As the first thing to greet you before playing your games, console boot-up sounds and animations have been etched into the memories of many gamers throughout the years and have become iconic representations of their respective consoles. In this list, we’re counting down our picks for the best console boot-ups. We’ve included both traditional TV-based consoles and handhelds in our list and have pulled from all regions and timeframes. For our purposes, we only chose startups that are built into the console itself and we included boot-ups that only happen if no game is inserted. We’ve also added a brief history of each console outlining what makes it unique. Press Start! Let’s go!
10. Neo Geo Pocket Color
- Developer: SNK
- Release Date: JP: March 16, 1999; NA: August 6, 1999; EU: October 1, 1999
While one of the more obscure handhelds, and SNK’s last console in the company’s original incarnation, the Neo Geo Pocket Color remains one of the most interesting and solidly constructed handhelds of all time with great build quality (especially its clicky arcade-like control stick), an unusual focus on fighting games (the genre most-associated with SNK), and a few oddball features like being able to connect to the Sega Dreamcast for certain games. Although ultimately unsuccessful due to stiff competition and SNK’s already shaky financial situation at the time, the Neo Geo Pocket Color is still remembered fondly by those who loved it.
The console boot-up for the Neo Geo Pocket Color is probably the cutest and peppiest of all time. We see the letters spelling out NEO GEO fly in one by one with an interesting rotation effect and then flash to reveal the NGPC logo. All of this is accompanied by a ridiculously upbeat and catchy chiptune fanfare. Overall it’s a very solid boot-up that more people should experience! The console menu music is also very well done.
9. Family Computer Disk System (Famicom Disk System)
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Date: JP: February 21, 1986
When comparing the launches, design, and overall history of the NES and Famicom, the most notable difference can probably be found in Nintendo’s Japan-exclusive addon, the Famicom Disk System. This accessory allowed the Famicom to read and write data from “disk cards” (similar to PC floppy disks) which were cheaper to manufacture compared to ROM cartridges and could more easily save data without needing a battery-based system. The Disk System also notably expanded the Famicom’s sound capabilities. Many iconic games like the original Legend of Zelda were originally for the Disk System before being converted to cartridges for their NES releases.
The Famicom Disk System included its own BIOS startup sequence that was otherwise absent from the NES/Famicom, allowing the iconic system to make it onto our list! It’s surprisingly involved considering its vintage. This boot-up has a large, somewhat futuristic sign with a big Nintendo logo descending down against a starry space background accompanied by a color-flashing visual effect and a short, marching fanfare. Afterward you will see Luigi and Mario come out, turning the “light” on and off with a button at the base of the sign and then chase each other around. We love this boot-up for being relatively complicated while on retro hardware and full of charm, it’s too bad that it remained only in Japan.
8. PlayStation 3
- Developer: Sony
- Release Date: JP: November 11, 2006; NA: November 17, 2006; EU: March 23, 2007
The second of the seventh console generation, Sony’s PlayStation 3 had something of a rough launch period largely thanks to its high price point and relatively weak initial game lineup. Nevertheless, while still being the worst selling of its generation, the PlayStation 3 enjoyed a long run (and is still getting some releases), its fair share of great games, and was helped by the system’s built-in Blu Ray player after it won the “format war” with HD DVD. The system also gained strange notoriety with its ability to be chained together to form “clusters” capable of supercomputing such as the "Condor Cluster" of 1,760 PS3s created by the United States Air Force Research Laboratory which became the 33rd largest supercomputer in the world.
Much like its smooth and modern-looking design, the boot-up sequence for the PlayStation 3 is understated and elegant. Starting from black, the screen fades to a colorful, ethereal environment with a prominent sort of wave of light that slowly flows. This is accompanied by the sound of an orchestra tuning, gradually building up a pleasant, albeit brief, reverb that seamlessly transfers to the system’s main menu. The older version of the opening also features a short PlayStation 3 logo and jingle that was removed for more recent models and updates. Overall, the PS3’s startup is classy and well-executed but somewhat less memorable due to its understated design.
