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System Swan Songs: The Last Games Released on the Greatest Consoles

Remember the first games for NES? Or SNES? Or PlayStation 2? Most people do. But few remember the last. To that end, we're looking at the final games to be released on some of the all-time classic consoles.

Article by Jaz Rignall, .

System launches are amongst the most memorable events in gaming. However, while most gamers remember the first software releases of a new generation - few know the last. So what are they? Here's where you can find out, as we reveal the very last games to be released for classic and not-so-classic consoles.

But before I get to that, let me quickly lay out some ground rules for nitpickers. Please feel welcome to pick this apart, as I do love a good debate, and am always looking for new or more definitive information. Just be mindful that for the purposes of this feature, I'm considering the last official game to be released on each system as one that had general retail distribution in at least one, but preferably several worldwide territories. So yes, while I'm sure you’ve seen some guy online who made a side-scrolling version of BioShock: Infinite for the Atari 2600 only a few months ago, that’s homebrew – and it doesn’t count.

With that all squared away, let's get on with the show.

Atari 2600

Swansong Game: Klax (1990)

While the very first generation of gamers were being blown away by a brand new science fiction movie called Star Wars, Atari was rolling out its faux-wooden wonder. A console that would define video gaming's second generation, and indeed help hammer the last nail into its coffin.

While the 2600 was low tech, it had cockroach-like survival chops. It somehow avoided being nuked by the great video game crash of '83, and, nourished by some occasional dubious-quality software, eked its way though the 80s. It even stuck around long enough to witness the birth of its grand-consoles. But as the decade rolled over, the VCS ran out of puff at long last.

Its swansong game was marketed with the tagline, "It's the 90s, and there is time for Klax..." Unfortunately, that was not the case for the VCS. After spanning an incredible three decades, time was up for the legendary disco-era console.

Well, almost. Klax was the VCS' last official swansong, but it had an encore of sorts in 1992, when a puzzle game called Acid Drop was independently put into limited production in Germany. It was sold at a few retailers, enabling the system to make one final, rattling death gasp before it finally croaked.

Nintendo Entertainment System

Swansong Game: Wario's Woods (1994)

Nintendo's unassuming grey box pretty much was the gaming industry between 1985 and 1991. Tomes have been written about it, and I doubt that I can write anything that you don’t already know. Well. Maybe this. In my native country of Great Britain, Nintendo licensed NES distribution rights to toy company Mattel. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a really bad idea. Clueless marketing combined with an astonishingly poor choice of game releases – often years after they’d hit the US market – resulted in the machine selling very poorly. Meanwhile, Sega’s Master System was advertised very successfully, and bolstered by a solid range of games sold very well, and became the dominant gaming system. Crazy, huh?

Funnily enough, Tonka distributed the Master System in the states during the same period. They also did a terrible job marketing it, and as you likely know, it was utterly steamrollered by the NES. So I guess the moral of the story is - don’t let clueless toy companies distribute your video game system.

Anyway, back to everyone’s favorite 8-bit icon. After a fruitful 11-year lifespan filled with some of the most legendary games of all time, even heroes have to die, and in 1994 the fairly decent match-three puzzler Wario Woods was the system's final farewell.

Atari Lynx

Swansong Game: Super Asteroids & Missile Command (1995)

In many respects the Sony PSP of its day, Atari's Lynx never quite hit critical mass due to its high price, bulky form factor and penchant for guzzling six batteries at a time as quickly as you could shovel them into its cavernous battery bay. However, despite its shortcomings, it's still considered a classic thanks to its advanced tech (for its time), decent screen (although it looks like a postage stamp these days) and excellent range of period arcade conversions (that actually still hold up well today).

So it's fitting that it bowed out with a ROM cart featuring a couple more coin-op ports: in this case, Super Asteroids and Missile Command. That was in 1995, a mere six years after the machine's launch.

Sega 32X

Swansong Game: Spider-Man: Web of Fire (1996)

Codenamed "Project Mars," Sega's 32X was a peripheral for the Genesis that was designed to help the fading 16-bit machine unleash blistering 32-bit power onto the Sega faithful. It also conveniently bought Sega a bit more time to finish building its upcoming next-gen machine, the Saturn.

