The definition of a console is a video game system where the programs it runs are stored on external media. For all the classic systems that means cartridges. I realize there were a few consoles before the 2600 but I have never actually played any of them. The Atari 2600 VCS started the video game home revolution. My parents bought one for my sister after I moved out. They had been on vacation and in the lobby of the hotel they were staying was a circus Atari game. My mother had seen the pong games and had even bought us one a few years before that. But for some reason the circus was the first and probably the last game besides a slot machine she ever dropped a quarter in. She saw the game 2 weeks later along with the system at the local store. $179 for the system, $24.99 for the game.
I think she played it once. But my dad was hooked. And my sister really never got into it. I had to go visit if I wanted to play it. But 3 years later they ended up giving it to me anyway. I still have that 6 switch unit. I was thinking about putting it on eBay.
The Atari dominated the market until it was challenged by the Intellivision. Both were both basically the same system with the intellivision having more memory so it was able to display better graphics. While they were fighting it out a better system snuck in. The Coleco. more colors and more memory and great sound. These kept me busy for a few years. There was this strange little system called a Vectrex I picked up at that time. Then the video game market crashed. Too much junk. Too many awful games. Kiddie City was unloading everything video game related. The Atari 5200 looked so good but still too expensive. I wanted a computer so I held off. Ignored the Atari 7800. Didn't fall for the Kiddie marketing of the NES. Bought an Atari 800 computer instead. Way too much money but games could be downloaded now. Modems. Online. Two years away from the consoles. But then I got addicted to an arcade game. Choplifter. Sure this was a computer game. But the Sega Master System game was the same as the new arcade version. Bought my SMS used. Was hoping and praying Sega would hit it big. But that didn't happen till 89 when the Genesis came out. Looking back the altered beast game playing on all the demos really wasn't that impressive. But it held some major promise. The rest of the console gaming industry after the SNES came out was rather bland. Comparing Sonic to Super Mario was a no brainer. Wait a minute. I forgot about the NEC turbo grafx 16. Superior flat graphics with a slow processor. I was working part time at a Babbage's at this time in 89 so I was starting to get into my IBM more and more. There was the NEO GEO system at 600 bucks with cartridges at 125 bucks a pop. Exactly the same as the arcade. Finally a true statement saying bring the arcade home.
Sure the SegaCD and 32X could have made it if there would have been games. And I don't know enough about the turbo duo to tell about it.
Every system out there has it's top games. So I will also pass along my personal opinions about the best games per system. Also I'll list games I have actually completed. Sometimes this might not mean that was an excellent game. But it does mean there was something there to make me want to go through it all the way.
million people still own a cartridge based console.