What people enjoy in video games tends to be subjective, however it is a shame that there are tons of must-play games not on the consoles that you own. An old console life cycle definitely did not last as long as they do now. Today, there are simply a lot of other relevant entertainment applications that make longevity skyrocket.
Because of that, many amazing machines inevitably faded into obscurity, branded with lack of relevance.
Anyway, there are still some great games that have not been re-released on other consoles or have the best experience on their original systems. It is time to give credit to those retro devices that offer remarkable gaming experiences, despite being overlooked at the time.
For this reason, today I am going to rank the 5 most underrated video game consoles in history.
(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. For more info, please check my affiliate disclosure page.)
5. Amiga CD32 (Commodore International 1993)
Commodore’s swansong failed commercially even before it could see the light of day in the United States. It was a console that used CDs which could have worked, but could not be released in the US unless Commodore paid $10 million in patent fees. Needless to say, that never happened.
The console has an Akiko chip, which back then was a good start for 3d titles. The transition into 3D gaming has been well documented for how difficult it was for most developers. The stock controller is not the best (to put it mildly), but there are some handy third-party 9-pin controllers which make gaming on the system a much easier time.
If you want to play the Amiga CD32 games, you are going to need a US electrical adapter, because plugs are different in Europe. Despite this, there are some solid titles such as Arabian nights, Diggers, Banshee and Frontier: Elite II.
A special mention goes to Super Putty: more than just colorful levels, its innovative gameplay put a unique spin on platformers. It focuses more on detailing smaller levels rather than leaving you in hollow worlds, something you did not often see in then platform games.
Some other games – while lacking in gameplay – would simply amaze you with their stunning graphics and impressive sprites and effects. Dangerous Streets is probably the best example I can give: awful to play, but graphically, it is hard to believe it was published in 1994. See (below) to believe:
All in all, It is a good choice if you want to learn more about obscure video game history.
4. Neo Geo AES (SNK Corporation 1990)
SNK – the creator of the Neo Geo system – released some of the best arcade games of all time. This system had a bunch of support, due to SNK’s reliance on sprites. The Neo Geo allowed you to live the SNK arcade gaming experience on a home console. Though this was pretty common with the consoles of that time, almost none of them gave you a one to one representation through game play and graphics. Oddly enough, Despite its commercial failure, game production lasted for 14 years. From the gaming side, we cannot definitely blame SNK for not trying hard enough.
What prevented this ambitious project from succeeding, then? For one, the console retailed for $649.99, which does not adjust for inflation, and was twice of what the competing systems cost. On top of that, the games too were very expensive and had massive cartridges. For the few who could get past that, the Neo Geo featured some great fighting games such as Fatal Fury, Samurai Showdown and the King of Fighters series. KoF is a series that continues even to this day. If that is not for you, there were tons of shooters – with the most famous being Metal Slug – and some fun sports games.
3. Atari Lynx (Atari Corporation/Epyx 1989)
The Lynx was one of the competing handheld consoles in the 90s, alongside the Sega Game Gear and the Nintendo Gameboy. It was the first handheld 16-bit console, but unfortunately only had 74 games released on it.
The handheld has a bit of a clunky design that is not as sleek as the Gameboy, but has some functions. It does this to treat right-handed and left-handed people equally, and some games could even be played vertically. More than revolutionary for the time.
The game library may not be the most world renowned, but it sticks out from what was available back then.
Scrapyard Dog stands out as a super colorful, humorous, side-scrolling platformer, with beautiful graphics and a fun, enjoyable gameplay.
Warbirds has some nice graphics either, and it is an impressive first-person combat flight simulation, especially compared to the likes of F-15 Strike Eagle, which was published for the Lynx’s handheld rivals.
In case you do not appreciate first-person perspective shooters (like me), Blue Lightning is the natural third-person alternative.
Double Dragon, Paperboy, Rampart and Toki are something more than good arcade ports.
