Your favorite gaming consoles from the past are back! And no, they didn’t crawl out from the attic to get retrofitted with modern connectivity inputs, they are actually entirely new and modern devices. They are the modern re-imaginings of the gaming consoles from the past. They are called retro gaming consoles.
The world may be on the brink of new generation consoles from gaming giants like Microsoft and Sony, but retro gaming consoles, which seemed to come out of nowhere, have started to become a common fixture in today’s video games market. The cult following of these old consoles left gaming console companies no other choice but to revamp their old hardware (by essentially shrinking them down and adding internal memory on their devices) and made them available for today’s growing and ever-demanding gaming market once again.
Aside from taking you back to the good old days of your childhood memories with nostalgic odes to the yesteryears, retro game consoles are specially designed to run your classic games like Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, etc., in your modern ultra-high-definition TV.
The best retro game consoles are not just mere replicas, they now come equipped with modern connectivity and refurbished to work with modern technology, allowing gamers of today to play the greatest games of their childhood on their modern TVs. Most retro game consoles use USB power cables, HDMI leads, and even storage slots for USB sticks and Micro SD cards.
All you have to do is plug the retro gaming console into your TV, pass the second controller to your friend, and jump all the way back to your childhood with your favorite classic games.
A quick look back in the golden era of gaming
The 1990s is widely considered the best decade ever. Anyone born in the late 80s and early 90s knows that for a fact (*smiles and agrees in Millenial). The era saw the rise of the best bands and artists like Nirvana, No Doubt, Tupac, and Shania Twain, to the adorable boy bands Westlife and Backstreet Boys, and girl bands like Dixie Chicks and Spice Girls. It was also the decade where the phrase “must-see-TV” was born, thanks to the rise to popularity of some of the most iconic sitcoms like Friends, Will and Grace, Seinfield, dramas E.R. NYPD Blue, teen classics like Dawson’s Creek and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and kid’s shows like Rugrats. And cinema masterpieces like Schindler’s list, epic war movies like Saving Private Ryan, action-packed Jurassic Park and Independence Day, the epic romance of Shakespear in Love, or anything Disney. And who could forget that 16-step dance craze that took the world by storm and was almost always performed in weddings, family events, and, school performances called Macarena? The list just goes on and on.
Truly, the last decade of the 20th century shaped the society that we have today. For gamers, it was the golden era of handheld consoles and home console systems. Though the Ataris and Nintendos first introduced their consoles in the late 70s and mid-80s, their popularity truly skyrocketed in the 90s.
The gaming scene saw a rapid rate of evolution and innovation in the 90s, it moved from the first 16-bit system in the early part of the decade, to the first Internet-enabled consoles in 1999. As tech giants and gaming companies race to introduce new systems and tripled their marketing strategies, they began to target wider audiences and attracted a new following. This is when the influence of video games on the culture started to be felt. Fortunately for fans yearning for their childhood memories, these retro game consoles and old titles can still be played today. Thanks to the innovation of retro game consoles.
The best retro game console you can find today
Whether you are revisiting your childhood favorites or trying the classic games you may have missed when they were first released, this list is for you. Here is a comprehensive list of the best retro game consoles on the market today.
1. SNES Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Probably the best retro game console in the list comes from the maker of the most iconic games of the 80s and 90s – the SNES Nintendo Classic Mini.
Following the incredible success of the first mini Nintendo Entertainment System or NES Classic Mini, Nintendo re-introduced their console with the SNES Classic Mini – a treat to all Nintendo fans.
Pros and Cons
• Comes with 21 games
• Includes the unreleased Star Fox 2
• Cute and compact design
• Controller feels light
• Short controller cables
Nintendo retained the iconic design of their gaming console, but shrunk its size and selected their all-time classic games. Despite that, it is equally well-built and offers a good look at Nintendo’s development.
