Making the Case: The Best Game Console of All Time

Key Points

  • The debate about the best game console of all time needs better criteria, and best-selling doesn't mean the best console.

  • Video game consoles have evolved over the years because of market trends and game demands. 

  • Sales, games, and influence all matter when considering the best game console of all time.

The release of new products every few years fuels the debate surrounding the best game console of all time, and HaloHype’s list settles that debate. Gaming has left its infancy of arcade cabinets and Pong and now churns profits that often beat Hollywood’s biggest movies.

In 1988, it was Nintendo vs. Sega. The mid-to-late '90s saw Sony displace Sega and vie for the top spot with the PlayStation 2 (PS2). Sony’s two latest consoles have outsold Microsoft because of incredible exclusive games. Today, the best game console of all time debate features plenty of household names.

Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo each claim to be the best on the market based on specs, sales, games, or characters. These brands also boast their influence on the video game medium. This list reflects stats as of March 2023 and does not include the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 (PS5) because they were just released in 2020. It’s time to discuss the greatest and best-selling consoles ever.

The Best-Selling Game Consoles of All Time

Video game consoles often sell units in the tens of millions, meaning billions of players have experienced games on their dedicated platform. According to Statista, "Revenue in the Video Games segment is projected to reach US$372.00bn in 2023, […] and the number of users is expected to amount to 3.04bn users by 2027."

Video games are here to stay, and these are the 10 consoles with the most units sold — official numbers provided by VGChartz, Sony, and Nintendo

The games and experiences aren’t always created equal, but a medium that is as beloved and debated as playing a video game is worth celebrating. Pat yourself on the back for having played some of these consoles. 

10. Game Boy Advance (GBA): 81.51 million units

The GBA is the first example on this list of Nintendo’s iron fist on the handheld market, which — spoilers — continued for decades.

First released in 2001, the GBA is unabashedly full of life with critically acclaimed 2D platformers, ports of classic Super Nintendo games, and a home for struggling Sega titles as the company started to go under.

It’s an excellent snapshot into Nintendo’s history with handhelds and remains a launching pad for their future systems.  

Game Boy Advance

9. Xbox 360: 85.73 million units

This generation of Xbox vs. PlayStation is the closest it's ever been, and for good reason. The 360’s success is its dominance in North American markets. While the 360 is the best-selling in its family of consoles in Japan, local systems like Nintendo and Sony expect to dominate.

Why did the 360 sell so well? Spoiler: a little series called Halo. The Xbox 360 deserved every box sold just on those games alone.

8. PlayStation 3 (PS3): 87.4 million units

Funnily enough, this generation is one of the darker eras in Sony’s console history. However, some incredible titles launched on PS3 despite being a ding on PlayStation’s reputation. Metal Gear Solid 4, Naughty Dog’s series debut of Uncharted and The Last of Us, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, and LittleBigPlanet stand the test of time.

For what Game Lite Chronicles described as “a fantastic and affordable Blu-ray player” with “disappointing” exclusive games at launch, worse things have happened. 

7. Wii: 101.63 million units

Nintendo’s Wii is one of those consoles you had to be there for; its appeal drew players on either side of the Xbox vs. PlayStation frontlines. Players and families frequently mocked the motion controls and exclusives but loved them nonetheless. It’s no wonder why it took off the way it did. 

Nintendo Wii controller

6. PlayStation (PS1): 102.49 million units

Released in 2000, PlayStation competed with the Nintendo 64 (N64) and the Sega Saturn. Unfortunately for the latter two, the PS1 offered a low retail price and appealed to youth more than the kiddie and family-friendly aesthetics of the N64.

The acclaim surrounding this console made it the first entertainment platform like it to sell over 100 million units and spawned the first real competitor to Nintendo’s dominance of the home console market. 

5. PlayStation 4 (PS4): 117.2 million units

After a disappointing PS3 run, the PS4 was a return to form for Sony. It also benefited from the absurd Xbox One pricing ($500 compared to PS4’s $400) and extraordinary exclusive games while Xbox’s in-game studios struggled.

Sony reclaimed their role as the most demanded console on the market. For many, it was the first PlayStation they'd ever purchased, and it’s not hard to understand why. 

4. Game Boy & Game Boy Color (GBC): 118.69 million units

The combined release of the Game Boy in 1989 and the GBC in 1998 is a force to reckon with. The argument for combined sales figures is that very little changed regarding hardware between additions.

Ports of classic Super Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, and Final Fantasy sold well. What moved the Game Boy is one of the world's most culturally relevant brands — Pokémon. The rest is history. 

3. Nintendo Switch: 122.55 million units

As the only console in the top five still selling — like hotcakes, frankly — as of March 2023, the Nintendo Switch had the cards stacked against it. Years of irrelevance plagued Nintendo with an underperforming Wii U, mirroring Sega’s decline. The must-play games now exclusively feature on other consoles, even with its cast of household names like Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong.

The Switch has decimated the competition by offering what Nintendo does best: exclusive, characterized, couch-play mania that serves as a nice break from the shooter and single-player madness of the PlayStation and Xbox console war. 

