overall sales, from release to discontinuation of respective platforms.

The 1980s
If there is one console that broke the 80s, it's the Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1983 (1985 in the US). It rocked nearly 62 million units sold, while the closest competition that decade, Sega Genesis (launched in 1988) had half that, at almost 31 million copies. Depending on how you count, Game Boy could potentially beat NES sales, but with several various editions the exact numbers for the 1989 release are difficult to pin down. One way or another, the 1980s belonged to Nintendo, which still has the best numbers when it comes to console units sold.


Some of the most iconic games in history had been released on NES, including Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and Donkey Kong. If there is a single system that kick-started gaming as a popular hobby, it's the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The 1990s
But then the 1990s came, and with them the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) with almost 50 million units sold, Nintendo 64 with 32 million sales...and then there was PlayStation (the original one) in 1994.

It globally sold over 100 million units over nine years, becoming the first game console to have such sales. One of the main selling points was a solid support for third-party developers. While Nintendo and Sega at the time focused on making games in-house and largely ignored third-party developers, Sony reached out, providing tools and support to creators.

Not that PS had no competition. Nintendo 64 sold fewer units, but it was a solid product nonetheless and had very good reception. N64 was released two years after PS, and used this time to get more powerful hardware. The advantage was unclear, however. N64 had better multiplayer and no loading times, PS had CDs and handled certain graphics better. Nintendo's continuing use of cartridges was a problem for many developers, however, and the lack of support drove them away, towards more welcoming Sony and its CDs.


The nineties were a good time for gaming overall, with prominent titles like Fire Emblem (Famicom), Mario Kart (SNES), and Resident Evil (PS1) making their debut during that time. And there were the Pokémon, of course. And that's only console titles. PC gaming was living a dream and enjoying a boom of popularity and new franchises.

The 2000s
The 2000s were the time when Sega dropped from the game console competition entirely and Microsoft took its place. That decade was also a resurgence of handheld consoles. GameBoy Advance (81 million units sold overall), Nokia N-gage (a flop at 3 million units shipped), a smash hit Nintendo DS (154 million units), PlayStation Portable (82 million)... Gamers in the early 21st century had more way to play games outside that in any other decade.

Both Microsoft and Sony launched two consoles that decade. MS has Xbox (in 2001) and Xbox 360 (in 2005). The latter sold 84 million units, over three times more than its predecessor. Sony on the other hand had PlayStation 2 in 2000 and PlayStation 3 in 2007, with over 155 million and over 83 million units sold, respectively.

Some of the games that held gamers attention during that time were Mass Effect (originating on Xbox 360), Gears of War (X360), and Uncharted (PlayStation 3), all three are franchises that entered the gaming hall of fame.

The 2010s
We still have several years before the decade ends, so it may be a bit too early to make assessments and summaries. So let's do it just a little, quietlike. We got PlayStation 4, we got Xbox One, both of which haveare waiting for their more superior versions, Nintendo has 3DS and WiiU, and we're all waiting for Nintendo Switch.


The great comeback of virtual reality after some really, really botched attempts way back in the 80s and 90s apparently hit the jackpot with Vive, Oculus, or PS VR, opening new possibilities for consoles and developers alike. As for the games, so far 2010s gave us Dishonored, Dark Souls, and Minecraft, among many other new franchises.

Closing Statements
Gaming has come a long way over the years, and so have the gaming consoles. From simple graphics made mostly of oversized pixels we came to the era of photorealistic visuals that can create some of the most incredible action sequences in an interactive fashion, putting movies to shame.

But over the years one thing remains a constant: a new console is one of the coolest things we as gamers can see after unpacking the present marked with our name. Receiving a new game is a very close second, and, thankfully there are plenty Christmas sales to make it much easier to buy more for less.

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