For fun as well as nostalgia
The gaming industry is in a constant arms race of graphical capabilities. Each next-gen console comes with sharper and more realistic graphics than the last, taking the visual fidelity to new heights.
But this searing pace of innovation can often lead your old favorites in the dust. Unlike console games on the PC, you cannot just play old games using a compatibility mode in a newer console. You need the original consoles themselves, or cross your fingers and wait for a remastered version to come out.
Luckily, many of these retro consoles are still available in the market. Here are the best ones you can buy in 2022.
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Unlike most retro consoles released by the likes of Nintendo and Sony, the Evercade is not limited to games of a single console. Instead, it aims to be a one-stop solution for all retro gaming, offering titles belonging to diverse platforms like the Atari 2600, NES, and Mega Drive.
Where consoles like the SNES classic offer only 20 games or so, the Evercade boasts an impressive collection of 122 games you can play on the console. As a result, the games aren’t bundled into the device itself, but available for purchase separately in the form of ROM cartridges.
Another nostalgic reminder of a bygone era, these cartridges hold a handful of games each, with paper booklets printed with a brief history of the titles. The machine itself sports a retro look, though its feature set is decidedly modern. You can play Evercade as a handheld, using its crisp LCD screen, or connect it to a television to get some upscaled graphics.
With its reasonable pricing and an impressive selection of titles, the Evercaan is an excellent great choice for anyone looking to take a dip into the retro gaming experience. The cartridge system might come as a bit of a hassle to someone looking for a particular title to play, but the tradeoff is you get a more versatile retro gaming console.
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The Sega Genesis Mini is one of the most lovingly crafted retro consoles available. It’s almost an exact replica of the original, just scaled down in size. It even has a fake volume slider and cartridge flaps, though it’s too small to accommodate your old game cartridges.
Authentic looks aside, the Sega Genesis Mini is also a great console to play on. Each of the 42 games available on the retro console has been optimized to run butter smooth with a faithful rendering of its classic visuals. Be it Street Fighter 2 or Sonic the Hedgehog, you can play it on the Genesis Mini with a wireless controller.
The collection of games is also more rounded off than in most such offerings (cough, NES Classic, cough), with a menu that has been worked on and makes accessing them a breeze. For fans of the Sega Genesis system or the Mega Drive, as it was generally known, the Sega Genesis Mini is a must-buy console.
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Final Fantasy VII. Metal Gear Solid. Tekken 3. These groundbreaking titles made the Sony Playstation the household name it is today, cementing its status as one of the greatest consoles of all time. And while the original console is hard to come by, you can buy the Sony Playstation Classic, a toned-down remake that allows you to play these games again.
Though, it doesn’t exactly do a good job at it. Very few Playstation titles are available on this retro console, leaving out some big names like Gran Turismo or Tomb Raider. The performance isn’t great either, with patchy emulation and graphics that feel out of place on a modern TV.
So unless you really love the 20 odd games playable with Sony Playstation Classic, you might be better off going for a more robust, well-rounded retro gaming console.
4. Neo Geo Mini
While the Neo Geo Mini is not as well known or as good as some of the other retro gaming consoles in the market, it deserves a mention due to its unique aesthetic alone. Because instead of trying to create a facsimile of a home console, SNK’s Neo Geo Mini recreates an arcade machine.
Remember those bulky contraptions you slotted a coin into and played until your character died? SNK once produced a line of these arcade machines called the Neo Geo. Boasting titles like The King of Fighters and Metal Slug, these arcades were popular worldwide.
With the Neo Geo Mini, SNK has attempted to recapture the arcade feeling in a compact form factor. It’s a miniature arcade cabinet complete with a joystick and a small LCD screen to play as it is. It can be a bit cramped to play for extended periods, but it looks great and is as retro as it gets.
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5. C64 Mini
The Commodore 64 is not exactly a gaming console. It was an early home computer with 64 KB of RAM and superior audio-visual quality than the prevailing 8-bit computers of that time. Thanks to its huge popularity and powerful hardware, it also doubled up as a platform for video games.
Games like Impossible Mission and Uridium took advantage of the Commodore 64’s ability to deliver incredible graphics and gameplay, and are regarded as classics even today.
The C64 Mini follows in the footsteps of other retro consoles, creating a smaller imitation of the Commodore 64. Unlike other retro consoles, however, the C64 also allows you to run it as a proper computer, potentially loading it with custom software and games.
It also comes with 64 games ready to play right off the bat, with an old-school red joystick to complete the experience. The C64 Mini is not the best retro console by any means, but for fans of the Commodore 64 and its classic games, it’s a well-designed trip to the past.
You must be thinking, “Isn’t Nintendo Switch a modern console? How on earth does it count as retro?” While the Switch is as brand new as they come, it also offers a surprisingly complete retro gaming service.
Initially, including only a handful of NES titles, the service has expanded its scope to cover most leading NES and SNES games, allowing you to play them with full multiplayer support. It is now even possible to play Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games on Nintendo Switch, with a library of offerings that will only grow in time.
The best part is that, unlike the Wii’s Virtual Console, you don’t have to buy these games separately. Instead, a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online gives you complete access to the entire library of retro games, ready to play. Granted, the games are software emulated, and thus not rendered with complete fidelity. But that is a small price to pay for getting to play your old favorites on a modern console.
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Which is the Best Retro Console Worth Buying?
Until just a short while ago, the Nintendo SNES Classic could arguably be called the best retro gaming console. After all, the 16-bit era is widely regarded as the golden age of retro gaming, with genre-defining titles like Earthbound, Secret of Mana, or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
But the discontinuation of both the NES and SNES Classic consoles makes that option obsolete. The best alternative right now is the Nintendo Switch. You get to play the old classics on a new age console, without having to spend anything extra for limited classic editions.
If you have to get a dedicated retro gaming console, then you should go with Evercade. Thanks to its cartridge system and a large lineup of games, it comes closest to recapturing the feeling of owning a console in the 90s.