We’re a month away from a new decade rolling into town, and when you look back at the last ten years of gaming its staggering to see just how far the medium has come. From an age of ambition to an era of quality without compromise, video games and the devices that we play them on have evolved over the years into the best entertainment that money can buy.
Whether they’re big AAA productions or quirky indie efforts, they all share one thing in common: The machines that we played them on. Consoles that saw a bar raised by the likes of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and then proceeded to vault over them and reach glorious new heights. Not every console released in the last decade was a winner though, but for the most part they were fantastic pits of interactive diversions to throw your money into.
So which video game console was the best then? Well let’s kick off this list with the most middling of devices and work our way to the top, starting with a Kickstarter dream that soon became a nightmare.
If we’re starting at the bottom, then we might as well kick off with the most infamous console of them all! No one can say that the team behind the Ouya wasn’t ambitious, but the problem with lofty aspirations and a marketing team bottling up that chutzpah is that sooner or later you’re going to need to deliver on those promises.
The Ouya may have been able to live up to some of the hype once its successful Kickstarter campaign finished, but a few months down the line and cracks started to show on the surface. Shovelware games were abundant, noteworthy developers abandoned the device shortly after the novelty of it wore off and the sales figures reflected that lukewarm reception.
By 2015, the Ouya was already one foot in the grave after Razer purchased it, with a prolonged death that eventually led to its online offerings being shuttered and rendering the console near unusable as of June 2019.
Who would have thought that the most prolific video game platform of all time is the same device that you use to make a phone call with? Smartphones advanced in leaps and bounds in the 2010s, with Apple, Samsung, Huawei and many more manufacturers reaching the bleeding edge of technology to create devices that had the potential to be the next big step in gaming.
Emphasis on had. While smartphones have had some brilliant games released exclusively on them (Florence for example, is still an amazing story to experience), the market has instead focused on snaring people with junk food freemium games that liberally rip each other off in an ocean of microtransactions and whale-luring big spenders.
Smartphone gaming in the 2010s, is an example of greed running rampant. For every breakout game like Plague Inc. or Kingdom Rush, there was pure avarice in the form of a thousand flappy bird clones clogging up the storefront, diluting the medium and its potential magic. Smartphone gaming was at one point positioned to be the next big thing, but instead of transforming into a itan it became an Ouroborous snake that would never stop consuming itself.
Nintendo Wii U
Imagine this: You’re Nintendo, you’ve just rewritten the rules of video games with the Nintendo Wii console and its amazing motion-sensing controllers and you’re ready for a sequel attempt. How the Big N managed to follow up on the Wii with the Wii U, is something that I’ll never truly understand. While the Wii console may have been a colourful white box with some of the best games of the decade on it, the Wii U was the exact opposite.
On a technical level, it was an ugly black box that would wheeze and stutter whenever you booted it up, a monstrosity that looked like it had been salvaged from an airplane black box after a fatal crash. It’s tablet controller was certainly novel, but it was unwieldy to use and just didn’t add that much fun to any game that popped up on the system.
The Nintendo Wii U sold poorly, thanks in no small part to a branding initiative that confused consumers and saw the Japanese giant go back to the drawing board and come up with a new console that would change the industry forever. If there was a bright side to all of this, it’s that some of the best games that Nintendo had ever made, found a home on this console and a second life a few years later once the Nintendo Switch rolled into town.
That’s the legacy of the Wii U: A great idea terribly executed and given life support by some of Nintendo’s most magical and experimental games.
Poor PlayStation Vita. It may not have been the best that Sony had to offer, but no one could deny that this little marvel wasn’t magical in its own right. Back in the late 2000s, the PSP was the kick in the pants that mobile gaming needed. Not a runaway success, the PSP still set a high bar for power and mobility, something that the PlayStation Vita took to heart when it returned for round two with an improved slice of hardware.
It looked great, it felt comfortable and the selection of games were well good mate. Only problem? Nintendo’s rocking up to the party with the 3DS console and stealing all of the Vita’s thunder. It didn’t take too long for Sony to lose interest in the PS Vita, proping it up with barebones support and an original game whenever there was a blue moon, but for many a gamer this was a device that was well worth the investment needed to own one.
A cult classic of mobile gaming, the PlayStation Vita may be dead but its legacy of being a boundary-breaking effort from Sony will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those people who gave the small console a chance and fell in love with it.
