The Gaming Console Timeline

Experience the Evolution of Gaming Consoles from the Beginning

Play through over five decades of home and portable gaming consoles where you’ll experience the complete timeline of mainstream video game consoles in the living room with a variety of titles that highlight the major titles and deep cuts of each platform.

From early PONG clones to the advent of Atari, to the Nintendo vs Sega 16-bit wars and the rise of Playstation and XBOX, players will gain an appreciation for how gaming became a major part of our daily lives and a permanent place in our homes.

1972 - Magnavox Odyssey
The Magnavox Odyssey is the root for where all home consoles begin. The first commercial home video game console released, The Magnavox Odyssey was designed by a team led by the "Father of video games," and was capable of displaying three square dots and one line of in monochrome black and white. In essence PONG. Nonetheless, if not for The Magnavox Odyssey, gaming home consoles may have never existed if not for its release.
1975 - Atari Home Pong
What is left to say about the game that kicked off a medium. Atari brought the arcade experience home with their PONG Home series of hardware which simply only played PONG. While it was not the first console to bring this experience home (that honor goes to the Magnavox Odyssey), it was the first platform to push Atari as a household name.
1976 - Fairchild Channel F
The first system to use swappable cartridges, The Fairchild Channel F was a groundbreaking platform that opened the door for console lifespans to extend for years. Centered around an Intel 8080 microprocessor and interchangeable circuit boards, lead engineer Jerry Lawson championed the platform for Fairchild to license the technology. While only a small officially-released library had existed for the platform, homebrew development continues to this day with the release of The Arlasoft Collection in 2022, highlighting the significance of the platform's contribution to gaming history for allowing future software additions.
1977 - Atari 2600

Atari 2600 at LI Retro Console Timeline Exhibit

The first true leading game platform, The Atari 2600 made Atari a staple in the living room. While not the first, the 2600 made swappable cartridges the norm and the concept of developing an expanding software library based on one microprocessor-based platform. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Asteroids could now all be playable right at home thanks to the 2600.

1976 - Coleco Telstar

The Coleco Telstar was the first series of game consoles to solidify game consoles' place in the living room. Produced from 1976 to 1978, the Coleco Telstar initially launched with built-in games of hockey, handball, and tennis.

1979 - Intellivision
One of the greatest consoles of all time, Mattel's Intellivision was the first true challenger to pose a legitimate threat to dethrone Atari's dominance. Having richer graphics and more complex gameplay compared to the competition, the Intellivision hosted amazing ports of the most popular arcade games of the era including BurgerTime, Dig Dug, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, and even an NFL game, one of the first instances of a licensed sports game.
1982 - ColecoVision
Based around a Zilog Z80 CPU, the ColecoVision would become one of the recognizable consoles of the early 80s. Having slightly more impressive graphical capabilities than the competing Atari 2600, the ColecoVision provided exceptional ports of the arcade classics of the era including first home version of Nintendo's Donkey Kong and Sega's Zaxxon. More notable on the ColecoVision was its offering of arcade ports of lesser known titles Lady Bug, Cosmic Avenger, and Venture that would be less easier to come by on other subsequent platforms.
1985 - Nintendo Entertainment System

The NES at LI Retro's Timeline of Consoles Exhibit
The NES is the platform that single-handedly saved the gaming industry while simultaneously making video games a pop-cultural zeitgeist. While indeed the NES introduced the world to most of the modern concepts of gaming we're more familiar today such as 2-D platformers, RPGs, and adventure games, the Nintendo Entertainment System's place in history is more for its means of getting videogames accepted into the mainstream. Super Mario Bros., Mike Tyson's Punch Out, Kirby's Adventure, Ninja Gaiden - it all started here on the NES and gaming history would never be the same again.

