What Games Most Defined Previous Console Generations???

Consoles traditionally have hundreds of games released during their lifecycle. Some of the games released are great, memorable games and some are real boogers – but some games define the console. When a console is brought up, the first game any person thinks about is the game defining that console for them personally. That game may be the best game on that console, it may be their favorite by choice, or maybe even the worst game ever released on that particular console.

Here is a list of games that have defined consoles for me, along with which game actually defined that console. These selections are based on innovation, replay-ability, future industry impact, and my thoughts on the game. I will hit all the major consoles, or at least try to. If you are sad I didn’t list Jaguar or 3D0 then I am sorry, but pretty much no one owned one. I am going to start with a console everyone owned.


Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

My Console Defining Game

When I think about NES, the first game that comes to mind is Super Mario Bros. It is the game I put the most hours into easily. Playing this game is one of my earliest gaming memories. Logging hundreds of hours and playing the same levels over and over made me good at video games. I learned about timing, patterns, and memorizing secret block locations. I can’t imagine playing the same level of a modern game thousands of times today and still enjoying the experience. This game is the Hulk Hogan of video games and everyone knows it. Gamers and non-gamers alike all know who Super Mario is.

Actual Console Defining Game

This one is an easy one – Super Mario Bros. The game that made platforming games popular. Without it there would be no Kirby, Sonic, or Donkey Kong Country. Super Mario Bros has sold over 40 million copies, not including ports and remakes. This game single handedly helped to end the video game crash of the early 1980s. Let us all take a moment and say thanks to Super Mario Bros for allowing video games to exist.


Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

My Console Defining Game

The Super Nintendo years for me were defined by a game that is a mash-up of two franchises that are pretty much dead now – Battle Toads & Double Dragon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these franchises, they are side scrolling beat ‘em ups. The two teams decided to team up, kick butt and chew bubblegum (you know the rest). I played this game constantly, but I never actually owned it. I would go down to Blockbuster Video at least once a month and rent this game for the entire SNES lifecycle. At the time, I would rather spend hundreds of dollars renting this game repeatedly than spend $50 and buy it for some reason. I also loved this game is because I would play it with my friends for hours. This is one of few games I always regretted not buying.

Actual Console Defining Game

The fighting craze started with one game – Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior. The game allowed the players to destroy their friends in hand to hand combat. Street Fighter has 15 games in the series, not including the VS games. It spawned games like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Soul Calibur. The one on one fighting game existed, but the genre really blew up with this franchise. This is another game which I put quite a bit of time into. It started my fighting game obsession and I made many friends learn how to accept defeat. Street Fighter helped me to learn how to read too, so I could learn how to do a hadouken and how to pronounce Zangief. This was a game that was a must own for the console. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention games like Super Metroid, Final Fantasy III and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past also. So many great games were on SNES.


Sega Genesis

My Console Defining Game

When I think of the Genesis I think of ToeJam & Earl. This game is very funky, both in gameplay and soundtrack. The two alien creatures search for the wreckage from their ship and while doing so, they must avoid hazards in form of humans, killer mailboxes, and giant hamsters. ToeJam & Earl sticks out for me because of the time I spent playing it. I would play it for hours after school at my friend’s house. We both didn’t really know what to do or why we were doing it, but it was always funny and colorful. I didn’t have a Genesis, so I could only play it at his house and he only ever wanted to play this game. I couldn’t really blame him either, because it was awesome.

Actual Console Defining Game

The game that really defines this system is a no brainer – Sonic the Hedgehog. This character is instantly recognizable as Sega’s mascot. He still has games featuring him 23 years after his debut. Sonic helped Sega overtake SNES with 65% of the 16 bit market share in January 1992. The game has sold over 15 million copies, making it the highest selling Genesis game of all time. It took platforming in a different direction by adding more speed and attitude. It is also the first game to have an idle animation when the player wasn’t moving. Sonic defines early 1990s video games in many people’s minds.


