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3rd Generation of Video Game Consoles

The third generation began on July 15, 1983, with the release of the Nintendo Family Computer also known as the Famicom and the Sega SG-1000 in Japan. This generation is commonly referred to as the 8-bit era, even though the previous generation of consoles also used 8-bit processors. It wasn’t until the end of the third generation that consoles were referred to and marketed by bits.

The Famicom would eventually rebrand and release in both North America and Europe as the Nintendo Entertainment System also known as the NES. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash, and a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan.

Some features that distinguish third generation consoles from most second generation consoles include:

  • D-pad game controllers.
  • Hardware scrolling, enabling large multi-directionally scrolling tile-based game playfields.
  • Resolution of up to 256 × 240.
  • Generally between eight-colour (3-bit) and 32-colour (5-bit) graphics.
  • Up to five channel primarily square wave mono audio.

The Famicom/NES dominated in Japan and North America while the Master System dominated the European and Brazilian markets. The end of the 3rd generation of video games was marked by 8-bit consoles becoming obsolete in terms of their graphics and processing power in comparison with more modern 16-bit systems being released.

  • 3rd Gen Consoles (1983-1991)
  • Media & Promotional Material

Sega SG-1000SG-1000

  • Released July 15, 1983 in Japan by Sega
  • Launch price JP¥15,000
  • Sold approximately 160,000 units

Nintendo Famicom ConsoleFamicom

  • Also known as "Family Computer"
  • Released on July 15, 1983 in Japan by Nintendo
  • Launch price JP¥14,800
  • Sold approximately 19.35 million units (totaling 61.91 million units with the NES)

Famicom Disk System ConsoleFamicom Disk System

  • Released on February 21, 1986 in Japan
  • Sold approximately 4.4 million units
  • Launch price JP¥ 15,000

Nintendo Entertainment System ConsoleNintendo Entertainment System

  • Also known as the "NES"
  • Released October 18, 1985 to test markets within the United States
  • Released September 1986 in both North America and Europe
  • Launch price $180
  • Sold approximately 42.56 million units (totaling 61.91 million units with the famicom)

Sega Mark IIISega Mark III

  • Released on October 20, 1985 in Japan
  • Launch price JP¥15,000
  • Sold approximately 1.28 million units (totaling 20.19 million with the Sega Master System)

Sega Master System ConsoleSega Master System

  • Released in September 1986 in North America and August 1987 in Europe
  • Launch price $199.99
  • Sold approximately 18.91 million units (totaling 20.19 million units with the Mark III)

Atari 7800 ConsoleAtari 7800

  • Released in May 1986 in North America and July 1987 in Europe
  • Launch price $140
  • Sold approximately 100,000 units