As we anticipate the launch of two new consoles this year, we take a fond look back at the most important console feature: the start-up animations.
The new generation is almost upon us with PS5 and Xbox Series X, packing extra hardware power, quality-of-life features like a solid-state drive for faster loading, and ambitious services like Game Pass. But we all know the real marquee features that will justify the hundreds of dollars are the fresh boot-up sequences. Nothing helps drive home the feeling of a brand-new game system like bringing it home, taking in that new console smell, and then seeing a neat new boot-up animation.
(Right after the required firmware update.)
We've already possibly heard the boot-up sound for Xbox Series X. PlayStation 5 won't be far behind. In honor of these impending consoles and their lovely new boot-up sequences, we've looked through the annals of gaming history and compiled some of the best.
The original handheld hit had one of the earliest and most memorable start-up screens. It's remarkably simple--just the Nintendo logo slowly descending to the middle of the screen followed by a chime--but instantly identifiable.
Sega Master System
The Master System was relatively obscure, especially in the West. But its boot-up screen was the prototype for Sega's two-toned corporate sound, which would eventually be replaced with a chorus singing the company's name. Try to watch without singing "Se~ga." You can't.
(Credit: Louis the Sega Nerd)
It's not the best-selling PlayStation system, but the earliest iteration is a perfect time capsule for late-90s gaming. The angular corporate logo design and crystalline sounds feel like a Blade Runner vision of the future. It's also one of the longest start-up sequences, establishing a brand identity for both Sony Computer Entertainment and PlayStation itself.
Sega's final home console release is widely regarded as being ahead of its time and still has devoted cult following. Even its start-up sequence was forward-thinking, with an adorable, playful animation that wouldn't be matched until a few years later on GameCube. Interestingly enough, Sega enlisted the help of Grammy and Oscar award-winning Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to create the brief, yet atmospheric boot-up track. Sakamoto is primarily known in the west for his film scores, most notably on The Revenant, The Last Emperor, and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. However, he has a near five-decade career's worth of music spanning numerous genres that's well worth looking into if you're curious!
Microsoft's first entry into the game console market leaned hard into a turn-of-the-century vision of the sci-fi future, as defined by movies like The Matrix. That's how we got oversaturated greens, industrial design, and this incredible animation of a gelatinous blob that convulses into the console logo.
Nintendo's final mostly-traditional console before the absolute sea change of the Wii was a playful little cube, complete with a handlebar for carrying it like a lunchbox. The start-up screen matched that spirit, with a fusion of animation and musical cues that's still memorable years later. It also housed a few Easter eggs, letting you alter the sound effects.
The successor to the Game Boy was almost as simple, and equally effective due to its minimalism. The two-tone chime helped drive home the dual aspect of the handheld, and the echoing matches the visual reverberations of the logo.
Microsoft's second console softened some of its hard edges, literally, and that included a logo that was more slick and less industrial. The iconic electronic swooshing sound as the spherical logo spins was snappy and polished.
When it came to marketing the PlayStation 3, Sony had a clear strategy in mind: this was a sophisticated piece of consumer technology for adults. That was used to justify the sticker price--and some unfortunate messaging about working a second job to afford it--but it was also reflected in more subtle ways. The start-up screen invoked a string orchestra's warm-up to illustrate the idea that you were about to engage with a symphony of video game bliss. A little pretentious, maybe, but memorable.
(Credit: Wes Hampson)
You may not remember the Ouya, because it was a failure on basically every conceivable level. The Android micro-console never caught on, but its start-up sequence was very on-point. The flashy animation invoked a rising sun, implying new beginnings. Too bad it wasn't one.
(Credit: Ohhm Thanachat.F)