However, gamers were nonplussed, as indeed were games developers, publishers, critics, retailers and pretty much anyone else you could think of. Barely two years after it was launched, the ill-conceived peripheral was seen off by Spider-Man: Web of Fire. A game, incidentally, that had an enormous production run of no less than 1500 (count 'em) copies. Which is the reason why it's a fairly pricey eBay rarity these days.

Over in Europe, 32X didn't last long enough to witness its first birthday. After the rather excellent Virtua Fighter was released, the system was written off as a dead loss - and was liquidated for $15 a pop at places like Woolworths.

Nintendo Virtual Boy

Swansong Game: 3D Tetris (1996)

The trump card to play in any argument where someone is talking about how great and infallible Nintendo is, the Virtual Boy was a headache-inducing, red-on-red, festering piece of garbage. And I don't care how many misty-eyed people say otherwise. Just play it for 15 minutes, and I promise you that one or more of these very exciting things will happen: your eyes will feel like they've been rolled around in a tray of large salt crystals, your head will feel like it's got an ever-tightening iron band around it, or your neck will require some serious adjustment from a chiropractic specialist.

Released in the summer of 1995 to a universal chorus of raspberries from critics and gamers alike, the machine lasted an epic six months in Japan, and eight in the US before its plug was mercifully pulled.

The last game sucked down with the sinking ship? None other than Tetris 3D - which is about as much fun as getting pepper sprayed in the face.

By the way, I've still got one. I trot it out whenever anyone says "it wasn't that bad, was it?" Whereupon they almost immediately understand that it was.

Atari Jaguar

Swansong Game: Fight for Life (1996)

Back in the mid-90s, Atari was the sole American-flag-flying company still in the console-manufacturing business. But sadly, not for much longer. Despite sporting 64-bit credentials, Atari’s hot-to-trot new Jaguar failed to woo players, in some part due to its mythically unergonomic controllers, but mostly because of its phenomenally motley software lineup.

The system lasted a scant three years before shuffling off this mortal coil, and the game that saw it off in 1996 provided a surprisingly appropriate historical footnote for a system whose entire existence had been one of eternal struggle: Fight for Life.

If you haven't seen it, mercy be praised. It's one of the worst fighting games of all time: a polygonal Virtua Fighter-type game whose hopeless gameplay was further de-hanced by a control scheme that was nigh on impossible to execute on the system's hand-cramping controllers. What were they thinking?

Sega Master System

Swansong Game: Mickey's Ultimate Challenge (1998)

Sega's second console was released around the same time as its arch-rival, the Nintendo Entertainment System - which comprehensively outsold it in Japan, and utterly crushed it here. However, in Europe, the machine was a huge success, thanks to the reasons I revealed above.

Yet while the NES was by far the biggest seller of the period, the Master System ended up having the last laugh - enjoying its final software release a full four years after the NES was relegated to the back of the great closet in the sky.

Its swansong was Mickey's Ultimate Challenge, a quite excellent little game that was released in 1998, some 15 years after the Master System's debut, and only a few months before the Dreamcast hit the streets. That really is an impressive lifespan for a system that is so often written off as an 8-bit era afterthought.

Sega Genesis

Swansong Game: Frogger (1998)

Known as the Mega Drive elsewhere around the world – but not in the US due to a trademark dispute – Sega’s Genesis was launched during an era of rapid technological development. Yet despite being a product of the 80’s it had considerable staying power, and not just because of the 32X and Sega-CD peripherals that were launched during its later years to help extend its life. Nope, it was great games that helped this iconic 16-bit machine span three generations.

But with the 90's drawing to a close, it was time for Sega’s most successful system ever to be put out to pasture, and the game that showed it the way was a new-fangled version of the old classic, Frogger.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Swansong Game: Frogger (1998)

After going at it hammer and tongs for years, the SNES and Genesis both punched each other out simultaneously in 1998. And coincidentally, just like its nemesis, Super Nintendo's swansong also turned out to be the disappointingly unimaginative, "re-imagined" Frogger.

