I remember my first encounter with a
pre-loaded dedicated console. At the time it was just labeled “500-in-1” game device, it looked like a Nintendo 64 controller made of cheap plastic. It had a power plug and Video-RCA cables coming out of it, it was a simple device that gave you a screen and a list of titles. The games were sometimes actual licensed titles with different names or in reverse licensed names with different graphics. This odd contraption was a mere $20 at a local flea market from a vendor that mostly stocked whatever was cheapest from China at the time. It was the first time I saw the usage of pre-loaded dedicated consoles but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. With the growing number of adult gamers our memories for the games of yesterday is a strong attachment for us. To us the arcades, consoles, and emerging PC games made up the ‘Golden Age’ of gaming if you will. With that in mind were going to talk about how to lay hands on those games today.
We discussed retro gaming in a previous post in regards to the number of options and resources out there to play some of your old favorites. With the Christmas holidays around the corner I thought we’d touch base on more of the ready made products for retro gaming that might make excellent gifts for another grownup gamer you might happen to like or yourself for that matter.
I honestly don’t know if there is a better term for these types of devices so
I’m going to use ‘pre-loaded consoles’ ‘dedicated consoles’ apparently is what they are called. These are the modern ‘500-in-1’ type devices that are simply plug and play only they are licensed and packing reliable technology, most of the time. Now the limitation on most of dedicated consoles is obviously they only have so many games loaded in them. So before you get all excited about a very specific game that might be on that type of dedicated console check the game list to make sure you don’t get sad faced later!
This was especially true of the earlier pre-loaded consoles typically featuring Atari load outs or collection of Data East titles which would have like 2~3 games folks liked and about 17 others that were garbage. Actually the first more commercially available dedicated consoles I ever saw on store shelves in numbers were the Flashback units by AtGames. These were even shaped like the Atari 2600 and loaded with ROMs of system favorites. Since the market showed signs that Retro gaming was making a come back we have had the major players get involved releasing their own unique dedicated consoles of their systems long gone…
NES Classic really set the stage for the rebirth of retro games on a dedicated console. Not only did this become a hot ticket item due to limited availability it most likely jump started Nintendo into developing their library for virtual consoles on the Switch. Not to mention is still a bit of a pricey item and collectible.
SNES Classic the natural follow up to the NES Classic. Another great line up and the hardware was actually extra beefy compared to other dedicated consoles. So much so that the DIY/Hack crowd have made a number of options available for it.
Playstation Classic now this dedicated console generated a lot of buzz, the hype train was in full effect, but ultimately the lack luster game line up, mass production, and poor performance of the device itself meant sales lagged and you could and can find these pretty cheap sometimes.
Sega Genesis Mini the latest arrival to the dedicated console market but a welcomed one. Packed with the real classics of the console this unit has been the 2019 hot ticket item for retro gamers and collectors.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Cartridge)
Now I haven’t been able to find a term specific to these, but I’ve been corrected before. I have been calling these ’emulator consoles’ as they are physical hardware emulators, where a ‘console emulator’ is a piece of software. Now as mentioned previously I own a Retron unit, it’s a Retron3 I believe regardless it’s wireless controllers were absolute garbage! Trust me when going back to old school gaming go back to the wires too. While you don’t get the real full experience of slamming cartridges in after a good blasting of breath these offer you a way to play your existing cartridges or even dabble in picking some up at a local retro game store (we are going to get to those soon I promise) that you may never have heard of. Either way emulator consoles are an easy way to get back to some retro gaming on modern televisions.
Retron 5 is the newest model of the emulator console giant Hyperkin. Featuring just about every golden age console available and the controller ports to match. While pricey this unit has no shortage of options and would let any die hard retro gamer test carts at their leisure.
Classiq II HD a more recent emulator console these have been showing up right along side the Hyperkin Retron series or replacing them out right. It seems that while it doesn’t support as many consoles it does do a better and more reliable job of doing so.
Back in 1989 the GameBoy hit the streets giving Nintendo a boost in sales and what appears to be the domination over the hand held gaming market, so much so that they turned their living room console into a portable option as well. Needless to say hand held gaming is a retro and slightly modern flair but there are a few retro surprises out there.
Oregon Trail Handheld this is a PC classic from computer class rooms of the 80s contained in a small hand held device. With sound, graphics, and saved high scores this is the 5 1/4″ floppy game you remember.
Atari Flashback Portable (80 Games) a portable version of the Atari Flashback emulator console with a bonus, it can read additional ROM files off an SD card if you are so inclined. I’ve thrown quite a few titles at it without issue.
The not so handy.
Of course with the release of licensed devices and games in the name of profit come the imitators. The knock offs and in some cases knock offs of the knock offs. There are a number of handheld emulator consoles out there a number from AliExpress sold in bulk often listed via shady sites advertising through Facebook. Don’t get me wrong every once in a while there is a diamond in the rough but typically your lucky to get a working unit let alone one with superior features and games.
Handheld Games Console for Kids Adults doesn’t this device look familiar? Kinda sorta like a GameBoy color perhaps? You will find a number of these on Amazon and on a few shady sites. Most of them in the $20~$30 range which seems like a bargain til you realize they are AliExpress garbage sold for about $6 a unit or less.
AdesireFun Handheld another favorite handheld shape that shady sites have been using to pedal questionable emulator handheld devices with. Again you can find these on AliExpress and a number of shady sites making all sorts of promises.
Generally the rule with these devices is they will work, how long is questionable, the games on them also questionable, right along side just how legal they may or may not be. Chiefly cause the systems they are running are generally open source and some build of ROMs provided by the wholesale purchaser which may or may not be illegal.
Once again going back to retro gaming is made easier with dedicated consoles and handhelds. Making the games of old simply work on a modern television alone is a feat but making a device that also makes it easy and fun again is the real trick. Just look out for the ‘gotcha’ type devices out there from the DIY retro emulator devices to the wholesale goods sold via random Facebook ads or shady sites.
So we’d like to know . . .
What retro console would you like to have a miniature version of?
Have you been disappointed after purchasing a retro-emulator device?
What has been your hardest hurdle getting back to retro gaming?