Retro Video Gaming Reviews,
for Console, Handheld, PC and Arcade Games
Welcome to my website!
This is a site dedicated to the hobby of retro and classic video gaming, with all the information to help you get a solid start in your classic-gaming adventure.
Video games have been enthralling and entertaining the public for more than half a century now and there is a long and rich history to this art form. Modern gaming is the culmination of many lessons learned over the decades, but the mainstreaming and hyper-commercialization of video games has also changed them in a fundamental way. Many of the specific thrills, experiences, and true challenges these games have provided in the past are more or less gone from modern games.
Thankfully, this does not mean that you and I can’t experience those games of yore for ourselves. On my site I’ll show you how you can get those experiences again. There are cheap ways, expensive ways, and mid-priced ways. We’ll be looking at them all.
The Retro Powers at Hand
I’ve spent a lot of time looking through different retro gaming solutions on the web and I’ve come up with a few choice products that I think are, for one reason or another, the best examples of their categories.
Sure they aren’t perfect, but what I was looking for is the best blend of price, experience, and performance. I’m pretty confident that at least one of these will scratch your retro-gaming itch.
So where do I suggest you start? Well, you may be surprised to hear this, but handheld consoles are one of the best places to get into retro games.
The Best Handheld Retro Gaming System: The New Nintendo 3DS
Yup, you heard me right. The New 3DS, which is an upgrade on the original model, is one of the best places to play classic Nintendo games as well as Game Gear games. Sure, you are limited to the digital selection, but that selection has some of the most important games on those systems. Crucially, the New 3DS let’s you play a selection of SNES games, which is unique to it. In addition you can play GB, GBC, NES, Game Gear, and DS games. The 3DS takes DS cartridges directly, so you can play anything you want from that system as long as it doesn’t need an accessory, since there is no GBA slot.
That makes this little handheld one of the most extensive retro gaming machines you can buy today.
Next Best Choice: Nintendo 2DS
I’ve already explained the key differences between the 2DS and New 3DS above, but to recap – the 2DS is a cheaper, non-3D console that plays 99% of the games in the New 3DS catalog.
It’s a great little console for the retro gamer and if you can live without the SNES support it’s a fantastic deal.
The Collector’s Choice: Hyperkin SUPABOY Portable Pocket SNES
If you are still sitting on a heap of SNES cartridges or have easy access to those, a console such as the 3DS or 2DS are of little use to you. After all, if you want to play your games again you’ll need to rebuy them on the Eshop. The SUPABOY from Hyperkin, the same company that makes the Retron 5, gives you a hand held, portable way to play those cartridges.
This is essentially a SNES squeezed into a handheld. It can take all SNES peripherals and can be connected to a TV to use as a full console. It will work with Japanese Super Famicom cartridges as well.
Some people have mentioned minor issues with the built-in D-pad, but nothing that’s a deal-breaker. Right now this is the best way to play SNES cartridges on the go, and it’s a well-priced and solid piece of kit.
If you are sitting on a collection of cartridges or want to get into the hobby, you may find that original consoles are either very hard to find or hard to find in a working condition. Luckily, we have a range of clone consoles to choose from that will play your original cartridges. They’ll also take original controllers and support multiple systems. Choosing the best is not as easy as you may think, but I gave it a go anyway.
Best Retro Clone Console: Retro-Bit Super RetroTRIO
The hottest segment of the retro-gaming world when it comes to cartridge-based games has to be the respective libraries of Sega and Nintendo. The NES, SNES, and Megadrive have some of the most famous and well-made games in gaming history on them. So it’s a good thing that the Retro-Bit RetroTRIO has room for all three cartridges in one system. Sure, there are other clones systems that can take more than just these three types of carts, but there is a lot the TRIO has that I think justifies its top spot.
In any case, using a cartridge adapter also gets you GameBoy Advance compatibility, and some people have managed to find Master System converters that both fit and work.
The TRIO also comes with two lovely SNES controllers to get you started. It really is a great little kit to get things going in your retro gaming hobby.