While there is no shortage of quality games on this system, one of the reasons the Atari Lynx failed was the lack of a real killer application. Epyx – in charge of software development – went bankrupt the same year the console was released, thus delivering a serious blow to Atari’s ambitions.
To add insult to injury, since Lynx development system was based around the Amiga 2000, now alone Atari corporation had no other choice than to buy Amigas from Commodore, their main direct competitor.
A not so friendly price tag (179,99 $) and a poor battery life were probably the metaphorical final nails in the coffin.
2. Gamecube (Nintendo 2001)
The Gamecube is known for having one of the best controllers for 3D platformers and legendary games.
Super Smash Bros. Melee alone – one of the best sequels in gaming history – sold over 9 million units. With any Nintendo console, there are remarkable first party titles. These include: Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Metroid Prime 1 and 2 and more. But they would still put the effort into trying to be innovative. The new franchises made you feel like they could only exist on the cube.
Pikmin was a new intellectual property which started out as a tech demo, to show how many 3D models could exist at once. Animal Crossing was a town that you were part of and influenced through the choices that you made.
Phantasy Star Online – the famous Sega franchise – was ported in 2002, and was the first Gamecube title featuring online functionality. Truth be told the GameCube did not fail by any means, it just did not succeed in the same light that PS2 or Xbox did. One reason was Nintendo’s sensitivity and restriction on mature content. Also, the game format was on mini DVDs, which would not let you watch all of the most popular movies on normal DVDs.
Game Gear (Sega Japan 1990, NA and EU 1991, AU 1992)
Despite featuring a great library, the Game Gear was a largely underrated handheld console. Unlike the Gameboy, the Sega system has a backlit screen, which is a major advantage. Again, no killer application, but many notable first party titles: Sonic the hedgehog 1 and 2 are obvious choices. While the first game has some similarities to its Genesis counterpart, the second is completely different. “Pleasantly surprising” is how I would define it.
Land of illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a fairy tale platformer in typical Disney fashion.
I wish I could mention a few more, but a list featuring the best Game Gear games in next in line for publication. Better not to give out too many spoilers. 🙂
It is worth mentioning that although the system requires many batteries to start up (six AA), the console has a power jack that you can plug into the wall. Unfortunately, it was sold separately.
Time to find out the number one on this list, now! Yeah, no surprise this time, I am sure you have guessed it already…
1. Dreamcast (Sega Japan, rest of the world 1999)
The Dreamcast had one of the most legendary launches of all time. Not only was the advertising more ambitious than ever, but there were a ton of great launch titles such as Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Soul Calibur, Power Stone and more. This console also features the one and only Shenmue series, with both episodes being directed by Yu Suzuki, who had previously worked on Virtua Fighter.
At the time of its release, Shenmue was the most expensive game to develop. It approximately cost between 47 and 70 million dollars, although such amount partially included Shenmue’s production costs either.
Unfortunately for Sega, both Shenmue and its sequel turned out to be commercial failures, but oddly enough, they were quick to develop a cult following, and went down as two of the most atmospheric games of all time.
With Shenmue 3 going to be released in November this year, it would not be a bad idea to get into the two previous installments of the series.
About the Dreamcast’s hardware features, The VMU (Visual Memory Unit) was fun and interactive. Your memory card would go into your controller and you got to see visual messages. Some developers got creative and in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, your VMU showed how much health you had, as well as your ammo count.
Kid you not, the system was absolutely awesome, it even had online features, but it was doomed to fail. The Sega Saturn had failed in the US due to Sega of Japan telling the US department to release the console early. This resulted in retailers not wanting to carry the Dreamcast and Sega lost way too much money.
On top of that, gamers would rather wait for the PS2 to be released, which had a DVD player and tremendous third party support.
Okey-dokey retro folks, that’s a wrap for today! Are there any consoles that you think should be part of this list? Are there notable games on these consoles that you enjoyed? Please voice your opinion in the comments below!
Till next retro post!