In the last 20 years, console gaming has evolved into a beast of epic proportions. But even before the introduction of state-of-the-art current gen consoles like Sony’s PS4 and Xbox One, we were kept entertained by some of the best consoles to have come out in the past two decades. This period witnessed a paradigm shift from cartridges to disc-based media, 2D to 3D, sprites to polygons and the arrival of online multiplayer. Below we look back at the five consoles that defined this paradigm shift…

Sega Genesis/Mega Drive

The Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis in North America) was the first major 16-bit console that took the fight to the successful Nintendo Entertainment System when it launched in 1989. By 1994, Nintendo had launched the Super NES (SNES) but Sega was defiant. According to Gamespy, the Mega Drive was the first console to feature the uncensored ‘Mortal Kombat’ with all the blood, gore and brutality it has become known for today. And how can we forget Sonic the furry and fiery hedgehog that Sega built their entire console around? Like Super Mario was for Nintendo, Sonic became Sega’s mascot and the first two ‘Sonic’ games that released went on to become bestselling titles.

Nintendo 64

Sony decided to launch an attack on the gaming industry with the introduction of the first PlayStation around 1994/95. It soon became the ‘must-have’ bestselling device on the market. What did Nintendo do? They decided to unleash the Nintendo 64 in 1996. While the PlayStation was a sturdy 32-bit machine, the Nintendo 64 was the first and only successful 64-bit console (remember the ill-fated Atari Jaguar?). There are still gamers today who will go out of their way and purchase an N64 today, just to re-live bestselling titles like ‘Mario Kart’ and the critically-acclaimed ‘Goldeneye’.

PlayStation 2

The PlayStation 2 was truly a game-changer. Upon its release in late 2000 the PS2 stopped the Sega Dreamcast dead in its tracks. By 2001, the PS2 was selling like hotcakes without a competitor in sight. This period marked the end of Sega’s hardware business and saw them shift their focus exclusively to software. Nintendo was still a year away from introducing the GameCube, while Microsoft was plotting their entry in the profitable console market with their ‘PC in a box’ – the Xbox. A decade later the PS2 is the bestselling console of all-time, as stated by TekRevue. Some of the game-changing titles to be introduced on the PS2 included ‘Grand Theft Auto Vice City’, ‘WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain’, ‘God of War II’, ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ and ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’.

Nintendo Wii

While the Nintendo GameCube was a (somewhat) decent console its successor, the Nintendo Wii, was one of the most brilliant gaming platforms to have ever released. The Wii was the best of the past and the present. It brought back the family and party-gaming era that made Nintendo a household name in the 80s and early 90s, while at the same time introducing a radical new way to experience video games. It came with an interactive ‘Wii-mote’ that could become anything from a tennis racket to a light saber. It blew its high-definition competition away upon its release in 2006. PS3 and Xbox 360 fans were left wondering how such a simple device could be so revolutionary.

Xbox 360

I think most objective gamers would agree that the Xbox 360 always had the upper hand against its arch rival the Sony PS3. Although both consoles offered equally awesome titles, Microsoft offered a better online experience. Initially introduced on the original Xbox, Xbox Live became the premier network for online gaming. The service required a paid subscription of Xbox Live Gold. Some of the best exclusives included the ‘Gears of War’ series, ‘Forza Motorsport 4’, ‘Left 4 Dead’ and ‘Halo 3’. It was not perfect as some of the first generation consoles were designed with a hardware defect that gave off the ‘Red Ring of Death’ that essentially turned your Xbox 360 into little more than a paperweight. Later in its life, Microsoft’s Kinect add-on became an instant success, introducing a new way to experience motion-controlled gaming and stealing some of the Nintendo Wii’s thunder.

These five juggernauts account for much of the best gaming hardware ever created and are worthy entries into the console hall of fame… and will forever be remembered for changing the face of gaming as we know it today!