Readers discuss their favourite video game rivalries, from the days of the SNES vs. Mega Drive right up to PlayStation vs. Xbox.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Cranston, who asked what’s the most invested you’ve ever been in a console war? Which generation did you get the most passionate about and which side were you on?
The 16-bit battle between Mega Drive and SNES will always be the definitive console war but plenty others have stuck in readers minds, from the 8-bit computer wars right up to the modern day.
A war amongst friends
Growing up as a young boy in the early to mid-90s, I had two close friends. We shared many interests including football, WWF Wrestling as it was then known, eating Mars bars and every flavour of jawbeakers (although not at the same time!), having water-fights during the summer with our Super Soakers and, ultimately, playing video games.
The main two consoles in play during that era were the Super Nintendo (SNES) and the Sega Mega Drive. I owned the former, the same as one of my aforementioned pals and my other friend had a Mega Drive. Video games consoles were big business and were often at the forefront of our childhood discussions. I had a real passion for playing games, particularly soccer sims, that to some extent allowed me to replicate real-life scenarios that I experienced while having a kickabout up the park and also those that I viewed while carefully scrutinising the professional game either on television or live, in-person.
What I would learn later on in life was termed ‘banter’, we certainly had a lot of in our youth, when we were challenging each other over who owned the superior console. Obviously, the two SNES owners were at a bit of an advantage during any argument, with the 2:1 ratio effectively meaning that we would back each other up on most points; leaving my Mega Drive owning friend rather disgruntled.
The SNES was super in more ways than one. Games such as Super Mario World, Mario Kart, Sensible Soccer, Super Soccer, Kick-Off, and WWF Wrestlemania provided endless hours of entertainment. We would compete furiously for victory, no matter the genre. Don’t get me wrong: we also enjoyed many hours of fun on the Sega console on games such as Sonic, World Cup Italia ’90, and Streets Of Rage.
But, I think only naturally, I felt that Nintendo’s offering overshadowed that of Sega. Being relatively young and also naive, I’m sure comments that I would now realise would be deemed insensitive, were made in the direction of the Mega Drive owner: ‘The SNES is much better than the Mega Drive!’, a parting shot one evening before retreating to our own addresses for dinner.
I certainly had no regrets about opting for Nintendo’s product over Sega’s back then, but ultimately, did switch to PlayStation later on that decade, which I believed was a game-changer in the industry and has proven to be in the superseding years.
I think the one main thing from the modern gaming industry that I would have found perhaps most surprising and indeed revolutionary at the time of the SNES vs. Mega Drive debate, would have been the introduction of online gaming. I believe that this has had a profound impact on the way that gaming is played.
We didn’t even have the Internet back in those days, so if somebody had to suggest the possibility of competing against an opponent not in our immediate friendship group, and indeed thousands of miles away, we just wouldn’t have been able to fathom it. It is strange to consider that many modern gamers now only play online when roughly three decades ago, this was simply not an option!
I was a teenager during the PlayStation/Saturn years, so due to my lack of mental maturity I was heavily invested in the console wars. It didn’t help that I was with the underdog, the Saturn, and I defended the console against any naysayers. I lapped up the propaganda from the official Saturn magazine, sure that sales would pick up and more games would come out, but we all know how that turned out.
Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of the Saturn – Virtua Fighter 2, Marvel Super Heroes, and Panzer Dragoon Saga and NiGHTS are all classics – but as soon as I saw Metal Gear Solid in action I knew it was game over for the Saturn and I jumped ship to the PlayStation. I’ve been buying PlayStations ever since.
Rangersingh (PSN ID)
Currently playing: FIFA 22 and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Playing both sides
I think the 16-bit era was probably the time when I was most invested in a console war.
Two factors where the driving force behind it. Firstly, my age. I was an early teenager at the time. So my idea of winning an argument was he who shouted loudest won, which is obviously not the case.
The second was the marketing of the two main consoles, Sega were very aggressive towards Nintendo and more power to them. They where there to sell consoles, not be friends with Nintendo.
This all trickled down into the playgrounds though and I myself and a couple of other friends who owned Super Nintendos where left scratching our heads thinking, ‘Have we really got the lesser of the two consoles because it doesn’t feel like it?’.
So we felt compelled to stand up for what we believed in, started scoffing at the Mega Drives games, shouting profanities at each other and going back to class In a bad mood.
Then Street Fighter 2 was effortlessly ported onto the SNES and we knew at that moment that Nintendo had tipped the boat in our favour.
Even when the game finally came out on the Mega Drive, the Sega boys where convincing themselves they could have the same experience. Yet in reality they had to purchase not only the game but a six-button controller to get it really firing on all cylinders, not to mention you needed to buy another one to take on one of your mates.
I still stand by that argument today and I believe if a little bit more effort and attention went into the design of the Mega Drive control pad, a bit more forward thinking in what they were trying to achieve out of the games running on their system, then there would have been a bit more scope for programmers to play with. Then I dare say the worldwide sales figures of the two units would have been even closer.
Sega could have possibly even nipped it.
Anyway, all’s well that ends well and a little while later a pair of twin brothers I knew wanted to borrow my SNES for the weekend so they could play Turtles In Time, they offered me their Mega Drive with Sonic 1 and 2 in return.
I swallowed my pride and agreed. Almost immediately I was looking forward to playing these classics everyone talked about. Needless to say I enjoyed it very much.