Second Pick: Hyperkin Retron 5
The Retron 5 has certainly received its share of bashings online and there are a fair number of criticisms about the console that definitely have merit. The included controllers suck, it’s more expensive, and it doesn’t even play the roms off your cartridges. Instead, it rips them to the internal memory and then uses emulation to run them. As I mentioned in my review of the RetroTRIO above, some games have enough lag so that they are effectively unplayable.
That being said, the Retron 5 has HDMI output, upscaling, support for decent controllers, and can natively take NES, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Megadrive, Famicom, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and GameBoy Advance cartridges without the need for any extra attachments. Although, you can use the Sega Power Base in order to play Master System games on it.
If any of that appeals to you and the near-tripling in price is not an obstacle to your enjoyment, then this is a great choice with livable compromises. Especially if you are after those rare RPGs for the Famicom that don’t rely on low-latency controls.
What if neither of these solutions provide what you want? What if you want the freedom to play what you want, but don’t want to bother with all that cartridge collecting and sourcing?
You may be just the kind of person who would be interested in a microconsole. What’s that, you ask? Well, a microconsole is basically a machine that takes the guts and software of a smartphone and hooks it up to your TV and a controller. Believe it or not, most mid- to high-end smartphone hardware can give even the last generation of consoles a run for their money.
These microconsoles can be setup to run emulators for almost every retro system out there. They can also do much more than this and they don’t cost very much either.
There’s a lot of cheap trash on the market as well, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to the best one out there.
The Best Microconsole: Mad Catz M.O.J.O
Mad Catz may be better known for their professional arcade fightsticks, but the company has branched out into a wider range of gaming hardware that now includes this little baby, the M.O.J.O.
This is a really little powerhouse based on the Nvidia Tegra 4 hardware system; there is little in the way of Android software this will not run. It also has access to a vast library of software titles from multiple app stores. The Mad Catz controller that’s included in the bundle is also one of the best on the market when it comes to Android controllers. The M.O.J.O is, in my opinion, the best all-round microconsole on the market, and for retro-gamers it’s a steal.
The Next Best Thing: Sony PS Vita TV
The Playstation Vita has a rather sad story. It was (and is) the most powerful dedicated handheld gaming console, but a high price, expensive memory cards, and a lack of first-party support from Sony meant that the Vita never really got off the ground.
Despite this, this great handheld has a massive catalog of games that includes a huge digital library of PS1 games and a similarly large array of games for the original PSP. There is also a good deal of HD remasters of great PS2 games that have been released for the Vita.
So now we have the Vita TV, which is a little box that contains all the guts of the handheld Vita, but plugs into your TV instead. This gives you access to all the PS1 digital classics, all digital PSP games, and most of the Vita roster. Be sure to check the compatibility list though, since many Vita games that rely on its touch screens won’t work with the Vita TV.
It should be noted that the PS4 currently can’t emulate PS1 and NO ONE has a proper PSP emulator other than the Vita. So unless you want to buy a busted old PSP, this is the only way to tap into that console’s awesome back catalog.
The Vita TV has been as much of a damp squib as the Vita itself, which means you can buy it for an absolute song these days. You can also buy it standalone if you already have a PS3 or PS4 controller.
On top of all this, you can use the Vita TV to stream your PS4, so if you hook it up to a bedroom TV you can keep playing even if your PS4 is far away.
The PS Vita TV is a great little device and if you are a Playstation retro gamer it is one of the best little gifts you can get yourself, hands down.
The Next Next Best Thing: Steam Link
If you’ve read my guide to retro PC gaming you’ll know that the PC is one of the best retro gaming platforms money can buy. Most PC games these days are bought through the Steam digital storefront.
However, when we want to game on the couch on a big TV it can be a real drag having to carry your computer there and hooking it up. Computers also tend to be noisy and rather in the way.
