If You Want to Play Classic Video Games, Buy These Consoles

Old-school Nintendo, Atari and Playstation titles are ideal quarantine partners

April 21, 2020 10:28 am
video games
Kurita KAKU / Contributor / Getty Images

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Coronavirus quarantining has us playing video games in record numbers.

But for a large segment of the population — those who don’t have the newest consoles, have no idea what “Twitch” is, haven’t picked up a physical game in years or don’t care that new iterations of Animal Crossing, Call of Duty and Doom all broke sales records upon release — everything’s a little hazy.

Maybe you remember PlayStation in college. Or NES. Or for the real old people (hello, me), getting your first Atari (and realizing Combat is both the first game you probably ever played and the worst game ever).

So, if you want to relive those gaming glory days, you have a few options. You could dust off the old console sitting in the garage, which probably no longer works. You could scour eBay and thrift stores for used consoles and games. You could find new versions of classic games for your phone or laptop, which are often cheap or even free but lack the joy of shoving in a cartridge and using an old-school joystick/controller. 

Or you could buy a classic but “new” version of systems like NES, SNES, Genesis and Playstation, all available in different formats (from consoles that take old cartridges to joysticks you literally plug in that are pre-loaded with games), some of them actually manufactured by the original gaming companies (Nintendo, Sega, Sony). 

That’s a lot of options for just wanting to relive Pac-Man or Zelda the way you remember ’em. Let’s break those down.

A “premium refurbished” Wii console with games is under $100 (GameStop)

There are better options than eBay

According to Scott Steinberg, head of video game consulting for TechSavvy and a veteran gaming writer/editor, you want to look for retailers who sell old systems that are certified and refurbished with a warranty attached. Which you’re probably not going to get at some eBay seller. 

“That’s not gonna be the case for the Genesis that’s been sitting in someone’s closet for 20 years that they’re trying to get rid of,” he says. Steinberg’s suggestion? Look for retailers like GameStop or other regional chains that offer testing, upkeep, customer service and some sort of guarantee.

The ideal is to find a product that’s certified refurbished. That changes by retailer (GameStop calls it premium refurbished), but as Amazon notes in its definition, it means the product has been “professionally restored to working order. Typically this means that the product has been inspected, cleaned, and repaired to meet manufacturer specifications. The item may or may not be in its original packaging. The manufacturer’s or refurbisher’s warranty must apply and should be included in the listing comments.” 

If you do absolutely have to use eBay, look at the user experience with the seller and the number of purchases people have made with them — the same criteria you should use for all sellers on the site. 

A classic Sonic title available on Steam (Screenshot via Steam)

Buy a new system and play old games

“While these are more authentic ways of playing older titles, gamers can get more for their money when purchasing current or last generation consoles, such as the PlayStation 3 or 4,” says Damien Mason, a technical writer at ProPrivacy. “You can play most older titles digitally via the PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store or Nintendo Eshop.” 

As well, actual old-school consoles may be even more expensive on eBay than they would be if you bought a new console.

Another trick? “If consoles are out of stock during this difficult time, a cheaper option could be to test current laptops around your household with retro games on services like Steam, GOG and Origin,” says Mason. “If you do happen to run into issues running a game, each platform has its own refund policy in place.”

Buy a new retro console 

If you want to play, say, some old-school NES games, look to see if the original manufacturer is making a console. Because they most certainly are, and they’re usually packing those (very, very cheap) plug-and-play units with dozens of classic titles. If it’s not the original manufacturer, it’s a third-party that’s created new hardware and licensed the software. 

“That’s the ideal; you just go on Amazon and find legitimate releases from Nintendo, where you have a new system or even just a joystick with hundreds of classic games that you can just plug straight into your TV,” as Steinberg tell InsideHook.

Below, a few options based on your retro console of choice:

Super NES: A palm-sized remake from Nintendo that comes with two controllers and 20 built-in games.

NES: Also miniaturized, the original Nintendo system arrives with 30 games, one controller and several retro screen modes, including a CRT filter (looks like an old TV, including scan lines 4:3: (the original NES game look with a slight horizontal stretch).

Sega Genesis Mini: The mini-sized version from Sega arrives with 42 games and two controllers. 

Playstation Classic: 20 games (you can buy more) and two controllers come in this mini version of the original Sony console.

Atari Flashback: Comes with two wired Controllers, an SD card slot (so you can download and play more games) and 110 classic games. And the video output is displayed in HD.

Polymega: For when you want to play the lesser-known classics in their original glory. Depending on your preference, this modular system plays cartridges and CD games in HD from 30 systems, including Sega Saturn, Turbografx 16, Nat Geo CD along with Nintendo and Playstation classics. Available in preorder, shipping in May. 

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