If you’re an old school gamer like a lot of our readers, you’ve probably heard of the hot Christmas item by now: the NES Classic Edition, aka NES Mini. Brought to you by Nintendo to knock on your nostalgia-bones and thereby shake $60 from your purse-strings, this cute little replica of the original NES is awesome… and nearly impossible to get.
Yes, it comes with 30 classic NES games. Yes, it comes with that familiar gray rectangular controller. Yes, you no longer have to blow on any cartridges to get it working. But the bad news is that it’s sold out just about everywhere, and you’d need Mario-levels of gold coins to buy one off eBay where they’re going for as much as $500.
But don’t worry. If you’re jonesing for that retro gaming experience the NES Classic Edition evokes, we’ve rounded up a slew of devices even better than the gray box that can fill that 8-bit shaped hole in your RGB heart. Here are 15 nostalgic retro gaming devices that will challenge the NES Mini for a spot in your retinas.
15. Super Retro Trio – $57
For those looking for the ultimate retro experience, the NES Classic Edition won’t cut it. Why? Because it only emulates these classic games. By all accounts, the quality looks pretty good, but these old school games were designed to run from cartridges (and best displayed on an old CRT TV if you’ve still got one). And that’s where the Super Retro Trio comes in.
Made by Retro-Bit, the Super Retro Trio is a fantastic hardware-based clone machine that not only plays NES games, but also Super NES and Genesis cartridges. That’s right, 80s kids will be amazed to see one device that can play the best games from Nintendo and SEGA, once the bitterest of rivals. With 6 ports compatible with original controllers from each of the three consoles (and two included controllers), the ability to play even Japanese cartridges (ie Super Famicom), and both composite and s-video outputs, the Super Retro Trio is great for gamers who already have a collection of games on hand.
14. Raspberry Pi NES – $36 (Plus Casing)
At the end of the day, all the NES Mini is is a small computer in a cute box running emulation software. You know what? Anyone can make one of those out of the infamous Raspberry Pi, a versatile computer the size of a credit card that’s been the core of many a hacked-together home-brew device.
Not only will your Raspberry Pi NES hold hundreds of more games than the Mini, it’s a fun DIY project (there are plenty of step-by-step directions online) that you can modify to your heart’s content. Want it to also run SNES games? Sure! A little Linux will do ya. Some builders have even emulated the NES Mini look as Daft Mike did to get that retro gray box as the housing for the computer. Ultimately, this device will be cheaper and more powerful than anything you can buy from Nintendo.
13. Your Current Computer – $0
If all you’re looking for is your fix of retro games without any of the hassles of new devices, you don’t actually have to spend a dime. There are plenty of emulators online free to download, from Atari to NES to Genesis, that will get you playing ROMs in no time.
Sticking with the original NES, you can download for emulators JNES or VirtualNES that will run on most PCs and Macs. ROMs can then be downloaded free-to-try and for purchase on various emulation sites. The only thing you’ll be missing is that gaming controller, but you can pick one up new on Amazon for less than $10 (and even cheaper used). Don’t want to spend even that much? Hey, your keyboard is as good as any as an input device.
12. SupaBoy – $79.99
Another problem with the Nintendo Classic Edition: it doesn’t travel well. It has to be plugged into a monitor, after all. What if you want to take your retro-gaming on the go? Solution: The SupaBoy from Hyperkin. It’s a portable Super Nintendo console that will play both SNES and Super Famicom cartridges, and it’s got a built-in controller and 3.5” LCD screen.
If you already own a collection of SNES games, the SupaBoy is a great way to take your gaming on the road. The rechargeable battery provides 5 hours of gaming and there’s a headphone jack, so it’s already more advanced than the new iPhone. Your home SNES console broke? No problem. The SupaBoy will double as a home console as well with its AV out and dual ports for original SNES controllers.
11. Nintendo 2DS – $79.99
Speaking of portability, if hauling around physical cartridges is a little too nostalgic for you, and if you want that authentic Nintendo experience, the 2DS might be the “retro” gaming device for you. Sure, it can play all the newest handheld Nintendo games, but the best part is that the 2DS can access the digital game store that sells all of Nintendo’s best games from the 8-bit era.
If you really want a Nintendo device, consider the 2DS instead of the Mini. Not only can you access all the same games from Nintendo’s eShop, you still have the option of playing newer games as well as watching Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more from your certified device. Call it “Nostalgia+” because it can do a lot more than 30 old games.
10. Retro Machine – $22
Nintendo is retro, but it’s not retro-retro. Before home consoles like the NES, there were arcades machines that ate our quarters and our childhoods. Now you can relive those days in a much more compact form with the Retro Machine by My Arcade. 30 games? Try 200 built-in retro games, playable in full-color right on the device that comes with a realistic joystick just like the machines of yore.
The 2.5” display will run for hours on just 3 AA batteries, so you can relive these old school games as much as you want. Aerial Warfare, UFO Race, Zero Gravity, Panzer Attack; there are enough games here to keep you busy for months, if not years. And the best part? It’s portable so you can take it anywhere. No quarters needed.
9. Cocktail Arcade Machine – $1869.99
That last item might make you wish you had an actual, full-sized arcade machine with some old school games. You’re in luck, because you can have one for just under two grand. The Cocktail Arcade Machine comes with, get this, 421 classic games such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, and a ton more. Need to sit down? Perfect, because it also comes with two benches.
The Cocktail Arcade Machine is a commercial-grade device with a solid enough construction to live in a modern arcade, but would just look so much better in your basement cave. Play these classic arcade games the way they were meant to be played. And hey, since it can be rigged to be coin operated, you can invite your friends and eventually make all your money back. Retro gaming simply can’t look any better than this.