1985 - Tiger Electronics LCD Handheld 

Play classic Tiger Handheld LCD games at the LI Retro Timeline of Console Exhibit
Introduced in 1985 with their first title "Bowling," the Tiger Electronics brand of LCD handhelds would become known as the cheap, alternative solution for gaming on the go. Much simplified and limited in gameplay mechanics than their home console or even Nintendo/Sega handheld counterparts, Tiger Electronics' licensed games represent the halcyon days of 80s and early 90s gaming. Despite their simple designs, Tiger Electronics brought some of gaming's biggest franchises to the platform including Sonic 3, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, Castlevania, Mario Bros, and a slew of licensed cartoons featuring Thundercats, Transformers, G.I. Joe and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

1986 - Sega Master System 

Play the Sega Master System at the LI Retro Timeline of Consoles Exhibit
The Master System was an 8-bit third-generation home video game console originally remodeled from the Sega Mark III in Japan. Containing an Zilog Z80A processor at 3.58 MHz, the Master System contained more horsepower than that of the NES but lacked the wealth of third-party support. Nonetheless, the platform enjoyed a more fruitful lifespan outside of America, hosting ports all the way to Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat 3. Scaled-back arcade ports aside, the platform was home to the beginnings of Sega's iconic franchises including Phantasy Star, Hang-On, Sonic, Alex Kidd, and Shinobi, as well fan-favorites Penguin Land, Alf, and an incredible version of R-Type.

1986 - Atari 7800
Made to correct the flaws of its predecessor, the Atari 5200, the 7800 Pro Model harnessed a customized 6502 processor running at 1.79 MHz that enabled backwards compatibility the more popular Atari 2600. Meant to compete with Nintendo's NES and Sega's Mastersystem, the 7800 was in some regards behind the time in graphical capability but was able to pump out high quality ports of golden-era arcade titles including Centipede, Pole Position II, Dig Dug, and Galaga.
1989 - TurboGrafx-16
Redesigned from its Japanese-counterpart the PC Engine, the TurboGrafx-16 contained an 8-bit CPU with dual 16-bit graphics processors that could out-duel the dominant NES but wound up competing with the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. While failing to make a significant dent in the American market, the TurboGrafx-16 would garner a cult-following the decades to come with a vast library of shoot-em ups. At its time, the platform was most widely known for its introduction of the Bonk series of games, the closest "mascot" in competition to Mario and Sonic.
1989 - Sega Genesis

Sega Genesis at LI Retro Console Timeline Exhibit

The system that put Sega on the map as a household name in America was based on their System 16 arcade board, centered on a Motorola 68000 processor, a Zilog Z80 chip for a distinct sound controller. Popularizing the term "blast processing," the Sega Genesis was capable of fast sprite scaling that set it apart from the competition. With a library that featured the rise of Sonic The Hedgehog along with the genre-defining titles of the 90s in Streets of Rage 2, Castlevania Bloodlines, and Disney's Aladdin, the Genesis was force to be reckoned with in the 16-bit wars.

1989 - Nintendo Gameboy

Nintendo Gameboy at the LI Retro Timeline of Consoles Exhibit
Woefully underpowered and with only monochrome colored graphics, the Nintendo Gameboy proved it's not about hardware specs, but intuitiveness and software that gets players to come. Sporting a Sharp LR35902 core at 4.19 MHz, the Nintendo Gameboy immediately stormed out of the gate to be a commercial success thanks to possibly the greatest pack-in game of all time - TETRIS. Combined with a simple but familiar two-button interface, ample battery life, and better portability over its more powerful handheld peers, the Nintendo Gameboy would maintain dominance in the market for more than a decade. Amongst its iconic library included early gems as Gargoyle's Quest, Tennis, and Super Mario Land, but also the introduction to modern mainstays such as Kirby and Dr. Mario. Even when its lifespan would seemingly be near its end in the late 90s, the Gameboy would introduce arguably Nintendo's biggest money-maker - Pokemon. Even from a technical standpoint, the Gameboy would also impress with a suite of unique accessories including a sewing machine, a fishing sensor, and the first ever digital selfie camera.