A short while later the lure of Speedball 2, Sonic, and Aladdin where too much and I bought myself a Mega Drive with Sonic 2.
I’ve still got it in my gaming room right now with all my other favourite retro stuff.
A bit like Apollo Creed and Rocky. Yeah, it got a bit rough when we were fighting it out with each other back there, but I love you really.
These days my youngest daughter is a huge fan of Sonic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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The Great War
Most invested I’ve ever been in a console war? Well, it was looong time ago, and it wasn’t even a console.
It was the great home computer war that ran in this country from 1982 to about 1989/1990.
It was of course the battle between those behemoths of 80s home gaming, the Sinclair Spectrum and the Commodore 64.
I was a late comer to this war, not getting a Spectrum +2 until I was 12 in 1986, but I loved that machine and was anti-C64 in a very strong way (unless of course I was round at my mates who had a C64, then I was just jealous of how many colours it could display, and how much better the colour separation was).
Much of the war was waged through the pages of Your Sinclair and Sinclair User magazines (and I’m sure their C64 equivalents).
I think, as ever with these things, it was about having invested in a machine (mine was a Christmas present) and reinforcing that you had made the right choice. Again, these things feel important when you’re 12.
The differences between the C64 and Spectrum were quite noticeable. The C64, as I mentioned above, had much better colour definition. But the Spectrum could display better, more defined sprites, the C64 often looking blocky. So both were trade-offs on something. One thing neither were lacking was plentiful, and often cheap, games.
But really there was only reason for the intensity of the war… we were 12, so this kind of thing felt important.
Interestingly, there was one thing that united us Spectrum and C64 owners… anyone who had an Amstrad CPC464. Man, any of those kids had a tough old time. Ironic really given that by the time I got my Spectrum the company was owned by Amstrad.
Anyway, things changed, I got older, I moved on to the Amiga, made by the previous enemy Commodore and haven’t ever been bothered by console wars since, because as a grown man it really doesn’t matter!
Have fun y’all, and don’t get pulled into any stupid console war nonsense!
Next gen resentment
I got my Nintendo 64 when I was probably about eight and I loved it, I had a Sega Saturn already but as much as we all look back fondly on it, it was pretty grim having one as your only console at the time.
Most of my friends had a PlayStation and it used to frustrate me how Sony were winning the console war, when in my pre-adolescent brain I was adamant that Nintendo had the better games. Was it really so easy for people to fall for Sony’s slick marketing?
Obviously I later realised that the PlayStation succeeded because it was just a great product. Yes, Crash Bandicoot wasn’t as good as Super Mario 64, but the PlayStation also had Ape Escape, Spyro The Dragon and more. You can repeat that example with different titles over and over. For every 10/10 game the N64 had the PS1 had half a dozen 8-9/10 games and they often had more features and therefore longevity because of being disc-based.
But, despite the fact then, that there was really no good reason to, I can admit for a couple of years of my childhood I really did hate the PlayStation.
I thought my time for getting invested in console wars had passed but I’m finding myself drawn in to the current one a bit. I remember when Microsoft got involved in consoles there was chatter that they were just going to buy up the market and win with brute force, so it was pleasant to see them actually find success with a distinct and compelling offering, with some great first party exclusives and their revolutionary online service.
Fast forward about 20 years to now though and it just feels like they’re running on fumes. I’ve grown to resent them more and more over the last couple of years. We’ve all read more about the way they do business this week, and whilst that’s up to them, I hardly think it is going to push gaming forward much. I’d be happy to see them fail so I suppose that means I am once again invested in a console war after all these years.
I pride myself of being completely (or at least mostly) non-partisan when it comes to consoles but if I’m honest I did get pretty invested in the Amiga vs. Atari ST war. I think it’s because I never really liked the guy in our group that had an ST, even though he was technically my friend.
I think that’s behind a lot of these sort of things. It’s not really the consoles or games that are the issue it’s something else beyond that, whether it’s not wanting to admit you wasted your money or just not liking the people on the other side of the argument.
War without malice
Nintendo Maniac all the way but the Sega Warriors were a very respected rival.
I played the Mega Drive first and then the Master System whilst at my friend’s houses and was amazed to see the graphical capabilities of this system, which were practically on par with the Amiga 500 Plus, when I got that for a Christmas or birthday present. Both blew my mind away, as the NES from Nintendo was the only console of theirs I could get at the time. I’d have gotten the Mega Drive for Castle Of Illusion and Revenge Of Shinobi on their own!
But when a particular Super Nintendo console came along and was all the rage with Super Mario World and Super Mario Kart, then it sold it to me then and there. And not too long after Zelda: A Link To The Past came out and Nintendo had won!
To be fair to Sega, the above games were the top tier of everything and nothing else came close. So imagine when Super Mario All-Stars came out with the best of the NES Marios and Super Castlevania 4, which was a pretty convincing purchase also when it came on the scene.
If I could afford it, I would have possibly got a Sega console but then Sony released the PlayStation and all was over for Sega. I did not see Sega as an adversary just an unfortunate player in the 16 and 32-bit console wars.
So Nintendo first, with Sony second, and Sega last. Oh, and the Xbox 360 was another challenger where Sega was not just defeated but buried alive. One good thing was Sega’s best loved characters coming over to make guest appearances on other consoles – I never thought I’d see that on a Nintendo console.
Nowadays it’s pretty much PlayStation all the way, though I do now have a Nintendo Switch. But they were good memories of a great war fought.
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