The Best Modern Retro Consoles

The Best Modern Retro Consoles

Nostalgia plays a big part in our lives and is often triggered by different forms of media. A favorite song from your youth, or a favorite childhood movie, for instance. Re-engaging with these things can often take us right back to those days gone by, when life was arguably simpler and more carefree.

The video games of yesteryear can be particularly nostalgic too and can evoke all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings inside. Small wonder then, that video game companies are tapping into the retro gaming phenomenon, by repurposing and repackaging some of your all-time favorite games and consoles.

And if you’re a retro gaming fan, you’ll find some of today’s modern consoles are also great for playing those classic (and forgotten classic) games on.

Here are the best modern retro gaming consoles right now.

There’s been plenty written about the Nintendo Switch OLED already, being the latest upgraded version of the original Switch console and one of the best handheld gaming consoles on the market and great fun to play in docked mode too.

What is perhaps less well known, however, is that the Switch OLED is also a great place to enjoy retro games. In addition to re-released and remastered physical versions of some of the gaming greats from the early 2000s, you can also enjoy a huge library of retro classics and bask in those gaming glory days of old!

The catch? Well, you have to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service. But so long as you don’t mind shelling out for a separate subscription service (even if it is through gritted teeth), you will find a path to retro gaming heaven!

Subscribers to the Nintendo Switch Online service have access to a catalog of classic games from the NES and the SNES consoles. And for a small additional cost, you can also have access to classics from the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis generations of consoles.

So, whether you’re into (or were into, perhaps we should say) Super Mario All-Stars, Blaster Master, Star Fox 64, or Banjo-Kazooie, you’ll find them all here. Granted, you’ll have to grease Nintendo’s palms with silver to get access to them, but as a lifelong gamer, you’re probably used to that already, hey?

Despite this glaring omission, the Nintendo Switch OLED is brilliant for retro gaming. And thanks to its versatility, you can enjoy these classics in handheld, docked, or tabletop modes.

Key Features

  • Handheld, docked and tabletop modes of play
  • 7-inch OLED display in handheld mode
  • 64GB internal storage
  • Enhanced audio

  • 4K Capability: No
  • Power Source: AC adapter
  • What’s Included: Console, docking station, two detachable controllers
  • Brand: Nintendo
  • Screen: 7-inch
  • Processing Power: Nvidia Tegra X1
  • Storage: 64GB internal storage

  • Excellent quality screen in handheld mode
  • Excellent audio
  • Large range of retro games available online
  • Improved internal storage

  • Online subscription required for access to retro titles

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If you have the bucks to spare and don’t mind the initial outlay, and would rather not pay a premium for an online service for your retro gaming fix, you could do much worse than consider the Super Nintendo Classic mini console.

Essentially, it’s the ‘Mini Me’ to the SNES’s Dr. Evil. A miniature version of the same console, roughly one-quarter of the original size. The chief differences with the mini being that there’s no working port for your games cartridges to slot into and all the available games that you’re ever likely to play on it are already pre-installed.

There are 21 retro titles included in this package, including classics like Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Super Mario Kart, F-Zero, Castlevania IV, and more. If these names are enough to whet your whistle, then you’ll likely find a lot that’s to your liking here.

An HDMI port at the back of this mini console means you can plug it straight into your TV at home. No doubt retro gamers revisit the classics for the gameplay rather than for the graphics, but still; you should probably prepare yourselves if you’re planning on hooking this up to a huge TV. It ain’t gonna be pretty!

The number of games included might not be that impressive by today’s standards, but the games themselves are. Full of charm and still great fun to play—it’s what Nintendo does, after all.

Key Features

  • Miniature version of classic SNES console
  • 21 built-in retro classics
  • Two controllers included

  • 4K Capability: No
  • What’s Included: Console, two controllers, 21 built-in games
  • Brand: Nintendo
  • Storage: N/A

  • Miniature version of one of Nintendo’s most loved consoles
  • 21 pre-loaded games cover most of the classics
  • Includes two controllers

  • Pricey
  • Could be a few more titles included

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Nintendo SNES Classic Mini

Similar to the SNES classic mini but even more retro is the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES) Classic Mini. A previous generation rebuild of the classic console with a variety of pre-loaded games for you to enjoy.

You could argue that the NES Classic Mini represents better value for money, seeing as it carries a slightly cheaper price tag and has more games installed than the SNES Classic Mini. There are 30 games from the original generation NES here, including Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, and 3, The Legend of Zelda, and Ninja Gaiden—to name a few.

However, unlike the SNES version, only one controller is included in this package. So you will need to buy another separately before you and a friend are able to get stuck into any classic two-player action. Another minor criticism of this package is that the cable that connects your controller to the console is rather mini as well, and you may therefore have to sit slightly closer to the screen than you would like.

Small niggles aside, there are hours of fun to be had here, with a decent amount of OG Nintendo titles for your gaming pleasure. Whether you plump for this or the SNES version will probably depend on which generation you grew up with.

