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The Games Consoles of Christmas Past

With Christmas just around the corner, there will be millions of players all over the globe waiting expectantly to see what gaming-related goodies Santa has supplied this year. With the promise of a shiny new Wii U, PlayStation Vita or Xbox 360 hanging in the air, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at previous gaming hardware that was on our wish lists for Christmases gone by.

Let us know your Christmas gaming memories in the comments. Did you well up on opening your NES back in the 80s? Or throw a tantrum when you didn’t get that Sega 32X? We want to know.

Atari Pong Home Console (1975)

Pong console
It may not have been the very first home console, but the Pong home system was the one that opened the concept up to a much wider audience. Pong was where it was at back in the mid-70s.

The Pong home console was made by Atari, a name that bowed out of the console game back in the late 90s after a number of failed attempts including the DOA Atari Jaguar. These were Atari’s glory days. The Pong console not only built-in the game, but the controllers too. There are two knobs on the thing, used to control the paddles of each of the two players. Copycat Pong consoles are blamed for the big video game crash of 1977, but for a while these things were bringing home the Christmas bacon.

Atari 2600 (1978)

Atari 2600
The wood trim edition inhabited Xmas lists in the early 80s

These days, if you saw a games console with wood panelling, you’d assume it was a geek’s custom project plaything. But back in the late 70s and early 80s, these things were rolling off the production line.

The Atari 2600 was a console of a very different time. But it did have a hand in popularising the way games consoles came to work. It was among the first gaming devices to use cartirdges, rather than offering inbuilt games only. You could count the pixels in ’em, and today its iconic joystick feels so stiff it’s as if it’s desperate not to be played with – but it’s a bonafide classic. Hall of fame Atari 2600 games include Pitfall! and Breakout.

Nintendo NES (1986)
Nintendo NES
After the video game crash of 1983, which many put at the feet of the Atari 2600 and games like the disastrous ET (the one that ended up getting buried in the desert, literally), the future of games conoles was in doubt. The Nintendo NES is what got the industry back on track.

It was a while before the console landed in Europe, but that helped to ensure it arrived with a healthy catalogue of games. NES staples include Super Mario Bros., Mega Man and Final Fantasy, as well as the light gun classic Duck Hunt.

Sega Master System (1987)

The second-gen model seen here is best-remembered here in the UK

Although Nintendo’s 8-bit NES was the popular choice with North American and Japanese players back in the ‘80s, here in the UK Sega ruled the roost. Released in time for the 1987 festive season, the Master System played host to some amazing coin-op conversions.

Top games included Outrun, Afterburner and Space Harrier – as well as fantastic original games like Psycho Fox, Wonderboy III: The Dragon’s Trap and Phantasy Star. Such quality software could almost make you forgive Sega for putting the “pause” button on the console itself, rather than on the controller. D’oh.

Nintendo Game Boy (1989)
Consoles 1
Although crude and simplistic LCD-based handhelds were available during the ‘80s, portable gaming didn’t really kick off until the release of the Nintendo Game Boy at the end of the ‘80s. It may seem like a brick by today’s standards, but back in the day it was the epitome of mobile entertainment, offering over ten hours of play from four AA batteries.

The blurry, monochrome screen put it behind rival colour handhelds like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear, but neither could match the Game Boy’s stamina. Released in the UK in September 1990 with Tetris – arguably one of the best video games of all time – Nintendo’s portable console enjoyed almost a decade of supremacy, only being usurped by its successor – the Game Boy Color – in 1998.

Sega Mega Drive (1990)

Consoles 2
The console which made gaming cool, Sega’s 16-bit Mega Drive – which found its way into Santa’s sack at the conclusion of 1990 – picked up where the Master System left off; it was packed with arcade ports of some of the company’s best games, with Golden Axe, Super Monaco GP and Alien Storm thrilling home audiences.

However, with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, the system heralded an entirely new era of greatness. For the first time, Sega had a character who was equal to Mario in terms of popularity, and the contest between these two Japanese giants would propel the industry to even greater heights. The end result was a period of amazing games.

Super Nintendo (1992)

Consoles 3
Nintendo’s challenger in the 16-bit wars, the SNES (as it was affectionately known) is surely a contender for the greatest console of all time. It showcased not just some of the finest games of its generation, but also some of the best in the history of the medium. Super Mario World, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy III, Super Mario Kart, Super Metroid, F-Zero…the list may not be endless, but it sure feels like it.

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