1989 - Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx was a technical marvel of its time, sporting a 16 MHz 65C02 8-bit CPU with a custom 16-bit blitter, and most importantly a colored display that was clearly technically superior to the Nintendo Gameboy. The Atari Lynx also featured the ability to be daisy-chained for up to 8 players at once for unique multiplayer experiences. While failing to capture significant market share from Nintendo, the Atari Lynx still left an indelible mark amongst gamers, having been supported in production through 1995 with 73 official titles, including popular Atari arcade conversions featuring a technically impressive port of Xybots.
1991 - Nintendo Super Nintendo

The Super Nintendo at the LI Retro Time of Console Exhibit
The Super Nintendo further solidified Nintendo's place in videogame dominance and established new techniques in visual fidelity with its introduction of "Mode 7" graphics to create pseudo 3-D effects. The SNES was able to pump the most iconic retro games of all time including Super Mario World, F-Zero, Megaman X, Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, and Earthbound. With the use of cartridge-based chipsets, the SNES' horsepower was further maximized to push larger sprites, improved scaling, and polygonal rendering to produce games such as Star Fox, Doom, and a near-impossible port of Street Fighter Alpha 2. With a near endless library of gems, it's no wonder the SNES is fondly remembered as one of the greatest systems of all time.

1991 - Neo Geo AES

With a 16-bit 68000 chip combined with an 8-bit Z80 co-processor, and a  a 24-bit graphics data bus, the Neo GEO AES was for the time, the world's most powerful home console.  Carrying the same hardware as that of it's arcade equivalent, the Neo Geo MVS, the Neo Geo AES was the Rolls Royce of gaming consoles with arcade-perfect ports of SNK's hit series Fatal Fury, King Of Fighters, Samurai Shodown amongst many.  

1991 - Philips CD-i
Built first and foremost as a media-player for the home, CD-i players were more than capable of handling edutainment software and games with hardware built around the popular Motorola 68000-based microprocessor and its own operating system called CD-RTOS. While the CD-i's most notable titles were the poorly-reviewed Nintendo-licensed games of Mario and Zelda, the platform was home to reasonably serviceable games Burn Cyle, Voyeur, and Mutant Rampage.
1992 - Sega CD
The Sega CD brought the dawn of CD-based gaming to the mainstream. While the add-on provided an additional processor to the Genesis with a 12.5MHz 16-bit Motorola 68000, running at 5 MHz faster than the Genesis processor, the real benefit of the Sega CD was the ability to provide additional storage for game data versus what cartridges provided. This lead to the ability to showcase full-motion video and higher quality CD-based audio. FMV games became the speciality of the Sega CD, featuring iconic titles Night Trap and Sewer Shark, along with more widely-acclaimed titles Lunar, Sonic CD, Earthworm Jim Special Edition, and Hideo Kojima's Snatcher.
1993 - The REAL 3DO

Play the REAL 3DO at the LI Retro Time of Consoles ExhibitWhen it came to introducing the heralded "Next Generation" of gaming, the Real 3DO was the first to arrive in North America, ushering a new wave of 3-D graphics, CD-ROM technology, and more advanced gameplay. Utilizing a 32-bit custom ARM CPU at 12.5 MHz, the 3DO was capable of touting 3D polygonal graphics at respectable frame rates for the time. While the platform was heavy on FMV games, it is notable for introducing the Need for Speed series, solid SNK ports, the introduction of their pseudo-mascot Gex, and mature storyline titles.

1993 - Atari Jaguar
While it's debatable if the Atari Jaguar was really 64-bits, the console was capable of hosting stellar graphics when in the right hands.  With two custom 32-bit processors, nicknamed  Tom and Jerry — in addition to a Motorola 68000 processor, the Jaguar could push a reasonable amount of polygons and more impressively do 2-D sprite scaling on par with arcade hardware of the early 90s. Tempest 2000 and Alien vs Predator are amongst the system's library highlights but one only needs to see the visual showpiece of Ubisoft's Rayman and the racing game Burnout with its blistering frame rate  to see the Jaguar's true graphical potential.
1994 - Sega 32X

Meant to be a more affordable solution for gamers wanting to get in on the rise of "Next-Gen" gaming in the mid-90s by upgrading their existing Sega Genesis, The 32X would add more advanced 3-D capability to the aging 16-bit hardware. Containing two Hitachi SH-2 32-bit RISC processors at 23 MHz, the 32X run data 40 times faster than a stand-alone Genesis and render an impressive 50,000 polygons per second. While critics at the time panned the add-on, the platform provided exceptional ports of arcade titles T-Mek, Mortal Kombat 2, NBA JAM Tournament Edition, and more remarkable, faithful ports to Sega Model 1 arcade titles such as Star Wars Arcade, Virtua Racing, and Virtua Fighter.