The Steam Link is a really inexpensive way to bring your computer to your living room, without actually moving anything. It’s a little box that connects to your TV and then allows you to plug in (preferably wireless) keyboards, mice, and game controllers. You can then stream any software you launch with the steam client to your TV over your home WiFi network.
The Steam Link simply acts as a relay for all your controller, keyboard, and mouse inputs while decoding the video stream from the computer’s video card.
Because it’s local streaming over your high-bandwidth router there is no perceptible lag, giving you almost the same experience as sitting right in front of your PC. You can also connect the rather revolutionary Steam controller wirelessly to the Steam Link without using up a port, but just about any wired standard game controller will work.
You can easily stream non-Steam games by simply adding them to your Steam library, and from there on it’s all plug and play.
Not to mention, there are many classic games available to buy on Steam directly, so if you already have a PC that you play classic games on, the Steam link is a hyper-affordable way to move that experience to your lounge.
Arcade Systems: Got a Quarter?
The ultimate experience in the memories of most retro-gamers has to be found in the now-extinct arcades of yesteryear. Noisy, colorful, and filled with weird people and smells, the arcade is where you and your friends wanted to be. These systems had no equal at home, and at the time were worth every quarter you dropped into their hungry maws.
Playing arcade games at home is no longer hard, however. Using a microconsole or PC with an arcade stick hooked up to a giant TV can be fun. Building your own arcade cabinet with components such as the JAMMA board is also a worthwhile project. That being said, a professionally-made arcade machine is the ultimate expression of retro-gaming love. It’s also an incredibly effective way of turning an otherwise dowdy man-cave or game room into a living and breathing space. A big arcade machine is a centerpiece not only to be played with but to be admired. It turns a place into a social space and, despite the high price tag, can be the best indulgence you ever buy.
So, let’s get to it, which is the best home arcade you can buy?
The Best Home Arcade: Viewlix Clone Arcade
To say that this was a tough choice is an understatement. The Viewlix machine is a wonder to behold, a joy to hear, and by all accounts great to play on, but it isn’t in any way a classic arcade cabinet. If you read the full review you’ll see I have a backup in case that’s a deal breaker, but this choice was based on my imagining actually putting this in my home and playing with friends.
I think the Viewlix is a great mix of modern and classic, taking the best of both. For horizontal arcade games it will be awesome, and you can also play vertical ones with a bit of squashing. Not ideal, but a lot cheaper than buying a separate dedicated vertical machine.
While the Viewlix looks more like an old jukebox than an arcade machine, the pumping sound and giant screen turn this into a showstopper; that’s why I think it’s the best home arcade machine money can buy.
Second Pick: Pro Arcade Multi Arcade Tornado
What if you can’t get over the lack of authenticity the Viewlix comes with? Well, there’s always this gorgeous Tornado from Proarcades.
This is a real-deal arcade cabinet with a 26” LCD screen and more tightly-spaced controls. This is much closer to the setup we remember as kids.
The base model includes a small StreetFighter decal, but for an extra $250 you can get a full decal set for various classic games, which looks amazing!
This uses the same 2019 games JAMMA system as the Viewlix, so the games themselves will look and play the same. It will also play both vertical and horizontal games, with a bit of picture stretching to make it all work. The only way to get perfectly accurate picture is to buy a cabinet with a dedicated vertical screen. They are out there, but it means paying twice.
This has a built-in dolly and a three-year warranty. It’s not much cheaper than the Viewlix, but if you want a proper cabinet, this is the way to go.
Third Pick: Bartop Arcade with 412 Games
Both of my top choices here have one glaring flaw – vertical gaming. Many arcade games had their screen mounted either vertically or horizontally. Games like Galaga and PacMan were specifically designed to take advantage of the extra vertical space. If you play them on a horizontal screen they have to be squashed a bit in order to fit. That’s not the end of the world, but the games do lose a bit of their charm. Vertically-scrolling games like Galaga especially lose their sense of speed a bit.
That’s where cabinets like this one come in. You won’t find any horizontal games on it and there are only 412 of them, but this is as authentic a vertical setup as you are likely to get.
