A few days ago, we discussed the greatest game console of all time. Some would say the NES, some would say the Super Nintendo, some would say the Playstation, some would say the Playstation 2. It really depends on your standards, and what system you grew up with. Naturally, this now begs the question: What was the worst console of all time?
One CNET blogger wrote the Sega Saturn was the worst major console of all time. However, the Saturn's relative failure pales in comparison with several other systems' atrocious critical and commercial receptions. The Saturn certainly wasn't the most successful, but it didn't perform horribly. According to GamePro, the Saturn sold about 9.5 million units in its lifetime. That is not much less than the Turbografix-16's 10 million or the Sega Dreamcast's 10.6 million. In contrast, Sega's previous console project, the Sega CD, only sold 6 million units. The Saturn also saw a large number of very high-quality games, including Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (a version with more content than the Playstation version, much of which can be found on the version found in last year's The Dracula X Chronicles), Nights Into Dreams (the sequel of which just hit the Wii), Panzer Dragoon Saga (the sequel of which was a popular Xbox title), and Radiant Silvergun (the predecessor to the hit shooter Ikaruga).
Though it suffered from poor timing--and the remnant jitters of Sega fans feeling wary of the Saturn going the way of the 32X and the Sega CD--it wasn't a bad console. It wasn't a success compared to the Sony Playstation or Nintendo 64, but it fared closer to the Dreamcast than the 32X.
If you want to find the worst major console out there, all you have to do is close your eyes and reach out blindly. Every "major" console, from the Nintendo 64, to the Playstation, to the Xbox, to the NES has seen more than its share of terrible games. When any system becomes popular, every nickel and dime developer in the world will try to latch onto that popularity. They push out whatever horrible rubbish they can produce. However, those popular consoles usually became popular because they have some good games.
The NES had Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda. It also had Bible Adventures and Deadly Towers. The SNES had Super Metroid and Chrono Trigger. It also had Shaq Fu and Revolution X. The Playstation had Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Metal Gear Solid. It also had Bubsy 3D and Spawn: The Eternal. The Nintendo 64 had Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It also had Superman 64 and Quest 64. If any system gets a measure of popularity, it means that it already has some good games, and that it's going to get some very bad games.
For truly terrible home consoles, you only have to look as far as the grandfather of home gaming, Atari. While the Atari 2600 is easily the first major home gaming system, the Atari Jaguar proved to be a spectacular failure commercially and by critics. Because of its unwieldy design, the Jaguar sits well at the bottom of the gaming heap.
* A few reasons: Its controller had a full number pad on it.
* Its laughable accessories (it started as a cartridge-based system, and the Atari Jaguar CD add-on made the Sega CD look respectable).
* Its truly atrocious game selection.
Its failure pushed Atari, one of the first major game system companies, out of the home console industry entirely.
Of course, the Jaguar at least had Alien vs. Predator and a handful of classic games from the Super NES and Genesis era. The Phillips CD-i didn't even have that much. The CD-i was one of the first home systems to use optical discs for storage. It came out two years before the Jaguar. It was home to some of the genuinely atrocious video games, including the worst Mario and Zelda games ever made. While Nintendo hasn't been able to produce a bad Mario or Zelda game in over twenty years, Phillips managed to nail it on its first tries. The Legend of Zelda: Wand of Gamelon remains infamous as one of the worst video games made. Surprisingly, the CD-I sold over twice as many consoles as the Jaguar, pushing over half a million units in its life span.
Finally, the Nintendo Virtual Boy presents another massive failure. After the massive success of the Game Boy, Nintendo looked for some way to up the portable gaming ante. The company eventually followed through with the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS portables, but not before trying and failing to bring "virtual reality" to the world of Nintendo. Gunpei Yokoi, designer of the original Game Boy and creator of the Metroid series, designed the Virtual Boy.
Even though it had "Boy" in its name, the Virtual Boy wasn't nearly as portable as the original, AA-battery-munching Game Boy. Instead, it paired a large game controller with an even larger, more unwieldy, head-mounted display. The display had an ugly set of eye-burning red screens built inside a device that looked like a giant Viewmaster. It was bulky, extremely uncomfortable to use, and hurt the eyes. Worst of all, it had a poor selection of games. Wario got a full platform game in Virtual Boy Wario Land, and Mario was relegated to a remake of the original Mario Brothers. No Zelda, no Metroid, and really no big third party names at all unless you want to count Waterworld. The Virtual Boy was such a failure that Gunpei Yokoi resigned a year after the system's release. The father of Metroid and the Game Boy died a year later.
The Sega Saturn didn't perform well, but it was still a decent system with several excellent games. The Atari Jaguar, Phillips CD-i, and Virtual Boy were not. Like "best," "worst" is in the eye of the beholder. However, you would have to squint pretty hard for the Sega Saturn to fall under that category.