Genesis and SNES represent perhaps the fiercest rivalry we’ve ever witnessed between a pair of consoles. Sure, PlayStation and Xbox have battled it out for years, but they’ve not come close to the kind of software arms race that we saw between the two 16-bit icons. System exclusives were far more commonplace, and each machine had its own unique arsenal of games to woo players. So to see them both die together as a couple, sharing a common game is a strangely sweet ending to their tumultuous lives.

Sega Saturn

Swansong Game: Deep Fear (1998)

Technically, the last Sega Saturn game was Magic Knight Rayearth, one of those anime-sourced JRPGs that features gangs of characters with big heads and huge eyes, lots of text, and a rather strange plot. It was originally released in Japan in 1995, but thanks to a very protracted localization process, didn't see the light of day in the US until November 1998.

So why isn't that the system's swansong? Well, a couple of months before Magic Knight Rayearth hit the streets, Deep Fear was released in both Europe and Japan. It was a fairly decent underwater survival horror game that, more importantly, was an all-new, original title. So rather than an English language version of a 1995 release taking the credit for being the Saturn's swansong, I think Deep fear should get the nod.

N64

Swansong Game: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (2002)

It's a double Tony Hawk swansong whammy for the N64. The fifth generation system was launched in 1996 and saw in the next century, but didn't last much longer.

In Europe, it lasted a surprisingly short five years before it looked death - and its final game - in the face. And wearing a black hoodie and wielding a scythe was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, a game that spawned a hugely successful franchise before it succumbed to diminishing returns.

Over here, the N64 soldiered on for another year before it was visited by a video gaming grim reaper who looked almost exactly the same, but perhaps marginally better than its European counterpart - Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3.

PlayStation

Swansong Game: FIFA Football 2005 (2004)

If I were an annoying nerd with a high-pitched voice and acne, not only would I be an arcane stereotype, I'd also be saying something along the lines of "the very last game to appear on Sony's inaugural system was Dewprism in 2007." And I'd be kind of right. But the truth is, that was a limited-edition re-release of a game that appeared in 2000.

Instead, I'm going to out-nerd the nerd and point to a franchise that wasn’t as big in the US then as it is today – and that’s FIFA Football. Back in 2004, its 2005 edition watched Sony's original PlayStation flatline after a decade-long run.

However! There is an additional nerdy twist to this tale. Any German who might be reading this could justifiably claim that their country created a product that by rights should be The Last PlayStation Game Ever.

The game in question is the 2005 release, Schnappi: 3 Fun-Games. If that incomprehensible title makes absolutely no sense to you, I am not surprised in the slightest. It’s a minigame collection was inspired by, and indeed features a period novelty tune called Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil. Which I refuse to link to, because I want to indemnify myself against potential lawsuits for causing permanent brain damage. All I need to say is that the game was German-only, was built with Macromedia Flash, and it's about as fun as a bratwurst enema. Enough said. The PlayStation deserves a quality sending off, so FIFA, being a multi-territory release, makes for a much sweeter swansong than the aural monstrosity that is, for one last time, Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil.

Sega Dreamcast

Swansong Game: Border Down (2003)

Sega's ultimate console tottered along for five years before succumbing to the combined might of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The game that helped it wave goodbye was Border Down, a pretty damn fine shooter.

Proving that the machine still had its fans even during its last death throes, the game sold out its 10,000 run. A further 5000 were produced in 2008 - which were also snapped up by Dreamcast owners. Apparently that still wasn't enough, because the game remains in high demand, selling for hundreds of bucks on eBay.

Nintendo GameCube

Swansong Game: Madden NFL 2008 (2008)

Nintendo's sixth generation games box outsold Sega's Dreamcast, but couldn't quite match Microsoft's upstart Xbox – much to the surprise of many pundits of the time – and was comprehensively beaten by the PlayStation 2. Which is no surprise because PlayStation 2 has outsold every other console in existence.

But even though its performance was somewhat below par, it still had a decent run, lasting from 2001 until 2008, whereupon it yielded to its far more successful successor – the Wii. The game that bought the curtain down on the squarest console ever was Madden NFL 2008, a decent enough send-off for a system not known for the quantity of its software releases – but its quality.

