Fifth Generation (1993–1998)

The fifth-generation era (also known as the 32 bit era and occasionally, after the release of the Nintendo 64, the 64 bit era and more rarely the 3D era) refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and video game handhelds available at stores. The fifth generation lasted approximately from 1993 to 2006 and was dominated by three consoles, the Sega Saturn (1994), the Sony PlayStation(1994), and the Nintendo 64 (1996). Demographics in console sales varied widely, but these three consoles, especially the PlayStation, defined the system wars of this era. The FM Towns MartyAmiga CD32,3DO, the NEC PC-FX, and Atari Jaguar were also part of this era, but their sales were poor and they failed to make a significant impact on the market, though the Amiga CD32 was selling well at the time for a Europe-only release. This era also saw three updated versions of Nintendo's Game BoyGame Boy Light (Japan only), Game Boy Pocket, and Game Boy Color.

Bit ratings for consoles largely fell by the wayside during this era, with the notable exceptions of the Nintendo 64 and the heavy usage of references to the 64-bit processing power of the Atari Jaguar in advertisements. The number of "bits" cited in console names referred to the CPU word size and had been used by hardware marketers as a "show of power" for many years. However, there was little to be gained from increasing the word size much beyond 32 or 64 bits because once this level was reached, performance depended on more varied factors, such as processor clock speed, bandwidth, and memory size.

The fifth generation also saw the rise of emulation. During this period, commonly available personal computers became powerful enough to emulate the 8 and 16-bit systems of the previous generation. Also, the development of the Internet made it possible to store and download tape and ROM images of older games, eventually leading 7th generation consoles (such as the Xbox 360, the WiiPlayStation 3PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo DSi) to make many older games available for purchase or download.