Retro console reissues aren’t exactly a new phenomenon. Beginning in the early 2000s, Atari and other manufacturers began to leverage processor technology and develop plug-and-play versions of their classic consoles. But starting in 2016, when Nintendo offered a limited edition of its classic NES console, an explosion of “classics” emerged in the following years.
Options like Sega Genesis now available on B&H or the super affordable PlayStation Classic available on GameStop are all in one option for those looking to relive their glory days of gaming. These systems are on the border between functionality and collectability, and as such you need to consider how much money you want to spend on them. Cheaper consoles often have their share of bugs, but more expensive consoles tend to be more expensive due to a lack of artificial supplies. Read on for a list of the best retro versions you can buy right now.
Best Package: Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.
The original Game & Watch console was released in the 1980s as Nintendo’s first handheld game console. And of course, with Super Mario’s 35th anniversary in 2020, Nintendo wanted to celebrate it in more ways than one. The re-release of Nintendo Game & Watch features the original Mario Bros. adventure, now displayed on a larger LCD screen that shows the game in its sharpest and most vivid detail. The case is so similar to the original that Nintendo even included super-compact rubber A / B buttons and a plastic y-d-pad.
And since the modernized version of the classic handheld system has more power and more storage, Nintendo has also added a Mario Bros. game (which they call “The Lost Levels”) and the new Mario Juggling game. There is a clock mode that flows through 35 classic animations as a tribute to Mario’s classic aesthetic. Although the system works quite well, the small console and the original buttons do not offer a very comfortable gaming experience. But that’s not quite the point here. This is a new product that is just as good an item in your game collection as a real working device. So while the price may seem a little high for the feature, it might be worth it for true Mario fans.
Best SNES: Nintendo SNES Classic Mini
The Super Nintendo Entertainment system, while not the first console released by Nintendo, earns its place as one of the most successful of all time. Although the original NES broke down, the graphics and gameplay of the SNES have redefined it. SNES Classic Mini is a welcome introduction as it brings back all the good memories of the system in a much smaller size. Plus, with 21 classic games preloaded on your hard drive, you can play many of your favorites without having to take your bulky cassettes from our attic.
Most of the great games are here, like the original Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II (arguably the best of the series). You’ll also find proprietary standby like Super Mario World, Zelda: Link to the Past, and the first Star Fox. Technically, only 20 original games are included, as Nintendo also included Star Fox 2, a classic space flight adventure that was never released. The system has two classic wired controllers and is connected to the TV via HDMI.
Best Genesis: SEGA Genesis Mini
Sega turned to miniaturized classic consoles by re-releasing their most successful console of all time. The Sega Genesis was initially the only real competitor to Nintendo’s success thanks to first party characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and Eco the Dolphin. These two classic titles are, of course, preloaded on Genesis Mini. The forty games also include classics like Contra, Gun star Heroes, Earthworm Jim, and Streets of Rage 2. To support the two-player options in this library, Sega has also provided two USB-connected controllers with the familiar 3 buttons. Controls Sega.
While we like what Sega has tried to do with the game selection interface, it feels a little distracted at times. And while it’s not all that different from the original console, the plastic-like build lacks a premium touch – a problem considering you’re paying nearly $ 100 for the system. But for Sega fans, this is a reasonable price for the collectible item on offer.
Best NES: Nintendo NES Classic Edition
When classic consoles came out every few months in the mid-2010s, classic game companies really found something special. Taking advantage of the nostalgia of previous generations, plug and play consoles flew off the shelves so quickly that they became rare collectibles. The biggest downside here is that the prices of these devices are still astronomically high. As with the SNES Classic, the NES Classic can be purchased for around $200 on sites like Amazon because it has to be special ordered from late stock, usually overseas.
If you can afford this price and the original NES experience is so important to you, this classic console will give you everything you need. There are 30 preloaded titles and all the biggest hits are here: the original Super Mario Bros, the arcade classic Donkey Kong, the first Legend of Zelda, PAC-MAN, Final Fantasy, Mega Man and more. In other words, you don’t lose anything in that department, which is good because a locked hard drive means you can’t add more ROMs without hacking the device. You can set up to four game saves for each title, but the system only ships with one controller.
Best PlayStation: PlayStation Classic
With all the other game makers starting re-releases of classic consoles, Sony couldn’t be ignored. The most interesting thing about this is actually that Sony seems to have made enough consoles to keep the price perfectly reasonable. Right now the price is hovering around $20 at Gamestop, which is solid for what you get here. There are 20 games on the hard drive, and while they aren’t the most popular, there are options like Final Fantasy VII (the tutorial part of the series), Tekken 3, and the original Grand Theft Auto from top to bottom.
The original PlayStation versions also have a design language that supports the PS mini console. The first PlayStation Mini was a smaller version of the larger classic, so the PlayStation Classic released here feels quite nice. PlayStation included two classic wired controllers in the package and gave the option to save to virtual memory cards. The user and menu experience leaves a lot to be desired, and strangely, some games don’t run as smoothly as other systems (probably a product of poorly designed emulation software). But at an affordable price, it’s not the end of the world.
Best C64: Retro games C64 Mini
While most Retro consoles emulate the best dogs of console history, there is also an option for the Commodore 64 fans of the world. The recently released THEC64 package includes a cute miniature version of the keyboard computer of the same name and a full version of the original joystick. In fact, the hardware in this bundle is probably the most thoughtful and satisfying version of the console re-release. The hardware capabilities are pretty impressive here too, allowing for 720p output via an HDMI cable, but you can also connect an external keyboard via USB to use the system like a real computer.
A nice 64KB of RAM, 64 games are included, and while that number is fun to look at, it seems like Retro games has expanded with more titles instead of focusing on quality. This of course depends on your gaming preferences, but some of our favorites include Impossible Mission, Speedball, and Street Sports Baseball. The whole thing will usually set you back around $40 on Amazon, which is a pretty good deal if you’re an original Commodore fan.
Perhaps the most interesting take on the modernized retro console is the new Game & Watch handheld computer that Nintendo launched on Mario’s 35th anniversary. It doesn’t sound very nice (the controls are small), but it works as a nice collector’s item. At the other end is the versatile (and much more expensive) SNES Classic, which offers more controllers and many of the best games of the generation. But as with most games, this decision is entirely subjective, and your choice will likely be judged by your nostalgia for a particular game maker.