Tuesday, 23 July 2013

TOP 10 - Best Looking Games Consoles

Throughout videogame history there have been a ludicrous amount of machines released - many of which have had numerous different cosmetic revisions over their lifespan. These machines have come in all shapes and sizes - from hulking behemoths that resemble something seen on a 1960's Russian Submarine, to sleek pieces of technology that are so small you could easily lose them down the back of the sofa. We have seen consoles decked in faux-wood panelling, and ones with hardwired controllers with leads so short that the user had to have the damn thing on their lap. Some manufacturers have nailed the design of a console first time around, while others have released revised versions after listening to consumers complaints (or maybe after sobering up in some cases). 

In this list I want to take a look at the 10 consoles that are most visually appealing to me personally. The look of anything - whether it is a games console, car, meal or member of the opposite sex (or same, if that's what you are into) - is purely subjective, but these are the ones that appeal the most to me. 

So, without further ado. Here are the Top 10 best looking games machine of all time (in my humble opinion):


Sony Playstation

I absolutely adore the original Sony Playstation. It is one of my favourite consoles of all time - seeing Wipeout in action on a large flat screen TV in 1995 simply blew my mind. Games were now cool, with kickass techno and drum & bass soundtracks and 3D visuals that were completely revolutionary at the time. With such great memories of the console it may be hard to look at its physical appearance objectively as the mere sight of the grey beast fills me with joy - I can even hear the sound of the power button clicking when I think of it. I also love the tiny redesigned PSOne model that Sony released in 2000, but for me, the original machine holds so many good memories - I couldn't imagine not having it sitting under my TV, even 17 years later - that it simply has to make this list.


Nintendo 64

Nintendo's 64-bit console nearly didn't make this list, but in the end I felt it deserved to be included due to the fact it has a lot of character. While it does look a lot like a toy, it is refreshing to see a console that doesn't try so hard to look like a piece of audio or video equipment - a design choice that, more often than not, dooms a console to become extremely dated in appearance as design trends move on with the times. The N64 possesses a quirky style of its own that  screams 'fun'. Whether it is the camel hump on the front, the rounded 'feet' on the front sides, or the cutesy controller ports and buttons, there is just something about this machine that brings a smile to my face. It was also the last true cartridge based console - before everything went down the CD route - which brings a nostalgic tear to me eye. Cartridges may not have been able to store as much as CDs, but they both look, and feel, infinite better to use. For your refusal to make the switch to the fragile circular discs, Nintendo I salute you.


Sega Saturn (Japanese)

What a difference a change of colour can make. The European black Sega Saturn is an average looking machine to be honest. It is far too 'boxy' to be considered sexy, and it has a bloated appearance that make it look like a fat guy busting out of his trousers - not a good look. However, the Japanese white version of the console is so gorgeous you just want to pet it like a cute kitten. The white allows the lines on the machine to take prominence, and the grey cartridge slot and buttons look fantastic. Then you get to the pink / purple tray opening button and you are instantly won over. The far nicer Saturn logo is the icing on the cake. It is such a shame that us Westerners were never granted this beautiful console - most likely due to the Saturn taking a spanking from Sony's 32-bit competitor.


Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP

Nintendo are responsible for some great designs for their handheld consoles, yet seem completely unable to do the same with their home systems. Since the early days of the Game & Watch systems, their designs have been simple, yet effective. The flip top lid was pioneered in 1983 with the release of the Donkey Kong Game & Watch - along with the D-pad we all know and love and still use to this day. The original Gameboy console did away with the flip top lid approach - as did the follow up Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance - but Nintendo realised the error of their ways and went back to basics with the SP revision of the bulky Advance handheld. Simple, small, and with a neat flip top that made it even smaller, it was the most portable handheld console to date. There were many different cosmetic versions of the SP to chose from - from generic colours such as blue or black, to limited edition Pokemon, Mario or Zelda machines. There was even one covered in tacky tribal designs usually seen tattooed on the arms of absolute fucking imbeciles. My personal favourite, however, is the limited edition NES iteration. The NES is one of my favourite consoles of all time, but even I will admit it is an ugly brute. However, this special edition GBA is far more aesthetically pleasing. Coming in classic NES colours, with a graphic on the front replicating the grill look on the Western machine, as well as a wonderful black and red interior that mimics the look of an NES control pad, this is a must have console for fans of both the GBA and the 8-bit NES.


