The best retro gaming consoles provide reliable plug and play hardware preloaded with classic games from your youth, along with modern technology to ensure they won’t reset just as you defeat Bowser!
From mini SEGA Genesis/MegaDrive consoles like SEGA Genesis/MegaDrive Minis to near-identical NEOGEO Arcade Stick Pros, here is our selection of the top retro consoles.
Commodore 64 Mini
If you want an unforgettable trip down memory lane, the C64 Mini is one of the finest retro consoles currently available. Part of a recent trend of retro consoles that recreate vintage hardware in miniature form with less annoying quirks and greater universal connectivity, this particular version follows in the footsteps of the NES Classic by providing USB keyboard support as well as 64 preinstalled games sure to bring back fond memories of nostalgia.
Retro Games Ltd and Solutions 2 GO released this miniconsole in Europe earlier this year, but asked North American fans to wait while they worked out logistics for distribution – something which appears to have finally come together on October 9. If you can bear to wait – you’ll get this adorable device with USB keyboard attachment, joystick that resembles those found with early Commodore models such as School Daze, Monty Mole, and Rubicon games included on it.
As opposed to its NES Classic or Atari 2600 Mini counterparts, which were shipped in bulky styrofoam containers, this Mini is delivered in an elegant little box that would look great next to any modern flatscreen TV. It comes equipped with power cord, HDMI cable and manual. Furthermore, its software runs on Linux; thus enabling it to run homebrew ROMs available from third-party sources (of which there are still thousands). And should the included games not satisfy your ’80s nostalgia cravings there’s also an option whereby titles can be selected before loading them up for gameplay – simply pick and load them up from an alphabetical list and start playing them immediately!
Not to be underestimated, the C64 Mini doesn’t provide a complete gaming library; given all of its excellent titles released for this microcomputer and its wide fanbase, not every title made it here even during days prior to monolithic game publishers. That being said, all titles that did make the cut work perfectly; anyone familiar with Commodore emulation will appreciate that this experience provides far better emulation experience than anything you might have encountered on an actual Commodore computer itself in days past.
Sega Genesis/MegaDrive Mini
After Nintendo demonstrated there was an appetite for stylishly compact retro gaming consoles, Sega quickly responded. Their official Mega Drive/Genesis Mini console hit shelves this spring – replacing third-party copies which had previously dominated the market (while also adding their own personal flair to it all).
SEGA has made an excellent choice with their game list for the SEGA Classic, providing players with almost double as many titles compared to what was available on SNES Classic while keeping the overall collection manageable and affordable. Their impressive selection includes previously unreleased games (such as Darius or Devi & Pii). This is certainly impressive.
The Mini is a stunning-looking reproduction of the MK2 Mega Drive/Genesis console, complete with spring-loaded flaps that open to accept miniaturised facsimile carts – giving it a sense of authenticity that helps set it apart from cheaper third-party clones on the market. Furthermore, there are two USB-A ports on its front for charging purposes as well as two Micro USB sockets and an HDMI output port (720p output) on its rear for connecting TVs or monitors (outputting out at 720p).
As with the NES Classic, this unit contains holes for attaching Mega CD/ Genesis CD add-ons. Fans have their choice between 3- and 6-button controllers; in order to get the full experience they may need to purchase their own.
With some minor menu-system glitches and a slightly delayed loading time when returning to the main screen, Genesis Mini is a delightful experience to use. Its emulation is impeccable, while using established third-party software rather than some free, dubious code is another notable advantage.
If you love the original console and its library, this Mini is unquestionably the ideal way to experience them in your home. Unfortunately it does not include Sonic 3 & Knuckles (re-released as part of Sonic Origins collection) nor has two six-button controllers like it originally did; though.
The Nintendo GameCube was Nintendo’s entry into the sixth-generation of console wars that featured Sony’s PlayStation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Sega’s Dreamcast. Released in 2001, the GameCube (abbreviated GCN) marked a dramatic departure from previous Nintendo consoles that used cartridge-based media; instead using 8 cm Game Discs based on MiniDVD technology based off proprietary Game Discs instead. This move was intended to both reduce piracy rates as well as avoid paying a royalty fee to DVD Forum of which Sony was an official member – plus its graphical capabilities were improved substantially from earlier generations of Nintendo consoles.
As with the Nintendo 64 before it, the GameCube supported up to four players on one TV set in a split screen co-op mode. Following Nintendo’s tradition of supporting third party titles – although its selection was somewhat more modest compared to that of competitors. Still, its unique and exciting classic games such as Super Smash Bros Melee and Metroid Prime helped reinvent two beloved franchises with stunning visuals.
In addition to its four standard controller ports on its front panel, the GameCube also featured two ports that allowed for connecting and using a Game Boy Advance as a second player screen and control method. Furthermore, gamers could connect it with both Game Boy Color and GBA SP systems so as to enjoy playing their respective games as well.
The GameCube was an aesthetically pleasing, sleek system similar to its Nintendo 64 counterpart; its round shape featured an opening at its top that revealed both disc slot and laser lens for easy disc loading and laser lens use. Indigo and Platinum Silver versions were both offered.
The GameCube was the first gaming console to use optical discs rather than cartridges for increased graphics and faster gameplay, while also supporting online gaming through connecting a broadband or modem adapter. A Link Cable also allowed access to exclusive game features via handheld as a second screen and control method.
Nintendo provided consumers with an alternative gaming experience during the seventh generation of console gaming with its Wii’s sensor-driven motion gameplay, winning praise from many in its target market. Although not as powerful or capable as its rivals, its fun and intuitive nature earned widespread praise.
Nintendo designed the Wii specifically to appeal to casual gamers unfamiliar with video gaming, so its focus was not high definition video playback but an external device known as a Wii Sensor Bar which connected via cable and could either sit atop of TV screens or near them, with its built-in accelerometer converting movements into game inputs.
The Wii comes equipped with an inbuilt Wi-Fi internet connection, enabling users to connect to Nintendo’s online servers, view news and weather reports, create customized avatars known as Miis and purchase and download games from Nintendo’s virtual storefront which offers an array of titles.
Aside from its innovative motion-based gaming technology, the Wii offers powerful 512 MB internal flash memory and two USB 2.0 ports to connect peripherals such as keyboards or mice. As the smallest seventh-generation console (it measures 44mm wide by 157mm tall and weighs approximately equivalent to three DVD cases stacked one on top of another), it also stands out for being compact.
Like its predecessor, the Nintendo GameCube, the Nintendo Wii could support both 12-cm optical disc format used by PlayStation 3 and 8 cm disks used by Xbox 360 consoles, in addition to playing original Wii titles released for GameCube. Unfortunately, both Family Edition and Mini models removed backward compatibility as cost cutting measures; although long discontinued now they’re still readily available through online marketplaces or classified ads or gaming stores.