Nintendo and Sony are the two oldest companies in gaming, and while that’s because they didn’t start out as video game companies, that does mean they’ve released a lot of games and hardware over the years. These two powerhouses are very different from one another, but they’ve got a lot of similarities, too. The most obvious being they’re both based in Japan.
Nintendo was founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi. At the time, the Japanese government banned playing cards, due to a gambling epidemic years prior. Yamauchi managed to get an exception, and started Nintendo Koppai as a manufacture of trading cards. Over the years they morphed into a toy company, and then morphed into a video game publisher and developer.
Sony, meanwhile, was founded by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita in 1946, just one year after the end of World War II. Like Nintendo, the company started out completely differently than it is today. Back then, it was called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, and was little more than a radio repair shop operating out of a bomb-damaged department store. As the years went by, they started creating their own electronics, changed their name to Sony, and at one point became the biggest electronics company in the world, creating movies, music, and video games.
Today, the two are titans in the gaming industry. They produce the two best-selling consoles this generation in the PlayStation 4 and Switch, and have a long line of successful consoles, handhelds, and games behind them. Today, we’re going to put them head-to-head, comparing every console the two have ever made to decide who’s better.
27 Nintendo: Virtual Boy
Nintendo kicks off our list with what is unquestionably the worst console/handheld thing either of these two have ever produced. Sold as a “virtual reality” gaming experience, the Virtual Boy was more like early 3D, which didn’t look all that great.
Nintendo had the great idea to make it portable, housing the unit inside a headset. But for some reason, rather than a head strap, the Virtual Boy came with a short bipod that made playing awkward and uncomfortable. More uncomfortable though was actually playing it, as the small, lackluster library often induced headaches within 30 minutes. Only 22 games ever released for the Virtual Boy, and we’re surprised it was that many.
26 Sony: Xperia Play
While Nintendo has the first (and worst) failure, Sony grabs the next two. The first of which is the Xperia Play, a PlayStation-styled smart phone released in April 2011. It was a Sony Ericsson phone with a slide up screen, revealing the traditional Sony face-buttons and a D-Pad for gaming.
Months later, Sony finally launched PlayStation Mobile and PlayStation Certified. PS Mobile was a software framework that would release games for the Xperia Play, while PS Certified acted as a quality control standard. No developers supported this though, and Sony dropped the phone only about a year and a half after launch.
25 Sony: PlayStation TV
Released in 2013 in Japan, there it was pitched as the PlayStation Vita TV, a non-portable version of the Vita that would let you play games on your TV. The problem was, nobody was interested, especially since because of the Vita’s dual touchscreens, a lot of the best games were incompatible.
When it crossed the ocean to the US and Europe a year later, it was sold as the PlayStation TV. This time, it was pitched as a set-top box, something you could use to stream Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, with the ability to play Vita games as a nice extra. Nobody was interested in that either, and the PlayStation TV was discontinued in 2015.
24 Nintendo: Color TV-Game
For everyone who thinks the NES (or Famicom) was Nintendo’s first home console, we’ve got news for you: it wasn’t. That honor falls to the rivetingly named Color TV-Game, first released in 1977. The Color TV-Game didn’t have changeable cartridges, just a series of built in games.
The first, called the Color TV-Game 6, contained Pong and five other variations. From there Nintendo launched the TV-Game 15, the TV-Game Racing 112, TV-Game Block Breaker, and the Computer TV-Game. This series of consoles are all historic as Nintendo’s entry into the gaming market, and were probably great fun at the time. These days, they’re a fascinating timepiece and not much else.
23 Sony: PSP Go
The PSP Go was an updated and revamped version of the original PlayStation Portable. It featured a slide-down control panel for the controls, not unlike some mobile phones at the time. To accommodate the smaller size, the analog nub was moved to the right of the D-Pad, and Start and Select went to the left of the face buttons. This made the already cramped and uncomfortable controls of the original PSP even worse.