Nintendo 64 (N64)

My Console Defining Game

Oh, the N64 years. What a treasure this generation is – made up of party games, where I could play with 3 of my friends. The game I played most with my friends is WWF No Mercy. My favorite wrestling game of all time, although many people regard WCW/nWo Revenge as the better game. This game was different than the Playstation WWF game, SmackDown! because No Mercy was slower placed. This is because it was developed by the same team who made WCW/nWo Revenge and made for a much more strategic game. It featured matches that could (and did) last an hour or more before someone barely squeaked out a victory. Another cool thing about No Mercy was the create-a-player mode that was incredibility deep and players could spend hours customizing their wrestlers moves, appearance, and intro. I would have epic tag team matches with 3 of my friends. I was so into this game and the stable of wrestlers I created, that I would actually write story lines in my head and set up PPV’s around these fantasy feuds. I would kill for an updated version of this game to be announced, or even an HD remake of the original game.

Actual Console Defining Game

N64 was the party console and no other game was better for parties than GoldenEye 007. This game popularized competitive 1st person shooters on consoles. GoldenEye allowed you to play with 3 of your friends in solo or team deathmatches, and you could even include bots into matches to up the player count artificially. Goldeneye was made for sleepovers and pizza. There was no end to the replay-ability, and it features a ton of unlockable characters. 007’s popularity led to mega hits like Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty. It breathed life into a genre on consoles that already existed on PC in the forms of Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein. If this game was a flop, there would quite possibly not be Call of Duty or a shooter with competitive multiplayer modes on consoles. That is not a world I would want to live in.


Sega Saturn

My Console Defining Game

Sega Saturn was the start of a decline for Sega in the console wars, but the system was known for polygons and is well regarded among older gamers. No other game showed off the polygons better than Virtua Fighter. It was a huge game in arcades because it was a 3D fighter, which used polygons instead of animated sprites. Unfortunately, this game hasn’t held up very well over time. The polygons are so jagged, leaving the fighters looking like rocks with faces and clothes painted on. A message to all the younger gamers – this was once a game at the cutting edge of graphics.

Actual Console Defining Game

Virtua Fighter 2 had updated graphics, which made the polygons look less jagged. It was more or less an updated version of Virtua Fighter 1. Virtua Fighter 2 popularized 3D arena fighters like Tekken, Soul Calibur, and Dead or Alive. It became so popular that older franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat attempted to mimic this 3D feel in future entries. It was the top selling game for Sega Saturn in Japan at 1.7 million copies sold.


PlayStation (PSOne)

My Console Defining Game

The PlayStation had a lot of games that rushed into my head when I thought of it. Many people may not agree with me on this one, but my console defining game for the first PlayStation was Bushido Blade. Words cannot encompass how much I loved this game. It was a fighting game that had no life bars and no time limit. The matches were won by critical strikes. I logged hundreds of hours into this game and I speak on the merits of this game whenever possible, to whoever will listen. I would most likely lose my mind if they announced a Bushido Blade 3, and would preorder immediately after I was able to compose myself. This game took an unorthodox approach to the fighting game genre, and it worked. I wish other studios would take a risk like they did. If you would like to read more about Bushido Blade, I wrote an article on it called, “Bushido Blade-Best Game Ever?” …check it out!

Actual Console Defining Game

This is a tough one. Metal Gear Solid made the stealth game fun and popular. It opened up the door for Splinter Cell and other games of its ilk. It is another game which started a franchise that is still going strong to this day. I remember playing a demo of this game over and over. I would try and see how many ways I could beat a level and how many paths I could take. I would also see how close I could get to being seen and still succeed. Some people don’t know that it is actually a sequel to a game that had come out 10 years prior. This game is beloved by its fans and even people who are not a fan of stealth games (like me) have respect for this game and what it has done. Finally, I also have to mention Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VII, which were the two best-selling games on PSOne. Gran Turismo popularized the simulation racer and paved the way for Forza Motorsport. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy VII is regarded by many as the best RPG of all time.


Nintendo GameCube

My Console Defining Game

GameCube is widely considered one of Nintendo’s biggest failures, trumped only by the Virtual Boy. However, it still went on to sell over 22 million units. The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker changed the formula of the Zelda franchise (much to the dismay of many fans). Windwaker decided to go with a cel-shaded style and younger, more childish look to Link. I never got into the Zelda franchise, but I didn’t need to be to hear about the controversy that this new art style created. Many people thought the game was being dumbed down and beginning down a bad path that could ruin the franchise. Because of the controversy surrounding this game, it really sticks out for me. The game ended up being a decent game in the end and all the worry wasn’t really needed.