This specific model comes with Galaga decals, but you can choose from a few options. This is also a single-player model meant for a bar-top.
If you don’t have space and want to play high-score single-player games, this is a great choice, though. The other plus point is that at under nine hundred bucks this is one of the cheapest arcade cabinet solutions you can get.
The screen is a 19” LCD unit and there are four game buttons. If any of the games on the 412-long list tickle your fancy, this is a great addition to the club room, entertainment room, or, heck, even bedroom.
Classic Computer Gaming
There’s a final piece to this puzzle and the chances are you already know it quite well. It’s the humble PC you or someone that you know probably have sitting on your desk right now.
The PC fits into retro gaming in two ways. The first is that the PC itself has been a platform with decades worth of classic games just waiting to be rediscovered. Getting them to work properly is also generally not that hard and you don’t have to buy a special computer to do it.
The second aspect of retro gaming on a PC is using it to emulate other systems. This is a little more muddy, but also not terribly hard.
I explain PC retro gaming in more detail in this guide to PC Retro Gaming and invite you to give it a read.
If you do decide to use your PC for retro game emulation, one thing you absolutely DO want is the right controller system, and these days there are a whole lot of choices for the PC.
Choosing one that’s the “best” is sort of a moot point, since it depends on what system you want to emulate. I can, however, pick out the control I think is the most necessary. By that I mean a game controller that simply can’t be adequately emulated by a modern-style controller. When we frame the question that way there really is only one answer.
The Best Retro Controller for PC: Retrolink Nintendo 64 Classic
The N64 is amazing in so many ways. It’s historically significant as the point where Nintendo went 3D and also where the gaming world diverged into the mainstream, with the Sony Playstation making gaming “cool” for everyone.
Since then Nintendo has stuck to its guns and so far has kept releasing the games it wants to. The N64 was the start of a fine Nintendo tradition of not caring about wacky controls or fun, but limited, gimmicks.
The N64 controller in particular is like nothing either Nintendo or anyone else had done at that point. The SNES control was pretty conventional and modern dualshock-style controllers definitely share DNA with it. The N64 trident-style controller is another beast entirely. If you want to play emulated N64 games you really don’t have much of a choice, you have to get a proper clone controller and among those controllers the Retrolink N64 Classic is the best.
Is it good in absolute terms? Well, it’s good enough and definitely the best solution to playing N64 games on PC without tracking down an original control and finding a converter.
Runner Up: 8bitdo SNES30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller
The SNES is simply one of the best systems ever made and a fitting cap on the excellent 16-bit 2D-gaming generation. So many classic games live on this platform that it’s almost impossible to decide on the top ten games on any given day. SNES emulation has also become finely perfected, which means there isn’t much to sacrifice if you choose the emulation route.
The final piece of the SNES puzzle is an authentic controller. Now, the SNES controller layout was actually quite prophetic, with four face buttons and two shoulder buttons. This means that you can get away with using a modern Xbox or similar control that can duplicate the layout perfectly. Still, there’s a lot to be said for the feel and simplicity of a replica controller and so this SNES30 controller from 8bitdo scratches a very particular itch. It has the right colors for the SNES (the Japanese Super Famicom had a different scheme) and really looks the part.
This is a wireless Bluetooth unit, but you can also use a USB tether, which makes it highly compatible. Apart from being PC-friendly it will also work with iOS and Android, just note that (obviously) this controller does not conform to Apple’s MFi program, but quite a few retro iOS games will support it. Getting non-MFi controllers to work with iOS devices is a real pain though, so maybe Apple fans should skip this one.
For the rest of us this is one of the nicest, cleanest ways to get our SNES on.
Third Pick: Hyperkin Inc Genesis
Hyperkin may be famous (or infamous) for their Retron consoles, but they also make a bunch of other stuff related to retro gaming – this Genesis controller being a prime example.
Unlike the SNES controller, the original genesis layout does not translate well to a modern controller with four face buttons, which makes for a rather awkward experience. Although not all Genesis games make use of the six-button controller (it shipped with three face buttons originally), those that do make use of this format really need to be played with one. Beat-em-ups like Mortal Kombat, Clay Fighter, and innovative masterpieces like Lost Vikings absolutely must use this controller.
Finding a good Genesis controller clone is actually surprisingly hard. Hyperkin doesn’t make the highest-quality gaming components, but it is in the upper echelons of the retro market.
This Genesis clone doesn’t feel either expensive or cheap; it’s just right. And the price is just right too. Buy two, get a friend, and experience that blast processing all over again. If you want the most authentic retro gaming experience you can have with Genesis games on a PC, this is the only game in town, as far as I am concerned.
All-In-One Video Game Consoles
A dedicated console is one that generally has no way of playing external media. All of its games are preloaded and you get what you get. Often nothing on these consoles is replaceable and if one component (like the controller) wears out, that’s it. So in many ways they are pretty disposable.
Still, for the “casual” retro gamer dedicated consoles are an affordable and convenient way to get your game on. No setup, no looking for old cartridges and no struggling to make it work on your TV – just plug and play.
I’d love to say picking the best one was hard, but that would be a lie.
Best Dedicated Retro Console: NES Classic Edition
Nintendo has always been a great company for retro gamers. Their systems are usually at least backwards compatible with the previous generation. Nintendo is also pretty good at providing digital emulation copies of games across its modern consoles too, which is why we were just talking about the New 3DS. But now the big boys themselves have produced a dedicated retro machine that is set to mainstream the hobby in a big way.
The NES Classic is dirt-cheap and high-quality, and comes pre-loaded with 30 of the best NES games. It outputs in HD and provides three ways to render the games, including a faithful pixel-perfect view that has never been available to the public.
You better put in your order sooner rather than later, since the NES Classic is likely to be in hot demand for a long time.
Runner Up: AtGames Sega Genesis Classic Game Console
For a long time AtGames was, well, the only game in town when it came to all-in one consoles. Things are not changing, but they still have a wealth of products in the market. Since it’s not at all clear that Sega will get back into the hardware game themselves, licensed products like these are your best bet for Mega Drive/Genesis gaming.
AtGames has been making a Genesis knock-off for more than a decade, but got officially licensed around 2007. Their previous consoles have been a little spotty, to be honest, with emulation accuracy in the 90-95% range, but always just a little off. The included games have also been a mixed bag of great classics and terrible homebrew stuff.
The big differentiator, though, is that their consoles have had a cartridge slot, meaning that strictly speaking this is a dedicated console hybrid that let’s you play whatever carts you have – if the ROM is compatible, that is.
This latest version is clearly priced to compete with the NES Classic Edition. You get two controllers and, once again, a mix of proper Sega games and a bunch of others no one cares about. Still, the original Sega games number 40, which is ten more than Nintendo. There are some good ones too, such as the important Sonic games and the Mortal Kombat’s.
This is the best dedicated Genesis console you’ll find today, but the truth is it’s just a little short of being good. Hopefully the NES Classic will spur a better product on, but if you MUST play Genesis now then this is the best you can get.
If you’re new to retro gaming, the above may all be a little confusing. I invite you to read my article “What is Retro Gaming About?” to help you understand what’s behind this suddenly-popular hobby. After that I’d recommend that you read my retro gaming buyer’s guide to get a good overview of what you could buy and why. If you want to deepen your knowledge beyond that quick guide, you should also read my article on console generation.
Once you’ve worked through all of that you should be well-equipped to get started in the retro-gaming scene.
Blasts From The Past
With a trusty Master Sword and a little help from this helpful sprite we’ve made it to the end of our quest! If you read through my site in its entirety you are now well prepared to brave the stores and retro gaming community spaces in order to find and play the best history has to offer.
Before I say goodbye, don’t forget to give my about page a look and if you like my site feel free to share it with your friends on social media.