From the mildly nostalgic to the hard-core nerd
Retro gaming is back in a BIG way. Video games now have a long and storied history. Rich enough that older games aren’t thought of as “outdated”, but are appreciated for what they are. Interest in games from yesteryear has never been more intense, so it’s a good thing this is also the best time in history to be a retro game enthusiast.
These gifts range from those suitable for a giftee who just wants to dabble in some mild nostalgia, to those that are very serious about their old-school retro gaming experience. Either way, there’s something here for everyone.
Nintendo has one of the best retro game catalogues of any company. If you already own one of their mainline consoles, it’s generally pretty easy to get access to their classic titles. If not, then buying either the NES or SNES Classic consoles is the most cost-effective way to dip your toes back into the world of the classic Nintendo era.
Nintendo seriously underestimated the demand for the Classic consoles when the NES Classic first launched, which led to ridiculous price inflation on the used market. Luckily there’s plenty of consoles to go around now, and if you add up the individual costs of the included games, either console is a real bargain.
Each console comes with a preloaded selection of retro games that you cannot change. At least not in a way that would void the warranty and possibly break the law. That being said, the included game libraries have been carefully curated to let anyone get an optimal cross-section of the gaming era. It’s a library that would have been the envy of the neighborhood at the time.
The consoles themselves have been crafted to be exact, miniaturized replicas of the originals. Obviously the cartridge slots and other paraphernalia are just for show, but they are undoubtedly beautiful to look at.
Sega left the console business years ago after the brilliant Sega Dreamcast failed to sell. However, the company keeps publishing games today, while also keeping its classic retro game collection alive.
Before the NES Classic reignited mainstream passions for classic gaming, Sega had given the license to create retro Sega consoles to a company called ATGames. Unfortunately these have been universally panned for poor-quality emulation.
This Sega Genesis Mini is something completely different. Developed in-house by Sega, this plug-and-play console has some of the best emulation yet seen in this type of product. While hardcore retro enthusiasts have found things to nitpick here and there when it comes to authentic reproductions of classic such as Sonic the Hedgehog, they are just that – nitpicks.
If you have someone who loved their Genesis in the 90s and isn’t already neck-deep in retro-game hardware, this is the perfect gift to bring back the magic of “Blast Processing” and all the other ultra-90s marketing nonsense we all loved at the time.
Premium Accuracy: The Analogue Console Range
The plug-and-play replica consoles from Nintendo and Sega are wonderful, affordable ways to give both old and new gamers a solid sampling of what made old-school gaming great in the first place.
However, they only emulate the original console hardware, using software methods. While this works well enough, it will never be more than an approximation. The visuals won’t be exactly right, performance is always at least a little laggier and audio is just a little off.
Which is why a company named Analogue created a series of consoles that don’t work via emulation. They use a special type of microchip known as an FPGA chip. This little wonder can physically reconfigure itself to become the original hardware of the console in question.
It’s 100% accurate and 100% compatible with any game cartridge designed to work with the original console. At the same time Analogue provide all the modern conveniences, such as HDMI outputs and proper scaling for modern TVs.
These Analogue consoles are expensive and they require the original game cartridges, but there is no better way of playing retro games on the market today. You cannot go wrong in buying one of these for a serious retro gaming fan.
The NT Mini is the console to get for anyone who wants to play games from the NES, Famicom or Famicom Disk System libraries.
The Super NT is the ultimate SNES and Super Famicom console. It also includes a free, built-in game called Super Turrican. A game that was never actually released for the SNES and is a Super NT exclusive.
The Mega SG is perhaps the ultimate premium retro game console for Sega fans. It’s a perfect reproduction of Mega Drive/Genesis hardware and can play Master System Mega Drive/Genesis and Sega/Mega CD games. Of course, you need to connect your Sega/Mega CD to it to actually read the disc. The only part of the classic Sega library that doesn’t work are 32X games, which the Mega SG is not compatible with.
Finally, there’s the new Analogue Pocket. This is their latest console and first ever handheld. Out of the box it’s compatible with almost 3000 GameBoy, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance titles. It can work with other systems as well, but you need to buy the cartridge adapters separately.
The screen on the Pocket alone puts it into a class of its own, but of course it uses the same FPGA technology of their home consoles, which means you’ll get perfect reproductions of the original games, with no emulation at all. You can even buy an Analogue Dock to connect the Pocket to your TV. Really, this one’s a corker.
Home Arcade Cabinets
The ultimate gift for a retro game fan (with plenty of space) might just well be an old-school arcade cabinet. Who didn’t wish as a child to own one of those machines, without the need for endless pocket change!
The dream might be more affordable than you think. For example, you can get a tabletop arcade machine with multiple classic titles, such as this lovely PAC-MAN, loaded up with over 400 games.
Of course, this is an affordable modern take on the arcade design. If you happen to have won the lottery, you can always spend a small fortune on a full-size commercial monster like this one. Just be sure you buy an arcade machine at the proper scale, since some are too small for adults to use.