This week… haters gotta hate. Well, hopefully this won't be a completely negative affair, but we do want to hear about which console - or computer come to think of it - disappointed you the most. Was it something successful that just didn't have games that you appreciated, or did you splurge on a system that failed to live up to your expectations?
We're expecting this one to be a lively debate, so keep things civil - but hopefully we can have fun with your tales of woe.
While you ponder on which console it is that disappointed you the most, here's USgamer's list of least favorites:
This one's pretty easy: The Nintendo 64, no question. (Xbox One gets another year to prove itself before I write it off.)
My family had owned gaming systems before the Nintendo Entertainment System arrived, but the NES was the first console that was truly my own. I cut my teeth and formed my tastes with lucky blind purchases like Metroid, Castlevania, and Mega Man — games that seemed interesting from boxes and screenshots and proved to be as good as they looked. It introduced me to proper platforming with the Mario games, cooperative play with Contra and Life Force, RPGs with Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy, adventure games through Shadowgate and Defender of the Crown, and more. A few years later, the Super NES rallied my flagging enthusiasm for video games with amazing games like Street Fighter II, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, Mega Man X, and Yoshi's Island.
Obviously, the N64 would be the next system I'd own — no question about that. It wasn't that I looked down on competing consoles, though! I saw plenty of games on other systems that I admired and envied. But I only had so much money, and Nintendo systems had cultivated my tastes, so that's where I committed my time and energy.
And that's what made N64 such a let down. Once the initial thrill of Super Mario 64 subsided, there wasn't much left for me. Wave Race 64 was a stunning racer with incredible water physics, but I can only distill so much entertainment from racing. I wanted to like Turok, but it was packed with terrible FPS design choices and uninteresting enemies. In the throes of my rekindled enthusiasm for Star Wars in the '90s, the idea of Shadows of the Empire alone sold me on an N64… but when the time came to actually buy the game, I realized it looked like hot garbage and decided to pass.
I soldiered on and managed to scrape a couple months of life out of Mario Kart 64, completing every single challenge and unlocking every single secret, before realizing that the game experience I really wanted that generation would be found on PlayStation. Three different flavors of Mega Man! Dragon Warrior! Final Fantasy VII! Castlevania! And all kinds of intriguing new games like Tomb Raider and Suikoden and more. I sold my N64 to my roommate and used the cash to buy a PlayStation and used copies of Suikoden and Mega Man 8, and never once regretted the decision.
About a year later, I reached a point in life where I could afford to own all the current consoles and eventually bought someone else's N64. Yet even though it offered the occasional big title for me to enjoy, the system never managed to spark that lost enthusiasm again. Something about N64 games felt off — the weird controller, the chugging framerates and blurry graphics, the muted audio, the too-small game worlds — and the relatively high price of those carts were a tough pill to swallow. Ultimately, the humble Game Boy Color became my main Nintendo console for that generation, the N64 sitting as the disused dust collector I'd turn to when the rare high-profile first-party title came along. I even spent more total time with Saturn, a console I didn't buy until it was already dead in the U.S.
I'm making an active effort to find more appreciation for the N64 in hindsight, because most gamers overlooked it that generation. There are plenty of gems waiting to be rediscovered, and I'm looking forward to playing the games that were almost but not quite interesting enough for me to take a chance on back in the day, like Hybrid Heaven and Beetle Adventure Racing. Maybe I'll find something to love. But in my heart, N64 will always be where Nintendo got it wrong. That's a good thing, though! It forced me to expand my horizons and experience gaming beyond Nintendo's insular ecosystem. There's a whole world out there, console warriors.
This is a tough question, because most consoles have always had redeeming features - even if they were minor. My most disappointing console has plenty of them - redeeming features that is - and I'm sure there are some people out there who still love it, but for me I just have to single out the Wii. And even then, it's not really the console, but simply the promise it largely failed to deliver on.
Yes, before I get yelled at that there are more than a few good Wii games out there, and that the console really isn't that bad, I actually started out as a huge Wii proponent. I absolutely loved its revolutionary new controllers and felt that they were going to usher in some really exciting and interesting new games. There was clearly potential here to reinvent old classics, and for the controller to facilitate new ideas and game mechanics.
