Since the appearance of the first video game console–the Magnavox Odyssey–in 1972, dozens of companies have tried their hands at crafting successful and lucrative game platforms. Each new machine brought with it the promise of a compelling, novel gaming experience, but the vast majority failed miserably to deliver. For every blockbuster like the NES, the Atari 2600, or the Sony PlayStation, there are a bunch of duds that never made it far in the marketplace. And for good reasons: Some of the consoles I’ve listed here were ridiculously overpriced, some were woefully underpowered, some worked only with a stable of pathetically bad games. And a special few possessed every one of those characteristics.
I don’t want to be uncharitable, though. Even the worst console here had at least one redeeming quality (well, maybe not the RCA Studio II), so I’ve tried to point out the bright spots in this otherwise dark and melancholy history.
(Note: For this list, I’ve only considered video game “systems,” which I define as platforms designed to play many different interchangeable games.)
Interested in more historical appraisals of game consoles? Check out “A Brief History of Game Consoles, as Seen in Old TV Ads.” And while you’re at it, take a look at “The Goofiest Game Gear Ever Made.”