7. Xbox 360
- Developer: Microsoft
- Release Date: NA: November 22, 2005; EU: December 2, 2005; JP: December 10, 2005
After achieving great success with the original Xbox, Microsoft’s second foray into consoles would be the first of the seventh generation. Coming out around a year before its rivals, the system got a strong head start that was also helped by the company’s popular Xbox Live service that offered robust social features and an innovative digital marketplace that in many ways shaped the console world we know today. The 360 was also notable for its popular controller design, large indie game library, and infamous “Red Ring of Death” failure that plagued the system.
The 360’s boot-up is cool and futuristic and has the camera sweep over a silver 3D sphere that is hit by an X that cuts into the sphere to reveal a glowing green core that zooms out to reveal the system’s logo with a circular pulse of energy that moves out of the center after a short pause. While the animation is decidedly cool, the strongest part of this boot-up is the synth-heavy sound effects that follows the animation perfectly and has become iconic for the Xbox family ever since, being reworked slightly for the current Xbox One.
6. Game Boy Advance
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Date: JP: March 21, 2001; NA: June 11, 2001; EU: June 22, 2001
Building on the company’s dominance in handhelds, the Game Boy Advance was the last family of systems to bear the Game Boy name and is appropriately the most advanced implementation of the core design philosophy that drove the extremely popular series. Like its predecessors, the GBA was a huge success in terms of market share with an extensive library of high-quality games as well as full backwards compatibility with both previous Game Boy systems. It would later get two completely new hardware revisions with the SP and Micro.
Similarly, the startup sequence of the Game Boy Advance builds on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color’s boot-ups, creating a clear evolutionary throughline from the bare-bones minimalism of the original to the flashy conclusion of the system line found in the Advance. This boot-up gives the classic chime a more robust sound and leads with a fancy animation showing the letters moving into place in a wavy pattern while changing colors and finished with a shine effect reminiscent of a lens flare. While somewhat simple, the GBA boot-up is playfully colorful yet elegant and shows off the system’s sensibilities and power wonderfully.
5. PlayStation 2
- Developer: Sony
- Release Date: JP: March 4, 2000; NA: October 26, 2000; EU: November 24, 2000
The PlayStation 2 is the greatest success story in consoles and still holds the record to this day in terms of sales by a strong margin. With strong consumer and developer loyalty after the incredibly successful PlayStation (which it also had backwards compatibility with), impressive graphics compared to its initial competition of the Sega Dreamcast, and built-in DVD support for around the same price as standalone player, the PlayStation 2 was a mega-hit that culminated in a huge library of games with releases as late as 2014.
Fitting for its slightly edgy design, the PlayStation 2 boot-up sequence has a dark, atmospheric style that borders on being a little creepy. This animation consists of a deep blue cloud in a black environment surrounded by grey rectangular blocks that resemble towers, some floating transparent cubes, and small glowing orbs that flit about. Afterward, the camera zooms in to a black screen that then displays the PlayStation 2 logo. All of this is paired with some deep, electronic sounds with a rich, floaty reverb. Interestingly, the blocks in this opening change depending on your save data read from memory cards. Overall, it’s a really distinctive boot that accentuates the style and capabilities of the system beautifully.
4. Master System (Japanese model)
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: JP: October 1987
While Sega’s answer to the Famicom/NES never quite managed to topple Nintendo’s dominance of the era—especially in America—the Master System was technically superior and was able to gain a strong following among fans, particularly in Europe and Brazil. The Master System was first released in Japan in 1985 as the Sega Mark III but the model we are specifically talking about in our pick is the 1987 re-release in Japan, which also changed the name to Master System for the international release. The Master System is reportedly still officially in production in Brazil by a company called Tectoy, making the console the longest-lived video game console.
