With the advent of and push toward integrating virtual reality into modern tech, video gaming has evolved into something far beyond its modest origins. What began as a pixellated match of ping pong has changed so drastically that the connection between games of the past and present is nearly unrecognizable – and with the way that technology is headed, it promises to continue in that manner. As awe inspiring as those advancements are, sometimes we need to get away from the hyper-realistic intergalactic space battles and fully-immersive digital realms. Sometimes we just want to send a small Italian plumber across a screen to jump on some turtles.
Lucky for us, there are still some like-minded people out there making retro-style gaming systems for our enjoyment. Whether you’re looking for a simple pre-loaded device that plugs directly into your TV, a new console into which you can pop your collection of classic cartridges, or a full-sized arcade cabinet onto which you can download hundreds of your favorite fighters, chances are there’s one available for purchase. In fact, that’s what we’ve collected for you in the list below: the best retro-style consoles of all shapes and sizes for every class of gamer.
E-Mods Gaming RS-1
For a quick and easy on-the-go dose of nostalgia, there’s not much better out there than the RS-1 from E-Mods Gaming. This little handheld device, which features a 2.5″ LCD screen, is preloaded with 162 games including the original Contra, Super Mario, and Ninja Gaiden 2. If you aren’t feeling like you want to stare at the tiny screen, don’t worry, it comes with a short cable that you can plug into your TV. So long as you don’t expect too much out of this extremely inexpensive AAA battery powered device, it will offer you hours of entertainment.
Retro Arcade Machine X
If you prefer your gaming in an arcade-cabinet format but you don’t have anything larger than a little desktop space, you could do much worse than the Retro Arcade Machine X. This tabletop device powered by three AAA batteries is only 5.5 inches tall, yet is still packed with 300 built-in games. The 2 1/2″ full-color screen beautifully displays the 16-bit graphics and is controlled via a fully functional 4-way joystick and dual action buttons. While you won’t be getting any gaming hits, the overall build quality, ease of use, and low cost make this device more than worth it.
At Games Arcade Master
If the Sega platforms were your consoles of choice, but you don’t want to bother having to hunt down an old machine and the accompanying cartridges, you should take a look at the Arcade Master from At Games. This plug-and-play device connects directly to your TV, features an arcade cabinet style joystick and button layout, and is preloaded with 26 different Sega games including Virtua Fighter 2, the first two Streets of Rage games, and Sonic 3D. Not enough for you? If you want to add more games to the console’s collection, there’s an SD slot for optional expansion.
Retro-Bit Retro Duo
For some of you who still have a collection of old Nintendo cartridges, there was likely a woeful day somewhere in the past where you went to switch on your old console, only to find that its life had been cut short. Unfortunately, as is the case with most electronics, the devices used to play things never live quite as long as the playable things themselves. However, so long as things like the Retro Duo exist, the games can live on. This device can play either NES or Super NES cartridges and comes with two controllers or is compatible with original 16-bit controllers. It also comes with an AV/S video cable and AC adapter.
Atari Flashback 6
Perhaps your gaming history dates back even further than the likes of the NES into the time when Atari ruled the space. You probably played games like Space Invaders, Adventure, Tempest, or Millipede. Unfortunately for you, finding decent dedicated consoles with games from that long ago is damn near impossible nowadays. Or at least it was until Atari released their Flashback 6. This plug-and-play console features all the aforementioned Atari 2600 games and 96 others, all in a package that looks as authentic as the original system, but isn’t burdened by a tethered controller wire – as the two included joystick controllers are wireless.
Analogue Nt Mini
This system looks much sleeker, but acts exactly like an old NES. But better. It has the added benefits of HDMI output (it’s also RGB compatible, if you want to go really old school) and FPGA unparalleled compatibility. In fact, this system works flawlessly with over 2,000 games. That means that you can play all your favorite NES (or Famicom) cartridges in their original form. And, while it comes with an 8bitdo wireless controller and adapter, it also works with the ones from the original system. This is the closest you’re gonna get to hunting down the real thing and it still has the technological leg-up.
Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Portable Game Player
Perhaps portability is as high on your list of requirements as a comprehensive catalog of classic games is. If so, you’re going to want to have a look at the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Portable Game Player. This handheld device, which has a 3.2″ LCD screen, is fully portable and comes fully loaded with 80 games. The list of games is an impressive one to say the least. It includes titles like Sonic 1-3 and Mortal Kombat 1-3. If you’d rather not crane your neck down to stare at the onboard screen, you can plug it into your TV for home console style play. It even features an SD slot to add more games to the onboard catalog.