1995 - Sega Saturn

Sega Saturn at LI Retro Timeline of Consoles
Complex in architecture and over-designed in hardware, the Sega Saturn was both a 2-D powerhouse and an adequate 3-D processor. Containing a dual-CPU architecture and eight processors, the Sega Saturn posed difficulty for developers but when harnessed properly, could churn out some of the finest titles of the generation including a technical marvel of a port of Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop, and Virtual On. Its 2-D library was second to none including X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Vampire Savior and its arcade ports from the Sega ST-V board were nothing short of stellar including Die Hard Arcade, Radiant Silvergun, and Astra Superstars. Not to mention, a slew of golden gems still only exclusive to the Saturn to this day such as Burning Rangers and Panzer Dragoon Saga.

1995 - Nintendo Virtual Boy 

Two players playing the Virtual Boy at LI Retro

While the Virtual Boy was panned for its red-color palette, the portable tabletop platform was notable for one of the first commercial uses of dedicated "3-D" gaming. Containing an NEC V810 20 MHz chipset, the Virtual Boy's processing power was focused on providing an unparalleled experience of depth for the time. Most of the platform's library made use of the system's ability to separate levels of 2-D planes, which is best utilized by the titles Wario Land, Mario Tennis, and Golf. While the platform never had a two-player connection cable released, the console is displayed at LI Retro with the first ever two-player setup on the homebrew title Hyper Fighting.

1995 - Sony Playstation

Playstation (PSX) at LI Retro timeline of consoles
Whereas the Atari 2600 solidified gaming at home and the NES established videogames as a pop culture zeitgeist, the Sony Playstation is accredited with being the genesis for gaming to "grow up." The Sony Playstation with its R3000 chip running at 33.8688 MHz, took the gaming world by storm with a stellar library of arcade ports and original titles that best took advantage of the platform's 3D capabilities. Crash Bandacoot, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, Finak Fantasy 7, Tekken, and Resident Evil are only a sample of the highlighted franchises that first got their start on the Playstation

1996 - Nintendo 64 (N64)

Nintendo 64 N64 at the LI Retro Timeline of Consoles Exhibit
No other system is as symbolic of the Gen-x and Millennial generations than the N64. Sporting a 64-bit NEC VR4300 CPU at clock rate of 93.75 MHz and a performance of 125 MIPS, the previously named "Ultra 64," introduced to the world some of the most iconic games of all time including Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, the original Super Smash Brothers and The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Aided by strong second-party support from RARE that would also add Banjo Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Diddy Kong Racing and Goldeneye 007 to the N64's library, the platform would become ubiquitous with the terms "split-screen multiplayer." The N64 would also be the first console to establish analog controls out of the gate, and posses the ability to have resolution modes up to 480p. While the perception of the platform was often conveyed as the system for "kids," the Nintendo 64 was a polygon-pushing beast that had more than the chops to provide developers the ability to create deep gameplay mechanics not bounded by technical limitations. More than 25 years later, the N64 library has aged incredibly well and despite coming second in sales to the Playstation, its legacy is firmly cemented within the memories of gamers both hardcore and casual.

1998 - Gameboy Color
Quite possibly the most highly-anticipated upgrade of all time occurred when Nintendo's Gameboy finally achieved what its competition had launched with nearly a decade ago - color. Hosting a sizable bump in performance specs over the original Gameboy, the Gameboy Color featured a hybrid Intel 8080 and Zilog Z80 with a clock speed of approximately 8 MHz (2x the original Gameboy) with three times as much memory as the original. This allowed for visually more impressive games beyond just adding color palettes, including an impressive upgrade to the Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX and a system exclusive of a Metal Gear Solid title. The console's IR port also provided for unique gameplay functionality not found on other Nintendo handheld platforms. Like most of Nintendo's handheld platforms, Pokemon would be one of the console's finest outings with many proclaiming Pokemon Crystal, Gold, and Silver as the best of the series.
1999 - Sega Dreamcast