I played Wii Sports a lot, and had fun with that, and even put in a good few months using Wii Fit to get myself in slightly better shape than I was when I first started using it. However, as the months ground on, it became clear that major developers were simply not seeing the same potential for games that I believed that the machine was capable of, and we began to see all sorts of shovelware titles saturating the market. Sure, in amongst the dross there were some gems like the two Galaxies, the Zeldas, Metroid Prime and so on, but what I found with the Wii is that beyond those best-of-the-best first party games, there just wasn't much available for the machine that interested me. And I'm talking specifically new stuff - not the sort of virtual console games we see on almost every modern Nintendo console.
In a way, those brilliant first party games made the situation even more disappointing because for the most part they just created such a huge disparity between what Wii was truly capable of, and the rest of the shovelware rubbish that Nintendo seemed more than happy to be released on its massive-selling system. And ultimately, that was the disappointment for me. So few developers seemed to be inspired by Wii and the controllers, and instead saw its mass market audience as potential suckers to buy all sorts of stupid crapware like Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football, Project Runway: The Video Game, and Cold Stone Creamery: Scoop it Up
So there. Don't really blame the console - blame developers for not fully realizing just how great a system this was, and how revolutionary its controllers were. But regardless of who's to blame for all that, ultimately, Wii is my biggest disappointment in terms of consoles. I mean, at least with Virtual Boy we always knew that thing was going to be a disaster. Wii started with such promise, but never fulfilled its potential.
I admit, I've had fun with pretty much every console I've owned. Someone always makes sure to release at least one or two good games for any system. That said, if there was one console that I could travel back in time and prevent young mike from buying, it'd be the Neo Geo Pocket Color.
Did I enjoy King of fighters R-2, SNK vs. Capcom, and Snk vs. Capcom: Card Fighter's Clash? Yes. Was $69.99 a solid price for a handheld system? Yes. Did I love the design and overall style of the system? Yes, indeed.
The problem is the Neo Geo Pocket Color had a North American shelf life of under a year: it was launched in August 1999 and wrapped up in June 2000. Why? Because SNK parent company Azure decided that Western markets weren't worth its time. That means we got a total of 32 of the less than 100 games released on the portable. That included a lot of fluff like Neo Dragon's Wild, Shanghai Mini, and Neo Turf Masters. It did fighting games really well, but they were all largely based on the same engine and art style; once you owned one or two, you were good.
So, the Neo Geo Pocket Color is my one regret. I know where it's packed away, sitting there waiting for my return, but I've never really felt a desire to pick it up one last time. So if there's a console that disappointed me the most, that would be it.
I posed this question to a friend of mine this morning, and I feel like I was able to make a pretty strong case for the Nintendo 64 (though it's redeeemed by Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64), the GameCube, and of course, the Wii. But you know what? I think the console that has really disappointed me is the PlayStation 3.
You're probably thinking, "Whaaaaaat! The PlayStation 3 has lots of good games! It's still viable even today!" Hear me out, though. When I purchased the PlayStation 3 back in 2008, it was under the assumption that it would eventually turn out to be a lot like the PlayStation 2 — the dominant platform for Japanese games. What I didn't bargain with was the collapse of Japanese console development, which left behind only a handful of gems and many, many budget games. At least some of this collapse can be traced back to the PS3 itself, which was notoriously difficult to develop for and left many Japanese developers struggling to keep pace with western developers, who had embraced the Xbox 360. It was also $600 effing dollars, pricing out all but the most ardent gamers.
Fast forward to today, and I don't see a ton of point to keeping my PlayStation 3. Many of its best exclusives have been ported to the PlayStation 4 or to PC. Even Valkyria Chronicles is available on Steam these days. The console itself feels slow and underpowered, giving lie to all the old assertions about the power of the Cell Processor (for the reasons outlined above, the Cell Processor might have been the worst thing to ever happen to Japanese gaming). There are still worthwhile games out for the PS3, which is more than I can say for the Xbox 360 these days, but even NIS has mostly moved on.
I realize that nine years is a long tail for a console — longer even than that of the PlayStation 2 — and that the PS3 has a much better legacy than the Wii, which has long since been consigned to the dustbin of history. What we're seeing, I guess, is the tyranny of raised expectations. Sony promised the moon and never quite delivered. Even during the PlayStation 3's heyday, the Xbox 360 was my primary console owing to the fact that it was faster and had a much better UI. Every step of the way, I've found some reason to be disappointed with the PlayStation 3.
It's perhaps unfair to speak of the PS3 in the same breath as some of the consoles listed here. It's certainly held up better than the Wii or the Xbox 360. But there's also no question that it's Sony's weakest platform; and with many of its best games now available on other platforms, it feels increasingly disposable. In this case, mediocrity is every bit as disappointing as being outright bad.