THE VIDEO GAME STARTUP SCREEN POWER RANKINGS
Please enjoy our totally scientific and objective Power Rankings of gaming BIOS boot-up screens. New ones will be added as they come out, plus any we overlooked will be snuck in there and not mentioned in the hopes you don't notice.
As always, try not to confuse your nostalgic memories of the games that followed the screens with the screens themselves. This is just about the boot-ups, not the merits of the console or its library.
1) Sony PlayStation
Simple and iconic, the original PlayStation got minimalism absolutely right. It's amazing that it's actually 16 seconds long, as it feels like it goes by in a flash and is always a pleasure.
2) Famicom Disk System
The FDS comes marching in like a boss, it's basically the this kid of BIOSes. The Metroid-esque goodness would be enough, but you also get bonus Mario-Luigi tomfoolery if you stick around.
Fun trivia: the opening tune was also re-used in the Gamecube BIOS; the seemingly meandering ambient Philip Glass-like noise that plays in the menu screen is actually a super-slowed-down version of it!
3) Sega Dreamcast
Elegant, relaxing and iconic. Then followed by the GD-ROM drive grinding and churning at worrisome levels. The experience for most is also probably not complete without the BEEEEP of a dead-battery VMU at the start.
Fun trivia: Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (yes they actually paid a composer for this) was also one of the composers for the film The Revenant, aka Leo Dicaprio in Raped By A Bear in the international release. Also, the only other film he scored was The Last Emperor in 1987. Two movies and the Dreamcast startup sound, that's a pretty solid portfolio.
4) Sega CD U.S. Version 1
Sega wanted to let early adopters of their new CD system know they were getting something special, and they delivered with some awesome boot music accompanied by all kinds of trippy scaling reminiscent of their pioneering arcade games. Sadly, kids would soon be disappointed by their new $300 toy totally crapping out within three months or so, but that isn't the boot screen's fault.
5) Neo Geo Pocket / Color
The short and sweet BIOS boot is pretty good, but then it gets even better with epic chiptune accompaniment as you adjust your settings!
6) Amiga CD32
Takes a minute to get going, but once it does this boot screen is actually rather striking.
7) Nintendo 64 DD
Gets off to a simple, Dreamcast-like start that's quite acceptable, the janky look of the "N" logo aside. But then Mario peeks his head out and has some fun running around trolling as an extended bonus. Got to admire the effort for something relatively few people would ever actually see.
8) Xbox 360
Big improvement over the original Xbox boot screen, and with a sound effect that has become instantly recognizable.
9) Sega Master System Mark 3 Japan
OK, it's recycled material from Space Harrier, but it's fun.
10) Sega CD Europe Version 1
While the European bios song doesn't top the awesome V1 U.S. iteration, it does have kind of a cool "space shooter" feel to it.
11) Neo Geo
There are a few different iterations in the display text, but they all use this basic format and some version of the same iconic startup sound. I prefer "Giga Power" myself, but you may be a fan of the more commonly seen "Max 330 Mega Pro Gear Spec."
12) Sony PSP
Could maybe be a shade faster, but solid sound effects and use of color.
13) Sega Saturn
The US/Europe and Japan versions only differ in the sound they play. The US/Europe has a nice calming effect reminiscent of what they would do on the Dreamcast, while the Japanese version has a harder-edged "rev it up" type sound in the style of the iconic THX logo presentation.
14) FM Towns Marty
Though it definitely hasn't aged well, the FM Towns Marty boot screen still has an overall fairly pleasant effect.
15) Sega CD U.S. Version 2
Initially, the revamped Sega CD boot doesn't make a favorable impression as compared to the neat spaceyness of the original ... the Amiga MOD-like song that accompanies it really isn't bad as it goes on, but it's got nothing on U.S. Version 1 and it loops a little too quickly. Why'd they change it?
16) Mega CD Japan Version 1
The Japanese BIOS uses the same song also used in the European BIOS, but here it's against a static blue sky background. The rotation and scaling effects here are actually a little more technically impressive than in the other versions, but this package as a whole just feels like the most boring of the bunch.
17) Sega CD Europe Version 2
Wait, I spoke too soon. The same song from V1 recycled but with a more boring background and less interesting rotation effects.
18) Sega Master System
Simple but memorable, this was the origin of the "SE-GA" chant.
19) Gameboy Advance
Works for me, man. Let's play.
20) Sony PlayStation 3
Epic stirring strings rise ... "Sony Computer Entertainment presents" ... oops, we're already at the menu, nevermind. At least it's not actively bad and gets you into the action quickly. The PS3 Slim isn't different enough to merit its own entry.
OK, so it's garish and shares a little too much conceptual space with the cheesy renders and neon green slime of the '90s ... but at least they tried to be awesome?
22) Xbox One
Simplicity isn't a bad choice for a boot screen, but does it need to sit there doing absolutely nothing for so long? Pounding it down people's throats through web and television advertising hasn't done it any favors either.
23) Wii U
Give Nintendo credit here, after bypassing the boot screen on the Wii, they realized it was an iconic part of the console experience and added this for the Wii U. It's ... not overwhelming, though. Is this the Fallout 2 overworld? Am I about to be attacked by Radscorpions? Are we on the way to Navarro to get the Power Armor?
24) Nintendo DS
Thanks for keeping it brief, I guess?
25) Nintendo 3DS
... And again. More color, but now it's a few seconds longer.
26) Atari Jaguar
Fun trivia: this was some kid's final project for their rendering class at community college!
27) Philips CD-I
Man, could this get any more early '90s CD-ROM?
28) Gameboy Color
It doesn't waste any of your time, give it that much.
29) Panasonic 3DO
Lost me with the condescending disc-insert screen. Kinda got me back with the asteroid field. Lost me again with the plasticy close-up of a mummified turd.
In theory, you should get no points for not trying. however, silence and simple text is better than being actively obnoxious, I guess.
31) Sony PlayStation 4
A bunch of legalese and then ... a few notes of a half-hearted attempt at some kind of music. Welp.
32) Sony PlayStation Vita
Even more halfassed than their recent console efforts.
33) Nintendo Gamecube
The Gamecube startup has never sat well with me. There's really nothing wrong with the visuals, but the xylophone sound effect is too childish and the contrasting end with a jarring orchestra hit just doesn't work. The hidden kabuki alternate probably would have been better as the default.
34) Sony PlayStation 2
Uninspiring, and the sound effect is jarring. What are all those rendered columns supposed to be? It looks like you're just descending into some mess.
35) Neo Geo CD
This doesn't get off to a bad start, but damn is that logo creepy.
36) Sega Dreamcast Developer Kit
Ugh, what happened? Why does the dev kit have this garish carnival monstrosity! Too close to a video slot machine for comfort.
37) Nintendo Wii
The "startup screen" is a CYA legalese safety warning ... you know what, I'll take the Gamecube boot screen back.