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Even though gaming systems like the PS5 are pushing the boundaries of console gaming — let’s be honest — some of the best games ever created were consoles from the 80s and 90s. Consoles like the NES, Super NES and Sega Genesis are like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd of the gaming world; there are much newer consoles, but nothing quite as good as the classics.
Retro consoles released in mini form surged in popularity as they brought back to life some of the most iconic gaming consoles. On the other side of the coin, some of our favorite past consoles like the PS2 have now reached the legal drinking age. These consoles all might be retro, but there is no reason why they can’t bring as much joy to you now as they did in your youth. Trust us, all the gameplay is still just as fun.
Below are our picks for the best retro gaming consoles which you can still pick up right now.
1. Nintendo Game and Watch: Super Mario Bros.
Those familiar with Nintendo’s history know that the company’s entry into gaming didn’t start with Super Mario on the NES. In fact, before the NES ever washed up on American shores, we first received the Game and Watch: Ball, an LCD handheld that had a simple juggling game on it. Various iterations of the Game and Watch were released between 1980 and 1991, but in 2020 Nintendo brought the handheld back in honor of Mario’s 35th Anniversary. Game and Watch: Super Mario takes the classic hardware stylings of the Game and Watch, except it’s packed with more current hardware so that it can run the original Super Mario Bros. on a crisp 2.5-inch LED screen. And once you finish the original Super Mario game, you can also load up Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which was originally only released in Japan, or the aforementioned Game and Watch: Ball.
2. Anbernic RG350P Handheld Retro Emulator
If you’re savvy enough to know how to add your own ROMs to an open console, and you have a collection of legally obtained ROMS, the Anbernic RG350P is one of the best handheld retro emulators you can buy right now. Complete with dual analog sticks, a D-pad, 12 buttons along the front and sides and a 3.5-inch IPS display, this little rectangle can emulate games systems as powerful, or less powerful than the PS1.
3. Neo Geo Arcade Stick Pro
Few things are more underrated in the gaming world than the Neo Geo. SNK’s arcade platform was home to some of the greatest fighting games ever made, including King of Fighters ‘98, as well as a litany of beat ‘em ups (Ninja Combat), shoot ‘em ups (Aero Fighters II) and run-and-gun games (Metal Slug 3). The Neo Geo Arcade Stick Pro collects most of these games (along with 35 others) into a retro console that is housed inside an arcade joystick that connects to your TV so that you can relive the golden era of ‘90s arcade games right in your living room. Even better, you can connect a second gamepad so that you and a friend can battle one on one.
4. Super NES
Arguably one of Nintendo’s best gaming consoles, the Super NES Classic comes pre-loaded with 21 games. Included on the gaming list are favorites like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo. Not only do you get to relive the past, but there’s also a major surprise: Star Fox 2. This never-before-released Super NES Classic finds its way on the 16-bit console. And the best part, with two included paddles, you can take a blast from the past with a friend.
Retro-Bit is a smorgasbord of classic games. With licenses from Capcom, Data East, Technos and Irem, you’ll find favorites like Mega Man 2 and 3, Super Dodge Ball, Super BurgerTime and Double Dragon. Included with the gaming console are two USB controllers, so you and a friend can have epic battles for hours. But if you don’t like the feel of the controllers, there are a handful of alternatives that are compatible. Retro-Bit is an inexpensive way to get a ton of games on one retro console.
6. NES Classic
When the NES Classic was released in miniature form, it sold out so quickly it became almost virtually impossible to find, and for good reason — NES Classic is a historically great gaming system. This revolutionary miniature classic includes fan favorites like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Castlevania. Simply plug your NES Classic into your TV via HDMI and get right to 8-bit gaming. And it even has 720p up-conversion to clear up those 8-bit graphics just a bit. This retro gaming console might be 35 years old, but it’s still as fun as ever.
7. Sega Genesis Mini
As one of the final holdouts for miniaturization, the Sega Genesis Mini was the retro console that many gamers couldn’t wait for. This cult classic console brings back nostalgic games like Sonic The Hedgehog and Shinobi III in its list of 40 included games. Two USB controllers are included for you and a friend to time warp back to the 90s. Sega might not have made it in the long run, but the Sega Genesis certainly has its place in many gamers’ hearts.