Welcome to the Fantasy Zone! So what makes the Japanese Master System so unique? This revision includes an absolutely awesome startup sequence built into the console that plays if no cartridge is inserted. This looping animation has a Space Harrier-inspired scrolling pseudo-3D landscape set against a starry sky and a prominent Master System logo. Tying everything together is a beautiful remix of the Space Harrier main theme enhanced by the FM synth capabilities of the console. The animation also syncs with the music, making the whole experience feel both nostalgic and unexpectedly advanced for such old technology.
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Date: JP: September 14, 2001; NA: November 18, 2001; EU: May 3, 2002
Following the Nintendo 64, Nintendo was hoping to recapture some of its market share but faced even greater competition that led to it underperforming even compared to its relatively poor-selling predecessor. That being said, the GameCube is still remembered fondly by many and enjoyed a number of fantastic games such as the ever-popular Super Smash Bros. Melee and Metroid Prime. Many have also praised the controller design (which has seen multiple re-releases for the WiiU and Switch).
The GameCube’s boot-up sequence is really playful, it has an indigo cube rolling along the outside of another invisible cube to eventually grow and drop down into the center to form the GameCube logo. All of this is in perfect sync with a simple xylophone and pizzicato string melody. It has a very bouncy feeling to it and, in terms of raw meme potential (and execution), is clearly the winner. There are even two variations that change the sound if players hold down Z on 1 or all 4 controllers making a “squeaky toy” and traditional kabuki-style version respectively. Another bonus fact is that the music that plays in the background of the console main menu is a slowed down, ambient version of the Famicom Disk System startup!
- Developer: Sony
- Release Date: JP: December 3, 1994; NA: September 9, 1995; EU: September 29, 1995
The fifth generation of video game consoles was one of the most exciting of all time as we saw the industry start to seriously move towards 3D graphics over 2D and explore the possibilities of the added dimension and capabilities of higher quality, CD audio, and more. Sony had entered the console market properly with its debut console, the PlayStation, that cemented the line in gaming history and single-handedly ‘won’ the console war, bringing a wealth of stunning titles like Spyro the Dragon, Mega Man Legends, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Sony clearly wanted to make a big impact with its first console and that shows through in its boot-up sequence that emphasizes the system’s powerful audio and visual capabilities with deep, electronic ambient instruments and a colorful 3D logo that still feels modern, albeit a bit low-poly in this form. The PlayStation startup sequence strikes a great balance between hi-tech sleekness and a sense of friendliness mixed with mystery that makes you excitedly anticipate the game itself.
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: JP: November 27, 1998; NA: September 9, 1999; EU: October 14, 1999
The Dreamcast was Sega’s last hurrah in the console hardware world, and one that sadly was unable to gain enough traction to become a commercial success. Despite this, the Dreamcast was a console full of promise and ambition that pioneered features such as built-in online support and had many unique and innovative titles such as Jet Set Radio, Seaman, and Shenmue. The console had a special, quirky charm seen in its VMU memory cards that doubled as their own mini consoles complete with a tiny screen and buttons. With a release nearly two years before its competition, the forward-thinking Dreamcast is still a beloved console by many and even sees periodic new releases from indie developers to this day.
The boot-up sequence for the Dreamcast shows a masterful use of simplicity to convey playfulness and suspense. Similarly to the GameCube, this animation shows the “construction” of the logo with a ball bouncing to reveal letters that spring out from the ground to spell out Dreamcast, followed by the ball drawing in the iconic spiral logo as if it were a marker. This is synced beautifully with sound effects reminiscent of echoey water drops mixed with some cool synth ambiance that really ties everything together. Interestingly, the spiral color is different depending on regions with it being red in Japan, an orangey-red in America, and Blue in PAL territories. Overall it’s brilliant, memorable, and a perfect fit for the console. Keep dreaming!
Ready to play some games now? We hope you enjoyed this somewhat arbitrary ranking of the best console boot-ups. Did your favorite make the list? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stick around Honey’s for more of all things gaming and otherwise! Enthusiasts might want to check out other cool boot-ups like the FM Towns Marty, Sega Saturn, N64DD, and the numerous Sega/Mega CD ones. Until next time! See ya.