Actual Console Defining Game

GameCube had another game which made a huge change that worried people. That game is Resident Evil 4. The game changed a long established franchise with well-regarded gameplay and controls and totally changed it. This would spell the end for most franchises, but not Resident Evil 4. It was a huge success and opened up the game to broader audience. The franchise went from survival horror to a more run and gun action oriented feel. Following this game, the franchise has continued in this direction (for better or for worse) and is considered by many to be one of the best in the franchise. Unfortunately, Resident Evil 5 & 6 are not as well regarded, with fans calling for a return to the games roots in recent years. Resident Evil Revelations (a handled game that was later ported to consoles) did successfully blend the best of older Resident Evil entries with the best of more recent entries, and is considered one of the better Resident Evil games created in a long time.


Sega Dreamcast

My Console Defining Game

When I think of Dreamcast, I hear the Offspring song from Crazy Taxi. Crazy Taxi is a game where the player picks up fares and drops them off at their location within a time limit. I know that sounds like the stupidest game ever, but it was actually pretty fun at the time. I couldn’t go into an arcade without hearing that Offspring song and a character saying Crazy Taxi. The soundtrack was great and really added to the high speed frantic nature of the game. Crazy Taxi really exemplifies the late 1990s for me personally.

Actual Console Defining Game

Soul Calibur is one of the best fighting games of all time, and was a huge console seller for Dreamcast (one of few). It was created as an experiment to make a weapon based fighting game. Soul Calibur was very well received and got near perfect scores from reviewers. The team became obsessed with making the game perfect, but they were not able to incorporate all their ideas. This game is as close as it gets to being a perfect fighting game. The weapons added a great degree of variation to the character’s strengths, weaknesses, and range of attacks. There are quick characters with short range weapons and quick characters with long weapons. In older games the characters were simply slow, medium, and fast, but Soul Calibur changed that and added a new level of strategy to the fighting genre. It was the second best selling game on Dreamcast at 1.3 million copies sold. Finally, I can’t end this section without mentioning Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, which both sold extremely well and were seen by many as a rebirth for the Sonic franchise.


PlayStation 2 (PS2)

My Console Defining Game

For me the PS2 was the console of fun. It had some of the best games of any console and my favorite was God of War. It is a game based around Greek mythology, which was so cool to me. This opened up the option to have a really good story in a hack and slash game (something unheard of at the time). It also popularized something that every game adopted thereafter – the quick time event. After God of War, almost every game seemed to adopt the QTE because this game did it right and made the game more cinematic. When I finished this game I set the controller down and just thought “Wow, that was a great game.” That type of realization doesn’t always happen.

Actual Console Defining Game

This console made one of the most popular and most controversial game franchises of all time – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. This game was not the first GTA game to come on the system, nor was it the last. It was also not the best-selling – but it was the best. The setting of 1980s Miami equivalent really piqued everyone’s interest. The similarities to Scarface and other mafia movies like Goodfellas didn’t hurt either. The soundtrack was awesome and gave a great feel to the game. The player felt like they were actually in the time period, because of the care taken by Rockstar with the games development. Controversy surrounding this game’s mature gameplay also made people want to play it even more. Gamers are always asking for a Vice City 2, and I am included among them. I Should also mention Gran Turismo 3 and Final Fantasy X, both of which were great games and best sellers on PS2.


Microsoft Xbox (OG Xbox)

My Console Defining Game

Fable is the game that sticks out for me. I remember seeing the screenshots and reading previews on the game for years. It was being talked about when the console was being launched, but didn’t come out until three years into the lifecycle. I would read all the information I could get my hands on and still had to wait. All the talk about how decisions and morals would effect how your character looked was a really cool idea. I had never played an RPG at that point and this was actually my first. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

Actual Console Defining Game

Halo defined the Xbox. It is the biggest FPS on the market, spawning a huge franchise of not only games – but also books, comics, cartoons, movies, and toys. Master Chief is Xbox’s mascot without a doubt. Halo changed how games control today. The Xbox had two joy sticks, and this game used them to control how the character moves. One joy stick controled movement and the other controled aiming. All first person shooters have adopted this mechanic since the release of Halo: Combat Evolved. It was the “must own” game for Xbox and is considered one of the greatest games ever created by many people. This game was a great example of what was possible on consoles and marked the era of a new age in gaming. Gaming consoles weren’t just seen as electronic toys anymore – they were becoming a form of entertainment that rivaled movies and music.


