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Choosing a games console is one of life's big decisions. Like supporting a football team, it represents a heartfelt commitment to be loyal and true, through the good times and the bad. And like marriage, it all goes horribly wrong after five years and you wake up with a new model.

As gamers we are defined by the consoles we own, whether NES or Master System, SNES or Mega Drive, DS or PSP, PlayStation or Xbox, and yes, these days, iOS or Android.

As humans we are also fickle by nature. In the early '90s, my school exercise book had "SEGA RULES OK" passionately scrawled all over the cover. And then, one life-changing day in a games shop in Nottingham I saw Super Mario World for the first time and everything changed. Well, the exercise book did anyway.

It's all good fun. But fun that might be coming to an end, with many predicting that the next generation of boxes under our tellies will be the last. And it will be a dark day in the history of games when the final console rolls off the production line.

We've had consoles for 40 years now, starting with the hoary old Magnavox Odyssey. It's impossible to fully assess the importance of the current set while they're still flying off shelves, but here's our picks for the greatest and worst devices ever to grace the gaming world.

The good…

Sega Dreamcast

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The first affordable console truly to fulfill the 'arcade perfect' dream, and Sega's wondrous and commercially disastrous hardware swansong. The games speak for themselves even now: Crazy Taxi, Shenmue, Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio, Soul Calibur, Rez... Destroyed by the folly of bad business decisions rather than its games library, we will never see its like again.

Nintendo Game Boy

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The original and greatest portable system. Even today, 23 years on, Tetris remains the definitive and unimprovable handheld video game and the greatest launch game of all time.

Super Nintendo

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Where to start? How about Super Mario World, arguably (and I will argue with you until you lose) the best game ever. The perfect joypad (six buttons for Street Fighter II!). And a reminder that the 16-bit era was gaming at its most exciting.

Sega Mega Drive

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Nintendo went on to win the war, of course, but what a battle it was. And what games it produced, from the birth of Sonic the Hedgehog, to Gunstar Heroes, Echo the Dolphin, Castle of Illusion, Road Rash and beyond. That kidney-shaped controller was always a bit rubbish, though.

Sony PlayStation

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Sony was supposed to make a console with Nintendo, you know. But Nintendo didn't like the idea of using CDs with their rubbish load times, so walked away to make the cartridge-based N64 instead. How different the world might be had they stayed together. Either way, there's no doubt Sony's entry into the gaming world changed it forever.

And the bad…

Nokia N-Gage

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Nokia's would-be 'Game Boy killer' was a complete disaster, of course. Its awful design, lack of decent games, and laughable 'side-talking' phone function quickly condemned it to gaming's graveyard. But the funny thing is, in its concept of merging video games with a phone, it was actually years ahead of its time.

Sega Mega CD

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The painful decline and fall of Sega as a console maker was too severe for Dreamcast to rescue it. Massive failures like Saturn and 32X had already put it on life-support, but the rot began with its poorly-supported CD add-on and a trend of terrible FMV (full motion video) games, including Sewer Shark and Night Trap.

Atari Jaguar

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How the mighty fall. Having single-handedly created the console business and popularised gaming in the home in the '70s, Atari's final crack at a living room system ended in abject failure. It had a few decent games – such as Tempest 2000 – and was fairly powerful for the time, but hardly any publishers were willing to switch allegiance from Sega and Nintendo.

Panasonic 3DO

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Conceived by industry legend and founder of EA, Trip Hawkins, it certainly had the gaming pedigree behind it. But in a market dominated by the Japanese, it was never enough simply to have the most powerful box. And a ridiculous asking price ($700 in the US) and poor support soon killed off any vague hopes of it becoming a serious player.

Gizmondo

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Saving the worst 'til last, Tiger Telematics' spectacular, high-profile disaster of a console is a cautionary tale in digital entertainment and one of best stories in gaming, involving a crashed Ferrari Enzo, million-dollar lifestyles and the Swedish mafia. It's almost enough to make us forget what a piece of crap the system itself was.

Has Johnny got it right? What are your best and worst consoles?


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