Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Top Five Ugliest Consoles

Video game consoles are wonderful things. They date back almost as far as gaming itself and have taken many forms over the last 35 years or so. Some are fantastic-looking devices whose styling befits their power and splendour, while others are plain weird, but there have been a few that really do make you wonder what the designers were thinking. I may be alone here but these ugly systems take something away from the actual gaming experience for me as well. Only a little something but it's there nonetheless. Here are the five that make me say "groo!" the most:

5 - Nintendo Entertainment System

It may have destroyed all comers in almost every corner of the world (except here in the UK - hee hee!) but Nintendo's ultra-popular Entertainment System was not a looker. The original Japanese version of the system - the Famicom - was not the most graceful of consoles itself but it did have a lot of appeal and some neat features (controllers that slot into the side - sweet!) but the remodelled 'Rest of the World' version was a drab, square, almost featureless box which not only didn't look nice but was also poorly designed too.

4 - ColecoVision

The two most noteworthy things about the Coleco are that it was the first 16-bit machine and that it could emulate the Atari VCS (with an adaptor) but aside from that it was an unremarkable and rather an odd machine in many ways, not least of all its unusual VCR-like design. It probably looked okay in its day so I think its biggest problem is that it's aged badly, and not in a good way like the original VCS! And those controllers.... aaarrrgghhh!

3 - Super NES (US version)

Ahh, the mighty SNES - a worthy adversary for my beloved MegaDrive and a machine I came to respect a great deal. Also, unlike with the NES, we European gamers got the same sexy-looking design as the Japanese Super Famicom. American gamers, on the other hand, were stuck with this gruesome slab with... purple buttons? What on earth? It's supposed to have the four different colours, even the logo features them! What buffoon decided to replace them with different shades of purple? It's not a terrible-looking machine in its own right I suppose but it's so much less pleasant than the lovely Super Famicom, and so unnecessarily too. Boo hoo!

2 - Commodore 64 GS

Not only was this console the stupidest, most ill-conceived device in the history of audio/visual entertainment but I think it might also hold the unofficial record for the laziest design as well. It's almost as if they knew it was pointless and wouldn't succeed so they couldn't be bothered to even try to make it look nice! It was a keyboard-less Commodore 64 under the hood and even less interesting to look at. Is it any wonder it flopped harder than a lethargic hippo?

1 - PlayStation 2

Yep, that's right! Many will no doubt disagree with this but I don't care - the PS2, especially the original model, looks horrible! Aside perhaps from its fairly compact size, it looks to me like a 70's air-conditioner that was supposed to look futuristic. It's not even symmetrical - it overhangs at the front and on one side - what's that about? It might've played host to some rather jolly games, and it had nice-coloured lights on the front which looked pretty cool in the dark, but it really is an awful-looking machine if you ask me. Some may say I hold a grudge over its defeat of the Dreamcast but this isn't a console that I would like the look of even if I adored Sony. Blee!


  1. I disagree with some of these. The NES, USA SNES and PS2 designs have good character and the PS2 also has the advantage of being able to use it vertical or horizontal. I think the Philips Videopac G7000 should be in the list though. Far worse and more odd when compared to the Colecovision which had a few good conversions made for it, and the advantage that French machines have a SCART/PERITEL cable as standard. I would also choose the Funtech Super A'Can over the USA SNES. And the Atari 5200 would definitely be on my list just for the fact it is bloody massive and has no character, and also had dreadful controllers.

  2. Hi Mr. Anonymous, thanks for the comment! I expected to be disagreed with :)

    I think the Japanese Famicom has character, I don't think the NES has. It was so popular though, that I'm sure lots of people that grew up with one love it regardless.

    My main problem with the US SNES is the removal of the four-colour logo - it was one of those logos that you'd recognise instantly without even any writing, so why remove it?

    I'll never agree with anyone who thinks the original PS2 looks good though - awful, awful, awful!

    I can see where you're coming from with the 5200, and the Funtech is an interesting nomination, but the G7000 was a computer - there may well be a whole separate list for ugly computers :P

  3. I'd say the G7000 is a console, and even though it had a keyboard this was mostly just used for games - you could not even save games on the system and it had no built in OS. Wikipedia classes it as a Second Generation Console too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_games_%28second-generation_systems%29 I guess it might be a Hybrid or Bisexual system - probably a bit like the Commodore Max which was mostly just used by people for cartridge gaming, due to lack of computer power and features (Basic came on a cartridge and it has no OS installed!) and its dreadful membrane keyboard. I hope you also do a Top 5 most beautiful consoles. I would say the Panasonic Q would come up the top of my list.