As the successor of the NES, the SNES showcase advanced games. The edition you get however depends on where you live. US consumers can get the angular North American Super Famicom version, which comes with controller buttons and purple accents. UK gamers will have the Super NES version, which is more colorful, with a rounded design, and comes with red, yellow, blue, and green buttons. Aside from these differences, everything else is the same as you can remember from the first version of the console – a heartwarming living room piece that brings your family and friends together.
This retro console plugs straight into your modern TV via HDMI. It comes pre-loaded with 21 games (including the unreleased Star Fox 2, how cool is that?!), and two mini controllers that let you play your favorite multiplayer games from your childhood. Both US and European versions get the classic SNES games – Super Mario World, Star Fox, and The Legend of Zelda.
In terms of gaming experience, the console can hold its ground when it comes to visuals and gameplay. The best thing about each game is, that you can now rewind, suspend (using suspend options), and save anywhere.
The only hiccup for this retro game console is in their controllers – they don’t have the weight of a good controller and the cables are way too short.
All in all, it’s an incredible machine for playing your favorite Nintendo classics.
2. PlayStation Classic
You know it will not be a list of the best retro consoles without the world-famous PlayStation, right?
Aside from being immensely popular at the time, Sony PlayStation established a strong lineage of gaming machines that continues to dominate the gaming world today. With this, it is inevitable that they would revive the first console that put their name on the map.
While it took PlayStation a couple of years to catch up to Nintendo and release their PlayStation Classic, Sony still managed to re-introduce a solid contender in the retro gaming console competition with its 3D graphics gaming.
Pros and Cons
• Comes with 20 games
• Two solid controllers
• With built-in memory cards
• Limited games
• Lacks the console’s best retro games
Design-wise, this mini retro version has successfully been able to keep the identity of the first-gen PlayStation – a simple layout with oversized buttons and an eye-catching disc tray. However, you could say this replica is even better than the original in terms of connectivity, as it can easily connect the console to your TV or with PC gaming emulation. It is a plug-and-play device that packs original versions’ quality.
While Sony PlayStation hit the marks in delivering fun nostalgic games, it missed a few tricks by not following Nintendo’s footsteps in releasing its most popular titles. Classic PlayStation games like Final Fantasy 8 and 9, Crash Bandicoot, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series and Tomb Raider would have easily made this retro console the best there is. Rather, Sony opted for the well-received titles. Thus, the Classic seemed like a sample of the twenty-something-year-old history of their first-gen console.
If you have developed attachments to games like Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid, Ridge Racer Type 4, Destruction Derby, and Intelligent Qube, then this is the retro console for you.
All in all, the hardware is solidly built, controllers have a good weight on them, and the main interface feels really nostalgic.
3. Sega Genesis Mini – Genesis
The Mega Drive Mini from SEGA, also known as Sega Genesis Mini has everything you could ever ask for in a mini retro console. It’s a smaller recreation of the original console, and it comes with great controllers, an easy-to-setup system, and more importantly – the classic games you used to play on its original version.
Pros and Cons
• Great value
• Feels well-built and true to original form
• Great controllers
• Easy and convenient to set up with modern TV
• Comes with all of its classic games
• Sounds spotty at times
The Sega Genesis (called Mega Drive outside North America) positioned itself as the primary competitor of Nintendo’s SNES. The console was the home to some of the most iconic games in the 90s, like Earthworm Kim and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Fortunately for them, their retro version works just as well as its old rival SNES.
For starters, this retro gaming device looks like a more beautiful version of the original. It includes various switches and dials, but also stretches to a cartridge slot that you can actually open and blow the dust off, despite the fact that it doesn’t use cartridges anymore.
The Sega Genesis Mini–Genesis comes with a whopping 42 games, which includes the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games, Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, and the punishing Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and Ecco the Dolphin. It also comes with unusual choices like The Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.
Most of the games included in this retro console have aged well too, the graphics have evolved, and it even comes with a brand-new menu soundtrack from legend composer Yuzo Koshiro using technology from the 1990s.