Xbox

Swansong Game: Madden NFL 2009 (2009)

It seems fitting that an all-American machine would be seen off by an all-American game – and in this case it’s Madden NFL 2009. Which is a similar-sounding swansong to its generational rival, the GameCube, which had been put to bed by the same franchise just 12 months earlier.

That many of the systems on this list have died in the arms of a sports game isn’t really surprising. Sports titles are hugely popular, with broad mass-market appeal that often help them sell on systems years after most hardcore gamers have abandoned them for bigger and better CPUs. In some cases, releases like NFL and FIFA might be the only premium games bought by these super-casual gamers, who are otherwise only interested in cut-price bargains and secondary market acquisitions.

And so it was with the Xbox, entertaining the last vestiges of its audience with a game based on America’s favorite sport.

PlayStation 2

Swansong Game: FIFA 14 (2013)

It's FIFA – again, and yes, that number is right. The edition blowing the final whistle on one of the greatest systems of all time is FIFA 14 2013. While there is always the possibility that other games might be released on this venerable console, it's extremely doubtful at this point, some thirteen years and just about two generations after its debut in 2000.

The fact that the PlayStation 2 lasted this long is a testament to its brilliance. While we can all argue where this system might end up sitting in the context of history, I'd make the case for it deserving the top spot thanks to its astonishingly long list of absolutely top-drawer games - and the fact that with 155 million units sold, it's also the most successful console ever.

So its guard of honor being one of the biggest-selling game franchises of all time is a fitting ending to this legendary piece of technology.

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Comments 31

  • Avatar for BigBauss #1 BigBauss 3 years ago
    I seem to recall a Dreamcast game being released by Sega in Japan that was about fighting the executives at Sega for their mistakes over the years. There's also a slim chance you played as an alien squid, but that's likely just my memory turning into a hopeful dream.
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  • Avatar for davidbabb52 #2 davidbabb52 3 years ago
    @BigBauss, that would be SegaGaGa. :)
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  • Avatar for secularsage #3 secularsage 3 years ago
    The Sega Master System's success in Europe and Brazil has always been a fun sort of "alternate world" to the establish video game industry canon. If Sega had only been a little more forward-thinking with the Master System and HADN'T relied on Tonka, they might have been more dominant early on, when the hearts and minds of gamers were being won. By the time the Mega Drive was being localized as the Sega Genesis, Nintendo was already the premier brand for video games in North America and Sega faced an uphill battle.

    The sad thing is, I knew several people who owned both consoles and who preferred the SMS over the NES because it did a much better job with arcade ports. You only had to play Double Dragon, Shinobi or Strider once on each system to understand that the SMS was the superior experience (even if the NES versions of some of those games have become classics in their own right.)

    Even today, though, I'm hard-pressed to say what the SMS's killer app was supposed to be. What the SMS lacked was a mascot like Mario or a flagship title that really capture the imagination. Sonic didn't hit until the 90s, and neither Wonder Boy nor Alex Kidd were ever as popular of characters in the US. (Wonder Boy was more popular as Master Higgins in Adventure Island, thanks to Hudson Soft's port of the original Wonder Boy arcade game on the NES).
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #4 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    This was a wonderful article, even with a little humorous fudging. :P
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  • Avatar for metalangel #5 metalangel 3 years ago
    I remember going into Debenhams in London and being flabbergasted a) that Master System games were still being sold, and b) how many of them there were!

    The Lynx was amazing, the sound and graphics quality was astonishing. I think I just seem to have a thing for doomed consoles.

