Growing up my home, like many, was a one console home. My parents had mixed feelings on video games, but they let my grandfather get me a NES and later a SNES because I desperately wanted them. There was never any thought that I might also get a Master System or Genesis, the systems some of my friends had, and if I wanted to play those I would have to go to someone else's house.
This, in turn, made those systems sources of endless fascination for me. If I wanted to play a Nintendo game I could just rent it, so my curiosities were mostly satisfied there (I suppose I could have rented systems too, but it just wasn't something my family did. My parents thought why rent a Sega if you already have a Nintendo? Just rent a game for the system you have and play that.) If, however, I wanted to try out Sonic the Hedgehog or Golden Axe or whatever I would have to happen to visit a friend who had it and they would have to be in the mood to play video games, all of which made Sonic especially hard to get my hands on since everyone I knew who had a Genesis had already played it to death and was bored of it. The Turbografx-16 was even more exotic since I didn't know anyone who owned one of those and I'd see the advertisements for Bonk's Adventure and other games and just have to imagine what they actually played like.
In my older teenage years I was able to get both a Playstation and an N64 and access to more games than ever, but I never got around to getting a Saturn, primarily because I knew people who'd had a SegaCD or 32X (what a piece of absolute garbage the latter was.) I would read about various games for it, especially imports, in magazines and on the Internet with great interest. In the end the Saturn died early and I couldn't even afford all the Playstation and N64 games i wanted, so it would have been a serious indulgence.
What's interesting to me is that as an older gamer looking back I find myself with a special fascination for the systems I never had and the libraries of games I never experienced. I gobble up articles, videos, and podcasts about them even moreso than those that discuss the systems I did actually have. There are plenty of games, even classics, I never got around to playing for the systems I did own, but for some reason I'm more taken by the idea of Magic Knight Rayearth and Burning Rangers than by Vagrant Story or Syphon Filter, even though many would say the Playstation games are the better titles. I find myself hoping for a collection of the Shining Force games, even though I never played Tactics Ogre either, nor the Nintendo DS Final Fantasy Tactics (and the PS Final Fantasy Tactics was in my top 10 of that generation).
I have found myself on Ebay or Amazon considering picking up a used Saturn and some of the classics for that system, even though I can in no way justify the cost and I don't even have time to play all the modern or retro games I already own. In my darker moments I have even considered getting a 3DO or a Jaguar, even though there is nothing I really want to play for those systems. Just the thrill of the unknown.
I think for me those unbought consoles represent whole other worlds to explore, the same way that videogames themselves often do. Just as I play Mass Effect to get an idea of what it would be like to be a Spectre exploring the galaxy, I think about what it would be like to be a Genesis or Saturn owner, exploring those libraries of unplayed games. In truth I know there is no magic there. I'm familiar with emulation and the virtual console, and I've owned those Genesis collections for the PS2 and Xbox 360 (probably why I don't really have the urge to get a Genny anymore.) I played Radiant Silvergun when it came out on XBLA. It's very good but it's just another video game, not transcendent or magical and not very different from other games. As with many things in life the vision I have in my mind could never be matched by the reality.
Yet despite this knowledge I still daydream about what it would have been like to have those systems and explore all those worlds I never got to see. Maybe some day someone will release a Saturn or TurboGrafx mega collection and I'll get a chance to see some of the stuff I missed (though I've already played a lot of the TurboGrafx classics via Virtual Console.) But part of me kind of likes the idea that out there, somewhere, is this whole alternate universe of games I've barely explored, full of good games, bad games, oddities and hidden gems. There's an allure to the paths not taken, you know? And for me that goes for video games as well as the other parts of life.