2. Nintendo DS: 154 million units

You’re probably sensing a trend here, but Nintendo controls the handheld market. Sony tried breaking in with their own portable, the PSP. Valve released the highly coveted SteamDeck in 2022.

The Nintendo DS's success is due to its price point, stylus games, and broad appeal. Players had access to titles like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II for crying out loud. It finds a nice spot as a secondary console, and in this market, where Sony, Xbox, and even PC players are vying to be the top choice, Nintendo serves as the handheld with virtually no competition.  

1. PS2: 155 million units

The PS2 sits atop the sales charts, and it’s clear why. It simply had the most games that players wanted and couldn’t get enough of. Its formidable exclusives bolstered sales, and the console remains one of the best to hit the market.

PlayStation 2 game console

Making the Case: The Greatest Box To Own the Couch

HaloHype deliberated and honed a list of the 10 greatest game consoles ever. The criteria for what makes a console the best remains contested among players, but in this case, judging takes place through these three lenses: 

  • Sales figures: Money isn’t everything, but it sure is something. 

  • Games: The bread and butter of any console are the available games. 

  • Influence: What influences still hold from its release to the gaming landscape in 2023?

Each console's legacy is a balance of the above criteria. While the PS2 and Nintendo DS lead sales figures, that doesn't necessarily guarantee a top spot. If you disagree with this list, let the writers at HaloHype know! 

Honorable Mentions

Not every console makes the cut for the top 10, but the following two consoles are still worth discussing.

Sega Genesis

Sega broke into games in 1989 with this sturdy console as a grittier alternative for the family-centered fun of their Japanese neighbors at Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog and Earthworm Jim opened up the scope of what video games could become.

While Nintendo eventually won this battle and absorbed Sega in 2001, this console’s legacy and influence stand today. Nintendo made a catalog of Genesis games available through the Nintendo Switch Online service.

Nintendo GameCube

While it didn’t shine in sales numbers, and many of its games are zany, the GameCube remains an integral part of Nintendo’s history. Its instantly recognizable boot-up sound puts it on the list!

Despite mixed initial responses, games like Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker grew into beloved entries.

However, the greatest titles on GameCube go toe-to-toe with Nintendo’s decorated catalog. You remember Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metroid Prime, and Luigi’s Mansion, and you’ve played Mario Kart: Double Dash.

For these entries alone — and the grassroots fanbases supporting these titles for over 20 years — the GameCube earns its keep.

The Best Game Consoles of All Time

No more beating around the bush. These are the top 10 consoles, according to HaloHype. 

10. Xbox 360

It was a close call between this console and the original Xbox, but the favor goes to the first console. The 360’s legacy extends beyond being the best-selling Xbox ever into one of incredible online multiplayer and industry-topping performance.

It popularized game achievement awards and cross-game chats that built online communities. While the PlayStation also had top sellers like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the Battlefield series, the Xbox 360 had the one thing the rest of the industry didn’t — Halo.

Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach sold the console, especially when Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 were cross-compatible. However, Halo 3 brought in an absurd amount of players. As a result, the 360 became one of gaming’s go-to consoles for most North American players. This generation of Halo — the golden years — is essentially the reason the 360 culturally dethroned PlayStation.

After Bungie departed Microsoft and released Destiny in 2014 under Activision, Xbox struggled to move its next console, the Xbox One. More players were playing Bungie’s titles on older hardware than on Microsoft’s latest box. In short, when Halo thrives, Xbox thrives. The 360 remains one of the best consoles ever and settles nicely at spot No. 10.

Xbox 360 game console

9. Nintendo Wii

Nintendo learned a lot of lessons from the GameCube, mainly the fun little mini-disks that led to development restrictions. The Wii featured proper disks, but it excelled in family appeal. 

If you haven’t seen the ads with the slogan “Wii would like to play,” you’re doing yourself a disservice. People might complain about the motion controls in some games, but what is more likely is that they don’t say much when they’re playing something as memorable as Wii Sports. That title sold almost 83 million alone — meaning that if you had a Wii, you had Wii Sports.

The Wii's impact doesn’t stop there. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are excellent platformers, and Xenoblade Chronicles got its start here. The Legend of Zelda released multiple games on this console.

It also had the mainstream appeal of the time with rhythm game presence with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The Miis popularized profile avatars that players absolutely loved. For its cultural staying power, the Wii lands nicely at No. 9.

8. Xbox

The Xbox was an excellent experiment burgeoned by a faceless man in green armor. It began as a failed pitch to Nintendo — which Nintendo execs laughed out of the room. Xbox surged onto the scene due to one game available on launch, and its name is Halo: Combat Evolved

The story doesn’t stop there, however. The Xbox held several other exclusives that drew players in, including Star Wars titles that didn’t see a PlayStation release — namely Republic Commando, Knights of the Old Republic, and the Jedi Knight series.

Xbox Live was where the console excelled most. Bolstered by the release of Halo 2, it brought network play to consoles and changed everything. The console felt fresh, revolutionized online play, and was a monumental gaming achievement.

