While eager to pick up the 2019 Xbox One X, we’re heavily debating repurposing that $500 and grabbing a handful of our favorite retro video gaming consoles that hark back on the good ol’ afternoons of Mario, Funyons, and Hi-C. Name a better combo — I’ll wait.
The great news is that retro game consoles are having a moment, with major retailers like Kohls, Walmart, and Amazon selling the classics our parents probably threw away after high school graduation.
Forget high-definition, shun lofty storage, and get back to your roots, player. Here are the best retro consoles to power up today.
This miniature recreation of the iconic grey 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-percent 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.
Arcade1Up Street Fighter II
Three bills aren’t much when we’re talking about a full-size Street Fighter II arcade game in the comfort of your living room. With commercial-grade construction and coinless operation, this retro console from Arcade1Up brings full-color, hi-res, OG joystick grapples and punches from Ryu, Blanka, and Chun Li back into your life. Probably one of our favorite throwback games, the only downside of this console is its size-to-game ratio, whereas smaller boxes pack 20-30 options. Also your S.O. might be annoyed there’s an arcade machine in the middle of the bedroom … but hopefully, they’re into that (just remind them it’s not a full-sized arcade box at only four feet tall).
Yup, a new (old) PlayStation 2 will run you a bill of $700, but if anyone remembers playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or Tony Hawk Pro Skater you’ll know the money is so, so worth it. A staple of our developing years, PlayStation 2 developed by Sony was released in 2000 and topped the competing GameCube and Sega Dreamcast consoles by a long shot. Then, after 12 years of production, PlayStation 2 was discontinued, making it one of the longest runs for a video game console ever. So yeah, $700 is a steal.
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.
In 1982, the Commodore 64 8-bit computer was released to the world and this electronic powerhouse (at the time) became the highest-selling single computer model of all time. It’s new mini-recreation, THEC64, is technically an “emulator-based” console from Retro Games that is half the size and comes with a joystick and 64 retro games like Trailblazer II, The Fighting Machine, Jumpman, and Pitstop II. A full-size version is in the works, and we suggest waiting for that to drop.
These retro video game consoles are much harder to find new today, but if you don’t mind a few scratches, you can buy them used here. Spend as much or as little as you want; spend the rest on Pokémon cards, obviously. Don’t forget to check out resale sites such as eBay or even your local Goodwill to try and find games for these bad boys.