30 July 2014

Top 10 Console Ports of All Time

Console ports; love them or loathe them, they're no doubt going to be around for the foreseeable future and, while some companies are notorious for poor ports, we feel there are plenty out there that deserve to be celebrated!

It's a controversial topic, and one that is sure to raise plenty of spirited debate, but here's our list of what we think are the 10 greatest console ports of all time...

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10 - Atari 2600 Controller Port

We start the list off with a golden oldie; the classic 9-pin joystick port as featured on the Atari 2600. Countless other companies followed Atari's lead and added identical, or almost-identical, ports to their own hardware, including Amstrad, Commodore, and Sega.

All of this hippy commune-type sharing meant that gamers could enjoy a game of Pitfall! or River Raid with their trusty Sega pad instead of the Atari's original, palm-reddening joystick. Even Panasonic got in on the game, with 3DO controllers still using the classic port in 1993, 16 years after the 2600! Not that anyone would willingly use a 3DO controller, of course.

Fun Fact: Its official name is the 'DE-9', which stands for absolutely nothing.

9 - Nintendo 64 Power Pack Port

If you like your console ports a little more on the chunky side, look no further than the Nintendo 64's beast of a power supply. This thing is twice the size of an N64 game cartridge, and plugging it in feels like you're loading some sort of assault weapon.

Power supplies are definitely the underdogs of the console port world - dutifully allowing you to play another game of evergreen favourites like GoldenEye 007 or Superman 64. Without them, the console wouldn't work at all, but the N64 goes above and beyond with this tactile treat.

8 - Sega Dreamcast Modem Port

'Hold up, you mean to tell me I can browse the internet on my Dreamcast? Woah!'

Yep, that was pretty much how we all reacted when Sega released the Dreamcast with a built-in 33.6 kbit/s modem (or 56 kbit/s if you were lucky). Some games even allowed you to compete with PC gamers from your Dreamcast (we use the term 'compete' loosely)!

Unfortunately, it wasn't to last. Being too far ahead of its time, the Dreamcast had to leave us and return to the far future; the online features were shut down, and these days the modem is useless.

Fun Fact: Sega also released a broadband adapter for the Dreamcast. Sadly, by then no-one cared.

7 - Sony PlayStation AV Multi-Out Port

While the Dreamcast may have been too futuristic for its time, Sony's engineers managed to come up with something so future proof that it survived no less than three console generations. We're talking, of course, about the AV Multi-Out port.

It wasn't enough to have just the games be backwards-compatible. Someone at Sony declared: 'Lost sales be damned! Let the people use their old AV cables on their new system!' And so it was.

Thank you, anonymous Sony dude.

6 - Microsoft Xbox Controller Cable Extension Port

The original Xbox weighs almost 4 kilograms. What were they thinking? After all, in 2012 there were at least 64 deaths caused by being struck or crushed by objects in England and Wales alone (Source: Office for National Statistics). It was clearly all too easy to accidentally yank a trailing wire, causing the Xbox to leap across the room and bludgeon a poor bystander to death.

Something had to be done, and, with only 7 fatalities attributed that year to 'exposure to electrical current,' it was decided that it would be far safer to have a cable that broke in two if it got caught on anything.

Fun Fact: The original Xbox is heavy enough that anyone walking into the controller cable probably would've just been tripped over, but it's good to see Microsoft taking the initiative anyway.

5 - Sony PlayStation Memory Card Port

Ever vigilant against consumer confusion, Sony really stepped up to the plate and delivered here: it is 100% impossible to plug a controller into the memory card slot, or vice versa, by accident. They're different shapes. It can't be done.

Most importantly of all, the memory card port has a neat little flappy door. It really helps to bring the whole aesthetic together.

4 - Sega Master System II Cartridge Bay

Now here's an example of form over function, but we love a good bit of design here at Checkpoint Restart, and we've definitely got a soft spot for flappy doors.

Everyone bangs on about how great the original Sega Master System looks, but we're here to tell you that they're all wrong; it looks like a Toblerone that got stuck in the machinery. The Master System II is where it's at! Look at those smooth lines, and the gentle gliding of the cartridge door; it's like something out of a sci-fi movie.

Ignore the lack of any decent AV outputs. Ignore the fact that the cartridge bay doesn't actually shut once you put a game in there. Just look at it.

3 - Nintendo Wii GameCube Ports

Stealth backwards compatibility, that's what we're talking about here. It's as if Nintendo didn't even want us to know. Perhaps they didn't even know? Has anyone asked them?

It took me weeks to realise that the PlayStation 3 could play original PlayStation games, but that pales in comparison to this. Nintendo just went all out and shoved an entire GameCube into the top of the poor Wii, like some kind of console manufacturing Frankenstein. Controller ports, memory card slots - the whole thing - and then they hid it beneath two panels which blend perfectly with the rest of the system.

'How's that for backwards-compatibility?' they probably said to themselves. 'Suck it, Sony.'

Fun Fact: The GameCube was never actually a cube. Neither was the Wii.

2 - Sony PlayStation Parallel Port

Oof. Controversial. That parallel port on the back of the PlayStation was the key to a whole world of shady possibilities, from Gameshark cheating, to being able to play burned copies of games, to attaching a printer. Truly nefarious stuff, and this (combined with the RCA audio jacks) makes early PlayStation consoles much more valuable to the collector today.

If you're now looking confusedly at the back of your PlayStation, it might be because Sony removed the parallel port in 1999. It was just too radical, and they couldn't handle it, man.

1 - Nintendo 64 Expansion Port

Talk about a revolution! This marked the first time since the 1980s that a game console could be upgraded by the owner. The N64 Expansion Pak added a whole 4MB of extra RAM to the system, allowing higher resolution textures and additional gameplay. Power to the people!

Sure, the higher resolution modes unlocked just made everything run slower, but it's the thought that counts. And, sure, some games required the Expansion Pak to play at all, but that was all part of the thrill of upgrading your console! It was the PC experience in the living room, at last.

All hail the greatest port of all time!

Fun Fact: Donkey Kong 64 requires the expansion pak to play thanks to a bug in the coding, but doesn't actually make any use of the additional memory.

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So there we have it - the ten best console ports of all time. But what do you think? Did we miss something off the list that you're sure should've been on there?

We did a lot of thorough research for this list, and we stick by our selections, but if you want to tell us your own ill-informed, half-baked theories suggestions then by all means post them below!


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