The road to modern videogames is littered with the corpses of noble game consoles who flew too high to the sun.
Here are the 10 best under-achievers of all-time:
Forget a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or Wii - the Commodore 64 was literally the first living-room computer. At one point, the TV-enabled desktop held 40% share of the PC market, more than IBM and Apple. But it also doubled as a nifty game console, so much in fact that its library and third-party support rivaled that of the NES at one time, this despite being released three years earlier. Good times!
Must-play games: Boulderdash, Defender of the Crown, Impossible Mission, Hardball, Ghosts & Goblins, Commando, Spy Hunter, Mrs. Pacman, Donkey Kong
Though the short-lived Saturn would mark the beginning of Sega's hardware downfall, it was the system of choice for arcade junkies hoping to play Sega's stellar first-party efforts at home. It was also the first fifth-generation console to introduce gamers to true 32-bit graphics. While lacking the third-party support that both the PlayStation and N64 enjoyed, it was an imaginative system all the same.
Must-play games: Daytona USA, Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter, Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon, Nights
Sadly, the TurboGrafx-16 was a victim of poor localization. Despite boasting an eclectic, innovative, and well-received library of games, the system failed to appeal to Americans due to non-existent marketing efforts and sky-high pricing. Nevertheless, the TurboGrafx-16 was the first console in North America to play CD-based games (peripheral required) and is currently one of the most downloaded platforms on the Virtual Console, suggesting that it was anything but the games that doomed the system upon original release.
Fact: the Game Gear remains the longest-supported handheld console not made by Nintendo. The reason: it was the first handheld to popularize color graphics on the go with a sweet little game library to boot -- in some ways, it was a 890's version of the PSP. The not-so-portable bulky design and wretched battery life kept the Game Gear from achieving true greatness, but whenever the charger was used, you had yourself a make-shift console while mom and dad commandeered the TV.
Must-play games: Sonic the Hedgehog (1&2), Mortal Kombat II, Micro Machines, Sensible Soccer, Columns, Streets of Rage
The NES 2 makes our list for one freaking reason: the delicious "dog bone" controllers, which make the original NES pads feel as ergonomic as sharpened bricks. The console itself, while sexier than the beloved toaster version, lacked RCA output and suffered from some graphical glitches due to wobbly cartridges. Still, when it comes to playing retail NES titles, you can't beat the dog bone. It's that good.
Must-play games: N/A
Sega Master System:
Released in 1986, a year after the NES, Sega's first home console would go on to sell more systems than either the Saturn or Dreamcast, but it would finish a distant second when compared to Nintendo's 8-bit victor. Still, the Master System enjoyed a decade of life in remote areas of the world thanks to several classics. Though largely forgotten, the Master System would lay the groundwork for the lovable Genesis.
Must-play games: Wonderboy, Shinobi, Alex Kidd (the system's unofficial mascot), Phantasy Star, Golden Axe Warrior, and even Street Fighter II (Who knew?)
When you get your trash handed to you by a worthy opponent (Hi, DS!), surely you're a gaming failure, right? Wrong. Despite trailing the DS in total games, mindshare, and sales, the PSP is the most successful handheld not manufactured by Nintendo thanks to its ginormous screen, multimedia extendibility (read: MP3s, videos, and photos), and improving game library which consists of quirky originals, hardcore favorites, and PS2-like ports.
Must-play games: ROM emulators, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, LocoRoco, Patapon, God of War: Chains of Olympus
While the NES gets all the retro love, it was actually the Atari 2600 that popularized modern home consoles. Its notable contributions to gaming included an iconic joystick (with just one button!), faithful ports of white-hot arcade sensations like Space Invaders and Pong, and the creation of mega-hit publisher Activision, formed by a gang of disgruntled ex-Atari employees. Looking past the vast amount of shovelware games (which the 2600 largely invented), it's no coincidence theVCS (Video Computer System) remains the longest-lived console in U.S. history with more than 14 years of official support.
Must-play games: Pong, Space Invaders, Pitfall, Adventure, Breakout, Yars' Revenge, and a whole lot more (but beware of crap)
The GameCube is the worst-selling Nintendo system in history, save only the embarrassing Virtual Boy. Its casting was distressingly plastered in purple (a look that discouraged older gamers from buying), it suffered from a devastating year-long release drought, and it lacked some much-needed third-party support when compared to PS2 and Xbox. Even so, the GameCube served up some of the best first-party games of any Nintendo platform, SNES and N64 included, and was grossly underappreciated.
Must-play games: Eternal Darkness, Cellda, Metroid Prime, Super Paper Mario, Pikmin, Smash Bros. Melee, Resident Evil 4
Sega left the hardware business with an influential bang in 2001, only two years after the release of the cherished Dreamcast. In spite of its brief shelf life, the Dreamcast yielded both offbeat and familiar game favorites in copious quantities. It also introduced console piracy with easy-to-copy discs (a factor that added to its cult following), and it paved the way for online console gaming (via built-in modem and optional Ethernet connector). Even to this day, the Dreamcast is a delight to play -- easily the most underrated console of all-time.
Must-play games: Jet Grind Radio, Crazy Taxi, Ikaruga, Power Stone, Samba de Amigo, Virtua Tennis, Shenmue, Phantasy Star Online, 2K Sports, MDK II