Modern-day console games are an incredible experience with graphics that can feel lifelike and stories that act more like a movie. However, there is something to be said for reliving the classic console games of old when games felt more like games and in-app purchases were unthinkable. But retro gaming is thriving right now, and because of that, official manufacturers like Nintendo and SEGA are getting in on the action along with some incredible third-party partners. Let’s take a look at the best retro gaming consoles you can buy today.
1. Sega Genesis Mini
Genesis can do what NintenDON’T! For anyone who remembers the Super Nintendo versus Genesis battle, “NintenDON’T” was one of the iconic catchphrases of the video game wars. Today, the Sega Genesis Mini is a strong reminder of why this system was wildly popular and one of the best remembered retro gaming consoles of all time. With 40 games ready out of the box, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin and Golden Axe, there is something for everyone.
The biggest downside is the controller cable length which forces you to sit closer to the TV than you may want. Aside from that, this is the Sega Genesis you know and love.
If it’s a (legal) retro gaming console you want, Evercade is everything you could hope for and more. You won’t have games from Nintendo, but with collections from Namco, Atari, Data East and more, there is something for every retro fan. The hardware is exceptionally comfortable in the hand, and with a 4.3-inch screen, there’s plenty of room to enjoy your childhood favorites. You can also connect the unit to a TV through an HDMI cable.
The Atari collection spans over four separate cartridges, including two that are Lynx collections. It’s so exciting for fans of the handheld console that lived too long in Gameboy’s shadow. If for no other reason, pick up the Evercade and play Double Dragon I and II until you have beaten the final bosses.
3. NEOGEO Mini
One of the most unique retro gaming consoles to release, this mini arcade style Neo Geo Mini is perfect for fans of the original console. Sporting a good-enough 3.5-inch LCD display, the arcade layout makes for truly fun gameplay.
Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, you can take the Mini anywhere. You can also hook it up to a TV with the HDMI input. At $59.99, it’s an impulse buy that can keep you entertained for hours with so many of SNK’s best games.
4. Legends Flashback
When you want more than 100 classic retro games on one console, look for the AtGames Legends Flashback. Between Aladdin, Lion King, Super Star Wars, Joe & Mac, Top Gear, Mega Man and Dig Dug, there is something for everyone – no matter their retro gaming background. With 720p output for connecting to a television and two ergonomic six-button controllers for two-player action, this is something the whole family can enjoy.
You can save and resume games, and there is a rewind feature as well to make sure your character can live forever. With so many strong names and a low price, this is a fantastic addition to any retro gaming collection.
5. PlayStation Classic
One of the most popular consoles of all times, the PlayStation Classic helps you relive Sony’s first days of console glory. While it only offers a small number of games with just 20 preloaded titles, you still get favorites like Ridge Racer 4, Tekken 3, Final Fantasy VII and Twisted Metal. You will even have the option to play the original top-down Grand Theft Auto which is a true classic. The design is 45 percent smaller than the original console, and the HDMI input ensures you can connect to the TV in your home.
The controllers are another big win, as they act and feel just as the originals did. The virtual memory card makes sure you can save any of the preloaded games whenever you need to stop and take a pause. At a price that often reaches as low as $20, it’s a must-own.
6. Nintendo Game & Watch
Few retro gaming handhelds really take you back to the past as much as the Nintendo Game & Watch. Hugely popular before the GameBoy stormed the world, Game & Watch was as good as it gets. What it lacks in game support, it more than makes up with deep nostalgia and a form factor that can’t be beaten. If that is not enough, this handheld also includes Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels and the original Game & Watch: Ball game.
Best of the Rest
You might be asking, where are the NES Classic and SNES Classic? That’s a really great question; they are truly some of the best retro consoles ever made. With 20-some games that include forever classics like Mario Kart, Donkey Kong and Super Street Fighter II, they are something you can hand down to your children.
That said, their prices have quadrupled, as they are no longer being manufactured or sold at retail. They remain incredibly fun and well worth whatever price you pay, but it’s also harder to recommend at quadruple their original prices. Unless you are desperate to own one, there are other, less expensive retro consoles that offer the same level of fun. The same goes for consoles like the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, which is also no longer available retail, leading to heavy price spikes.
Owning a retro console can help you quickly relive your childhood or introduce your kids to something not named Fortnite or Roblox for the very first time. That you can sit down and (legally) play games from decades past on modern TVs is something you may never tire of. The retro gaming wave is just getting started, so there is always more hope other consoles (Gameboy!) could potentially see re-releases in the future. Here’s to hoping.