Play Sega Dreamcast at LI Retro's Timeline of Consoles ExhibitFor what was to be Sega's final home console hurrah, they surely pulled out all the stops. Running a two-way 360 MIPS superscalar Hitachi SH-4 32-bit RISC, clocked at 200MHz and a 128-bit graphics-oriented floating-point unit delivering 1.4 GFLOPS, the Dreamcast (originally codenamed Project Kitana), could draw more than 3 million polygons per second, producing mesmerizing graphics. The Dreamcast was the truly the first system to materialize "better than arcade perfect" ports as evident by launch titles Soul Calibur, House of the Dead 2, and Hydro Thunder. Despite its short lifespan, the Dreamcast revolutionized the industry with its natively-built online capabilities bringing MMORPGs to home consoles for the first time in Phantasy Star Online, voice-operated gameplay with the title Seaman, cell-shaded graphics with Jet Grind Radio, and the introduction of 2K series of sports titles, featuring the now dominant NBA 2K franchise. The Dreamcast's legacy forever remains one of the greatest and most-beloved consoles of all time.

2000 - Sony Playstation 2 (PS2)
The most successful console of all time would initially gain attention for its "Emotion Engine" CPU that would allow the Playstation 2 (PS2) to churn out some of the most life-like graphics for the time.  The PS2 with its DVD-rom capabilities had more horsepower and game storage than its predecessor and would bring its hit franchises along to the next generation including Gran Turismo and Tekken but its the original IP released during the PS2 era that would help propel the platform into the stratosphere with fans.  First party titles such as Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus along with stellar third-party exclusive support with blockbusters like Tekken Tag and Final Fantasy X-XII, and hidden gems as Mr. Mosquito and Katamara Damacy, made the PS2 THE console of choice for gamers for the widest variety of titles.  
2001 - Gameboy Advance
Similar in scope to the Super Nintendo, the 32-bit successor to the original Game Boy was Nintendo's long-awaited step into the next generation of handheld gaming. The GameBoy Advance could replicate much of the sprite manipulation of the Super Nintendo including Mode-7 graphics and sprite scaling. In addition, through nifty development tricks, the GameBoy Advance could pull off impressive pseudo 3-D effects to offer experiences that the SNES could not, which came especially in handy for first-person shooters, racers, and 3D adventure games. Nintendo brought out its biggest franchises to the platform which featured some of their best outings including Pokemon Leaf Green, Yoshi's Island, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, and WarioWare. Third-party support was strong on the platform that ranged from hidden gems such as GameFreak's Drill Dozer and Capcom's stellar port of the arcade hit Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the console exclusive Street Fighter 2 Turbo Revival. Through multiple redesigns and iterations including a licensed combo DVD-GameBoy Advance unit, the GBA was the epitome of a generational platform whom's legacy and sentimental value would far exceed its own technical limitations.
2001 - Microsoft Xbox
The most powerful console upon its release, Microsoft's XBOX touted a 32-bit 733 MHz, custom Intel Pentium III processor with 64 MB of unified DDR SDRAM, equivalent to some of the best PC builds of the time. Standardizing unique features that would become mainstays in future generations such as a built-in hard drive and broadband capability, the XBOX was a powerhouse capable of providing the closest home console correlation to PC gaming experiences. While the system is mostly known for the launch of the Halo series, its library contained a wealth of noteworthy releases, highlighted by Sega's AAA releases of Panzer Dragoon Orta, Outrun 2006, House of the Dead 3, and more. The XBOX would lay the foundation for the brand as the hardcore gamer's destination.
2001 - Nintendo Gamecube
