National Video Game Day happens on July 8th of this year. The video game console is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The history of the console is separated into 9 different generations that are each unique and helped bring the console to what it is today in 2022.
1st Generation (1972-1978)
Beginning in 1972, this generation set the floor plan for future generations. This period included the very first video game console in the Magnavox Odyssey. One of the pieces from these consoles that are still relevant today is the detachable controllers. The most prominent game of this generation was Pong. Some other consoles include Home Pong released by Atari and the Coleco Telstar series.
2nd Generation (1976-1984)
This second generation was able to utilize the previous generation’s strengths and advance on two specific factors. First, the microprocessors became much cheaper during this period and game developers were able to use this to their advantage. Second, this was the first set of consoles to put games on cartridges instead of on the console’s hardware. This generation was dominated by Atari due to their ownership of most of the popular arcade game franchises during this time, but another popular console was the Fairchild Channel F.
3rd Generation (1983-1991)
HELLO SEGA AND NINTENDO! This generation catapulted these two companies to the forefront with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and multiple Sega consoles including Sega Master System and Sega Mark III. This generation brought many of the largest producing game franchises including Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Legend of Zelda. The latter becoming the first game to include the capability of saving games onto game cartridges.
4th Generation (1987-1996)
Gaming on the Go arrives in this generation! With the introduction of the Game Boy, consoles are now smaller and can be easily transported as you travel. In addition to the handheld console, 16-bit systems like Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis were introduced here. Sega and Nintendo were the top companies for consoles during this time. Two of the most popular game series were introduced in this period with Super Mario Kart and the Pokemon franchise with their Red and Blue games. Some popular franchises such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros, and The Legend of Zelda released new games within this time as well.
5th Generation (1993-2001)
This generation introduces Sony as a new competitor with the PlayStation, or PS1. This generation was primarily dominated by Sony and Nintendo with Sega starting to fall a little behind. There was a drastic change away from cartridges to disks for games. This provided more storage space, cheaper manufacturing of the games, and provided more detail gaming with this upgrade. Nintendo brought the Nintendo 64 and an update to their previous handheld console with the Game Boy Color. Some notable games are GoldenEye 007, Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal, and Super Smash Bros for Nintendo, and Final Fantasy VII, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Crash Bandicoot for Sony/PlayStation.
6th Generation (1998-2006)
Moving to the internet! Sony continues its dominance with the release of the PlayStation 2, or PS2. Another new competitor enters the market with Microsoft introducing its XBOX. Both consoles provide online gaming opportunities. Nintendo releases the GameCube which does not do as well as Sony or Microsoft, but they solidify themselves as the handheld leader with the Game Boy Advance. This console was the first handheld with a backlit screen for better graphics. This generation includes the final console release for Sega with their Dreamcast. Notable games include God of War and Kingdom Hearts for PS2, Halo and Fable for XBOX, and Animal Crossing and Super Smash Bros: Melee for GameCube.
7th Generation (2004-2014)
Get off the couch and get moving! With Nintendo releasing the Wii during this generation, consoles introduced motion-based gaming with incredible success. The Wii dominated this generation with its innovative and unique style. This also solidified Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft as the leaders within the console market. Sony released PlayStation 3 (PS3) and Microsoft released the XBOX 360. Sony also tried to compete with Nintendo for handheld consoles with the PlayStation Portable (PSP), but it did not reach the heights of Nintendo DS. Some notable games were The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Bioshock for XBOX 360, The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, and Dark Souls for PlayStation 3, and the Wii Fit, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Wii Sports Resort for the Wii.
8th Generation (2011-Present)
With the rise of mobile games, Nintendo released the Switch as the first hybrid console as a handheld, tabletop, and TV mode. The Switch dominated the latter part of this generation, while the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the XBOX One dominated the early portion. All these consoles became some of the best-selling consoles in history. In addition to these consoles, Nintendo released the 3DS with moderate success for their handheld early in this generation and Nintendo Wii U which did not fare as well. Sony also continued their attempt at handhelds with the PlayStation Vita that could not compete as well with Nintendo. Some notable games were Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, and Persona 5 for PS4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Star Wars: Fallen Order for XBOX One, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch.
9th Generation (2020-Present)
The current generation has only had 2 consoles released with the PlayStation 5 and the XBOX Series S/X. The most drastic changes with this generation were a redesign of the classic consoles for these companies. The design has stayed relatively similar throughout the last few releases and with the addition of the solid-state drive for their hardware, a redesign was needed. This new drive provides faster computation and larger storage.
To learn even more:
What Are the 9 Video Game Generations?, opens a new window
Nine Video Game Generations Explained, opens a new window
VG Legacy: Console Generations, opens a new window
Go out and celebrate National Video Game Day by picking up your favorite console and enjoy either a classic game you’ve played before or a game that is completely new to you!