As with its Nintendo counterpart, the design is a little different depending on where you buy the console. The US version gets the Genesis, while the UK gamers will have the MegaDrive. But unlike its original version, this retro version can now support wireless controllers, allowing you to play your favorite retro titles from Sega more freely.
4. NES Classic Mini
This retro replica of the NES, allows gamers of today to get a rare insight into the gaming world and the design decision of Nintendo in the 1980s. The NES started everything for Nintendo, it was their first home console and the birthplace of the most iconic video games of the century like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and Metroid.
Pros and Cons
• Has all the amazing and iconic games of Nintendo
• Fantastic retro design
The NES Classic Mini is the perfect recreation and modernization of the original. It’s not just a miniature version of the original, but a slice of history with modern functionalities.
Build-wise, it successfully recreates the classic grey color scheme with red lettering and bold black stripe details of the original.
Functionality-wise, it comes equipped with 30 games in its library, including all the classics you can expect from Nintendo, including Castlevania, the Legend of Zelda, Megan Man 2, Kirby’s Adventure, and Super Mario Bros. 3., and many more. The 2D visuals aged really well and look quite impressive on modern TVs and monitors. In terms of gameplay, the 8-bit pixel-art gives the ultimate retro gaming feel.
Probably the biggest downside (and perhaps the only downside) of this retro game console is it was released in limited numbers, which as you could expect, drove the prices really high. But if you grew up playing these iconic games, you would pay a little bit more to experience those wonderful experiences in your childhood again.
If you like playing old-school titles on the go, this is the best retro game console for you. It’s a handheld retro games console that you can bring and play anywhere.
Unlike many of the best retro game consoles in this list, Evercade doesn’t focus on one game type or console. Rather, it allows you to play some of the most iconic 8-bit and 16-but games in one system, and on the go. There are no pre-installed games, but it brings back the good old cartridges system, and it’s amazing!
Pros and Cons
• Great build quality
• Good combination of games across different consoles (arcade and PC)
• Button mapping could be improved
• Speakers could be improved
Build-wise, this handheld console sits perfectly on your hands, thanks to the rounded edges and curved rears, which makes playing with it so easy and comfortable. The buttons feel quite responsive, while the screen is brightly-lit and clear. The speakers work well but could be improved.
When it comes to the games, this is easily one of the best retro games consoles you can find out there in terms of that nostalgic feel. It doesn’t come with built-in memory to store the games, rather, it uses cartridges that come with 6 or up to 22 games each. The games include all the classics from Data East, Namco, and Atari from the 1980s. This includes the classic arcade games like Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Dizzy, as well as Earthworm Jimm, Space Invades, Double Dragon, Cannon Fodder, and even Atari Lynx games. They also release new game packs regularly, so you will always have something new to play.
6. Evercade VS
Evercade VS is the home console version of the Evercade (handheld), and as its name suggests, it is for two-player gaming. As its portable and handheld version, it brings an interesting design idea to the retro gaming console market – the use of a cartridge system. It is slightly more improved though, as it supports 32-bit games as well.
Pros and Cons
• Officially licensed
• Wide range and varied gaming library
• Good design, solidly built
• WiFi can be tricky to startup
The controllers are NES-like, and the games included in the Premium Package version are co-op focused, which means you and your buddy (or your kid) can enjoy this retro console together, simultaneously. Double Dragon 2 for example, is included in the Technos Arcade 1 cartridge.
Unlike most retro consoles out there, Evercade VS supports a long list of games from different developers, which means it is not exclusive for Sega or Nintendo. The VS comes with two versions; the one console with one cartridge, and the two consoles with two cartridges. The latter costs a little bit more.
7. Atari Flashback 8 Gold Deluxe
If you enjoyed you spend hours in your childhood life playing the Atari 2600, then you will definitely love the Atari Flashback 8 Gold Deluxe. Atari’s Flashback line is always well-built, but this version features 120 emulated games, including the all-time favorite Yar’s Revenge, Pitfall, Swordquest, and Adventure. While these games are emulated, they run properly.