8. Atari Flashback 6 Classic Game Console – $39.99
Before Nintendo, there was Atari. These games are so classic, they seemed retro even when they were brand new half a lifetime ago. If you want to relive what life was like with just one red button and a joystick, you need to pick up the Atari Flashback 6. It comes with 100 classic Atari games built in, 2 classic-style wireless controllers, and the console station that even has a little bit of wood paneling. It doesn’t get much more nostalgic than this.
Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Golf, Missile Command, Solaris… the list really goes on and on. The Atari Flashback 6 runs on 4 AAA batteries, or an AC adapter, and is plug-and-play into any television so you can get started playing with grandpa the minute you visit. And honestly, just look at the darn thing. It’s so iconic. The NES Mini might have that classic look, but the Atari is the OG home gaming system.
7. Your Android Smartphone – $0
Remember Nintendo’s Game Boy? It had dozens of classic games, but that pea green screen was tiny and difficult to look at. Your Android smartphone is one big, beautiful screen. Put these ideas together and you’ve already got a great retro gaming emulator in your pocket that’s basically free.
Android phones are more “hackable” than iPhones are, and because of this they have access to more emulation apps such as RetroArch or ClassicBoy. Simply install these from the Google Play app store and you’ll be playing Game Boy ROMs in seconds. More than Game Boy actually, since they can run NES, Sega CD, and even Neo-Geo ROMs.
Sure, on-screen controls aren’t the best for gaming, so if you want you can invest in a Bluetooth controller that will work with your Android device. It’s a simple and cheap way to enjoy some classic games anywhere you are.
6. PS Vita – $199.99
“Nostalgia” and “retro” have different meanings for different generations. While many grew up with the NES, others grew up and have a soft spot for the original Sony PlayStation. Luckily, they have the PlayStation Vita: the best way to play those classic PS games while on the go.
There are over 900 games available for the PS Vita, including a huge amount of PS One classics and PSP mobile games from back in the day. Play them all for up to 6 hours on the rechargeable battery, and the large HD LCD screen is stunning to look at. Of course, this machine can play all the latest games too, as well as connect online for additional features. It’s a modern device that is also the best possible way to play retro PS games. So if you’re more Final Fantasy VII than Super Mario Bros., this is the console for you.
5. SEGA Mega Drive / SEGA Ultimate Genesis Retro Games Handheld – $74
Some kids were the light side, with Nintendo. Others were the dark side, with SEGA. (Literally, since the SEGA Genesis was sleek black while the SNES was a pale gray.) Regardless, we know that there are die-hard SEGA enthusiasts out there who have seen the NES Classic Edition and want something of their own. Well here you go: The SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis Handheld system.
There are 80 classic Mega Drive and Genesis games built into the device (including Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Edition), and unlike the NES Mini which is a closed off system, this handheld boasts an SD card slot so you can add more games at your whim. Rounding out the features are responsive built-in controls, a 3.2” LCD screen, a rechargeable battery, and AV out so you can hook it up to your TV. The war between Nintendo and SEGA might be over, but they definitely won the retro gaming battle here.
4. RS-1 – $16.99
The RS-1 by E-Mods Gaming is full of surprises for being such a small and affordable portable gaming device. It features a 2.5” LCD screen, runs off 3 AAA batteries, comes with a TV wire, and best of all, has 162 built in classic games.
It’s the odd device that contains some classic NES games like Contra, Super Mario Bros., and Ninja Gaiden 2, but also non-NES games like clones of Angry Birds and Mahjong. The RS-1 definitely has a “bootleg” type of feel, but it’s highly rated on Amazon and you just can’t beat the price. This is a perfect stocking-stuffer gift for today’s kids who might be too young for heavy duty consoles like an XBox, and for yesterday’s kids who couldn’t tell an XBox from a PlayStation.
3. RetroN 5 – $159.99
What doesn’t the RetroN 5 play? Not much, since it supports cartridges for NES, Famicom, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and GBA. For those that are looking for the ultimate console to rule them all, this might be the device you’re looking for.
The RetroN 5 has an HDMI out so you can play classic games on modern TVs, as well as a wireless controller so you never have to deal with wires again. It also has the ability to save screenshots at the touch of a button, so you can capture all your best gaming moments. Finally, remember Game Genie? That additional cartridge device that let you type in codes to cheat at games? This baby has that built in. They really thought of everything with this system. For cartridge-based gaming, the RetroN 5 blows just about everything else out of the water in terms of versatility.
2. Portable Gaming System – $229
Not all retro gaming is owned by the consoles. PC gamers can get nostalgic about old games too, but there’s never been a dedicated gaming device for PC games other than, well, PCs. That’s about to change with the upcoming Portable Gaming System.
This is the first portable console for PC games. Running an Intel Atom X7 quad-core processor, and supporting up to 8 GB of DDR3 memory, it is powerful enough to run most modern games, and will easily run older PC games that you’ve grown up with. It’s 1.6cm thick, boasts a 5.7 inch QHD display, and of course comes with all the benefits of being an actual computer as well.
1. Game Boy Micro – $299
Before Nintendo went with the 2DS and 3DS handheld gaming consoles, they released an incredibly tiny and beautiful last Game Boy Advance device in 2005 called Game Boy Micro. Today, it’s all been forgotten since it was so quickly overshadowed by newer Nintendo handhelds, but it was a marvel of engineering and today, it just might be the most nostalgic console a Nintendo fan can get his/her hands on.
It only weighed an impossible 2.8 ounces and played GBA games on its 2 inch backlit screen. The rechargeable battery provided about 5 to 8 hours of playing time, and it could easily fit into your front pocket. Today, you can find them mostly used on eBay or Amazon. With a library of over 1,000 GBA games, and a form-factor that’s just sublime, the Game Boy Micro is a forgotten device that is instant nostalgia that you can hold in the palm of your hand.