  4. Fair enough regarding the G7000, I usually just take the existence of a keyboard to be the difference between consoles and computers. The Speccy's membrane keyboard wasn't up to much either! I've given a little thought to the Top Five Most Beautiful Consoles and the Panasonic Q would have to be on there as you say. I'll have to think about the rest for a while though... :P

  5. Don't touch the NESSSSSSSSSSSS!!! >.>

  6. Haha, I've been getting some trouble on Twitter over that choice! :P Those corners are so sharp they could take an eye out!

  7. Well, I can't really argue with any of your selections, Simon! I would add one, though: The TurboGrafx-16. I owned one as a teen and loved it to death, but man was it an ugly system -- especially compared to the sexy PC Engine.

    Also, I have to admit that I quite liked the design of the NES as a kid. Nowadays? Not so much. Still, you can't question that the design has become iconic.

    BTW, I really wonder why Nintendo didn't keep the Super Fami/SNES hardware design consistent throughout the world. Maybe they thought the Japanese design was too colorful and/or kid-like?

  8. of course there are some (or more than some) that will disagree but, what the hell, self expression is a right . Lucky the ones who are brave enough to stand their own. I appreciate the post sir Simon, sharing your personal thoughts, are factors that help certain aspects (in this aspect video gaming consoles) develop, after all, video gaming is supposed to be made for gamers.

    i like the looks of the Colecovision! Well, i like weirder looking consoles in general =) so i think that sets us apart right there . =D

  9. @RetroKingSimon - The only thing that I hurt was the compartment cartridges XD

    @Bryan Ochalla - The change was not only a choice of Nintendo, Mattel has been more than a hint of the fact that the Japanese are very jealous of their creations.
    They wanted to have something unique to themselves, and in fact it was :]

  10. Sorry, disagree about the PS2 :). I think it slots in perfectly with stuff like hi-fi equipment and the like. It just looks very expensive and sophisticated when in a stack of TV/audio equipment...to me anyway.

    Agree with the Colecovision. Like Intellivision, the horrible controllers ruin it. And people say that modern joypads have too many buttons?

    Others I heavily dislike are the original Xbox (giant slab), the 5200 (huuuuge), the CD-i model that's bigger than an old VCR (can't remember which one it was but it has a disc drawer and a controller port on the back!), the PC Engine Shuttle (best to google that one) and the Jaguar CD (looks like a toilet especially with a cartridge in the top to resemble a cistern!).

    Just my two cents. Nice post anyway :)

  11. Nice Post, Simon. I think I agree in a general way. My main difference being that I would have put the original Playstation on the list before the PS2. The original PS was just a boring grey box with boring controllers. The PS2, while I agree with the air conditioner analogy, at least had the benefit of being able to stand upright.

  12. Thanks for the comments everyone! :)

    Bryan - you're right, I'm not keen on the TG16 either but mainly because it's so unnecessarily larger and less sexy than the Engine. I don't really think it looks too bad in its own right. Interesting point regarding the US SNES design though :)

    Mr. Rift - thanks a lot! :)

    Pix3l - I think you might be one of the lucky ones then :P

    Darkstalker - I thought many would disagree with me about that choice but I'll never think it looks remotely good in any way. I think it looks like they tried to make it look expensive but it didn't work! I quite like the look of the Xbox but it is rather large and heavy. And yes, you're right about the Jag CD - it looks more amusing than ugly :) And thanks!

    Sean - thanks :) I actually quite like the original PlayStation's looks but I never liked the console itself, mainly because it destroyed my beloved Saturn :(

  13. The PS2 design came from a ditch concept for the Atari Falcon 030 ! Sucks they didnt use that design, it would have been sick but I still love that they keep the portable keyboard design like the STs too !

  14. Really? I didn't know that, thanks for the info. It still looks crap though, in my opinion :P

  15. The GS was better looking than the CD 32 though!

  16. Not sure I agree there, the GS is just a slab of... nothingness! The CD-32 at least had stuff on it :P