The jet-black casing with that satisfying shade of emerald is one of the most recognizable game brands ever, and it’s no wonder why critics and fans herald this Xbox as Microsoft’s best.  

7. PS1

Sony’s first console is also the first into 3D technology and the first to truly tap into CD-ROM capabilities. What also started as a failed venture with Nintendo ballooned to selling over 100 million units, catapulting Sony to the forefront of the video game console market.

Powerhouse exclusives like platformers Crash Bandicoot and Spyro and action-adventure classics like Tomb Raider and Metal Gear solidified Sony’s foothold. Its superior technology also helped Sony poach Final Fantasy VII from Nintendo.  

The gray console is uninspiring to some, but to others, it’s a snapshot into the mid-90s. With one of the most iconic startup noises ever, it appealed to the console players who wanted something more mature than what Nintendo and Sega offered. 

Overall, the PS1 remains a special time capsule of console gaming. It signified things were about to get far more competitive, and 3D graphics weren’t just a fad but the future. 

6. Super Nintendo (SNES)

This placement might surprise younger readers, but the SNES is the peak of 16-bit graphics and pixelated design, an art style indie developers in 2023 still look to for creative inspiration. In short, this console has a ridiculous amount of groundbreaking games.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past created the “Zelda formula” of action-adventure, dungeon-crawling, puzzle-solving that every sequel has replicated. Donkey Kong Country has the greatest soundtrack ever, written by the exemplary David Wise. Super Metroid remains a holy text for Metroidvania backtracking, and Super Mario World rewrote the capabilities of platforming games.

The SNES’s archive spawned genres that endure today. Its games comprise a sizable portion of the Nintendo Switch Online retro catalog, frequently referenced for new game creation. To some, the SNES is Nintendo’s golden age.

5. PS4

The PS4 smashed the Xbox One. It reasserted Sony’s place as king of consoles and hit hard and fast with likely the best exclusives the console series has ever had.

The God of War reboot, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Death Stranding, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part II display the power that PS4 held over gamer brains.

The best and the brightest developed the PS4, and there weren’t enough reasons to get an Xbox beyond The Master Chief Collection. Many Xbox players jumped ship for PS4, and the reason is obvious. 

4. Nintendo Switch 

The Wii U did a number on the Nintendo brand. Even the biggest fans realized the console didn't have enough to bring in more players. Nintendo’s next release had to be good, or it was the possible end for the video game juggernaut.

These doubts didn’t last long. The Nintendo Switch — as the name implies — implemented hybrid technology, functioning as a TV console that also played as a handheld. It’s not a gimmick; it’s incredible.

Critics and players alike laud The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as among the greatest ever across any console or genre. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has every character and map the immensely popular series has ever seen. Super Mario Odyssey is second only to Super Mario 64 as the greatest 3D platformer ever and should receive a sequel, stat! Metroid Dread follows in the footsteps of Metroidvanias that came before, bringing in new players in emphatic droves.

The future is bright, and if Nintendo is smart, they'll release a Switch every few years with updated hardware and new games. This console design is unlikely to ever be beaten.

Nintendo Switch game console

3. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Being the first gets you certain privileges but also a great deal of scrutiny. The NES is the little guy who made console gaming a viable home entertainment staple. The video game crash of 1983 seemed like the end, and from the ashes rose Nintendo gaming.

You know the series that got their start here: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., and Metroid. Classics originated here and still endure today, driving the game box office, inspiring creators, and infuriating competitors. This console is the granddaddy. Without it, home game consoles don’t exist.

2. PS2

Sony’s greatest console arrived at a perfect time — and with So. Many. Games. It was the artists’ destination, with titles like Grand Theft Auto, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, Ico, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater showcasing the box’s cultural staying power. 

The PS2 remains the top-selling console ever, and the Nintendo Switch is the only console actively selling with a (semi) realistic chance to catch it. For that alone, the PS2 has earned its spot as the second-best console ever made.

1. Nintendo 64 (N64)

Few consoles have such a grand, sweeping influence on the medium, and the N64 remains underrated.

Clunky controllers aside — a three-gripped controller sounds like a paralysis demon of a Dark Souls player — the N64 showcased the power of polygonal graphics while enriching Nintendo’s impact beyond the second dimension and into 3D gaming with 64-bit technology.

The console casing remains unparalleled. You could drop a fridge on this thing and it still works. There are so many incredibly satisfying colored and partnered variants for any avid collector.

Nintendo brought out the big guns with four controller ports, positioning the N64 as the console for multiplayer games. If you had friends over, you had Super Smash Bros., Mario Party 3, and GoldenEye 007 on standby. Couch multiplayer is a lost art, but Nintendo has repeatedly fought for the hilarity and joy of playing with your friends in the same room. This tradition is perfectly encapsulated by the Nintendo 64.

The biggest reason the N64 tops the charts is the two seismic titles that remain among the most beloved ever: Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Players and creators alike acknowledge the influences and reach these titles continue to have today. Because of them alone, the N64 has aged gracefully like all true works of art.

Nintendo 64 video game console

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