It doesn’t get much more retro than this, though. And gaming aficionados will no doubt delight in re-treading these classics, and maybe in conquering the previously unconquerable now that their skills have matured—as some of these games are HARD!

Key Features

  • Nintendo’s original NES in miniature
  • 30 classic built-in games
  • Includes one controller pad

  • 4K Capability: No
  • What’s Included: Console, one controller pad, 30 built-in games
  • Brand: Nintendo
  • Storage: N/A

  • Classic retro gaming action
  • Decent amount of built-in games
  • More affordable than the SNES version

  • Only one controller pad included
  • Controller wire is rather short

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Nintendo NES Classic Mini

Now admittedly, if you’re a retro gamer and are looking for old-school gaming greats to occupy your spare time, then the current generation of Microsoft’s Xbox is unlikely to be top of your list for places to look. But hear us out.

There is actually a pretty staggering amount of older and even retro games to enjoy via this all-singing, all-dancing current-generation console. However, as with the Nintendo Switch OLED, access to these titles requires you to place your hands in your pocket and fork out for an online subscription service.

For Xbox Live subscribers, you can have access to titles from across four generations of Xbox gaming, all of which are yours to download and keep for however long you maintain your membership. As you might expect, there are several membership tiers to choose from.

You can download and enjoy original classics from the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One as well as the current generation of Series X games. Subscription to Xbox Live Gold also includes an EA Play membership at no additional cost. And Cloud gaming on Xbox Game Pass also supports Xbox gameplay on some of your other existing devices.

So, if you’re looking for a modern gen console but want to explore hundreds of older-generation titles as well, you can have your cake and eat it with the Xbox Series X. Offering the best of both worlds for those that don’t mind paying a little bit more for the privilege!

Key Features

  • 4K gaming supported
  • 1TB hard drive
  • 120 FPS supported
  • 8K High Dynamic Range
  • 3D spatial sound
  • 4K streaming
  • Backward compatibility
  • Xbox Games Pass offers hundreds of titles to play

  • 4K Capability: Yes
  • Power Source: AC adapter
  • What’s Included: Console, controller
  • Brand: Microsoft
  • Processing Power: 8X Cores @ 3.8 GHz
  • Storage: 1TB

  • Fantastic graphics and sound
  • 4K gaming supported
  • 3D sound
  • 1TB storage
  • Backward compatibility
  • Huge library of retro titles available online

  • Xbox Live subscription required for access to retro titles

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Still one of the best-selling handheld gaming consoles of all time, it’s the Nintendo 3DS. This new 3DS XL is the Super NES Edition and comes with a Super Mario Kart digital download as a sweetener.

But, for anybody smitten with this small and perfectly formed handheld console, just hold on a second. Because buying this (admittedly fantastic) little beauty is not a decision to be made lightly.

The price of this handheld cannot be ignored. It’s not cheap, and that’s putting it mildly. For the equivalent amount of money, you could buy two current generation gaming consoles plus one other retro games console, making this one for hardcore retro gaming enthusiasts only.

This device plays all physical Nintendo 3DS games, naturally—some of which can be played in 3D as well as 2D versions. In addition, digital titles can be purchased and downloaded via the Nintendo eShop. And these titles include—you guessed it—selected SNES games.

Bear in mind that you’ll probably need to buy an additional SD card (it comes with one 4GB SD card included) to really get the most out of the 3DS XL, and you’re looking at a costly investment.

However, for collectors and retro gaming fanatics, the 3DS is an alluring piece of kit. For anyone who wants to enjoy SNES classics on a portable handheld that feels retro itself, you may decide that the price is entirely justified.

And who are we to argue with you?

Key Features

  • Plays all Nintendo DS games
  • Takes 3D photos
  • Amiibo support for games
  • 3D technology and added control features
  • SNES titles available for download from Nintendo eShop

  • 4K Capability: No
  • What’s Included: Console, Mario Kart download code
  • Brand: Nintendo

  • Souped-up Nintendo DS with 3D capabilities
  • Plays all existing DS games
  • Can take 3D photos
  • SNES titles available for download from Nintendo eShop

  • Very expensive
  • Might require extra SD card to be purchased

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Nintendo 3DS XL Super NES Edition

Check your attic or your garage, and you’re bound to find an old box full of your old games cartridges. Why? Because sometimes it’s hard to let go, and it’s easier to pack these old treasures away to be dealt with another day than it is to discard them and those precious gaming memories along with them!

Well, now you don’t have to. Because this nifty retro console is the perfect excuse to dust off those old cartridges and inject new life into them. And that’s because this Retro Trio console is compatible with all game cartridges from the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis!

This is not an emulator. It is like playing on the original hardware. You will need the physical games from compatible consoles to play on this. Select which console you want with the flick of a switch, plug your game in, and off you go! After all, what could be more retro than playing the actual game cartridges themselves?

The Retro Trio comes with an HDMI port and two controllers that will work with whatever console selection you have made. However, should you decide you want to make the retro experience even more authentic, there are two built-in controller ports at the back, for each of the three console types supported.

So, if you have an old busted console lying around, but the controllers are still good, you can harvest them and use them here. The next best thing to playing the original consoles themselves.

