5 Nintendo Wii
When the Wii hit the shelves just in time for the 2006 holiday season, nobody claimed it was a “serious” console for “serious” gamers—no, the Wii is about fun. The Wii’s simplified, intuitive style and unique motion-capture controls got users off the couch and moving for the first time. The system became a quick favorite of kids and adults alike who wanted to break a sweat while gaming—or break that vase on the coffee table. So what if the graphics aren’t top of the line (or even close) and the console is severely lacking in memory storage? You’ll be laughing too hard to care.
4 Sony PlayStation 3
To be fair, both Playstations that preceded the third were pretty revolutionary, and they each did their part to forever change the landscape of the video game industry. But the PS3 took things a step further, including Sony’s proprietary Blu-ray high-definition DVD technology. Toss in the PS3’s game-changing PlayStation Network and the ability to download entire games to your system without ever leaving your couch, and it almost seems unnecessary to also include downloadable content providing near-infinite expansions to your existing games—but they did that anyway. That the system has a hard drive of up to 320 GB means this is more than a simple video game system—this is a computer that’s probably faster than your desktop, and an all-in-one home-entertainment center. The rest of the industry had no choice but to play catch-up.
3 Sega Dreamcast
Although Sega stopped manufacturing Dreamcast in 2001, as of 2013 games were still being produced for the little system that could. Hailed as a revolution to the video game industry when Sega released the console in 1999, it was the first 128-bit system and the first with an integrated modem for online play. Within two weeks after it hit the shelves, Sega had already sold 500,000 of them. So what if Sega only produced this baby for two years? Third-party game developers continue to release titles for the console 15 years later, proving that the dream is still alive.
2 Nintendo Entertainment System
The NES came to the U.S. in 1985, when Atari—and the video game industry as a whole—was in a bit of a lag and starting to look like a passing fad. By the beginning of the next decade, one out of three American homes had an NES—and the other two were very good friends with the one who did. Unlike Atari, Nintendo welcomed third-party developers, paving the way for its most important contribution to video game culture: the Konami Code.
1 Atari 2600
The video game industry as you know it arguably wouldn’t exist without the Atari 2600. Released in 1977, this cartridge-based system initially faced steep competition. But in 2013, when most people have forgotten names like Intellivision and ColecoVision, they still remember Atari. The system made its mark by being quick to license games like “Space Invaders” and “Pac-Man” that were already arcade hits. Sure, Atari got a bit peeved when disgruntled former employees formed a third-party game-development company and started producing games for the system that were better than theirs. But more than 30 years later, hobbyists and retro-gamers are showing renewed interest in the vintage system that gave birth to an entire industry.