Your Guide to Fifth Generation Consoles for Retro Gaming

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Your Guide to Fifth Generation Consoles for Retro Gaming

The fifth generation of video game consoles dates from approximately 1993 to 2001. It is perhaps one of the most celebrated generations because of the advances made in the technology of the period. Games went from being stored on cartridges to CD-ROMs, and graphics evolved from 2D to 3D, which opened up the possibility for increasingly more complex games and rich graphic detail. This generation saw the launch of two of the best-loved consoles in gaming history: the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo 64. The fifth generation era also included the release of the Sega Saturn, which although made by a major company at a time, did not perform as well as hoped.

Each system has its own distinct features and benefits, so gamers who want to indulge in some nostalgic gameplay should consider these retro gaming consoles. These consoles, plus the games and accessories, can be bought on the online marketplace eBay, which has a great selection of retro and vintage gaming products.

Sony PlayStation

The PlayStation was Sony's first foray into the gaming environment. It was developed after a failed venture between Sony and Nintendo to produce a CD-ROM based addition to Nintendo's cartridge-based gaming system, the Super NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). Sony began development on its platform and launched the PlayStation in Europe in September 1995. The PlayStation was not the first system to use CD-ROMs as the storage medium for games, but it was the first that was commercially successful.

PlayStation soon attracted major game developers to create new titles for its system. Square, the publisher of the "Final Fantasy" series, announced that beginning with "Final Fantasy VII" in 1997 it would only develop titles for Sony systems; a practice that remained in place until 2003. PlayStation was first gaming console to sell 100 million units; nine years and six months after its launch.

PlayStation Features

The PlayStation, also known as the PS or PS1, has a grey casing and flip-top lid. The ports are located at the back of the machine. In addition to games, it is able to play audio CDs. The system supports 32-bit graphics. Game data for the system, such as where a player pauses in a game, is saved on memory cards that can be purchased separately. In 2000, Sony introduced another model of the PlayStation, called the PSone, not to be confused with the PS1. This version of the PlayStation was 50 percent smaller than the original. Developers created a small add-on LCD that made the PSone slightly more portable. The PSone was such a success that it even outsold the PlayStation 2 that was launched a few months later, and every other console for the remainder of that year.

PlayStation Controller

One of the most distinctive features of the system is the controller, which has a handlebar shape and continued to be the basic design model for controllers for subsequent generations. Although the first edition of the controllers had only a D-pad to control movement, later versions also added joystick capabilities. Also notable are the symbols used for gameplay on the controller: triangle, X, circle, and square, which contrasted with other systems that used letters and colours to designate buttons. PlayStation eventually introduced the Dual Shock controller, which had two rumble packs to give players vibrational feedback.

Nintendo 64

Nintendo made its mark on the gaming industry with the release of the NES, which was launched in Europe in 1986 and revived a failing games industry. Nintendo's fifth generation console, the Nintendo 64 or N64, is beloved by many fans, but still did not perform as well as hoped, largely because it insisted on using a cartridge system rather than the discs of its main competitors. Cartridges were more expensive, took longer to produce, and were limited in graphic and sound capabilities. Nevertheless, the N64 console launched some major titles in the gaming world, including "Super Mario 64" and "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time".

Nintendo 64 Features

The N64 is available in a large variety of case colours, including black, red, green, purple, and even gold. It supports 64-bit graphics.

Nintendo 64 Controller

The console has an interesting design for the controllers: a trident shape with a joystick on the centre spike, a directional pad, six buttons on the right, two shoulder buttons, and the trigger button underneath. The controller also has support for an add-on rumble pack to provide vibrational feedback. Game data is saved on memory cards that attach to the controllers rather than the console itself.

Sega Saturn

Sega made a splash in the gaming world, particularly in Europe, with the Mega Drive system. It was followed by the Sega Saturn, which was released in Europe in July 1995 ahead of its release schedule because Sega did not want to compete directly with the release of the PlayStation later in the year. The Sega Saturn used CD-ROMs to load games, but saved game data was kept on a memory cartridge or on an internal memory device, rather than the cards used by the PS1 or N64. The Saturn had two processors, one for 32-bit 2D graphics and another for 3D graphics, which was added after the announcement of the PlayStation's 3D capabilities.

The system made it difficult to design games for. However, the Saturn had an array of unique gaming titles that gave the system a cult following. Unfortunately, many titles were limited only to releases in Japan, where the Saturn console was more successful.

Sega Saturn Features

There were only two models of the Sega Saturn released in Europe, but nine in Japan. The systems were produced by four different developers because of the licensing agreements that Sega had with other companies. The European models are black and there is little physical difference between them.

Sega Saturn Controller

The controller for the Sega Saturn is worth noting. The original design was bulky and cumbersome, with a large crescent shape. It was redesigned later; slimmed down to resemble the Mega Drive controller more closely with a D-pad, six buttons, and two shoulder buttons. It remains one of the most popular designs for retro gamers. Sega re-released this controller design for use with both PCs and the PlayStation 3 console.

Summary of Features of Fifth Generation Consoles

When choosing a console for gaming, there are several factors to consider. The gaming capabilities of the system are the biggest concern. The table below compares some of the key features of the three consoles. 


Sony PlayStation

Nintendo 64

Sega Saturn

Graphics capabilities








Number of controller ports




Maximum number of supported players

8 via 2 multi-tap add-ons


10 via 2 multi-terminals

Storage Medium




Buyers should compare the features of the retro consoles before making a purchase. They each differ in terms of what they offer for gameplay.

Retro Games for Fifth Generation Consoles

The titles available for each of the fifth generation consoles are of importance for retro gamers. The "Mario" and "Legend of Zelda" series, for example, are the exclusive property of Nintendo and so are only available to play on Nintendo consoles. PlayStation had a few exclusives titles too, including the "Final Fantasy". Sega Saturn is known for its fighting games and 2D gaming with elements of 3D graphics. When choosing a retro gaming console, pay close attention to the titles available. Below are some of the top titles from all three consoles.

Fifth Generation Console

Game Titles

Sony PlayStation

Crash Bandicoot 1, 2, and 3

Metal Gear Solid

Tekken 1, 2, and 3

Gran Turismo

Final Fantasy VII, XIII, and IX

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Nintendo 64

Super Mario 64

Mario Kart 64

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Super Smash Bros.

Goldeneye 007

Sega Saturn

Saturn Bomberman

Virtua Cop 1 and 2

NiGHTS into Dreams

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Sega Rally Championship

Shining Force III

There are of course many more titles available for all of these consoles, but the games listed here are either immensely popular, or hold status for their storylines or graphics capabilities, so they are a good place to start building a collection.


The fifth generation of gaming consoles spans from the early 1990s to 2001, with three of its best known consoles being Sony PlayStation, Nintendo N64, and Sega Saturn. These consoles marked the transition from 2D to 3D graphics and ended the cartridge storage method that had prevailed in earlier eras of gaming. Although Nintendo maintained the cartridge medium for the fifth generation, many developers flocked to PlayStation, so Nintendo changed to disc media for its next release, the fifth generation GameCube.

When choosing a fifth generation console for retro gaming, buyers should look at a variety of features of each system, including the number of controllers, the medium used to store games, and the titles. All three consoles have legendary titles still available. When it comes to stocking up on retro gaming equipment, eBay is a great place to shop, with a large online marketplace to satisfy the need for nostalgia for any gamer.

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