Sometimes we think of consoles almost as a means to an end, with the games on the systems determining that. Video game consoles last in our minds much longer than that. These games can be amazing, but they can be worn. The console itself should stand out just as much.
And that’s where their design comes in. We’re focusing on pure looks here, not inherent practicality, unique features or anything else. Sometimes a console can outrun its own library on looks alone, and there are plenty of iconic ones.
ten Playstation Vita
Did you know that vita means life? Because it doesn’t look like Sony has. Sony has never had a broken console, even with all the PS3 woes. In fact, the PS Vita is essentially the predecessor to the PS4, although Sony never gave it the support it deserved, especially in the West.
Luckily it had a solid design because sadly there wasn’t much else. It was a natural evolution of the PSP, but with a smoother design and a second analog stick. Its big feature was the patterned touchpad on the back which was criminally underutilized and became the basis for the DualShock 4 controller.
9 nintendo switch
Nintendo has a fun history with names, although they tend to veer towards the incredibly self-explanatory, and the Switch is no different. It switches between a portable console and a home console, trading power for portability. But nothing is ever simple with Nintendo, and there are a lot of unique elements at play.
The two controllers detach separately and can be used as a pair or individually. It can be held like a traditional laptop, or placed in its dock. It also has its own little kickstand, but don’t trust it to work as well on the original, while it’s excellent on the much-improved OLED model. Each individual piece of the Switch may seem basic, but the modular nature of it all makes it appealing, despite other internal pitfalls.
There’s a whole heap of history behind the original PlayStation, and the console was a game-changing revolution in gameplay and internals, but it was also a bit of a looker, now sporting a classic look we all know and love.
This does not mean that game consoles had no style, quite the contrary. The original PS1 was a simple thing, though, with just three buttons to open the console, turn it on and off, and reset it. But those buttons were so big and poppy, those edges defined but not too sharp. It had a presence and definition that made it obvious to use, but not an eyesore either.
The GameCube has a fun history, incredibly fondly remembered for its controller and game library. However, at the time of its release, it was actually a commercial failure for Nintendo, causing them to lose considerable market share until the release of the Wii years later. Retrospect is a powerful tool, however, making its failures more obvious, but also allowing us to appreciate the good.
On the one hand, the controller is still loved and considered essential for many Nintendo games, such as Smash Bros. Second, no one attempted a more, well, cubic design until Xbox Series X. another was also bold enough to make their console purple by default, and it made the GameCube all the more memorable in the long run, especially since it had a handle to carry it anywhere.
6 PlayStation 5
It might seem unfair to include a console that’s not even two years old yet on a list of the best console designs, but there’s no denying the exact vibe the PS5 breathes. All memes aside, this definitely feels like an old fan edit, concepts that roamed YouTube videos in the Xbox 720 era. A better time, and a Sony, for some reason, felt it necessary to go back.
There are plenty of bold choices in the PS5, and it looks like Sony just felt comfortable enough in their success to create a goliath that struggles to fit into an average TV. One could say that it is not the better design, but it’s so alluring that it’s certainly not something that will be easily overlooked.
People quite often fall into the trap of thinking that the NES was there in the first round of home gaming systems, but instead it was just one of the few that kickstarted their popularity. And after the great foundations laid by the NES, the SNES came along and created some of Nintendo’s most famous game series.
No offense to the US SNES here, but it pales in comparison to the EU/JP version. Where the US version was a flat gray and harsh lines, this one was smoother with different shades and a bunch of additional colors on the console and controller as well. It gives off extreme cassette player vibes and was a small shape that could also fit anywhere.
4 Xbox 360 (original)
The reveal of the original Xbox was a surreal and unforgettable experience, though the console itself…wasn’t much to look at. There was a comical big “x” on the console, and the controller was frankly more popular, even if it didn’t inspire much love visually. And then the Xbox 360 came along and showed that Xbox had the wherewithal to make a fun console in design and function.
The design’s hourglass figure is now incredibly iconic, but not nearly as much as Xbox’s segmented power button. Each section lit up to match the number of connected controllers, though more could be remembered through the dreaded red ring of death. The full-length silver ejector disc tray is reminiscent of a DVD player. It looks like a product of the era, and yet incredibly timeless.
3 PlayStation 2 (Slimline)
After the success of the PlayStation 1 despite a hectic development, Sony was at its full potential with the PS2. Although a much larger console than the original PS1, it changed the game forever. The later revision of the PS2 resulted in its slim version being drastically reduced, which is simply a superior design.
The slim version carried over the best elements of the original console, the flat top and ports, and the ergonomic port placement. In fact, despite being considerably smaller, almost everything is also in the same position, with only the disc tray now opening instead of ejecting. On top of that, it became easier to transport and store, and still had the same power as the original.
2 game boy
In the same way that the NES is generally considered the first home console, the Game Boy is often considered the first handheld console. And even if it wasn’t, it was the first to make an impact and prove that handheld gaming was something that could truly be great. In fact, the Game Boy proved it has been great.
Of course, the Game Boy had its limits. Its screen wasn’t exactly the most visible and obviously lacked the color of TVs at the time, but it had genuinely high quality games, a simple yet easy to use design, and perhaps most importantly for a portable console, could actually be carried in a pocket.
1 DS Lite
Originally developed to complement the Game Boy Advance consoles, the Nintendo DS (dual-screen, in typical Nintendo style) quickly eclipsed it and became its successor. There was nothing else like it, before or since. Carrying on the clamshell design of the Game Boy Advance SP, the dual screen has become the center of all games on the system.
Funny thing is most people probably think of the DS Lite when they think of the console, having quickly replaced the bulkier original with a more ergonomic and sleeker design that would become the basis for all future DS systems. There’s a reason it’s still the best-selling portable system, and that’s because it excels everywhere a portable system should.
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