The PSP Go featured no physical media, it was a download only machine. The world wasn’t ready for such a device when this was released in 2009, meaning those who wanted to upgrade from the base PSP could no longer play their games.
22 Nintendo: Wii U
The Wii U wasn’t a disaster, far from it, but it sure as close to one. Confusingly named and featuring an unwieldy and gimmicky tablet controller, the Wii U is unquestionably the worst console Nintendo released since the Virtual Boy.
The Wii U sold poorly, partly because of the name, but also because it lacked top-tier, staple games. The Wii U is the only Nintendo home console not to have a mainline, traditional 3D Mario game. It had no internal storage, it lacked 3rd party support even more so than previous Nintendo consoles, its online features were horrible, and did I mention the stupid tablet controller?
21 Sony: PlayStation 3
Nintendo could have learned a lot in regards to the Wii U with Sony’s even more disappointing PlayStation 3. Coming off the highest-selling console of all-time in the PS2, the PS3 was crippled right out of the gate with its absurd $600 price tag.
Among its litany of problems it was hard to develop for, it had a poor launch line-up of games, really it didn’t have any great games until years after launch. The PlayStation Network was poor, the controller’s new design was panned, and did I mention the $600 price tag?
20 Nintendo: Game Boy Micro
The Game Boy Micro is the last Game Boy handheld, a legendary line-up of mostly stellar machines. The Game Boy Micro is not one of those stellar products. Released in 2005, the gimmick in the Micro is in it’s name.
It’s a tiny Game Boy Advance. It’s got a great LCD screen, and can play all your GBA games. The problem is that it’s too small. Measuring in at just 2×4 inches (50×101 mm), it was far too small to hold and play without getting a cramp. Plus it released just as the Nintendo DS was coming out, which also played all your Game Boy games, so what was the point?
19 Nintendo: Wii
This will be a controversial one. While the Wii is one of the best-selling consoles ever, taking a step back from the craze and hype, the Wii wasn’t actually that great, was it? It had a handful of great games, sure, but the motion controls got in the way, or were a total gimmick that didn’t add anything to the games more often than not.
It was incredibly popular with the casual, non-gaming market, which is fine, but that also attracted a load of low effort, shovelware games too. The Wii also lacked 3rd party support, and the handful of ports all had to work around the motion controls and technical limitations, making them far inferior.
18 Sony: PlayStation Portable
Sony’s PlayStation Portable was their first attempt at a handheld, and the first real competitor to Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld scene since Sega’s Game Gear back in 1990. First released in 2004 in Japan, and the rest of the world in 2005, the PSP was an impressive piece of hardware. It was basically a portable PlayStation 2, it was that powerful.
But the system had a lot of problems. For starters, it never got many great games. It was also laughably easy to hack, the single, painful-to-use analog nub made playing 3D games virtually impossible. The UMD format was a pain, and early units didn’t have a great screen.
17 Nintendo: Game & Watch
Nintendo’s Game & Watch line made history as the first portable series of games anybody would actually want to play. Featuring several games from 1980 to 1991, the Game & Watch line featured nearly 50 games over that run, from Mario to Donkey Kong to Zelda.
The Game & Watch games played like Tiger Electronics games you can get these days. Little LED games that are super simple: move a character around the screen and either collect stuff or avoid obstacles. Like the Color TV-Game, it’s not a whole lot of fun these days, but it’s a charming piece of history nonetheless.
16 Nintendo: Game Boy Advance
After releasing what was essentially a color version of the original Game Boy, Nintendo finally released their second major handheld with the Game Boy Advance in 2001. The graphics were better, the screen was better, the horizontal orientation felt better in the hands, and the GBA had a fantastic line up of games over its ten year run.
The problem though is the screen brightness, or the lack thereof. Unless you’re sitting on the surface of the sun, you probably won’t be able to see anything other than a black screen, and even if you did have a good light source, you still couldn’t see because of the glare.