Pros and Cons
• Packed with lots of games
• Retro aesthetic
• Two wireless controllers
• Paddle controllers
• No Pac-Man
• Doesn’t recreate the original console
While this retro console is a bit pricey, it makes up for its price tag by including great controllers, the wireless joysticks, and two paddles (for paddle-specific games like Warlords), 720p HDMI output, a huge number of games, and the pause, save, and rewind functions.
8. Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.
Another handheld game on the list is the Nintendo Game and Watch: Super Mario Bros.
Pros and Cons
• Gorgeous retro design
• Includes classic games
• Comfortable handheld gaming console
• Not a lot of games to choose from
• Small screen
This device is smaller than an average phone, so if you have particularly bigger hands, you may find this retro console tricky to play on. Aside from that, everything feels good in this handheld retro gaming console. It has Type-C for charging, buttons that feel just right, a bright screen (though can be too small for some), and with a mono speaker.
All in all, this is a brilliant remake of the old console. In terms of aesthetics, you can’t go more retro than this.
9. C64 Mini USA Version
Did you enjoy the classic Commodore 64, Alleykat, and Stormlord on the C64 classic? Do you miss playing on the red joystick and beige keyboard? The C64 Mini has all that and more!
Pros and Cons
• Extremely cute and chunky retro design
• Lots of fun games included
• Joysticks could be improved
This mini version of the C64 is specifically designed to give those 80s games fans a trip down the memory lane. While some of the popular games have been left behind, this retro game console still carries the gist of its era – a keyboard with blocky keys, a multi-colored logo, bold red buttons, and a red joystick.
If you are into 8-bit retro gaming, this one is for you.
There you have it, the best retro game console your money can buy today.
The extensive artificial intelligence, lifelike graphics, and realistic physics in modern video games are truly breathtaking. They are far more sophisticated than the video games you enjoyed in your childhood. However, sometimes you will long for simplicity – for those memories and experiences that shaped you. Retro game consoles and classic video games allow you to relive those moments.
If you are a big fan of retro games or you simply want to relive your childhood and spend some quality time with your friends and family with nostalgic consoles from yesteryears, you cannot go wrong with any of these retro gaming consoles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the greatest game console of all time?
A. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990) is widely considered the greatest game console of all time.
Q. What is the number 1 selling game console?
A. PlayStation 2 was the best-selling gaming console of all time, with more than 157 million units sold worldwide. Thanks to its fantastic DVD player, sleek black box design, and widely diverse catalog that includes blockbuster games like Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto. This is followed by Nintendo DS (almost 150 million), and Game Boy (118 million).
Q. What consoles are retro?
A. Retro gaming website says retro gaming consoles are consoles that are over 15 years old. This means Xbox 360 (2005) and PlayStation 3 (2006), though not too old, can be considered retro consoles.
Q. Is the Wii considered retro?
A. Yes. Since the Nintendo Wii (2006) is more than 15 years old, it can now be considered retro.
Q. Is PS3 considered retro?
A. Yes. Since it is more than 15 years since it was first released, PS3 (2006) is now considered retro.
Q. What is the rarest Nintendo console?
A. The Game Boy Advance SP 24K Gold Edition is considered by far, the rarest Nintendo console ever made. It is so rare that even the fans are skeptical of its existence.
Aside from that, the Charizard Game Boy Advance SP and the 3DS XL Pikachu Yellow are the second and third rarest Nintendo consoles of all time, respectively.
Q. What game console came out in the 80s?
A. Quite a lot actually. Family Computer (a.k.a. Famicom, which is later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES), was released in 1983. Sega SG-1000 was also released in 1983.
Sega Master and Nintendo Family Computer Disc System were both released in 1985.
Atari 7800 was released in ’86, followed by PC Engine TurboGrafx and Sega Genesis in ’87.
Q. What is the oldest console?
A. The Magnavox Odyssey, which was released in September of 1972, is the first and oldest home video game console in the world.