Gamers seem hard-wired for digital nostalgia. To cash in on this, Nintendo has released the NES Mini, a hand-sized reboot of the classic NES console.
It comes with 30 games built in, and HD compatibility. You can even save games! The NES Mini is clearly plug-and-play nostalgia in a box, available right in time for Christmas. Here’s a quick look:
But what if you have zero interest in the Nintendo NES Mini? Perhaps your gaming hot button is from days further past, or for a different platform from the same era. Gamers have always been tribal, and they were never more so than in the 1980s. Older games will recall the huge rift between gaming on a computer, and playing on a console.
So, you want a retro gaming system, but you aren’t interested in the NES Mini. What, then, are your options?
For some, the name “Atari” is synonymous with gaming. While the company slipped from relevance under the assault from Sony and Nintendo game consoles in the mid-1990s, its own consoles, such as the Atari 2600, are fondly remembered.
So, you won’t be surprised to find that a new version of the Atari console has been released, complete with joysticks, paddles, and 101 titles. Among the options are well-known games like Missile Command, Breakout, and Crystal Castles.
Due to the standard of the graphics, you’ll only be able to use the built-in RCA cables. The solution is to make sure your TV has compatible ports before buying.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all the remounted and updated retro gaming platforms, this is an ARM-based version of the legendary Amiga computer, produced by Commodore. Sold as an A500 model, it nevertheless has support for the AGA generation of games from the A1200 and CD32 devices. That’s a lot of games. Oh, and it runs Android, too.
Two versions are available.
First is the Armiga Small Sized Edition (around $130 plus shipping), featuring two USB ports, a HDMI port and an 8 GB Class 10 SD card. A power supply unit is also included. This device comes with the OS installed (Kickstart 1.3 and the 3.1 license) and three games pre-installed. If you like, you can add your own to the SD card. The Armiga is available in black or white 3D-printed case and weighs just 200 grams.
Second is the Full Edition (approximately $180 plus shipping), also in white or black. This features a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive and disk controller, as well as the hardware and software features of the smaller version. Thanks to the disk drive, you can back up your old Amiga disks to SD card, and archive them: games, save games, documents, images, and more!
Both Armiga devices are limited editions, so if you’re interested in buying one (or both) we suggest you take this opportunity before they sell out! Otherwise, you’ll be stuck emulating the Amiga on your PC the old-fashioned way.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega
North American gamers might be unfamiliar with the original Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a low-budget home computer with a black wedge shape and grey rubber keys. Like an ultra-cheap Commodore 64, games were loaded via cassette, as disk drives were far too expensive.
35 years later, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega recalls the best bits about the original (the games, mostly) and revives them in a successful crowdfunding project that delivers 1,000 games to you for just $X.
This is a smartphone-sized handheld console/controller that connects directly to your TV. In addition to the bundled games, you can add your own via the SD card slot. Controls are typical fare for a handheld device, but with grey buttons that ape the original keyboard.
Intriguingly, this isn’t all. Release of a Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega Plus model is imminent, a handheld device with a built-in display and USB charging.
Predating the NES Mini is this Sega Mega Drive tribute, a smaller-than-expected console with 80 games built in. Designed to be plugged directly into a TV, the console comes with wireless controllers.
But where this device differs is that it is designed to accept genuine Sega cartridges from your collection! It doesn’t matter if your games were from North America (NSTC) or Europe and the UK (PAL SECAM), these cartridges will run on the Sega Mega Drive Classic Game Console.
What would be nice is if the Atari and Nintendo NES Mini were perhaps upgraded at a future date to match this level of functionality. In the meantime, Sega Mega Drive owners of days past who still own their original cartridges will be snapping this bargain up!
With an impressive 60 built in games, this is a re-release of the original ColecoVision console from 1982. Compared to the Atari consoles of the time, this offered a better gaming experience, more akin to what was available in the arcades. Included in this pack are memorable titles such as Venture, Zaxxon, Space Panic, and Jumpman Junior.
Although not remembered as fondly as the Atari consoles, the ColecoVision had quite unusual controllers. These featured a stubby joystick with a numberpad, and supported overlays for different games. Some overlays are included in the ColecoVision Flashback pack, for a nostalgic bonus. Note that the controllers are digital, rather than analogue, making for a less authentic gaming experience.
Early in this current wave of retro gaming nostalgia, gaming platforms from days past were offered to fans in a different way. Rather than compact versions of the original console, manufacturers offered joysticks loaded with the hardware to emulate the games. By connecting these direct to a TV, you could then start playing.
All manner of game-loaded joysticks were created, and these are still available on Amazon and eBay, usually under the 10-in-1 or 20-in-1 label. You might find versions for the Commodore 64, Atari consoles, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, Sega Genesis, and even the single game that kick-started the gaming craze: Space Invaders!
What’s Your Retro Gaming Addiction?
If you’re not a fan of Nintendo, there’s a strong chance that you found something here to get that nostalgia fix. Arguably, there’s one big name missing: the Commodore 64. We know that a crowdfunding project has been trying to rectify this, and perhaps it will see success eventually.
These devices might be good enough to run the classic games, but they might not do it in the way you like. Switching digital controllers for the original analogue joysticks might be a problem, for instance. Some revived retro gaming systems are reported to have poor sound, meanwhile, no doubt a shortcoming of the emulation software. In short, your mileage may vary. But for the best results, get hold of an old CRT TV.
How do you like to enjoy retro games? Do you prefer to run an emulator, or dig out your original hardware? Perhaps your preference is to use MAME for arcade gaming machine nostalgia on your PC, or simply install classic games on your iPhone or Android device?
Tell us in the comments.