8. PlayStation Classic
Can you believe the first PlayStation was released in 1994? Time flies when you’re having fun, but the fun doesn’t stop just because the PlayStation classic turned 26 this past year. The mini PlayStation Classic brings back some of the best PlayStation games including Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid II, and Resident Evil Director’s Cut. And no need to worry about your game disks getting too scratched to play. All 20 games come pre-loaded on the console. All you need to do is plug in the retro console to your TV via HDMI, plug in the controllers and get to gaming.
6. Official Pac-Man Arcade Cabinet
Arcades aren’t as abundant as they once were, and owning an actual arcade game used to be out of the question, unless you had a small fortune saved up. Thanks to quarter-sized arcade games, like the Official Pac-Man, you can feed your half-circled, yellow friend as you evade ghosts throughout an assortment of maze layouts. The graphics, sounds, joystick and buttons are exactly what you remember, except this arcade is only 17 inches tall.
7. Atari Flashback 9 Gold Deluxe
If you really want to bring it back, like, all the way back, the Atari Flashback 9 Gold Console is the way to go. This HDMI-enabled old-school console packs 120 games. Atari upscales to 720p to make the archaic graphics look clean. It even has two 2.4G wireless controllers; who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Relive the gaming console that blew your parent’s mind at one point in time with the Atari Flashback 8 Gold Deluxe.
8. Super NT
There is a good chance your Super Nintendo crapped out on you a long time ago, but you still have a handful of Super NES game cartridges stored away. That’s where the Super NT comes in. You can plop in all of those old Super Nintendo games and relive your youth. Except this console plugs in via HDMI and upscales the graphics for a better picture. Win! The only downside: the Super NT is not an emulator, so there aren’t any games stored on the device.
9. Nintendo 64
Remember spending hours on hours playing your N64 in your parents’ den from sun up to sun down? Or did we all not have the same childhood? The Nintendo 64 is a classic to kids that grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s. From those classic Pokemon Stadium games to Zelda continuations, this thing really had massive pertinence in the early development of gamers around the world. In 2021, these babies are hard to come by. If you’re unsuccessful in finding one at your local garage sale, from time to time Amazon offers the console through their Amazon Renewed program.
10. Game Boy Color
By essentially transforming the way consoles would forever be created in the future, the release of the Game Boy Color from Nintendo was a gamechanger we’ll never forget. As one of the first handheld, on-the-go consoles ever created, the Game Boy Color back in its prime was a fun new way to cure boredom on a long car ride and on any day off from school. The tiny “console” came in various colors, from deep blueish greens to see-through purples depicted here. If you’re looking to get your hands on one again, look no further.
11. Neogeo Mini International
Unlike the Pac-Man Arcade, which is only one game, you can play 40 different games on this single retro console. All the awesome sounds and visuals from the past come from the 3.5-inch small screen and speakers. But if you want to include a friend, you can connect PAD controllers to the console and plug the NeoGeo via HDMI to a TV for multi-player action on games like King of Fighters, Fatal Fury and Metal Slug. The Neogeo fits in the palm of your hand, but there is nothing small about the amount of gameplay packed into this console.
12. PlayStation 2
It might not seem like a “retro” console, but the PS2 is almost old enough to buy a beer. The PS2 had one of the largest libraries of games available — basically, if a game wasn’t made by Nintendo, it was on PS2. Some of the best PS4 games to date started on the PS2 like God of War and Ratchet & Clank. Since the library is so massive, and the PS2 is technically not that old, finding games isn’t too big of a hassle. Let the memories live on with a PS2 console.
13. Nintendo GameCube
Okay, okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. The GameCube is even younger than the PlayStation 2, but it deserves some recognition for good reasoning. This console transformed our favorite Nintendo 64 games into classics that we still love until this day. Super Smash Bros. Melee? Amazing. Iconic. We have to stan. The classic indigo GameCube is really giving us a massive TBT feel and it can be found on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price.