15 Nintendo: Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color was little more than the original Game Boy but with a color screen. It was slightly more powerful, but no games took advantage of this, it was really used for better performance. But the Game Boy Color was a great little portable with a lot of great games.
One of the cooler things about it, or at least kids at the time thought, was that the unit itself also came in several different colors. That translucent purple GBC is what I’ll always think of when somebody says “Game Boy.”
14 Sony: PlayStation Vita
It pains me to have to put the Vita so far down on this list. The PlayStation Vita could have, and should have been so much more. The successor to the PlayStation Portable, the Vita was a massive upgrade in terms of hardware. It had a gorgeous, high resolution OLED screen, two proper analog sticks, it was the perfect size, a camera, and two touch screens, one on the front and another on the back.
There were a couple of decent games for the Vita, like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush, but for whatever reason, Sony abandoned the Vita after only a couple of years, and the library dried up.
13 Nintendo: GameCube
The GameCube is sometimes seen as the black sheep of the Nintendo family. It had some controversial games, like Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and a love it or hate it controller, but with time people are coming back around to Nintendo’s purple box.
The GameCube is the last time Nintendo released a “traditional” gaming console. After it came the motion controlled Wii, the tablet controlled Wii U, the touchscreen DS, the 3D focused 3DS, and the console/handheld hybrid Switch. That kinda makes the GameCube a piece of history, a time capsule for what Nintendo used to be, and how far they’ve come.
12 Nintendo: Nintendo 3DS
Speaking of how far Nintendo’s come, next up is the 3DS. This is an odd one in Nintendo’s handheld library, because what it does as a unique system isn’t very good. The 3D effect that gives it its name is astounding, but no game actually takes advantage of it, and it’s more a distraction than anything else.
But as a suped-up DS, it’s fantastic. Like the DS, it’s had a phenomenal lineup of games over the years, and the hardware itself is impressive. If it were just released a few years earlier, the 3D could have been more impressive, or a few years later when Nintendo got over their Wii U slump, the 3DS may have been the greatest handheld of all-time.
11 Nintendo: Game Boy Advance SP
The Game Boy Advance was a big step up from the original Game Boy in terms of hardware, but it lacked a fairly important feature— the ability to see the screen. The Game Boy Advance SP came along and fixed that, adding a better and backlit screen that made viewing in any lighting conditions a breeze.
Not only that, Nintendo improved on almost everything. It had a folding screen that kept it safe, and a smaller design that meant you could actually put it in your pocket. The vertical orientation made it a bit cramped to play, but it was worth it to finally be able to see the game you were playing.
10 Nintendo: Game Boy
The original Game Boy was revolution when it came out in 1989. Up until that point, true portal gaming felt impossible. Before it there were only simple LED games like the Game & Watch, but now you could play real NES quality games on the go, anywhere you want?
The Game Boy is a cultural icon, and did a lot to advance gaming. Nintendo would improve it over the years, releasing the Game Boy Pocket, a smaller version, and the Game Boy Light, that came with a front light. But it was the original version that still stands out to this day.
9 Nintendo: Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom
The console that really started it all for Nintendo, and brought the gaming industry back from the dead in the West, the Nintendo Entertainment System (better known as the NES) was a legendary piece of hardware. Released in Japan as the Famicom in 1983, and as the NES in the West in 1985, it was a landmark console for gaming.
Super Mario Bros., Contra, Punch-Out!, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, it had a ton of great games, games that would become staple franchises for Nintendo in the future. When you talk about legendary pieces of hardware in gaming, the NES has to be near the top for what it did for the industry alone.
8 Nintendo: Nintendo DS
Nintendo’s best handheld device released in 2004. Like the Game Boy, it was revolution for its two screens and touchscreen controls. The sheer amount of amazing titles released on the system over the years is mind-boggling. Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Mario & Luigi, Elite Beat Agents, I could be here all day listing these off.
What was so great about the DS is that it saw a lot of weird and unconventional games that wouldn’t have ever seen a release on console. Part of that was the hardware itself, which Nintendo updated countless times throughout the DS’s life. There was the original DS, the DS Lite, the DSi, and the DSi XL, all of which making an already great handheld even better.