    The best way to play a Virtual Boy, by the way, is to lie on your back with it resting on your face.
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  • Avatar for SOUP32 #6 SOUP32 3 years ago
    The last official game on the Dreamcast was Karous. Great article though.
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  • Avatar for legeek #7 legeek 3 years ago
    Thanks for being kind, yet fair in your Atari write ups, Jaz! :)
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  • Avatar for Rory-Taylor #8 Rory-Taylor 3 years ago
    Cool article, but I think it would be more interesting to look at the last notable game for each system instead of technically the game with latest release date.
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  • Avatar for willys #9 willys 3 years ago
    God I love this site especially the articles covering the older consoles since I started on the Atari 2600 and the NES. It's a shame that a great site like this only has a dozen comments in each article while some lessert sites have some articles with over 25,000
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  • Avatar for d0x #10 d0x 2 years ago
    When I was 8 Yeats old we went to visit family in the UK. everyone there had either a master system or genesis. Nobody has a NES. When I told them I had 2 they just about freaked out. It was a cool trip cause I had never even seen a genesis or master system at that point. I played the crap out of zillions
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  • Avatar for Pacario #11 Pacario 2 years ago
    The homebrew scene of the last twenty years or so has rendered a lot of these "swan songs" somewhat moot due to countless indie developers still churning out content. And while these newer titles may not be "official" releases, systems like the Atari 2600 never had a traditional licensing model anyway, automatically making any company programming for the console, then or now, a third-party developer. [Edit: Granted, they do not distribute on a wide retail level.]

    For anyone curious, I recommend checking out www.atariage.com. It's replete with brand new games designed for various ancient systems.Edited July 2014 by Pacario
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  • Avatar for SOUP32 #12 SOUP32 2 years ago
    Deleted July 2014 by SOUP32
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  • Avatar for TotalHenshin #13 TotalHenshin 2 years ago
    @Pacario Jaz specifically says "I'm considering the last official game to be released on each system as one that had general retail distribution in at least one, but preferably several worldwide territories." Not to mention this feature is about a lot more consoles than just the 2600.
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  • Avatar for Pacario #14 Pacario 2 years ago
    @TotalHenshin Thanks for the correction, but as I said before, I know homebrew games aren't official releases. My point was that these "swan songs" seem almost irrelevant in the face of how excellent some of these homebrew titles are. I just purchased Pac-Man 4k on Atari Age recently, and you'd be amazed at how much better it is than the original, embarrassing version on the 2600. And, of course, there are plenty of completely original titles to be had as well that rival any official third-party's releases. Pier Solar on the Genesis, for example, is an indie/homebrew RPG that rivals anything that came out for the system in the '90s.Edited 5 times. Last edited July 2014 by Pacario
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #15 kantaroo3 2 years ago
    This article was nice, but I think that sports games should be in a separate category; at least it would be interesting to see each console's last game OTHER THAN a sports game. This is because it seems pretty easy to do a re-skin of the previous year's FIFA 201x into FIFA 201x+1, it doesn't really add much to the owners of the system.

    In fact what I think would be brilliant is a sort of "best games in the 24 months straddling the release of the next generation console" (obviously I do not have a knack for catchy marketing phrases). Or maybe even the best games in the year before the next generation arrived, or simply "The best games in the last years of console X". The reason why I think this would be interesting is because many of the best games in any system arrive at the end of its life, when developers have got the knack of the console and have a whole suite of tricks to extract the most out of it; it also represents the high water mark of their install bases and hence game designers are keenest to wow the audience with wonderful titles.
    As an illustration, I would be much more interested in a list that had, for the PS2, Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy XII rather than FIFA 14.
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  • Avatar for sean697 #16 sean697 2 years ago
    @willys I love that the comments aren't 25000 long. I can actually read them. And they aren't filled with trolls. Have you tried to read comments on IGN? It's impossible. Everything gets lost in the crowd. And the Disqus system always crashes or takes forever to load.
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  • Avatar for Whinybabyclub #17 Whinybabyclub 2 years ago
    Annoying nerd with a high pitched voice and acne = Greg Miller
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  • Avatar for nathanwong28 #18 nathanwong28 2 years ago
    No Atari 5200? I swear, no love for a system with the most hit game ratio out there. Who cares about bad controllers? It was/is fun.Edited April 2015 by nathanwong28
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  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #19 I-m-not-Daredevil A year ago
    It's a shame that the the Sega Master System was'nt more popular in the US during it's lifespan. It had some of the greatest games of all time on it (Wonderboy III) that will never get the praise they deserve. It's definitely a weird alternate reality that I'm still stranded in - to this day I call the metroidvania genre 'Wondertroid'.
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  • Avatar for LK4O4 #20 LK4O4 A year ago
    I was genuinely expecting the Sega Dreamcast one to be some form of "it's entire library" just to be cheeky. :D
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  • Avatar for Sturat #21 Sturat A year ago
    @I-m-not-Daredevil I would upvote your comment 100 times if I could. Wonderboy III and the Master System are frickin awesome!
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  • Avatar for Sturat #22 Sturat A year ago
    @I-m-not-Daredevil I would upvote your comment 100 times if I could. Wonderboy III and the Master System are frickin awesome!
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  • Avatar for StevieWhite #23 StevieWhite A year ago
    I wonder how much 2600 Klax sold. Crazy stuff! I think we still had a 2600 at that point, and I would have had no idea where to find new releases (even if I wanted them).
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  • Avatar for hamfighter #24 hamfighter A year ago
    @SOUP32 Yep, Karous was the last official Dreamcast game and was actually released 3.5 years after Border Down. There were actually several other official releases after Border Down (many will be recognizable to serious shooting game genre fans). I may be missing some, but some notable ones:

