7 Best Retro Game Consoles in 2021 | The Manual

186 12/10/2021

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Before there was Cyberpunk or Resident Evil, the games that today we call “retro” were completely cutting edge. Sure, there were more pixels, less cleavage, and lots of frustration when your NES console reset itself in the days before games could be saved, but those games were the modern tech of their day.

Today, modern tech allows you to enjoy those old games like never before with reliable plug-and-play hardware pre-loaded with all your favorite classics of yesteryear (and yester-millennium). Also, said modern technology means your system won’t reset right before you beat Bowser just because someone happened by within a dozen steps of your Nintendo.

Here are 7 retro gaming systems purist gamers will love. If you’re looking for an even more throwback way to pass the time, check out our best boardgames and drinking card games guides.

Legends Ultimate Home Arcade

This full-sized, fully-loaded arcade game system will take your basement playroom, man cave, or the bar you manage up a notch or 10. It comes with 300 classic games, including Bubble Bobble, Metal Clash, Space Invaders, and more. Games are played with joysticks, track balls, and buttons durable enough to be mashed away at as you battle the computer or a rival player, and no need to pump in quarters, either.

PlayStation Classic

This miniature re-creation of the iconic gray PlayStation Classic console that dropped in 1994 (yeah, think about that for a moment) will give you all the Crash Bandicoot and Dunkaroo vibes without taking up a block of space in your adult apartment. (It’s almost 50% smaller.) Twenty golden-era games are already loaded, including Battle Arena Toshinden, Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy VII, Tekken 3, and Twisted Metal, and a virtual memory card saves your checkpoints and high scores. Cozy up to the TV with your corded controller, just like the old days … just without your mom telling you to do your homework.

Atari Flashback 8 Classic

Both the Atari Flashback 8 and Flashback 9 are easy to find today from Kohls and Walmart, but obviously, we prefer the 8, which is a major trip down memory lane. The entire Atari Flashback line began in 2004 when Atari had the genius idea of bringing its vintage arcade and cartridge classics to a pre-loaded console. Today an OG Atari cartridge alone goes for $3,000, which is why the $50 Flashback is perfect. Plug and play more than 100 games like Space Invaders and Pitfall!

Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic

Talk about retro, the miniature Nintendo Super NES Classic available today shrinks down the 1985 groundbreaking console that introduced us to our first Goomba stomp. If we’re talking the most classic of classic video games, this retro console wins, with Super Mario Bros, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Zelda, and Kirby’s Adventure (plus 25 more). Even the beautifully basic controller brings us to tears with its minimalist keys and rectangular shape. Plug in, power-on, and get all the throwback feels.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System: SNES Classic

After Nintendo re-released the NES Classic, they dropped the throwback Super Nintendo, which rocks higher-quality games, although still totally old-school and pixelated in the best ways. This 16-bit retro console also comes with an extra controller so you can play Street Fighter II in VS mode, and all it takes to procure is a trip to Target. The hand-feel of the controller gives us Blockbuster and Bop-It flashbacks and while you can get wireless controllers, don’t even think about it. Other games on the retro SNES include Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Zelda.

Sega Genesis

A massive 81 games (half full games and half arcade and puzzle games) are built into the Sega Genesis. Walmart will even provide you with a warranty if you’re the type of gamer who throws the controller every time a Super Sonic Spin Attack kills off Sonic and makes you start from the beginning. Released in 2016 to compete with Nintendo’s retro gaming comeback, Sega Genesis is for those inner-children who list the Sonic Series and Mortal Kombat as their all-time favorite games.

Pac-Man Connect and Play

If you want to go truly old school, you can’t beat Pac-Man. This portable little console comes loaded with classic Pac-Man as well as with Galaga, Rally-X, and several other old arcade games, including several later versions of Pac-Man. Just note that the unit itself is a bit old school, what with hooking up to AV jack inputs, so you may need to invest an additional few bucks into an HDMI converter.

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