Nintendo NES Classic Edition
While Nintendo is primarily responsible for turning gaming into what we know it as today and generations of gamers still love their old games, they haven’t released a throwback plug-and-play console until this year. The Nintendo Classic is designed to look like a miniature version of the original NES system, but boasts a few improvements. Though the cartridge slot is just for show and doesn’t open, the console comes with 30 preloaded games (like Metroid, the Legend of Zelda, and the first three Super Mario Brothers) and a controller that can also plug into a Wii or Wii U. Although it comes with an HDMI cable, the games run through a CRT filter to give them a more authentic old-school look.
Not to be outdone by Nintendo, Retro-Bit is releasing their own pre-loaded old school console at the tail end of this year. This one, which sort of looks like a Sega Saturn, comes with two wired USB controllers, has optional outputs of either HDMI or AV, has an SD card slot in order to save and transfer game progress, and is loaded with 92 games – including Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Kung Fu, Commando, and 1942. They’re also boasting that this isn’t the full list, as there are more yet to be announced. If Mario isn’t the end-all-be-all of your gaming desires, this console is a pretty sweet deal.
Hyperkin Retron 5 Gaming Console
If your collection of old cartridges extends beyond just a couple of formats, you might want to consider something like the Retron 5 Gaming Console. This HDMI compatible console comes with a Bluetooth enabled wireless controller and is compatible with games on NES, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Famicom, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and GBA out of the box. If you purchase the optional Power Base Converter, you can even play Master System games. This system also features on-the-fly saving, screen capturing, and enhanced resolution and sound.
Cyber Gadget Retro Freak
Similar to the Retron 5, the Retro Freak is a console that supports a wide variety of game cartridges from across gaming history, although there are some format variations between them. This one is compatible with NES, SNES, Famicom, Super Famicom, GameBoy, GBA, GameBoy Color, Sega Genesis and 4 more. And it outputs to HDMI with 720p upscaling and is equipped with upgradable firmware. It even offers SD transferring to create a digital archive of games, so you can rip your old games onto a much more portable format. The only downside is that you’ll need to pick up your own controller.
Neo Geo X Gold Limited Edition
The Neo Geo was the cream of the crop in the ’90s. It had a price tag to match, too. The good news is, the system has since depreciated in price but not in quality. Recently, the brand released their Neo Geo X Gold – a 3-pack that comes with a version of a Neo Geo Pocket handheld with a 4.3″ LCD display, an HDMI compatible system-within-a-system console (into which you load the handheld to play on your TV), and the brand’s arcade stick. If that’s not enough for you, it also has 20 preloaded classic Neo Geo games onboard – including Metal Slug, Fatal Fury 1 & 2, and King of the Monsters.
Tiny Arcade Machines
Built like a bar-top console but with full-sized arcade cabinet functionality, these arcade machines are perfect for anyone yearning for classic arcade style gaming, but lacking in floor space. Available in either MAME, JAMMA, or Raspberry Pi emulator formats, these tabletop cabinets are compatible with Steam, any number of ROMs that you can find online, and can also run modern games like Mortal Kombat X or ULTRA Street Fighter 4. For the more tech-savvy gamer, this might be the best option for you.
Made by the company of the same name, the Polycade is a fully-functional 2-joystick arcade cabinet in a wall-mountable configuration. With multiple format options – including a basic fully-loaded plug-and-play, an upgradable Pro version, or the “classic” aimed toward retro connoisseurs who want to load their own ROMs – these impressive cabinets are as beautiful as they are functional. The best part is that they’re all compatible with Valve’s Steam digital distribution platform.
X-Arcade Cocktail Arcade Machine
If your gaming tastes lean more toward the ’80s, you might like the layout of this cocktail arcade machine from X-Arcade. This American-made system is pre-loaded with more than 250 games – including Gauntlet, 7 Metal Slug games, Mortal Kombat 2 & 3, Altered Beast, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco The Dolphin, and the list goes on and on. And it features a built-in embedded computer with WiFi and support for more than 10 gaming systems – onto which you can install more games as you wish.