The best retro consoles for gaming enthusiasts - Gamestate

The best retro consoles for gaming enthusiasts

The best retro consoles for gaming enthusiasts

It's no secret that the video game scene has changed over the years. As a result, there are many ways to play your favorite classic games. This list of the best retro consoles examines some of the most popular classic retro consoles through time, including the Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES, SEGA Genesis, and so on.

The 1980s were the golden age of video games.

Several factors contributed to this phenomenon, including the introduction of new technologies, such as the microprocessor and 3D graphics, which enabled gaming experiences far beyond possible. 

The home video game console market was booming at this time (with over 40 million units sold by 1989). This lead many people to purchase consoles to play at home rather than going out to arcades or venues with public machines. 

The first video game console was released in 1972 (the Magnavox Odyssey). And while Pong was technically released earlier than that, it wasn't until 1974 that Atari founder Nolan Bushnell saw the potential for selling home versions of arcade cabinets like Pong through Sears Roebuck & Co.'s department store chain. 

This list examines some of our top picks from the most popular retro consoles ever

Atari 2600 (1977) 

The Atari 2600, originally known as the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), was released in 1977 and is considered one of the best retro consoles ever. It was the first popular home video game console, with over 30 million units sold worldwide.

The console was designed by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and engineer Al Alcorn with an 8-bit CPU running at 1.19 MHz. It came with classic games such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Pitfall!, which have become legendary in gaming.

The Atari 2600 used a unique cartridge system, allowing players to switch out games easily. This feature gave the console longevity, as developers could release new games for years after its initial release.

Nintendo Entertainment System: NES (1983-1985) 

The NES, or Nintendo Entertainment System, was first released in 1983 and quickly became a popular video game console among gamers. It sold over 60 million units worldwide and featured classic games such as Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and The Legend of Zelda.

The system was remarkably innovative for its time, as it was the first console to introduce a directional pad controller and use 8-bit technology, allowing for more advanced graphics and gameplay. The NES also helped revive the video game industry, which had struggled since the early 1980s due to an oversaturation of low-quality games and a lack of consumer interest.

Although the NES was eventually discontinued in 1995, it remains an iconic console that has impacted the gaming industry.

SEGA Genesis (1989)

The Sega Genesis was the first 16-bit video game console. It was released in North America in 1989, Japan in 1990, and Europe in 1991. It was also the first CD-based console to be released in North America.

Some of the most known games you could play on SEGA Genesis:

  • Sonic The Hedgehog 2: The second installment of Sega's iconic franchise introduces Tails as a playable character and adds new moves such as Spin Dash and Tail Swipe attacks. Players must defeat Dr. Robotnik while collecting golden rings along their journey through each level of this side-scrolling adventure game set in Green Hill Zone.
  • Ecco The Dolphin: Defender Of The Future (2000) - This sequel takes place after Ecco II: Sentinels Of The Universe. In this game, our hero saves Earth from destruction but finds himself stranded on an unknown planet far away from home without memory of how he got there.

Neo Geo (1990)

The Neo Geo, originally released in 1990 by SNK, is often considered the pinnacle of retro gaming consoles. It worked as a home console and an arcade machine, with arcade-style graphics and gameplay that were unprecedented for a home console at the time.

The Neo Geo was powered by a powerful 16-bit processor, making it one of the most advanced consoles of its time. It was known for its extensive library of arcade ports, with classics like Metal Slug, Samurai Shodown, and King of Fighters.

One of the standout features of the Neo Geo was its cartridge system, which allowed for high-quality graphics and gameplay that were unrivaled by other consoles of its time.

Sega Master System II (1990)

The Sega Master System II is a retro gaming console from 1990, successor to the original Master System. It was designed to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System and was popular in Europe and Brazil.

The Master System II was smaller and cheaper than the original, featuring built-in games, including Sonic the Hedgehog. It was also compatible with all of the original Master System's games and accessories. This compatibility made it an attractive option for those who already owned the first system.

One of the standout features of the Master System II was its game library. Including many classic titles such as Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, and Fantasy Zone. The system also featured improved graphics and sound capabilities compared to the original Master System.

Game Boy Advance (2001)

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) is a retro handheld console release by Nintendo in 2001. It was the successor to the trendy Game Boy and Game Boy Color consoles. Because of  its improved graphics and more advanced hardware, it quickly became a fan favorite.

One of the standout features of the GBA was its extensive library of games. Many classic franchises, such as Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, had new titles released on the GBA. However, the console original titles also became instant classics.

The GBA was also notable for its backward compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. This feature allowed players to continue enjoying their favorite games from earlier generations.

Game Boy Advance SP (2006)

The Game Boy Advance SP Advance Edition (2006) is the best retro arcade console for playing Game Boy Advance games. This device has a 2.6" LCD screen and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 10 hours when fully charged. 

The Game Boy Advance SP allows you to play your favorite classic games like Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire, Metroid Fusion, Wario Land 4, or Mega Man Zero 3!

The Sega Genesis Mini, a way to relive the past

The Sega Genesis Mini is a miniature version of the iconic 16-bit video game console first released in 1988. The mini console was released in 2019 as a tribute to the original console and featured 42 built-in games.

The Sega Genesis Mini is designed to look like the original console but smaller (hence the “mini”). It comes with two classic three-button controllers that are also smaller in size. The package includes a power cable, an HDMI cable, and two controllers. The console connects to your TV via HDMI and has a USB port for power.

The 42 games in the console are a mix of popular titles and some lesser-known gems. Some popular games include Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and Contra: Hard Corps. There are also some unique additions like Darius and Tetris.

The best retro console is the one with games you want to play!

What made these retro consoles so memorable wasn’t their graphics or new advanced features. It was the thrill of playing our favorite games! While some loved Nintendo consoles because of Pokemon or Super Mario Bros, others preferred Sonic the Hedgehog and went for SEGA.

If your favorite console didn't make it through this list, let us know in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!