The Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time

The Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 21st Dec 2011

The List of the Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time

(0) Bally -- Home Library Computer
AKA "The Astrocade"
(2nd Gen June 1977)

Originally created as the Bally Home Library Computer, this console would go through several variations and experience an identity crisis before it quietly left the gaming scene, but not before it had a lasting and important impact upon the generation of engineers and game developers that would go on to shape the industry that we know today.

At various points in its relatively brief existence, the Bally Home Library Computer was also knows as The Bally Professional Arcade, The Bally Computer System, and finally The Bally Astrocade. Initially created to compete with Atari's 2600, the console was designed by Bally's Midway Games Division, the same unit that was responsible for designing the standard arcade games and pinball machines that were the bread-and-butter for the company.

Consisting of the main unit equipped with a small keypad built into the console that could be used to enter very basic programs into its memory, later models came with two built-in games: Checkmate and Gunfight, as well as a Calculator app, and a program called Scribbler that allowed the gamer to doodle on the screen in color. Its strength however was in its cartridge-based approach for games which used the standardized shape of cassette tapes to make game storage easier.

The console had many unique innovations that quickly set it apart from other consoles of its generation, most of which are the reason that it appears in the top slot for our list. Among the many contributions that the system made to the industry, perhaps the best remembered are:

-- The Gamepad: in place of different controllers for the different types of games, which was an industry standard approach at the time, the engineers at Midway opted to create a single controller with an effective layout that made it work well for a variety of game play options. Truly ahead of its time, the controller resembled the pistol grip of a gun and included a trigger-like button that could be used for that purpose, with a small joystick incorporated into the design for regular game play.

Essentially the Bally Astrocade controller was both an analog and digital controller and is credited with heavily influencing the design for the current industry standard gamepad.

-- Game Ports: The consoles makers at the time envisioned game play in which a single player played a game, or two players faced-off against each other in games, taking turns with the controller, so why have more than one or two at the most? The engineers at Midway thought bigger, and the result was the standard four game ports that are accepted as the industry standard today.

-- Game Cartridge Media: In addition to being one of the first systems to use standardized cartridges to store games, the system included the ability to add extra memory and functionality in a game cartridge that could then be recognized and used by the system when the cartridge was connected to its bus -- an approach that became an industry standard.

-- Expansion Port: Among the standard ports on the console including connectors for power and the four gamepad controllers, was an expansion port permitting the user to add RAM or other capabilities to the system. The base system included 4K of RAM but an expansion module was available to upgrade it to 64K which was necessary to play some of the more advanced games available for it, like the full version of the arcade game Space Invaders.

-- System Dashboard: While most gaming consoles in the first few generations required the game to be inserted in order to even boot up, existing strictly as a loading system for its games, the Astrocade featured the earliest implementation of what is now a standard feature on all controllers: The System Dahboard.