Best Consoles of the 1990s

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The 1990s was a golden era for video game consoles, with a number of iconic systems hitting the market and revolutionising the gaming industry. Here’s a guide to some of the best consoles from this memorable decade.

1. Sega Mega Drive (known as Sega Genesis in North America)

Sega Mega Drive

I am including the Sega Mega Drive, even though it was released at the end of 1988 in Japan. Sega announced a North American release date for the system on January 9, 1989 then the European PAL version of the Mega Drive launched in 1990.

It is too iconic not to include on the list.

The Mega Drive was Sega’s third console and the successor to the Master System. It was the first of its kind to achieve significant success in Europe and North America. The Mega Drive was known for its superior graphics and sound, and it was the birthplace of iconic franchises like ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’.

Best Selling Game

Sonic the Hedgehog with approximately 15 million copies sold. Like “Super Mario World”, this game was often bundled with the console.

2. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Launched in 1990, the SNES was Nintendo‘s response to the 16-bit era of gaming. It was a powerhouse of a console, boasting impressive graphics and sound capabilities for the time. The SNES was home to a number of classic games, including ‘Super Mario World’, ‘The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’, and ‘Donkey Kong Country’. Its innovative controller design, featuring the now-standard diamond button layout, also set the standard for future consoles.

Best Selling Game

Super Mario World, with over 20.6 million copies sold. This game was bundled with the console in many regions, which significantly boosted its sales.

3. Sony PlayStation

Sony PlayStation

The Sony PlayStation, launched in 1994, marked Sony’s entry into the console market. It was the first console to sell over 100 million units, and it introduced 3D graphics to the mainstream. The PlayStation was home to a number of iconic games, including ‘Final Fantasy VII’, ‘Metal Gear Solid’, and ‘Resident Evil’.

Best Selling Game

Gran Turismo with approximately 10.85 million copies sold. This racing game was a huge hit and helped to popularize the genre.

4. Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64

Released in 1996, the Nintendo 64 was one of the first gaming consoles to offer 64-bit graphics. It was also the first to feature a controller with an analogue stick, which greatly improved 3D navigation. The N64 was home to classics like ‘Super Mario 64’, ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’, and ‘GoldenEye 007’.

Best Selling Game

Super Mario 64 with approximately 11.91 million copies sold. As the first 3D game in the Mario series, it was a major selling point for the console.

5. Sega Saturn

Sega Saturn Console Set Mk1

The Sega Saturn, launched in 1994, was Sega’s entry into the 32-bit era. While it didn’t achieve the same level of commercial success as its competitors, the Saturn was praised for its hardware capabilities and has a cult following among retro gamers. It was home to games like ‘Panzer Dragoon Saga’ and ‘Nights into Dreams’.

Best Selling Game

Virtua Fighter 2 with approximately 1.7 million copies sold. This was one of the most popular games on the Saturn and helped to establish 3D fighting games as a major genre.

6. Game Boy Colour

Game Boy Colour

The Game Boy Colour, released in 1998, was a major upgrade from the original Game Boy. It featured a colour screen and was backwards compatible with all Game Boy games. The Game Boy Color was home to games like ‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Seasons’.

Each of these consoles brought something unique to the table, and they all played a significant role in shaping the video game industry as we know it today. Whether you’re a retro gaming enthusiast or a newcomer to the scene, these consoles offer a glimpse into the rich history of video gaming.

Best Selling Game

Pokémon Gold and Silver with approximately 23.1 million copies sold. The Pokémon series was incredibly popular on the Game Boy systems, and these games were some of the best-selling of the decade.

Best Selling Consoles of the 1990s

Defining the best console of the 90s is highly subjective, I’d have gone for the SNES or PlayStation.

However, if we look at the sales then the order is a bit different:

  1. Sony PlayStation (1994) – Approximately 102 million units sold.
  2. Game Boy Colour (1998) – Approximately 118.69 million units sold (this figure includes the original Game Boy sales as well).
  3. Nintendo 64 (1996) – Approximately 32.93 million units sold.
  4. Sega Saturn (1994) – Approximately 9.26 million units sold.
  5. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) (1990) – Approximately 49.1 million units sold.
  6. Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (1988) – Approximately 30.75 million units sold. (Although it was launched in the late 1980s, its sales continued well into the 1990s, so it’s often associated with that decade.)

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