The video game industry generates billions of dollars in revenue each year and despite being a relatively young art form, is one of the leading forms of entertainment today. This is due to many reasons, but one major factor has to do with the consoles that play these beloved games. Sure, you can game on your PC or mobile device — and while those platforms are certainly viable (and lucrative from a business perspective) — console gaming is a staple in the video game industry.
Because of that, we've decided to take a look at the top gaming consoles ever, while looking back at older systems, as well as contemporary pieces of hardware. These machines all have unique features, standout libraries of games, and large fan-bases that cherish what each console has to offer.
These are the top 10 gaming consoles of all time.
Let's kick things off with one of the most beloved handhelds ever, the Nintendo 3DS. This was effectively an enhanced version of the ultra-popular Nintendo DS, with more horsepower and added features. While the 3DS was never as popular as the original DS system, the fact that it was backwards compatible with all DS games makes it a superior machine — giving you a massive library of titles to choose from.
Aside from fondly-remembered features like Street Pass or even the 3D functionality, this system had a robust lineup of games including Animal Crossing: New Leaf, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pokémon X and Y, and Fire Emblem: Awakening, to name a few.
The Xbox 360 was a pioneer in the online video game space. Of course, other consoles had online functionality before this, but the 360 popularized it, setting a benchmark for the future of playing multiplayer games with (or against) friends. It had a slew of revolutionary features such as an online store that sold games and apps, as well as a smart party chat system that allowed players to talk with one another.
It introduced achievements and laid the groundwork for many practices we still utilize to this day. Along with that, it had a fantastic library of games like Halo 3, Gears of War, Forza Horizon, and Dead Space.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
Let's take it back to an old-school console with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). This is the system many of us grew up with, giving us nostalgic experiences that we still think about today. While the games that appeared on this device might not hold up as well today, many still do rival even the best modern releases.
It's an important system that paved the way for the games we know and love today. And who could forget its most famous releases like Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and of course, Super Mario World?
Next up is a newer system that launched in 2020. That's right, the PlayStation 5 is a great device, with lots of modern features such as native 4K output, faster processing, and snappier menus. On top of that, the PS5 comes packaged with one of the best controllers of all time, the DualSense. This controller just feels right in your hands and features haptic feedback and adaptive triggers for ultimate immersion.
To top it all off, the system is home to must-have games like Demon's Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Astro's Playroom, and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Xbox Series X|S
Speaking of new systems, let's discuss the Xbox Series X|S. We're talking about both the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in tandem, as they go hand-in-hand and play the same games. This is Microsoft's newest lineup of devices, mirroring much of what the PlayStation 5 can do in terms of processing power and resolution output.
The biggest reason these systems are so great is because of Xbox Game Pass, which is Microsoft's gaming subscription service. Think Netflix for games. This service gives you all of the Microsoft-published games on day one, as well as high-profile third-party releases like MLB: The Show 21 and Outriders. Xbox Game Pass has revolutionized the way we consume games and it's best on Xbox Series X|S.
PlayStation Portable (PSP)
While Sony has given up on its handheld devices as of 2021 (see the PS Vita for proof), it was once very competitive in this market due to the PlayStation Portable (PSP). At the time in 2005, the main handheld devices we were used to were manufactured by Nintendo such as the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. Those systems are fantastic of course, but felt lacking from a horsepower perspective.
Then came the PSP, a device that blew many consumers away thanks to its high graphical fidelity, and presence as a multimedia device. You could even watch movies on this thing! It was what many had been hoping for as a console experience on the go, leading to over 80 million lifetime sales as of 2014 or so. Plus, it had amazing games like Persona 3, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, God of War: Chains of Olympus, and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
There's a reason why the PS2 is the bestselling gaming console of all time at over 155 million units sold. It was not only a machine that had one of the most robust lineups of games, it was (at the time) the least expensive DVD player on the market, leading to millions of sales alone. Everyone had a PS2, even if they didn't necessarily play games.
The system also featured nearly 4,000 games available, and while many were considered shovelware, it also had high-quality releases like Grand Theft Auto 3, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Guitar Hero, Resident Evil 4, and Shadow of the Colossus. It's an important system that — in many ways — is responsible for modern beloved series and gameplay features we love today.
Game Boy Advance (GBA)
We mentioned the Game Boy Advance (GBA) earlier, and for good reason. It's a nostalgic device that housed so many incredible games. Many of us grew up with the original Game Boy system, and the GBA upped the ante in nearly every department, giving us a more powerful machine that ditched batteries in favor of a rechargeable device (with the Game Boy Advance SP), along with so many memorable games.
To this day, the GBA's releases still hold up like The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Metroid Fusion, Advance Wars, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, Wario Land 4, and Mario Golf Advance Tour. On top of that, Nintendo released the GBA SP, which featured a clamshell form factor and enhanced features.
Though the PS4 didn't have a ton of new features when it launched, it went on to become one of Sony's best (and bestselling) consoles ever, due in part to its library of games. Some of the best games of all time are available on this device — some of which are exclusive — making the system easy to recommend.
Aside from fantastic third-party releases like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Red Dead Redemption 2, the PS4 also includes The Last of Us Part 2, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, Marvel's Spider-Man, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Persona 5 Royal — all exclusives that amount to arguably the best modern lineups. Thankfully, you can play all of these games via backward compatibility on PS5.
Finally, let's round out the list with the Nintendo Switch — a system that is quickly becoming one of the all-time greats. Sure, it doesn't have the graphical fidelity of a PS5 or Xbox Series X, but its first-party Nintendo games take advantage of every ounce of power the system has, giving us impressive experiences that don't need to run at 4K, 60FPS.
The fact that you're able to “switch” from playing on the TV to taking it on the go is still a wild concept that makes it more convenient to keep playing your favorite games. It has some of the best indies, AAAs, and lots of releases in between that are an absolute blast.
Some of our favorites are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Hades, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Pokémon Sword, and Shield, and the newly released Monster Hunter Rise.
Joseph loves Nintendo and horror games. When he's not writing about video games he can usually be found petting his cats and listening to some Progressive Metal. He thinks Meshuggah is tight.