7 Nintendo: Nintendo 64
Nintendo’s first 3D console was a trailblazer. Other companies made the jump to 3D around the same time, with the Sega Saturn or the 3DO, but other than one other company, none of these initial 3D offerings were successful. The Nintendo 64, named after the number of bits it used, was the only one to nail the landing.
Several of Nintendo’s staple franchises made the leap to 3D, such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which would take decades for even Nintendo to top. Beyond that, it had a great library of games, and was the heyday of Rare, the company that gave us Banjo Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, and several more great games during this era.
6 Sony: PlayStation
The original PlayStation marked a turning point for the gaming industry. Before then, the two big players in the console space were Nintendo and Sega. But with the Sega Saturn failing miserably, it left a hole in the market for somebody else to step in. Enter Sony, who was burned by Nintendo when they backed out of a deal to create a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo.
Publishers liked that it was a CD system, and were angered by Nintendo sticking with cartridges. Because of this, many studios jumped ship to Sony. That’s how the PlayStation stole some great games way from Nintendo, like Final Fantasy VII and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
5 Sony: PlayStation 4 Pro
The PlayStation 4 Pro is Sony’s update to the original PS4, giving the console 4K support, HDR, and better performance. The problem is, it’s not actually running at 4K. Most games that take advantage of the PS4 Pro are actually running at 1440p or 1800p, and are upscaling to 2160p.
Still, there’s no denying that PS4 Pro games do look slightly better than the base PlayStation 4, and they certainly run better thanks to its upgraded processor. A lot of games even manage to run at 60 frames per second on the Pro. If you’ve got the extra cash, this is the ideal way to play PlayStation 4 games.
4 Nintendo: Switch
The Nintendo Switch broke the record for fastest selling console ever in its first year, selling 4.8 million units in its first 10 months alone. It’s already become a cultural icon and an essential for gaming. “Will this get a Switch port?” almost became a meme for a while whenever a new game was announced.
With it’s ability to play on a TV or go portable, the Switch changed the way games are played. It’s also had an incredible first party line up with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The Switch has also become the go-to console for indie developers, receiving seemingly hundreds of indie games a month.
3 Sony: PlayStation 4
The Switch may be popular, but its the PlayStation 4 that’s dominated this generation. God of War (2018), Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, Persona 5, Nioh, Spider-Man (2018), Until Dawn, and more have all given the PS4 one of the greatest libraries of exclusive games ever.
Best of all, Sony finally listed to their fans with the PS4. The once dreaded PlayStation Network is finally good, they redesigned the controller that hadn’t really changed since the original PlayStation and is now close to perfect, and they took a stand for used gaming, refusing to install always online DRM like Microsoft originally intended with the Xbox One when it was first announced.
2 Nintendo: Super Nintendo/Super Famicom
The Super Nintendo/Super Famicom isn’t just Nintendo’s best console, it’s arguably the best (or in this case second best) console of all-time. It’s library of games was stellar, from Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, the Donkey Kong Country series, Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger and I have to stop now otherwise I’ll go on all day.
It’s incredible the sheer number of classic titles the SNES had, even more so considering it was only Nintendo’s second true console, and they were facing stiff competition from Sega at the time.
1 Sony: PlayStation 2
Launched in 2000 and sold for the next 13 years, the PlayStation 2 went on to become the highest-selling console ever. It’s first party line up of games is legendary, with games like Metal Gear Solid 3, Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, the God of War series, Final Fantasy X, Silent Hill 2, Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper, Ratchet & Clank, Kingdom Hearts and again I have to stop myself otherwise I’ll be here all week.
The PlayStation 2 has one of the best libraries of games ever. It's also got a lot of great obscure titles, like the D3 Published Simple Series. It's also the first console to include a DVD player, and had online support. Thanks to its incredible library and how long it managed to stick around, the PlayStation 2 has to be considered the best console ever made.