For those in the know, the Gamecube hosted some of the best games of the era. From the onset with its attached "lunchbox handle," the Gamecube suffered from a "kiddie" console perception like its predecessor the N64, but its IBM custom designed PowerPC-based processor at 486 MHz wound up being more a capable workhorse than the competing Playstation 2. With Nintendo's first foray into disc-based media, the Gamecube hosted the finest titles of the generation, many of which are only being realized in greatness nearly two decades after their release: Mario Kart Double Dash, Super Mario Sunshine, Eternal Darkness, Billy Hatcher, and Cubivore, to name a few. Yet the Gamecube is still a go-to for much of Nintendo's best back catalog of franchise regulars, including Zelda Windwaker, Metroid Prime and Smash Brothers Melee, considered by many to be the best of the series. While the Nintendo Gamecube may not have been the hit it needed to be when it was stacked against the PS2 and Xbox, it now commands the respect it rightfully deserves when viewed in retrospect by most fans and historians.
2003 - Nokia N-Gage
The original "mobile gaming" platform, the Nokia N-Gage was the first cell phone to integrate a dedicated, changeable game system. Running a ARM920T CPU at 104 MHz, the Nokia N-Gage housed reasonably powerful hardware for its size to produce respectable 3D polygonal graphics. The N-Gage had no shortage of recognizable IPs grace the platform including Sonic, Tomb Raider, WWE, Rayman, and Crash Bandicoot. While the system was often criticized for its hardware design and poorly-reviewed games, in retrospect the N-Gage was a forerunner in providing the foundation for future fixtures in gaming. The N-Gage opened the door for online mobile gaming and proved their could be an appetite for gaming outside of traditional dedicated handhelds. While its library was small, the N-Gage received considerably big name support from Sega, Activision, EA and Ubisoft that for most upstarts systems would be a pipe dream. Despite what the pundits may say about the N-Gage's legacy, the system would have a considerable lengthy production lifespan through 2006, and sell a respectable 3 million units - no short small number by any means for a failed console.
2004 - Nintendo DS
Nintendo was always known for trying out unique new concepts never imagined before but the Nintendo DS provided a completely new concept for handheld gaming. Two-screens utilized at once, touch-screen capability, a built-in microphone, and wifi capability were just some of the many innovations that the Nintendo DS brought to the table. With a whole new way to play games, developers found new and creative ways to play. Blowing on the screen in Sega's Feel The Magic, writing the answer on screen in Nintendo's Brain Age, and drawing Pac-Man to eat ghosts in Pac-Pix were just a sample of the fun, quirky ways that players interacted with the Nintendo DS.
2005 - Microsoft XBOX 360
The release of the XBOX 360 ushered in the age of High Definition gaming and a new level of visual fidelity never imagined in graphics. Armed with a 3.2 GHz PowerPC Tri-Core Xenon processor, the XBOX 360 also cemented the establishment of multimedia dashboards on the home consoles, a wider adoption of a centralized online gaming network in XBOX Live, and WIRELESS controllers right out of the gate. Initially the XBOX 360's library was underwhelming at best with a sub-par prequel to Perfect Dark and a fantastic fourth entry into the Dead or Alive series but would eventually take off with the release of the groundbreaking Gears of War and the killer app Halo 3. Eventually the XBOX 360's library would grow to become one of the best catalogs in gaming yet to be realized.
2006 - Sony Playstation 3 (PS3)
Housing a 3.2 GHz IBM Cell Broadband Engine processor able to pull off incredible feats of graphical effects, the Playstation 3 would lay birth to some of the most Hollywood-ready franchises in gaming including The Last of Us and Uncharted, along with other high-profile exclusives Little Big Planet and Metal Gear Solid 4. Innovation-wise, the PS3 provided the first samples of online cloud computing and a Second-Life avatar like experience with Playstation Home.
2006 - Nintendo Wii
Underpowered when compared to the competing PS3 and XBOX 360, the Nintendo Wii would prove that creativity trumps specs in the world of video games. Bringing motion-based gameplay to the masses, the Nintendo Wii took the guessing out of controls in favor of sheer intuitiveness, as evident in one of the most popular pack-in games of all time, Wii Sports. While most will remember the Wii for the use of the Wiimote controllers, the Wii was also notable for being Nintendo's first foray into home console backwards compatibility with the Gamecube library, the use of avatars in the creation of Mii characters, lifestyle content with the Weather and News Wii Channels, and best of all the Virtual Console, opening the door for Nintendo's back catalog and new indie titles.