The PS5 and The Xbox Series X may be the latest console to hit the market, but retro gaming has made a comeback of its own in recent years. re-imagine the classic Mario at replicas of the consoles themselves, games of the 80s and 90s arouse love from new and old audiences. Even Plex, the streaming service and creator of Media Center applications, just announced a new feature where you can stream games to your TV for a monthly subscription.
But some of these old games are available on so many different platforms, it’s hard to know which one is better – if you’re playing the trigger of a stopwatch on your PC, phone or Super Nintendo hidden in your parents’ basement? Are all-in-one emulation systems like Raspberry pie worth the effort on a NES Classic Edition or Sega Genesis Mini? We are here to help you.
“ Virtual consoles ”: as easy as it gets
Many games, especially those not tied to absurd licenses, are easily playable on modern consoles thanks to the manufacturer’s online game stores. This became popular in the Wii era with Nintendo Virtual Console on Wii, Wii U, and 3DS, which allowed you to purchase and download individual classic games to play on your modern machine. If you have one of these systems, this is arguably one of the easiest ways to play these older games, and the selection is pretty decent. It even includes some Nintendo 64 games, which are not as common on other platforms or easy to emulate. While the Virtual Console was not without quirks, the Wii U Virtual Console had issues with emulation, input lag, and a noticeable dark shade to many games – it is still quite reliable with a large library. The Wii eShop is now closed, but the 3DS and Wii U digital game stores remain open in the US if you still own that older hardware.
Nowadays you tend to see these “virtual consoles” as subscription services, like Nintendo Switch online (which offers “over 80 games” from Nintendo and Super Nintendo for a monthly fee) or Playstation now (which offers 700 PS2, PS3 and PS4 games as part of a subscription). Both companies also sell backward compatible games and remastered ports on their respective online stores, such as Super Mario 3D All-Stars and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Just click Buy and start playing. In some cases, you may even be able to enter retro style controllers that match the look and feel of the originals.
Mini “ classic ” systems: modernizing the old school
Nintendo started a trend with its first mini console. Now you can buy tiny replicas of all of your childhood favorites, including the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation, Atari 2600, and more. Some are higher quality than others (Nintendo’s are great, Sony’s are disappointing), but all aim to be plug and play, fully compatible with modern TVs. These tend to come with a selection of popular games built in, along with a few extra features (like save states) and customization options (like CRT filters and other goodies).
These mini-machines have more limited libraries than virtual consoles, but are just as easy to configure. Plus, some had limited prints and are harder or more expensive to acquire, but if you like the added novelty of having a small console – not to mention the more authentic controller – this is a great way to rebuild the collection. retro of your youth.
Mobile and PC ports: irregular, but practical
In some cases, you may be able to find your favorite game (s) directly from the IOS App Store, Google play store, or on PC via a store like Steam. It can provide a similar convenient way to play, especially if you already take your phone with you everywhere. The quality of these ports, however, can be anywhere on the map.
For example, Sega’s ports of Sonic the hedgehog, Sonic 2, and Sonic CD are stellar remasters of their classic counterparts. They play on widescreen for modern displays, add the ability to play like other characters, and let you choose between Japanese and American soundtracks. Last year’s reissue of Doom 64 was also praised for its quality. On the other hand, the mobile version of Mega man x was largely panicked due to its improper use of screen space and slow speed. the trigger of a stopwatchPC port of started out as an absolute mess, but was later corrected with a series of fixes. And many other terrible ports have come and gone from the App Store over the years, no longer available for download.