Atari Jaguar + Jaguar CD combo

Ok, so this is cheating a little (read - a lot) seeing as this beauty was never released. Instead, it was created by a talented guy who calls himself 10P6. I have no idea how he did this - what with being as technical minded as a chimpanzee - but you can't argue that the results are mighty impressive. This is doubly so considering that the standard Jaguar console is an ugly brute, and looks even worse with the hideous 'toilet ' CD addon stacked on top. If only Atari had launched the console as a CD machine in the first place, made it easier to develop games for, and had made a decent controller to go with it, then who knows how the Jaguar could have fared. 


Xbox 360 Slim

Put aside your inherent hatred of Microsoft (admit it) and the whole 'Red ring of death' fiasco from the original design, and you have to admit the Xbox 360 Slim is a winner in the looks department. A sleek black powerhouse with a nice glowing green power button that looks great either horizontal or vertical (check out its sexy hourglass figure). The 360 looks classy - in fact, it may even look out of place in some slobbier gamer's homes - and doesn't go for any over the top design choices that will appear dated in several years. It is a shame that Microsoft were unable to match this excellent design with their new Xbox One console (or indeed, come up with a decent name), as the 360's successor is a huge step backwards in appearance - yet another reason to keep your 360 Slim under your TV for a few more years yet.


Nintendo DSi

While many of Nintendo's handheld consoles have looked pretty neat the DSi is, by far, the best. Going back to their roots and designing the DS to look like their original Game & Watch games was a stroke of genius. While the first DS console looked a bit bulky and uncomfortable in its own skin, the DS lite improved on it ten-fold, with the DSi fine tuning the design to the best looking version of the console - the DSi XL is just a little too large to be cute (like a chubby girl who insists on wearing the same skimpy outfit as her hot friend). It is a straightforward design that works perfectly. Sleek, minimal and without any pretensions, the DSi has a retro chic about it that guarantees it will never look dated or tacky.


Sony PS3 Super Slim

Another current gen (for a short while longer anyway) console makes the list. The PS3 Super Slim (because one design revision just wasn't enough) is light years ahead of the previous iterations in the appearances deapartment. Whereas the former two designs were extremely bulky, with a nasty glossy finish (the original model), and perculiar shape (both models). The final design is not only far smaller and lighter but much easier on the eye. The curvy shape of the console and the grill panelling on the top-sliding CD tray make it look like a cross between a stasis pod on a space ship and an ashtray you would find in a car from the 1990's. In other words all kinds of awesome. Some people don't like the top loading CD mechanism, but I personally have always preferred this method over the bullshit slot method - which to me, always feels like posting the CD through a ludicrously tight letterbox. The minimal use of the Sony logo on the thin front, as well as the neat PS3 logo on the CD tray, seal the deal.


Neo Geo AGS

Having not being born into royalty, I was never able to afford a Neo Geo console. In fact, I never even wanted one as I have never been a fan of SNK's fighting games - which, at the time, seemed to be all that this bizarrely named and hideously overpriced console had to offer. I remember seeing how much the games cost in CvG magazine back in the day, and - after I had gotten up off the floor - dismissed the machine forever. I have seen one in the flesh however, so can definitely attest to the fact that the Neo Geo AGS is a beautiful thing to behold. The enormous cartridge slot gives it the appearance of being a powerthouse (size matters - despite what the ladies might tell you), and the bulky reset button, and neat lines that run down the front of the machine either side of the logo give it an air of class - which you would expect at the prices they were asking for it. There is even a new console available for fans with more money than sense in the form of the Neo Geo X Gold.

Drum roll....


