There was no confusion over what your #1 choice was–it took an early lead and was never in danger of being caught. But the fight for second place was one of the tightest matches in Chi-Scroller survey history. Below are the five highest placers in the survey, which accounting for a combined 91% of the total votes…meaning that the entire rest of the field battled for the remaining scraps.
#5 – Dreamcast (10%)
Sega’s final system was also its first (and only) 3D powerhouse, and until developers got a handle on how to best utilize the PS2’s complicated architecture, the DC was producing the most impressive 3D graphics ever seen on a console to that point. But that isn’t the only reason it was so beloved by gamers; the Dreamcast was also home to a lot of great 2D games, fighters and shmups in particular. In fact, there has continued to be new releases in the latter genre for the DC in the years since the system ceased production, with one releasing just last year.
#4 – Genesis / Mega Drive (11%)
Whether or not you agree with the commonly-held belief that the Genesis was the less-powerful of the two main 16-bit machines, there’s no denying that Sega’s system was home to more than its fair share of classic 2D games. In fact, one could argue that the SNES seemed more interested in doing psuedo-3D trickery than sticking to just letting 2D games be 2D, whereas the Genesis was content to relish the 2D gaming era it existed in. Also, I’d put Gunstar Heroes up against just about anything that the SNES ever did strictly in 2D natively(meaning not via deceptive hardware trickery like it did with Donkey Kong Country), at least in terms of actual moving action and not just static setpieces.
#3 – Super NES (17%)
The SNES actually took an early lead in the poll after it went live, but it was quickly overtaken by the eventual #1 winner. It still battled with the system that finished #2 up to the very end. I don’t think anybody was disputing whether or not the SNES was the more powerful of the two; what the fight ultimately came down to was power vs. sheer quantity of great 2D gaming experiences. In the end, power may have slightly won out, but its a testament to just how well-loved the SNES library is that it even put up a fight against the system that spent a decade putting its supposedly more-powerful contemporaries to shame in its 2D graphical capabilities.
#2 – Neo Geo AES (18%)
It’s true that in order to truly love this system, you need to be a dyed in the wool fanatic of all things SNK, because the AES is essentially just a machine that plays SNK games. But to say it “just” plays some of the most beautiful pixel-based games of all time, games that continued to hold their own well into the system’s second decade of existence, shouldn’t come across as a back-handed compliment. People tend to forget that there’s much more to SNK than fighting games – they’ve also made renowned shmups, puzzle games, platform games, sports games, and racing games, among others. It would be impossible to talk about just how amazing pixels and sprites can look without having that conversation involve a lot of references to SNK Neo Geo games.
#1 – Sega Saturn (35%)
It’s often been said that Sega initially designed the Saturn with only 2D in mind, and only after it saw footage of early PlayStation games did it try and clumsily graft 3D-producing parts onto the hardware. It’s also more recently been said that that’s an urban legend, and that Sega had always intended for the Saturn to do 2D and 3D. Whatever the case, there’s no denying that Sega did, in fact, set out to make the Saturn an absolute 2D dynamo, and it succeeded in that task wonderfully. No matter which system you preferred overall, if you were a fan of Capcom’s 2D fighters in particular, you know that you were only going to get anywhere close to arcade perfection on the Saturn. In fact, HD reduxes be damned, many fans still swear by the Saturn versions of just about any 2D fighting game of the 90’s. The Saturn also brought us some incredible shmups (without the slowdown inherent in a lot of the ones on PS1), Treasure’s best-looking 2D game (Guardian Heroes), and some niche but still-impressive-today titles like Astal and Princess Crown. It’s just too bad that sales for the Saturn didn’t allow for more games, because really the only bad thing you can say about the Saturn as a 2D game machine is that there is far too little 2D goodness to be had. And for me, the fact that the world only got about half of the great 2D Saturn games that it deserved is a far bigger tragedy than it never having a Sonic game. In fact, maybe the Saturn Sonic game should’ve just been the ultimate 2D Sonic game instead of even trying to go 3D…which to this day hasn’t been the blue hedgehog’s best dimension.