    September 2003 - Border Down
    February 2004 - Puyo Pop Fever (developed by Sonic Team and actually published by Sega as their final first party release for a Sega console)
    February 2004 - Psyvariar 2
    March 2004 - Shikigami no Shiro 2
    December 2004 - Chaos Field
    October 2004 - Baldr Force EXE
    April 2005 - Trizeal
    February 2006 - Radilgy
    March 2006 - Under Defeat (like Border Down, developed and published by G.Rev)
    February 2007 - Trigger Heart Excelica
    March 2007 - Karous

    Interestingly, from Under Defeat on these games were released in typical DVD cases (grey plastic Amaray-style cases) instead of the GD-Rom jewel cases, because while Sega was still able to do official GD-ROM printing they no longer had access to the old jewel cases.

    Of course, the independent non-official releases kept coming, as recently as Ghost Blade from Hucast which was just released in late September 2015!Edited 3 times. Last edited December 2015 by hamfighter
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  • Avatar for hamfighter #25 hamfighter A year ago
    Also, sad to see the Neo Geo not represented here, as one of the systems with the longest run in years. Final official release was Samurai Spirits Zero Special (aka Samurai Shodown 5 Special), which was a truly fantastic sendoff to the system known for high end 2D fighters.
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  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #26 I-m-not-Daredevil A year ago
    @Sturat Thanks man! Great to hear that somebody else loves the system :)
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  • Avatar for nguyễnhoàngtùn #27 nguyễnhoàngtùn A year ago
    i love playstation 2 fifa and now fifa online
    cách chữa viêm họng bằng đông y
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  • Avatar for nguyễnhoàngtùn #28 nguyễnhoàngtùn A year ago
    Chuyên khoa điều trị bệnh về gan xin giới thiệu với các bạn. Một số biện pháp phòng và điều trị bệnh về gan như:
    cách chữa bệnh xơ gan cổ trướng
    cách chữa bệnh men gan cao
    triệu chứng bệnh men gan tăng
    cách chữa bệnh gan nhiễm mỡ
    thuốc nam chữa bệnh viêm gan b
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  • Avatar for Sturat #29 Sturat A year ago
    @hamfighter You probably know this, but Segagaga and Cosmic Smash came in DVD cases like the last three official games, even though other games with jewel cases were released after them.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #30 yuberus A year ago
    @nathanwong28 In that case it'd be Gremlins, which apparently limped out to the stores in 1987, years after they'd been manufactured and left in warehouses while Atari retrenched.
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  • Avatar for matthenzel #31 matthenzel A year ago
    "Its swansong was Mickey's Ultimate Challenge, a quite excellent little game that was released in 1998, some 15 years after the Master System's debut"

    I think your math is off a bit here. Going back 15 years from 1998 would make it 1983, but the Sega Master System didn't come out in the west until September 1986. If you are referring to the Japanese Sega Mark III (Basically the same SMS hardware) that came out in October 1985, which would make it 13 years, not 15.

    Still a fun article. Thanks for sharing it.
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  • Avatar for richsheppard67 #32 richsheppard67 10 months ago
    SNK's Neo Geo really should be in this list, official games lasted from April 26, 1990 to 2004! The longest-lasting system ever.Edited 3 times. Last edited July 2016 by richsheppard67
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