The price is decent as well, making this an accessible and truly retro-feeling inclusion option. Plus you can probably pick up a few extra games from someone else’s next yard sale, too!

Key Features

  • Plays original NES, SNES and Sega Genesis game cartridges
  • Switch between consoles with the touch of a button
  • 720p HD resolution
  • Includes HDMI cable
  • Six controller ports, two for each console type

  • 4K Capability: No
  • What’s Included: Console, two wired controllers
  • Brand: Geek Theory Retro-Bit
  • Storage: N/A

  • Play original games cartridges from three classic retro consoles
  • Affordable
  • Offers true retro gaming
  • Controller ports for each console type allows original controller pads to be used

  • Must have original game cartridges to play

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Retro-Bit Super Retro Trio HD Plus

Retro handheld games are a popular addition to many gamers’ canon of devices these days. And this emulation handheld from Retroid Pocket could be just the thing for anyone in the market for a means to play retro games on a pocket-size console.

The Retroid Pocket 2 has a 3.5-inch touchscreen display and supports both Android and retro gaming, and will run for around six hours when fully charged. There are no games pre-loaded here and you will need to check first whether the game or games that you want to play can be downloaded.

With the right configuration, you can emulate a range of systems here that includes the Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo N64, and Nintendo DS. You need to be prepared to do the setup yourself, however, as this will not be ready to play straight out of the box.

The setup is simple enough; you just need to invest a little time to get what you want from this emulation handheld console.

Download APK for Android and you can access up to 500 different games to play on your Retroid Pocket 2. There is an HDMI output too, so you can plug your handheld into the TV and play via a controller instead if you wish.

Wireless link is available for two Retroid Pocket 2 consoles as well, so you can team up with a friend and enjoy multiplayer games anywhere.

A smart looking and affordable option for anybody keen to take their love of retro games with them, wherever they go.

Key Features

  • Supports a range of popular emulators
  • Over 500 games available to download
  • 3.5-inch touchscreen display
  • 6 hours of battery life

  • 4K Capability: No
  • What’s Included: Console, charging cable
  • Brand: Retroid Pocket
  • Screen: 3.5-inch
  • Storage: 8GB

  • Good quality handheld emulator
  • Supports popular systems such as Sega Dreamcast and N64
  • Wireless link for two or more consoles
  • Large library of retro games available with supported emulators
  • Touchscreen functions

  • Screen size is small
  • Investment of time required for setup

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The Powkiddy RGB10 Max 2 handheld console has a 5-inch HD screen and will run for approximately eight hours on a full charge. It also boasts a huge number of built-in games—30,000 of them, in fact!

Quantity doesn’t necessarily equal quality, however, and no doubt there are more than a few here that you might not care about. But it does mean there’s plenty to play here right from the off, and that’s not a bad thing.

More important is the fact that this Powkiddy model supports more than 30 mainstream emulators, including PlayStation One, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo N64, Gameboy Advance, and Neo Geo. Player’s choice indeed.

As with the Retroid Pocket 2, wireless link is available for two Powkiddy handhelds, so you can play multiplayer games whenever you wish. And its SD card will give players up to 128GB of storage too, which is fairly decent.

The big draw with the Powkiddy has to be the sheer number of emulators that it supports, and this is where it arguably justifies its higher price compared to the Retroid Pocket 2.

Retro gaming is in the palm of your hand with a huge range of games from a ton of classic consoles. A retro gamer’s dream. Kind of like getting all of your Christmases at once!

Key Features

  • Supports over 30 mainstream emulators
  • Includes 30,000 built-in games
  • 5-inch touchscreen display
  • 8 hours of battery life

  • 4K Capability: No
  • What’s Included: Console, charger cable
  • Brand: Powkiddy
  • Screen: 5-inch touchscreen
  • Storage: 128GB

  • Games, games, games!
  • Plenty of emulators supported
  • Decent battery life
  • Wireless link for two or more players

  • Quality of the built-in games is debateable

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Powkiddy RGB10 Max 2 Video Game Console


Q: What Is the Appeal of Retro Gaming?

Old-school video gaming can evoke a strong, wistful feeling in people who played these games “back in the day.”

The experience combines a sense of comfort with some escapism, bringing back all sorts of positive thoughts and emotions that are enjoyable for the player.

Q: Are Retro Games Better Than Modern Games?

New games have us spoiled—we can customize our characters, save whenever we want, and play with friends from around the world.

While the recent advancements in gaming can improve your gaming experience, sometimes you just have to go back to your roots.

Modern games just aren’t quite the same, and probably never will be. Retro gaming offers a unique, nostalgic, comforting, simple, and most importantly, joyous experience that’s tough to replicate.

Q: How Old Does a Game Have to Be Before It Becomes Retro?

Some people may say retro is from the last 15 years, some may say it is 20 years and others may bullishly say it’s only the games from their own youth that count.

But that’s the thing, it’s all subjective. Retro is different things to different people because retro fuels nostalgia and nostalgia is extremely personal.