X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

A look back at Nintendo's epic console history (pictures)

Nintendo has teased the existence of the NX, a gaming system that will purportedly feature entirely new gaming concepts. What innovations could the new hardware bring to the table? Let's take a look back at Nintendo's console history.

Nate Ralph
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Nate Ralph
1920px-nes-console-set.jpg
1 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo Entertainment System

Nintendo has been in the console business for years, and here's where it all started, more or less. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) wasn't Nintendo's first gaming console, but it certainly cemented the company's role in video game history. An unforgettable library of games (helped by the tepid state of the home video game industry at the time) made this console an iconic part of many of our childhoods.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

nintendo-gameboy-10.jpg
2 of 13 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Nintendo Game Boy

There's a good chance you or someone you know has a working Game Boy kicking around: these nigh-indestructible consoles allowed us to bring Tetris and countless other games with us everywhere we went -- provided of course we had a few spare AA batteries at hand.

snes-mod1-console-set.jpg
3 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Super Mario World. Mega Man X. Chrono Trigger. Super Metroid. These are just a few of the countless titles that still send a shudder down the spines of grown women and men around the world. The Super Nintendo offered a phenomenal library of games.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

746px-virtual-boy-wcontroller.jpg
4 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo Virtual Boy

If there was one experiment Nintendo (and the rest of us) would like to forget, it's probably the Virtual Boy. Calling it a disappointment would be an understatement: this early attempt at 3D gaming was far more likely to serve up neck pain and headaches than an immersive experience.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

1280px-nintendo-64-wcontroller-l.jpg
5 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo 64

Fresh off the heels of the less-than-stellar Virtual Boy came the Nintendo 64. Four built-in controller ports ushered in an unprecedented era of couch gaming for many of us, countless hours spent in heated Super Smash Bros. matches, or darting around varied, colorful tracks in Mario Kart 64. And who could forget their first foray into Mario 64, seeing the Mushroom Kingdom rendered in gorgeous (for the time) 3D for the first time?

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

nintendo-game-boy-color-fl.jpg
6 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Game Boy Color

Take everything you loved about the original Game Boy, make it a bit slimmer and slap on a color display, and you've got the Game Boy Color. Calling it a color display is a bit generous, though, as the limited color palette paled in comparison to competitors like the Sega Game Gear or Neo Geo Pocket. But a lower price, backward compatibility with the vast library of Game Boy games, and long battery life on a pair of AA batteries meant the Game Boy's successor would eventually conquer all comers.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

800px-game-boy-advance-1stgen.jpg
7 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance reinvented the venerable handheld device, serving up gorgeous visuals in a portable design.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

800px-gamecube-set.jpg
8 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo GameCube

Nintendo's GameCube lacked the raw muscle of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and lagged behind the two in sales as well, owing in part to the lack of support from third-party developers. But the system that brought us Super Smash Bros. Melee and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! still holds a fond place in memory hearts.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

659px-nintendo-ds-fat-blue.jpg
9 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo DS

Why settle for one screen when you could have two? The Nintendo DS remains a great example of Nintendo's willingness to experiment on a grand scale. This portable gaming console added a touchscreen, and spawned a library of innovative games you couldn't play anywhere else. Svelter models would follow suit eventually, but the DS was a stellar evolution for Nintendo's portable console family.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

sc017.jpg
10 of 13 CNET

Nintendo Wii

When the Wii was announced, critics were at a loss: the console's bizarre control scheme seemed completely at odds with the traditional gamepads we'd long been accustomed to. Couple that with weak performance and lackluster third-party support, and it would seem the Wii was doomed. However, instead, the Wii would go on to sell over 100 million units worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling consoles of all time.

nintendo-3ds-aquaopen.jpg
11 of 13 Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS brings all of the lessons Nintendo learned over the DS' stellar lifetime, and adds a third dimension. Most of us weren't sold on 3D, but the novelty -- and a solid collection of games -- helped ensure the DS family's continued success.

Image courtesy of Evan Amos/Wikipedia

nintendo-wii-u-product-photos-add-03.jpg
12 of 13 Sarah Tew/CNET

Nintendo Wii U

The Wii introduced a novel control scheme, and did gangbusters. The Wii U introduced a novel control scheme -- a controller with a built-in display -- and, admittedly, hasn't had nearly the same level of success. It remains an interesting device, though: the tablet-controller lets you play games without tying up your TV, while built-in NFC connectivity lets you use Nintendo's Amiibo figurines to expand your games.

nintendo-3ds09.jpg
13 of 13 Sarah Tew/CNET

New Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo's latest take on the 3DS doesn't look all that different, but packs a number of improvements. The first is the second control stick -- something gamers have been demanding for quite some time. The New 3DS also improves the 3D display with a bit of face-tracking wizardry, and packs a bit more power under the hood; some games will see performance improvements, while others, like the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles, will only work on the new hardware.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra
magic-v2-2024-foldable-1383

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites
img-0368.jpg

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?
img-1599-2.jpg

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos