From age 21-25 my friends and I closed out many a bar, it seemed like a good
idea at the time. I was usually the
designated driver so I had the joy of performing the "drunken roundup" as I
called it. It also meant that I saw closing time with a sober mind. Putting
it into perspective, it was a slightly depressing time. The celebratory mood that filled the air
a mere two hours ago was a distant memory. Throughout the evening the more
desirable people trickled out the door. By the time last call was announced
several people rushed to send off the night with a final drink. They'd look for
a last minute hook-up then leave feeling dejected, sometimes angry. When closing time was
finally called there was always that one lonely drinker still at the bar,
trying to cling on until the last possible moment.
Video game systems aren't all that different. A console manufacturer starts
hinting that they're working on a new system. There aren't any final
specifications, release dates, or even potential names, just hints that
something is coming. Game publishers who have good ideas in an early
development stage hold-off until they know more. The selection for existing
systems starts to grow thinner. The console manufacturer makes a grand
announcement about their upcoming system, last call. The publishers work
overtime to produce games for it. Projects already underway for existing
systems get reassigned to the B, or even C, team. They're far enough along that
scrapping or porting them wouldn't be worthwhile. Some are rushed out the door
like the frenzy of last minute drinkers. Others sit in a stool, nursing their
drink until the bitter end, closing time.
This article is a tribute to those
games that were the final lonely patron of a once festive tavern on a Saturday
night. While another three-way console war is reaching the height of its
fury, let's reflect on the final days of systems past. Maybe we can even learn how these
now hot consoles may spend their inevitable last days.
: This article only looks at official licensed games available
For the pre-NES systems (before strict enforcement of third-party licensing) I'm going with the last release by a major publisher.
As much as I respect homebrew and independant projects, they won't be considered. Only games released in the
United States are listed as well. Systems had different life spans in
different countries so I had to settle on one. Basically if
you couldn't walk into a game store in the US and buy a copy, it's not on the
list. This also leaves out the Telegames, Songbird Productions, and Super Fighter Team games.
These publishers released many titles after a system's demise and only available via mail or online orders.
I'm sure some readers won't be satisfied but I had to apply some standard.
There are obviously some systems missing from this list. See the Missing
section for a more detailed explanation on which systems and why.
Thankfully, Fairchild F games are numbered making it easy to determine which game was released last.
Alien Invasion, at #26, was the final game produced for this groundbreaking system. Yeah, "groundbreaking", it was the first game system with a CPU and programmable cartridges. It couldn't compete with the Atari 2600 though and didn't even make it to the 80s (where it probably would have died in 1983 anyway).
The release year for Alien Invasion isn't written in stone so I went with the copyright year of 1979.
The Microvision was the first cartridge-based portable system and had a total of 11 games.
and Cosmic Hunter
were the only releases it had in 1981 but the exact order is undocumented.
Although no emulators for the Microvision exist, there is a nifty simulator at: http://home.comcast.net/~eichler2/microvision/MicroSimProject.htm
If I count the 32X
as a system then I suppose I can count the Intellivoice as one. Of course I wouldn't count the NES Light Zapper as a system. I guess I'll go with "if it plugs into a cartridge or expansion slot it's a separate system
". Wait, then that would make the N64 Expansion Card count as a "system
". OK look, I really just want to include the Intellivoice here, do I need to justify why?
A total of four games were released for the Intellivoice (not including World Series Major League Baseball since it also required the ECS, see the next entry). The first three were released concurrently with the attachment with
TRON: Solar Sailer
bringing up the rear.
I've played the first three Intellivoice games more than I care to admit. I am a big Intellivision fan and thoroughly enjoy them despite the grainy vocals. TRON, on the other hand, is just weird and confusing. I can't make sense of it at all.
Yeah, I'm not including the plethora of other computers that were little more than a game system with a keyboard attachment. This is a matter of convenience though, while reading about the previous entry I spotted this one.
World Series Major League Baseball was the last game released for the ECS, it also supported the Intellivoice module but didn't require it.
World Series Major League Baseball was way ahead of its time. It was leaps and bounds ahead of other baseball games of the era including the Intellivision offering. Unfortunately very few were able to enjoy the game when it was new.
The Astrocade is very high on the "list of systems I wish I owned". I should probably start scouring ebay instead of hoping I accidentally bump into one somewhere. Like the Fairchild Channel F entry, this is based on the cartridge number: #2019 –
Cosmic Raiders. It's not a bad game, an obvious Defender clone but passable nonetheless.
A couple homebrew cartridges were released after Cosmic Raiders.
Mangavox introduced the first home video game console in the form of the Odyssey. The sequel didn't hold quite as much historical significance. It never caught up with the Atari 2600 and looked terrible compared to the Intellivision and Colecovision.
Power Lords was released moments before the system was discontinued in the United States. The game is odd, it took a few minutes for me to figure out whether I was controlling the snake or something else. I won't say it's bad, it's just not like anything else I've played before.
I have to go back and count which year saw more system deaths, 1983 or 1996. Both were a console bloodbath albeit for completely different reasons. In 1996 the Playstation was booming and Nintendo 64 hot off the presses. All the pretenders to the 32-bit generation were discontinued in 1996 along with a couple portable systems.
1983, on the other hand, was a total free-fall. The video market collapsed and systems starting dropping like flies. Among the casualties were the Vectrex and Arcadia 2001.
Like the Fairchild Channel F and Bally Astrocade, the Vectrex numbered it's cartridge catalog so it should be easy to sort out the last game. However, the light pen and 3D games were numbered separately making it hard to tell which one was really last. It's either
Polar Rescue, Crazy Coaster, or possibly Pole
The Arcadia 2001 was released in 1982, just in time to experience the legendary crash. In many ways it exemplifies why the crash occurred. Within a year it had a dozen games that were all knock-offs of titles already available for other systems. It also had numerous hardware variants manufactured by different companies. This only further confused shoppers already attempting to sort through stacks of Atari 2600 clones. Sure the graphics were sharper than most competitors but consumers didn't care at this point. It looks like something called
Super Bug is the likely winner here. However, some of these hardware variants also played different games. So
Super Dimension Fortress Macross, or maybe something else entirely, could be the last game published for it too.
The RDI Halycon was a failed attempt to bring a laserdisc system into the home.
In a way, it was like the Neo Geo.
It allowed mere mortals to play full-blown arcade games on their television.
No suffering through lame conversions, you could run the real thing.
With a price tag of $2500 (in 1985) it never got off the ground.
Only two games were ever released, Thayer's Quest and Raiders vs. Chargers.
Thayer's Quest was the pack-in game so Raiders vs. Chargers is the "last game" by default.
We've talked about a lot of obscures systems, it's time to move on to the first mainstream victim of the legendary video game crash of 1983.
We all know the story, a deluge of awful games
destroyed mainstream consumer interest in gaming. Atari was financially devastated and sold
to Jack Tramiel who decided to scrap the whole video game thing and focus on the personal computer market, this turned Atari into the computing powerhouse it is today.
In the process of this reinvention the young Atari
5200 was canned in 1984, the same year Gremlins was developed. It was
produced but sat in limbo for two years until the decision was made to
clear out the remaining stock of 5200 games.
Gremlins is an enjoyable enough game. You control a sword-wielding Billy
on a quest hack-up gremlins while preventing the fuzzy little Mogwai
from joining their ranks. If you've seen the movie it makes sense.
The Atari 5200 has the dubious distinction of being the only system on
this list that died before the system it was intended to replace.
Although I suppose one could argue the 32X and Sega CD fit this criteria as well.
Mattel canned their electronics division in 1984 after the previously
noted crash of 1983. A group of former employees formed INTV corporation
and bought the rights to the Intellivision. When the NES was released in
1985 it sparked a resurgence in the game industry. Stores started
carrying a limited supply of Intellivision and Atari games again.
In response, INTV corporation dusted-off a few unfinished games in time
for the 1987 holiday season. Tower of Doom was one of the most
advanced adventure games for the the Intellivision, even rivaling
AD&D Treasure of Tarmin. OK, I guess there were only three adventure
games for the Intellivision but they were all top-notch. Diner,
which I actually owned at the time, was the sequel to Burgertime based
on the code for an unfinished He-Man game. Dig-Dug was a so-so
port of the arcade game. It was originally written, but not released, in
1984. As a result it was inferior to the more recently published Atari 7800
The last three Intellivision games were produced in 1989.
By then the system and games were only available through mail order.
The Christmas of 1987 marked the last time new Intellivision games graced store shelves.
In a twist that almost seems scripted, the last Atari 2600 game was
produced by long-departed-Atari-founder Nolan Bushnell. Secret Quest
was a decent
send-off for the venerable console, one of the better games created for
it. It looks and plays like the offspring of Adventure and Berzerk.
Maybe Escape from Castle Wolfenstein is a better comparison, you have to
find keys and keep your ammo & life meters stocked with power-up items.
It was a great game by Atari 2600 standards but couldn't touch anything on the NES.
There were European Atari 2600 releases into the 90s and several homebrew titles are produced every year.
I think it will be a very long time before we truly see the "last" Atari 2600 cartridge produced.
Midnight Mutants stars Grampa from the Munsters, or maybe the Addams
Family, I don't know the difference. He's been kidnapped or something
and you have to rescue him. It's an adventure-ish game. You have to find
items and do some exploration at least. It's not the Legend of Zelda but
I've seen FAQs and such that claim the Atari 7800 was better than the
NES from a technical perspective. No one that's played both systems
could honestly believe that. If that were true I'd expect Midnight
Mutants to be at least equal to, if not better than, NES games of 1990.
Not even close. The 7800 was a fun system and had some decent games,
but it didn't stack-up against the NES or Sega Master System.
Sonic the Hedgehog
for the Sega Master System isn't a port of the Genesis version. The levels are different, the
enemies fewer, but the idea is the same. Technically speaking, it shows
again that the Sega Master System could produce some high-quality games.
Unfortunately for Sega in the 80s, the few outstanding Master System
games couldn't hold back the flood of NES titles. The Master
System was dead in the US by 1991 but still had a substantial following in Europe
and Brazil. I
suspect Sonic the Hedgehog was largely developed for sale overseas, it
was easy enough for them to release a US version too. The combination of
the low-cost Sega Master System II and Sonic the Hedgehog likely swayed
a few parents who didn't want to drop $200 on the Genesis equivalent for
The Sega Master System would enjoy another seven years of new releases
in Brazil courtesy of Tec Toy
They continue to sell a licensed variant of Sega
Master System with over 100 built-in games (and if anyone from Brazil is
reading this I'd love to know if you can help me buy one).
An extremely generous person from Brazil did contact me and it turns out
that between the cost of the system and shipping it would come to
$150-$200. I'm leaving
the original comment and this note up for anyone reading this that's
about the cost of getting one imported.
Sidebar - New Compact Design
Many systems in their last days will be re-released in a new compact design.
These remodeled systems are designed to be inexpensive, often dropping support for unpopular peripherals.
They serve two purposes, the first is to provide a cheap entry system aimed at parents.
If your kids are nagging for a game system you can either spend $200-$300 on the latest console with 1-2 games or
$50-$100 on one of these compact systems and several games. It's a no-brainer for the family on a budget.
The other purpose is to offer replacement hardware for devotees with a dead system.
I picked-up one of the compact NESs for this exact reason.
Under fifty bucks, now isn't that nice. The Atari 2600 Jr.
released around the same time as the Atari 7800. Since the 7800 was
relatively inexpensive and backwards compatible
with the 2600 this
system didn't really take off.
I remember seeing the Sega Master System II for sale a KB Toys for a decent price.
I was tempted to buy one but already had a Power Base Converter and couldn't justify the redundancy.
In 1993 the NES received a facelift and was re-designed into a smaller top-loader.
The controllers were rounded off to resemble their SNES equivalent, which also had the benefit of making them more comfortable.
The drawback to this model is the absence of A/V ports.
The compact NES can only be connected through an old-school RF
box. It also doesn't work with the Game Genie unless you're handy with a
In 1998 Sega licensed production of the Genesis to a 3rd party. The
result was the Sega Genesis 3. Due to a reduced chipset the 32X,
Sega CD, and Power Base Converter won't work with this system. Priced at
only $30, it's a good replacement for a dead system.
The compact Super Nintendo was bundled with Yoshi's Island.
Nintendo has made very few mistakes when it comes to the Game Boy line
(note: that's Game Boy line, which would exclude the Virtual
It was puzzling to some how they continued to manufacture a black & white system while Sega, Atari, and NEC all had technically superior alternatives.
Instead of competing on visuals they relied on lower price and better game selection.
In the end the Game Boy drove all other handhelds into obscurity. Along the way they made a few odd decisions.
In 1995, when consumers asked for a color system they responded by repainting the Game Boy itself.
Sega thoroughly mocked Nintendo in a series of television ads for this.
In 1996 Nintendo redesigned the Game Boy again. This new model, dubbed
the Game Boy Pocket was leaner than its predecessors. It would be
shortly deprecated by the Game Boy Color.
A comparison between the PSOne and Atari 2600 Jr. can be made in
that the PSOne was released when the backwards compatible PlayStation 2
was on the shelves. The difference in this case is that the PlayStation
2 was going for $300, if you could even find it. This system is
remarkably small; it's great to take on a business trip because it uses up practically no room in the suitcase.
Of course there are exceptions
For their final hardware release, the Intellivision Model III reverted back to a larger design.
The TurboDuo combined the TurboGrafx-16, CD, and Super System Card into one unit.
It sold for $300 and was marketed as a competitor to the Sega CD.
The Sega CDX was a compact Sega Genesis/Sega CD combination unit.
It was released when the Sega CD was still a viable system and was by no means inexpensive.
The Lynx II was designed to make the platform more competitive
with the Game Boy by reducing the bulky size and increasing battery
The original Panasonic 3DO was the size of the average VCR and
cost $700. When Goldstar manufactured a lower-cost model Panasonic
responded by releasing a smaller, cheaper version of their system.
The slim PS2 came out in the midst of the PS2-Xbox war.
The new style gave it a sophisticated image that blended-in with any entertainment center.
It also presented a sharp visual contrast to its bulky competitor. A
white version was later produced.
The Game Boy Micro appeared to be Nintendo's attempt to put the GBA line out to pasture.
The strong sales of the GBA SP nixed these plans. The small screen and
lack of support for the classic Game Boy line left the Game Boy Micro
unpopular while the SP stuck around for a few more years.
The Nintendo DS Lite was released at the height of the system's popularity.
Rather than offer a cheap alternative, the DS Lite was intended to draw in non-traditional gamers.
It has been a smashing success worldwide and cemented Nintendo's dominance in the portable market.
It feels like the TurboGrafx-16 was the shortest lived system on
this list (the Virtual Boy earns that "honor"). 1993 was near the
height of the 16-bit console war and the TurboGrafx-16 couldn't keep up
with the Genesis and Super Nintendo (although the Japanese equivalent
PC-Engine would survive until 1997). What ultimately killed the system
was the near total absence of third party support. Hudson Soft was one
of their few supporters and published the last game in the US. Bomberman
and Bonk were the closest the TurboGrafx-16 had to franchise characters.
In that regard, Bomberman '93 was a "safe" game to publish
even while the system was faltering. The TurboGrafx-16 had a dedicated,
albeit small, following that was practically guaranteed to buy X copies
of a franchise title.
Bomberman '93 was marketed as a "party game", no surprise it was a launch title for Nintendo Wii Virtual Console.
Magical Chase was released in America right around the same time as Bomberman '93 but was only available through mail order.
I have not been able to confirm whether it was available in stores.
I'll admit it, this game totally confused me. Maybe I should have read
the manual or something. If I recorded commentary the first time I
played Wario's Woods
it would have gone like "OK, looks like I'm
Toad. There's some weird puff things on the ground, am I supposed to
pick them up or something. Oh look, some bombs. I'd better keep those
away from the puff things I guess. OK, I stacked a bunch of bombs and
they blew up but nothing happened, maybe I'm supposed to kill those cute
little puff balls. Yup, that did the trick. Now there's an angry tree
descending, screw you tree dude. What's with the pink Muppet in the
corner. Doo do do-do-do, menomena!
Like the previous two entries, the NES finished it's run with a
franchise game. Well, there's Toad and something that rhymes with
"Mario" in the title so close enough. I don't remember it coming
into Electronics Boutique when I
. By that time we only had a couple new NES games, like
StarTropics 2, stuffed into a single shelf below the Game Boy
accessories. If we received Wario's Woods it would have been in
displayed in the same low-profile location.
To paraphrase something I said about
: "if you like novelty-sized sprites, you'll
love Bonk 3
". If there was one thing the TurboGrafx-16 could do
better than its competitors it was giant sprites. The third installment
of the Bonk series illustrated this in grand fashion. Originally a
Turbo-Chip game, Bonk 3 was ported to CD in December 1994. The
differences were limited to the soundtrack which received a make-over.
The original Bonk game was a decent platformer. It was fun but not
great. Bonk 2 was a significant improvement and could hold it's own
against Mario or Sonic. Bonk 3 regressed a bit, the levels seemed to be
ripped directly from one of the prequels. Very little was added to the
game except power-up candies that grow or shrink the title character,
ala Alice in Wonderland.
There's not much I can say about the Lynx that isn't common knowledge.
It's capabilities blew away the Game Boy but it was never a serious
challenger. Poor battery life, high-price, and abysmal third-party
support were the culprits.
The Lynx was officially canceled in 1993 but the last licensed US
release, Super Asteroids and Missile Command, snuck out in 1995.
As the title implies, it's a remake of the arcade classics with upgraded graphics.
Like the TurboGrafx-16 entry another game, Battlezone 2000, was released at the same time and it's unclear whether that was available in American stores.
Boxed copies from the U.K. appear on ebay regularly.
The Lynx maintains a small but fiercly loyal fan base and limited releases from Songbird Productions, Telegames, and Super Fighter Team.
When the Saturn was announced Sega CD projects started dropping like
flies. Seven months after the famous surprise launch the Sega CD was
finished. I was a loser working video game retail
and let me assure you it was dead. It wasn't
that every Sega CD owner switched to the Saturn in the previous seven months, it
was that new Sega CD games completely stopped. I'd seen systems die out
before, but not one with the resounding crash of the Sega CD. It went
from one of it's best releases, Eternal Champions, to slamming into a
brick wall in no time. When Surgical Strike
hit the shelves we had
already stopped carrying the hardware and practically every
Strike was almost
the last game for the Sega
as well. The box offered a
free mail-in upgrade to the 32X version. However, it was cancelled (and
never available in stores anyway thus disqualifying it from this list).
, the final release for the Mega Drive CD in 1996, was nearly
the last American Sega CD game as well. However, the US version was
cancelled leaving the honor to Surgical Strike.
I'm forced to list this one as "unconfirmed but almost certainly the last Sega CD+32X game". Maybe I should put this in a sidebar instead, whatever. This is proof that personal recollection is a bad way to construct a list like this. When I wrote the draft for this entry I had Fahrenheit as the last Sega CD+32X game. When I actually bothered to look into it I found it was likely the first Sega CD+32X game. I made the "it's the last game I personally saw on the shelf" mistake.
After Fahrenheit, the folks at Digital Pictures decided to re-release a number of their Sega CD games in a Sega CD+32X format. Things now become difficult to sort out. Corpse Killer and Supreme Warrior were 1994 releases that received 32X versions late in the same year. An upgraded version of Night Trap came alongside them.
Slam City with Scottie Pippen is often lumped in with these previous three releases. However. the other versions of Slam City (PC, 3DO) were early 1995 releases so I have to think that the Sega CD version was also a 1995 release as some sources list. I can't say with confidence that the places listing it in 1994 are wrong though.
So there just aren't enough facts to call this one for sure, however all signs point to Slam City being the final Sega CD+32X release. At worst it's tied with the other Digital Pictures games.
The Sega CD and 32X would each enjoy 1-2 new releases after Slam City, but publishers abandoned the idea of developing games that required both attachments.
The LaserActive was a system with pluggable modules that allowed it to play Sega CD and TurboGrafx-16 CD games. Some developers created games specifically for these modules that didn’t run on the original system. For the purpose of this entry only those games are considered as there are already entries for the Sega CD and TurboGrafx-16 CD.
The LaserActive is one of the more obscure systems on this list and had a very limited distribution. From 1992-1997 I worked at the then largest video game store chain and we never carried it. It was marketed as a “high end” system so I suspect only stores for blowhards carried it.
On a related note, "Stores for Blowhards" would be a wildly successful mall I’m afraid.
Anyway, where was I? Right, so like a couple other systems on this list I’m stretching the "if you couldn't walk into a game store in the US and buy a copy, it's not on the list" criteria a little bit. The LaserActive wasn’t widely available but with some effort it could be found.
Like the system itself the release information is hard to nail down. Most games for it were published in 1994 with support withering by 1995. Each release was given a catalog number so assuming that aligns with release order then the last game was J.B. Harold: Blue Chicago Blues. It was released in 1995 for a number of unsuccessful CD systems. So like Slam City this earns the distinction "unconfirmed but almost certainly the last Pioneer LaserActive game". I'm confident enough to list it here instead of under missing systems for whatever that's worth.
Outside of the catalog numbers there’s little that documents the actual release order or dates for LaserActive games. J.B. Harold: Blue Chicago Blues is likely the final retail release but I can’t say for sure it is.
Like the Lynx, there's not much to say about the Virtual Boy that hasn't
been said a thousand times. It will go down as Nintendo's biggest
blunder and one of the worst consoles developed.
Tetris 3-D would have been a great pack-in title for the Virtual
Maybe Nintendo wanted to prevent people from thinking "Game Boy = Tetris".
Whatever the case, this game didn't hit the stores until the Virtual Boy's final days.
By then the system and game library were being cleared out for a
fraction of the original price.
The poor 32X was always waiting for that one game that would turn it's
fortunes. Should have been Mortal
, but it was released too late. In it's final months it
could only manage ports of Space Harrier and Pitfall: The Mayan
Adventure that were minimal improvements over the Genesis editions.
Spider-man: Web of Fire
had the potential to buy the 32X a little time.
A popular comic book character starring in a well-reviewed game.
However, it saw very limited distribution and was largely forgotten
behind the ferocious Saturn vs. PlayStation battle.
As 32X platformers go it's par for the course. It looks slightly better
than the average Genesis game but worse than the average Super Nintendo
one. The control is a bit wild and you spend a lot of time falling off
buildings as a result. I'm a fan of the 32X for some reason but wasn't
impressed with Spider-man: Web of Fire.
This game is now a rarity that fetches a hefty sum on auction sites.
Although it looks like a bargain compared to the final international 32X release, Darxide
We're only hitting the halfway mark for 1996, The Saturn and PlayStation
were in full-swing, the Nintendo 64 was on its way, the PC game market
was reenergized by Windows 95. It's only logical that a great purging of
old systems would occur in 1996.
3DO development came to grinding halt when the M2 was announced in 1995.
The few companies that still supported the 3DO moved their projects to
the eventual vaporware platform. A trickle of games would be finished
and released in 1996 for the rapidly fading 3DO with Casper being the
last to see daylight. Just what we needed, another mediocre game based
on a mediocre movie. Looking back, I'm surprised the 3DO didn't have
many more of these bad movie spin-off games.
There are a lot of obvious statements that can be made about the ironic title of this game.
By 1996 the Atari Jaguar was by no stretch fighting for life. With consoles slashed to $50
and cleared off store shelves it was dead. Fight for Life was merely a tombstone marker.
There were grand plans for this game, it was to be Atari's answer to Virtua Fighter.
Virtua Fighter 2 was selling a lot of Saturn systems, even to gamers left skeptical by the the Sega CD and 32X.
Atari hoped this 3D fighter would breathe new life into the system.
However, it came out too late to have an impact.
Stores had relegated the Jaguar library to the clearance bin and wedged-in
a full-price Fight for Life by default.
Fight for Life was a dreadful game and belonged in the clearance bins
though. Like every other game Atari made for the Jaguar, it had that
weird polygon-abuse look with unbearably slow animation. Atari's thought
process must have been "people loved Hard Drivin' in 1988, let's
make everything look like that!" Fight for Life suffered
the same problems as the majority of the Jaguar library and ultimately
is just as forgettable.
In 1999 Hasbro released the rights to the Atari Jaguar making it very accessible to homebrew developers.
Every year or so a new fan game pop-ups for Atari's last console.
Here's another case of personal recollection gone wrong. I initially speculated that Highlander was the final Jaguar CD release. I made the same "it's the last game I personally saw on the shelf" mistake. In reality it had a good six-month lead over Brain Dead 13 which was the final Jaguar CD release. By then most stores slashed their Jaguar CD inventory. Over at Electronics Boutique/Waldensoftware, only Dragon's Lair and Space Ace remained. I don't know which chains carried it, but it was out there for those loyal Jaguar CD owners to find.
A year after the Jaguar was canned, Telegames published a pair of shelved games developed by Jaguar licensees. Iron Soldier and World Tour Racing were both made available via mail order in 1997.
Like the Jaguar, a new Jaguar CD game is released by an enthusiast roughly once a year.
In 1996 Sega dropped support for anything that wasn't the Saturn.
The Game Gear was a victim of this process.
Despite being technically superior, it never kept pace with the Game Boy.
Sonic Blast, released in 1996, was Sega's last hurrah for their handheld system.
Almost a year later The Lost World: Jurassic Park was released as a tie-in to film.
I can only speculate that work on it started before the Game Gear was discontinued.
The Game Gear would be briefly re-released in 2000 but no new games were published.
The Sega Genesis and EA Sports line enjoyed a symbiotic relationship.
Without the strong sports library the Genesis would have gone the way of
the TG-16. Without the Sega Genesis EA Sports may not exist today. In
the late 80s Electronic Arts wanted to enter the console game market.
However, they found Nintendo's licensing terms too restrictive and opted
to develop for the Genesis. Sega conceded to some of EA's requests such
as allowing them to manufacture their own cartridges and packaging. The
EA Sports division became a game publishing powerhouse. Nintendo would
ultimately loosen their licensing policies allowing EA to develop for
the SNES. However, without the Genesis there's a good chance EA would
have abandoned all thoughts developing for game consoles. How did EA
ultimately thank Sega for this? By acquiring exclusive rights to nearly
every sports league, thereby destroying the entire Sega Sports division.
It was only fitting in this way that EA published the last three licensed
Genesis games. John Madden Football '98, NBA Live '98, and
NHL '98 all hit the stores in the early fall of 1997. I'm sure it wasn't a great effort for
them. Take the '97 version, update the rosters, add a few bells 'n
whistles, bam! '98 version complete. OK, I'm sure I'm oversimplifying
the development process but not by much.
My only complaint about these three games is that you have to go through
87 menu screens before you can play. To this day they can't seem to
merge "select team" and "select which player controls
which team" into a single menu.
Of course none of these were truly the last licensed title for the Genesis, more on that just a little farther down...
The death of the Super Nintendo marked the end of 2D console gaming.
Sure, there are some 2D-style platformers and shooters released from
time-to-time. Let's face it though, since the Super Nintendo the focus
has been almost entirely on cranking-out 3D graphics with wicked shading
effects and kewl-@ss textures. You can have your Halo 3; I'll take
Zelda: A Link to the Past or Super Metroid over it any day.
It's appropriate that this era ended with Kirby's Dream Land 3, an overly cute side-scroller starring a franchise character.
To most gamers this was the last new Super Nintendo game they saw in the stores.
To most stores it was in fact was the last Super Nintendo game they carried.
However, after most video game stores dumped their remaining 16-bit console games one more title snuck out...
Sidebar - Sega Genesis & Super Nintendo – Frogger (1998)
It's an odd twist for the two bitter 16-bit rivals to technically end on the same note.
In 1998, the systems were both available in compact models for low prices.
New game production stopped but toy stores still had a supply that would last for a while.
Konami must have figured there was still a viable market for cheap, family-friendly games.
They cranked-out a low tech remake of the arcade classic Frogger for the
former dominant consoles. This wasn't carried at many stores but I do recall seeing it at the now defunct KB Toys.
I was introduced to Working Designs by a game called Cosmic Fantasy 2 on
the TurboGrafx-16 CD. I was instantly a fan of their games and built a
library of their 16-bit CD selections. Unfortunately I couldn't afford a
Saturn or PlayStation back in the day
so I missed out on their 32-bit games. They now sell for an astounding
sum on auction sites.
If there's one thing Working Designs was (in)famous for it was taking
forever to develop games. I can respect that. I'd rather wait for a
high-quality game than play another uninspired me-too one. The downside
of course is that sometimes you can take too long
to finish a
game. Such was the case for Magic Knight Rayearth
. The Saturn collapsed
around its third birthday but Working Designs was still working on games
for it. Lunar: The Silver Star Story, a potential savior of the system,
was scrapped. Magic Knight Rayearth was close enough to completion that
Working Designs published it in time for Christmas.
I have no idea what Pokemon is nor do I have any desire to find out. The
fact that there are males my age into it leaves me speechless.
In 1999 Nintendo was trying to wean gamers off the B&W Game Boy and
onto the backwards compatible Game Boy Color. Pokemon Yellow: Special
Pikachu Edition was a re-release of Pokemon Yellow with some support
for the Game Boy Color built it. Yeah, every classic Game Boy game
worked in the Game Boy Color but there were some tricks to make games
look better in the newer system. This was a way for Nintendo to support
both systems while giving people the hint that they should upgrade,
similar to their Twilight Princess strategy.
This was the last game made specifically
for the original Game Boy and it's perfectly debatable whether the Game
Boy Color games "count". For the sake of completeness, the two Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 titles, released in
September 2001, earn the distinction of being the final games compatible with the original Game Boy.
I paid $5 for my CD-i
and sometimes feel ripped-off. OK, it didn't come with a controller or power cable so after I spend $20-$30 to acquire those maybe I'll feel otherwise.
When I started working on this article I expected to find the last CD-i release to be in 1996, 1997 at the latest. 1997 saw a release of Brain Dead 13 which seemed to be the curtain call for the CD-i. After a dry 1998, Solar Crusade saw its way onto both the PC and Philips CD-i. Why would Infogrames release a game for a totally dead system? Why did they decide re-branding as Atari was a good idea? Both questions are equally puzzling.
A few homebrew games, such as Frog
, have cropped up since the CD-i was discontinued.
Sidebar - Neo Geo CD - King of Fighters 99 (December 1999)
I included the Neo Geo
further down so I might as well include the even-less mainstream Neo Geo CD too. It was an extremely obscure console in the US, only the most hardcore SNK fans owned it.
The Neo Geo CD didn't have the longevity of it's cartridge based counterpart. While the Neo Geo would live on for another five years, King of Fighters 1999 marked the end of SNKs CD experiment.
It's almost eerie how close Tiger came to creating the Nintendo DS with the game.com – touchscreen, internet capabilities, inferior graphics to contemporary hand-held systems. Of course the DS has done so many things to compensate for not looking as pretty as the PSP, the game.com could never find a similar way to overcome the Game Boy. The internet capabilities were practically useless as they required an account with their proprietary ISP. The touchscreen turned out to be inadequate for gaming. The only remaining hope was producing a better library.
You can imagine how that turned out.
A total of twenty games were produced, several of them had great titles like "Mortal Kombat Trilogy" or "Duke Nukem 3D" that were poor imitations of the original. The grave for the game.com was already dug when the Game Boy Color arrived to throw on the dirt. Frogger, Centipede, and Scrabble were released for the Christmas season of 1999. By the following Christmas no sign of the game.com could be found in stores.
Dreamcast, we hardly knew you. Although it was technically on the
shelves for three years it felt like it was only a few months. Well, maybe
I just feel that way because I bought it for $99 when it was cleared out
in 2001. I still have troubles understanding why it wasn't competitive.
Graphically, I can't see the difference between it and the PS2 or Xbox.
I'm sure some PS2/Xbox fanboys will foam at the mouth at this statement.
Whatever. I think the Dreamcast more than holds its own against the
other systems of its era.
The Dreamcast called it quits like many of the later systems, with a sports game.
For a sport that gets lower ratings than poker it's amazing that hockey video games sell like crazy.
Of course I doubt 90% of the people who buy hockey games can name a single player in the
league. Unless Wayne Gretzky is still playing I'm in the same boat.
Anyway, NHL 2K2
was a notable improvement over it's predecessor. The initial NHL 2K was
so poorly received that they passed on releasing a 2K1. The result was a
more refined 2K2 sequel. Unfortunately it was released more than a year
after Sega ceased production of the Dreamcast.
The Dreamcast maintains a very active homebrew community today.
The Nintendo 64 was released a year after the PlayStation
and faced an uphill battle. The PlayStation had it's second generation
games hitting the shelves while the Nintendo 64 was showcasing launch
titles. The technical specifications between the consoles were close
enough that it was irrelevant.
Still, the Nintendo 64 managed a six-year run and produced some of the
most critically acclaimed games of all time. It's final release, Tony
Hawk's Pro Skater 3, is among the top-rated titles.
In an interesting footnote, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam was a launch title for the Nintendo Wii.
The Game Boy color was an unnecessary system in many ways. It was
released in 1998 when Nintendo had long vanquished their competitors in
the portable market. The Game Boy Advance was presumably in development
at the time. For all intents and purposes the Game Boy Advance is a held held
Super Nintendo while the Game Boy Color is only a souped-up NES.
Certainly Nintendo could have slid by with the black & white Game
Boy for a couple more years.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is one of those variety games
where you do something different in each level. There's a flying stage,
wand shooting stage, exploring stage and so on. Most games of this type
can be labeled "jack of all trades, master of none", Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is no exception. That's not a knock on
the game, it's meant for kids and serves its purpose.
Sidebar - Neo Geo - Samurai Shodown V Special [AKA Samurai Spirits Zero Special] (October 2004)
This is a slight exception to the "if
you couldn't walk into a game store in the US and buy a copy, it's not on the
list" rule. My own experience with the Neo Geo is limited. I
first heard of the system way back in high school, 1990 or 1991. The
~$700 sticker price, and ~$200 games, put it way out of my reach. There
was one obnoxious rich kid whose parents bought it for him and it
delighted him to talk about his beloved Neo Geo. "Yeah, you can
play a total of four games. Good for you." was my reaction.
A couple of years later in the junior college game room I'd see people
crowded around the Neo Geo arcade machine battling away at Samurai
Shodown. I tried it but didn't care for it nearly as much as Street Fighter
II or Mortal Kombat. It was too slow paced and filled with with illogical special
moves. Let me just fire off a quick back, forward, half-circle forward,
back, A. My opponent will never see it coming. I'd
briefly get into one of the King of Fighters games but it didn't hold my
interest for long. Bust-a-Move was different story altogether. I got
hooked on that in the arcade and bought the Super Nintendo version the
day it hit the shelves. After that I never touched a Neo Geo again.
I originally passed on including the Neo Geo in this article because it
obviously wasn't a big seller. However, when I realized it lasted for 14
years I rethought the relevance of the system. Yeah, it'll always be
better known as an arcade machine but it was also a home system. It was
a novel idea. An arcade system with interchangeable cartridges that can
also be played at home. Unlike the 16-bit systems of the time, the Neo
Geo could literally deliver an arcade game in your living room.
The slow death of the arcade, and MAME, ultimately led to the demise of SNK.
They wrapped-up their groundbreaking system with Samurai Shodown V
Special [AKA Samurai Spirits Zero Special]. Why does every Neo Geo
game have an alternate name? I assume it's a translation thing, they are
infamous for wacky translations after all. Whatever the case, it was the
last installment of the fighting series that graced arcades for over a
decade. I doubt there will ever be another system that tries to do what
the Neo Geo did.
I'm doing some quick math and the 9-year production run of Sony
PlayStation games ties the NES. I think they were equally important
systems. The NES rebounded the entire video game industry, the Sony
PlayStation expanded it beyond the core market of kids and nerds. Like
the NES, the PlayStation had several years of new game releases after
its predecessor was out.
The FIFA series began on the Sega Genesis and was an immediate hit. Like
Hockey, I think more people buy FIFA soccer than watch it on TV. I'm not
going to launch a big "soccer is boring" rant but let's just
say FIFA soccer is 1000x more exciting than the real thing (same for
hockey). I was a little surprised when I saw Madden 2004 for PlayStation on the
shelves in 2003. Given EA's record of releasing updated games for dead
consoles it wasn't too big of a shocker though. However, it was quite
surprising to learn that FIFA Soccer 2005 was
released for the PlayStation in October 2004 while passing on Madden
2005. Of the two I'd expect Madden to greatly outsell FIFA, even to a
diminished PlayStation market.
For the sake of thoroughness I'll note
that NFL Gameday 2005, released in August 2004, was still available
new in stores until late 2006 after FIFA 2005 was generally gone.
Sidebar - Gizmondo – Worst System Ever? (2005)
What qualifies a system as being the "worst ever
"? The SuperGrafx, with its measly seven game library, goes for hundreds of dollars on ebay now. It's a prized collectors item in spite of its commercial failure (or maybe because of). Will the Gizmondo ever be a system people drop wads of cash on? Doubtful.
I think I actually despise the Gizmondo. It represents everything you can do wrong with a game system:
-Focused on hardware capabilities over game quality
-Created by people with no game industry experience who figured they could buy a place at the table
-Poorly conceived features that are unrelated to gaming, i.e. SMS capabilities but no keypad, if you think a numeric pad is annoying for SMS just wait until you have a control pad and six buttons to work with
-Launch library that didn't appeal to any gaming demographic
-Optional ad-sponsored hardware available
It really just comes down to one thing though - I can't think of a system I want to own less than the Gizmondo. Think of every game system you don't own and rank them in the order you'd like to acquire them. What goes beneath the Gizmondo? Based on that alone I will happily label it the worst system ever and defend that position if the one Gizmondo fan on earth ever reads this.
Oh, so what's the last game for the Gizmono? Trick question, it had eight games in the stores for its US launch and none after that. The world never got to learn if "Momma Can I Mow The Lawn
" was really as crappy as the name sounded.
Some of the things I said about the Gizmondo apply to the N-Gage. However, it was marketed more as a phone than a gaming system unlike the Gizmondo which was marketed as.. well, I'm not sure what.
The game library for the N-Gage was actually decent though. I'm not planning to seek out an N-Gage out but there are a few games I wouldn't mind having. So I suppose it's ahead of the Gizmondo on the aforementioned list but below many others.
As a cartridge based system (MMC format), the last game released was Warhammer 40,000: Glory in Death. I wish there were more RPG and strategy games for mobile phones. They fit the mobile format so much better than action games.
Civilization is listed as the last N-Gage game by some but it came out in February 2006, one month before Warhammer 40,000: Glory in Death.
The N-Gage as a gaming platform wasn't completely dead in 2006. If you owned a Nokia phone you can download the N-Gage runtime and enjoy a variety of titles for a couple more years.
I know it's atypical but the Nintendo GameCube is my favorite of the
"last generation" systems. It offered a return to the basics,
to simplicity, while the others tried to make games more epic and
complicated. Looking back, it was preview of Nintendo's direction to
come with the DS and Wii.
Unlike Nintendo's previous entries, production of new GameCube games
halted almost immediately after the replacement system was available.
Porting GameCube projects to the Wii is apparently simple given their
similar architecture. Even easier is slapping a new roster on an
existing game engine. With little publicity, EA Sports produced a
GameCube version of Madden 08 along with all the "next-gen"
editions. Some retailers declined to carry it, making it tough to find
in stores, but it was there for anyone looking hard
Power Rangers: Super Legends was almost the final
GameCube game. It was scheduled for release in November 2007 but quietly
cancelled. Adding to the confusion, several online stores continued to accept pre-orders for it well into 2008.
The Game Boy brand almost made it 20 years, it was only a few months shy.
Its eulogy was written when the DSi, without a Game Boy Advance (GBA) slot, crossed the ocean in April 2009.
This DS upgrade represented a change in direction for Nintendo's handheld strategy.
With the exception of the Game Boy Micro, all the Game Boy Advance variants could play the entire back catalog of Game Boy titles.
Having missed out on the Game Boy Color, this was a major selling point when I bought the SP.
Although the DSi marked the official end of the Game Boy line it was already more than a year removed from having its final new title published.
The last game released in the United States was Samurai Deeper Kyo in February 2008, it had been available in Japan for over five years.
However, it was not sold as a standalone game. It was included as a premium in the DVD boxed set for the anime series of the same name.
To find the last retail game released you have to go back a couple months to Let's Ride: Friends Forever, which is apparently some kind of horse care simulator.
Let's Ride: Friends Forever was the very epitome of the late GBA selection.
In its twilight years the GBA became an inexpensive system for kids.
For under $200 a parent could easily buy one with a huge stack of used/clearance games.
Publishers spotted this trend and responded by dumping games with titles like Dogz, Catz, Horsez, and Box Jellyfishz.
I suppose I could consider it a shame that a great system like the GBA ended with a flood of shovelware.
Instead I'm impressed that the Game Boy line reinvented itself one final time to squeeze out a few more years of existence.
Looking at the other systems on this list, most didn't survive for three full years after their replacement hit the shelves.
Heck, some didn't make it three years period.
The GBA spent its waning days introducing a new generation to video games and probably laying the foundation for another 20 years of handheld success for Nintendo.
Educational game publisher GXB Interactive released a couple games around this time as well.
Their specific release dates aren't documented and it is possible they may have come out even later than these two.
However, only being available for online purchase removes them from consideration for this list.
When Madden 08 was released for Xbox and GameCube I noted it as
being the last release for both systems. It had been months since a new
title was released for either and it sure seemed like they were done. I
was incredibly surprised when I saw a preview for Madden 09 that
listed the Xbox as a system it was being released for. After a full year
of no new games it's usually safe to say a system is dead, not the
venerable Xbox though. Fans of the system can take some small comfort in
knowing they officially outlasted the GameCube.
In the original Madden 08 entry I noted "I suppose there's still a 1%-5% chance another sports update will be
squeezed out for the original Xbox. It's relatively easy for a
powerhouse like EA Sports to crank out another annual update. If the
install base stays high enough they'll keep doing it. Go into any game
store and you'll see that the original Xbox has a greater presence than
what's left of the GameCube." OK, the last part of the
statement didn't pan out. I still see plenty of used GameCube games
commanding $20-$30 but practically nothing for the Xbox breaking $10. The
first part was accurate enough though. The additions to the Xbox version of
Madden 09 are minute compared to the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
It was low-effort for EA and apparently there are enough Xbox holdouts to
justify the investment. I figured Xbox owners either had a PS2, or
upgraded to a newer console, making this game unnecessary.
I have a strong suspicion that Madden 09
is a sign of how most future consoles will end. It would not shock me in
the least if the eventual Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 entries are all
Madden sequels as well.
As of June 2012 the last PlayStation 2 game is Major League Baseball 2K12, released on March 6 2012. I’m not going to burn too many calories writing about it because Konami announced that they’ll be making a PlayStation 2 version Pro Evolution Soccer later this year. If that pans out it’s almost certain to be the last retail PlayStation 2 game... until Madden 2013 perhaps.
Nintendo is aggressive about killing off systems once the replacement arrives.
Despite many commentators proclaiming its doom, the 3DS is actually selling quite well.
Eventually publishers will abandon the original DS with much encouragement from Nintendo.
So what will be the last game?
I suspect it will be something like "M&M's Brain University" but hope it goes out on a strong note instead.
I hear there's a new Hobbit movie coming out in December 2012.
Development on the tie-in game is likely already underway, maybe the DS is one of the systems they're targeting.
If so that could be a really nice late adventure release.
This is wild speculation of course.
Given the huge install base of the DS it's possible we'll see new games until 2013 so be prepared for a long wait.
While writing this article I learned that "Last Call" games
fit into one of four categories:
Franchise Games: Sonic the Hedgehog, Bomberman '93, Wario's
Woods, Bonk 3, Super Asteroids and Missile Command, Tetris 3-D, Jurassic Park: The Lost World,
Kirby's Dream Land 3, Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, Samurai Shodown V Special. Call it "going out on your own
terms". Instead of letting the system die with whimper there's one
last game featuring a favorite character or title. Of all four, this is
my favorite way to see a system wrap things up. It also seems to be Nintendo's
Yet Another Sports Update: EA '98 line for Genesis, NHL 2K2, FIFA Soccer 2005,
Again, updating an existing sports game with a new roster isn't rocket
science. Low production costs + guaranteed sales of established brand =
generous profit. They'd be stupid not to do it.
Last Ditch Effort: Intellivision Christmas '87, Secret Quest,
Spider-man: Web of Fire, Fight for Life. Sometimes a publisher will
try to resuscitate a failing system with a "killer app". They
think they can get out that one game that will turn the tide. In
the process they may produce a memorable title, but not the desired
turn-around. Sometimes, as with Fight for Life, they illustrate exactly why
their system failed. Using the bar analogy, they're the guy dumping
coins into the jukebox when everyone else is leaving.
We've Come This Far, We Might as Well Finish: Gremlins,
Midnight Mutants, Casper, Magic Knight
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Game development is an expensive and time-consuming effort. When a new
system is released game companies need to take a hard look at ongoing
projects. Their options are: port the game to the upcoming console,
cancel the project, or finish for the soon-to-be-discontinued
There's a book I'd recommend titled "Collapse". In it the
author answers the question "what was the Easter Islander who
cut down the last tree thinking when he did it?" The answer is
that the deforestation of the island occurred over such a long period
that he had no memory of the lush forests once there. Not to
trivialize the destruction of an entire population, but an analogy can be
made to gaming. When someone saw Wario's Woods in the shelves in 1994
they probably never thought "is this really the last NES game?"
Gamers have a short attention span and by December 1994 it already
seemed like the NES was ancient history. The days of its dominance were
I think the bar analogy is still the more apt one though. Some game
systems, like the NES and PlayStation, were the club with a line out the
door. The really trendy, free-spending, patrons left at the first sign
of an even trendier establishment. Everyone else soon followed. Other
game systems, like the Jaguar or Turbo-Grafx 16, were the dingy tavern
with a dozen depressed drinkers. A few "cool" people would
stumble in but leave after seeing the rest of the crowd. When closing
time rolled around the few customers left were more depressed than when
I wrote this article because I thought it would be fun to
chronicle these final games. In a way it turned out to be almost sad. These systems
gave gamers countless hours of escape from their worries. These final games consumed
months of development effort only to be instantly obscure. In the end they couldn't avoid the fate
that every video game system will suffer.
Despite my best web searching efforts I couldn't find anything that identified the last releases for the following failed
The ColecoVision should have been one of the easiest systems to research. Although it wasn’t the most popular system in its time it maintains a hearty fanbase today. There’s a ton of information about it online but nothing that points to its final retail game.
There are a few things known for sure - the system was produced into 1985 even though Coleco’s video game and computer division was struggling. A lot of games were released for it in 1984 but in 1985 there was nothing new released to the stores. Telegames began publishing games and selling them over mail order in 1985, they’d continue to support the ColecoVision for many years.
Some sites list Super Cross Force as being released in 1986 while others have it at 1983. The Atari 2600 equivalent was released in 1983 and the title screen says (c) 1983 so I think the 1986 date is erroneous.
With Super Cross Force out we’re left with one of the 1984 releases but which one? I don’t have the answer but I’m going to keep looking.
Further reading: New York Times - January 3, 1985 - Coleco gives up on the Adam
The Apple/Bandai Pippin didn't last long and had a tiny library. Unfortunately there's no source that lists the release order for it's titles.
Amiga CD32 / Amiga CDTV
Both of these were flops in the US but enjoyed moderate success in Europe. Even the European release lists aren't documented especially well in the release date department though.
Neo Geo Pocket Color
I gotta think someone knows the answer for this one. The Neo Geo Pocket Color wasn't a commercial success in the US but has a decent cult following. Sooner or later someone will post a release list with dates.
This is one of the most under-appreciated systems I can think of. It's a Sega Genesis with a touchpad, I find it to be a very innovative little system. Unfortunately there's no source I can find that lists when games were released for it. Being aimed at kids, it never developed the kind of internet following other obscure consoles have.
RCA Studio II
The game list is well documented, but not the release order.
No game list that anyone has published online.
Even though the Nuon bombed it should also be one of the easiest systems to research since it came out when the internet was booming. There should be dozens of abandoned sites detailing every bit of minutiae about it. There should be...
Although there is much documented about the Nuon the release dates are missing. It’s even possible this is like the Gizmondo, a system with only launch titles.
Here’s some further reading on the Nuon:
Anything not listed here should be filed under the "not relevant"
category. This would include things like the Leapster, computers
marketed as game machines (Atari, Sega, NEC, and Commodore all made things like
that), and several other handhelds that didn't break into mainstream retail.
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