Sega Mega Drive (Mark 1)

Forget the hideous cheapo revised versions Sega created to cut costs, the original Mark 1 Mega Drive is a total badboy in the looks department. It's hard to choose between the Japanese original - which features red colouring around the circular mid-section and a blue reset button - and the more reserved look of the European console. But I have to go with the one I grew up with as it still fills me with a giddy sense of nostalgia just to gaze upon it. The white buttons and more reserved use of the golden 16-bit emblazoned on the front give it a slightly classier look over its Eastern brother. However, kudos to Sega of Japan for having the balls to write, the rather obscure, 'AV Intelligent Terminal - High Grade Multipurpose Use' on the front. The American Genesis console is less impressive as the terrible 'Genesis' logo on the front completely spoils the look of the machine - at least they managed to refrain from using the laughable 'blast processing' term on the front of the console, opting instead for 'high definition graphics'.

Every gamer should own a Mega Drive, not just to admire its awesome looks, but to enjoy its amazing library of games.  Sega's 16-bit machine is, without a doubt, my favourite looking console of all time. 

The Japanese Mega Drive - notice the huge '16-bit' tag on the front.. just in case you weren't sure how powerful this machine was.

The Mega Drive is so awesome it even manages to make 
the Mega CD look good!

Honourable Mentions :

These are the machines that almost made my top 10.

This revised edition of the Playstation console arrived as late as 2000 - in which it managed to outsell Sony's new PS2 console. It is absolutely tiny, and very sleek in design. It is missing a reset button and is slightly childish in appearance, but there is no denying that it is a nice looking piece of gear. 

PC Engine

This Japanese console from NEC deserves a mention purely based on its absolutely diminutive size. It is a simple design that manages to resemble both a toy and a high end piece of electronic equipment. The HUcard reader on the front is a nice touch too.

Nintendo Wii

The third tiny console in this honourable mentions list. The Wii is essentially a more modern take on what NEC were going with in the late 1980's with the PC Engine. The Wii is incredibly simple, yet extremely elegant. Everything on it, from the front loading CD slot, to the liftable panels that reveals Gamecube controller ports and SD card slots, is exceptionally neat and easy to find. It looks great lying horizontal, or set up on its grey upright stand. The Wii's sucessor, the Wii-U, is also a wonderfully designed console that is perhaps even nicer than the original Wii.

Sega WonderMega / X'Eye

A console that combined the Mega Drive and Mega CD (or Genesis and Sega CD if you live in the USA), the WonderMega was not a huge seller due to its late arrival, forthcoming competition and high asking price. There are also several versions of the machine, all with very different designs. The original WonderMega was actually made by JV / Victor and looks like a weapon from Gears of War spliced with a Star Trek space ship. It also has some awesome lighting around the CD part that give it a cool futuristic vibe when being used (with the lights off).

Sega's version of the WonderMega

Sega then released their own version of the WonderMega, which is probably the nicer looking of the two machines due to having less clutter on the front under the WonderMega lettering.

Victor / JVC then released a revised (read, cheaper) model of the console that dropped MIDI support and moved the controller ports to the back - replacing them with an infrared sensor for the included wireless controllers. This second model was extremely lightweight, and very slim too. The curves and lines adorning the top make it extremely appealing to look at, despite the infrared panel making it look like a Sky Freeview box.

JVC / Victor's second (M2) WonderMega console

The M2 was renamed the X'Eye and released in the USA in 1994. It replaced S-Video with AV, and got rid of the infrared panel - putting the controller ports back on the front where they belong. This is the best looking iteration of the WonderMega in my opinion.

JVC's X'Eye

So there you have it, my favourite looking games machines. Whilst looking through photographs of many other machines, I spotted some truly hideous looking consoles - crimes against design and good taste. So, in the name of balance I think I will take a look at the Top 10 worst looking consoles ever made. It gives me a chance to really let rip  with the sarcasm and venomous comments which, let's all admit, is the real reason people read anything on the internet anyway.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Top 10 Worst Looking Games Consoles - coming soon!

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