For years, we were convinced that virtual reality gaming was something that would look like a leftover prop from Virtuosity. When the Oculus Rift rolled into town, the dream of entering a new world of virtual imagination wasn’t just an idea reserved for the wealthy. It was a fantasy for the mainstream, an affordable jump into more experimental games and creative breakthroughs that lit a fire under the seat of the biggest players in the video game industry.
Beyond being a device for consumers, the Oculus Rift has been a glimpse into the gaming experiences that tomorrow can bring. It’s exciting, immersive and easy to use. Virtual Reality, has come home at long last – especially the standalone Oculus Quest.
When it comes to mobile gaming, Nintendo has once again dominated. The Nintendo 3DS had a high bar to clear, thanks to the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS raising it to glorious new levels, and the 3DS did not disappoint at all. It may not have had the pure hardware grunt of the PlayStation Vita, but it made up for that with sheer cunning and imagination that made the most of its various gimmicks.
This was a console with imaginative games, a library of first-party releases that cemented Nintendo’s reputation for consistent quality and even managed to sneak in some fun little social games for good measure. From Street Fighter IV to Pokemon, it’s amazing to see just how much this console was capable of, while also reveling in its ability to be a second-chance platform for games that were ready to take one final shot at glory or die trying. Nintendo may have suffered at retail with the Wii U console, but the 3DS more than made up for that blunder and gave the company enough time to bounce back with their best console ever…
Coming off of the highly successful Xbox 360, it seemed like Microsoft could do no wrong. They had the talent, they had the hardware and they had the experience to roll out a console that would define gaming in the 2010s. Which they certainly did…after a couple of years. Revealed in a glitzy 2014 event, Microsoft’s strategy of prioritising entertainment over video games didn’t exactly go over well with fans.
The fact that the console had a mandatory Kinect device included, a high price tag and a first-party slate of games that required ridiculous day one patches resulted in the Xbox One immediately being lapped by Sony as the latest console war kicked off. And yet, the story of the Xbox One isn’t about failure…it’s about redemption.
Around 2016, things began to change. Xbox began to buckle down on prioritising the Xbox One, cutting the Kinect out of the ecosystem and spending cash on the acquisition of multiple game studios. Here was a console that was succeeded by the monsterously powerful Xbox One X, as Microsoft began to think of the future of gaming and how it could keep fans invested in their brand.
The end result? A foundation that is exciting. The Xbox One may be a far better system to play games on in 2019, but it has managed to evolve from a tone-deaf blunder of a machine into a first step for Microsoft to regain the dominance that they enjoyed in the early 2010s. And that’s something that should make the competition green with envy.
What more could we say about the Nintendo Switch that we haven’t mentioned before? It’s beefy in the hardware section, the switch between home console and on the go diversion platform is perfect and it has somehow managed to rewrite the rulebook after only two years on the market. There’s a lot to love about the Switch, but its biggest success has to be in how it manages to be a console that embodies Nintendo’s best ideas and applies them to all games.
Whether you’re after a big budget experience, something more medium in scope or you want to retire for the night while playing the hottest indie games around, the Switch has you covered. It’s pick up and go gaming, easily transitioning between interactive schools of thought and already home to several of the best video games of the decade, and it has yet to reach the halfway point in its life-cycle. It’s gaming at its finest hour, and it would be the best console of the decade, were it not for a certain other brand in the house…
You know what we love about the PlayStation? It’s that it’s gaming at its very purest. From the second it was announced, the PlayStation 4 knew what it wanted to be. The hottest item of the 2014 holiday season, Sony wasted no time in making certain that this console would be home to some of the best games ever made. It created a legacy with its software, expanded into other media without sacrificing the quality of its games and sold millions.
But the biggest achievement that the PlayStation 4 had to offer? Its ability to share your personal experience and reach beyond the console to connect. Sony nailed the idea of a more connected gaming space in 2014, future-proofing their console to be a lean and mean streaming machine that saw live gameplay sessions explode in popularity. That you could share your gameplay at the touch of a button is nothing short of a milestone in gaming history.
It’s all this, a promise to deliver groundbreaking games and rock-solid console design that made the PlayStation 4 the best that gaming had to offer in the 2010s. Pure gaming perfection, on a hardware and software level.
Last Updated: November 27, 2019