Nintendo Wii (Wii)

My Console Defining Game

Wii was the first console to embrace motion controls and Red Steel was the game which showcased it for me. The game is a first person shooter and the character would use the Wii remote to shoot and use a katana blade. The katana could block and deflect blows from another katana. Sword fights with AI enemies, using the remote could and did happen. It sounded pretty cool ultimately it failed. The Wii does not reflect perfectly what the remote does and because of that, the game does not live up to the hype it generated around the time of its release. However, it does showcase the potential of the console and motion controls, and it defines the Wii for me because of that.

Actual Console Defining Game

Wii Sports is the second best selling game of all time just behind Tetris at 82 million copies sold. The game was supposed to be a casual entry point into the Wii’s motion controls, but ended up being the best example of the motion controls. Games tried to recreate what worked in this game, but could not quite get it in many games. Kinect Sports was the only game that came close to matching.


Sony Playstation 3 (PS3)

My Console Defining Game

Last of Us came out very late in the PS3’s life cycle but Naughty Dog used everything they learned previously with Uncharted to make this. I normally do not like these kinds of horror games, but I decided to check this out because of the buzz it had around it. I discovered this is an action adventure game, set in a horror world. The story is great and by the end of the game, I really cared about the characters and wanted them to accomplish their mission. In the game I was always low on ammo, but never completely out. This created a tense atmosphere, where I was always trying to ration my ammo. A few times I was in close quarter battles with a sniper rifle. When I finished this game, I felt like I went through an ordeal. I was emotionally exhausted from the experience and never want to play it again, but I loved every minute of the game.

Actual Console Defining Game

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is another Naughty Dog game. It took Tomb Raider, making it more Indiana Jones and less “sexy-gymnast”. It took place in a more realist world and carried a more emotional impact. It used what Tomb Raider did well expanded upon that. Drake’s Fortune is not the best in the series, but is a fantastic start and a great testament for Naughty Dog. The game is very cinematic and could easily be made into a movie. It has great chase scenes and bitter betrayal. The dialog is superb and the voice acting is also top notch. Uncharted is the must play action adventure game for PS3.


Microsoft Xbox 360 (360)

My Console Defining Game

The 360 has one game that exemplifies it for me – Gears of War. I have spent the most time playing this game than any other title on 360. I was in a clan for this game and I had a blast playing it. Gears of War single handedly made the cover based shooter popular. It was also very gory and bloody. There was nothing more satisfying than getting a head shot on someone and hearing their head pop. I loved this game because it was very strategic, but also fast paced. A random encounter was always winnable and unlike many games – getting the drop on someone didn’t guarantee victory. It was definitely a game of skill. While the chainsaw assault rifle is without a doubt the iconic weapon for this game, something Gears of War pulled off that no other game did was making the shotgun its most powerful weapon. Gears is very much a close quarters game and I love the opportunities that this opens up for future entries.

Actual Console Defining Game

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was not the first Call of Duty on 360, but it was certainly the most popular. It left the WWII era and ventured into the modern world, achieving great success. COD became an annual franchise because of this game. The series was one which people knew about, but then the multiplayer beta came out and it became a very talked about game. I was lucky enough to play the beta and was blown away by Modern Warfare. All the guns felt and sounded different. The series continues to be on best selling lists and always carries excitement when a new entry launches in November each year. This game set the standard for all realistic/military first person shooters that would follow.


These are my console defining games and the games that I think defined each of them.

What do you think? Did I put in the wrong games? What games defined some of these consoles for you?

Robbie Watson (7 Posts)

Author on FragTagRadio.Com

  • blainetezim

    good list robbie. i was a huge fan of little nemos dreamland on nes!

  • YoDaNaSoDa

    Nice trip down memory lane! My first game was Dungeons & Dragons on Intellivision.

    • Intellivision was the first console I owned too!

  • Robbie Watson aka Gore

    I’m glad you guys enjoyed the article.