Here are the best retro console revivals

When it comes to gaming, the past was a simpler time. You bought your console, paid for your games, and then you sat down and played them.

No online multiplayer, no downloadable content, no guides to spoil all the fun, and no patches to get in the way of you playing. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Over the years, several companies have attempted to bring this simplicity back with a variety of retro console revivals.

These boxes plug into the back of your TV, and use emulation software to allow you to play a number of games that would otherwise be impossible (or at least, very expensive) to find as a physical cartridges.

Here are our top picks of the best boxes to have revived these retro consoles and their classic games.

UPDATE: We've added both the SNES Classic Mini and PlayStation Classic to our list of the best retro games consoles. Click through the guide to find out which could take you on a delightful trip down memory lane and which is best to leave in the past.

Following the massive success of the NES Classic Mini, Nintendo has returned to its 90s days in a more compact form with the SNES Classic Mini.

The box plugs into your TV via HDMI and comes with 21 pre-loaded games (one of which is the unreleased Star Fox 2!) as well as two mini controllers that will allow you to take advantage of multiplayer. 

The drawback of Nintendo's retro consoles is that once you've exhausted the fairly limited library you won't be able to play anything else – the console doesn't accept the original cartridges, nor does it let you download more content.

Read our full review: SNES Classic Mini review

Nintendo is going back to the start of its gaming conquest with the NES Classic Edition, a compact version of its iconic 80s console.

The box plus into your TV via HDMI and comes with 30 built-in games and a mini NES controller.

The bad news is that once you've exhausted that library you won't be able to play anything else – the console doesn't accept the original cartridges, nor does it let you download more content.

Still, for US$59.99/AU$99.95 (around £45) it's a nice nostalgic proposition, and one we'll be picking up when it rolls around on November 11.

The ZX Spectrum was one of the first mainstream home computers to come out when it was released in the UK in 1982.

It was to the UK what the Commodore 64 was in the US, a trojan horse for getting computers into homes, and a device that would inspire a generation of coders.

Yes, its keyboard was a bit of a mushy rubber mess, but with a software library that contained classics such as the original Elite, Football Manager, and Manic Miner, you can’t exactly fault the little console that could.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega looks nothing like the original console. Rather than having a full QWERTY keyboard, the console is instead packed completely into a controller which has 1,000 games built-in.

The device is available now for £99.99 (around $130), but the manufacturer Retro Computers has recently completed an IndieGoGo campaign to fit the console into a handheld form factor.

Everyone remembers the Mega Drive (or the Genesis as it was known in North America). Acting as Sega’s competitor to Nintendo’s SNES, the console was home to such classics as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Earthworm Jim.

Unlike some of the other hardware on this list, the console, which is manufactured by Chinese firm At Games, will play any original Mega Drive cartridges that you have lying around.

Don’t worry if you’ve not got any old cartridges lying around though, since the console comes with 80 game pre-installed, including Mortal Kombat and Golden Axe.

Also unlike the original Mega Drive, the new console supports wireless controllers so you don’t have to worry about the mess of controller cables that used to plague console gamers.

The console is available in a console and handheld configuration, which will both be available this October for $65/£49.99.

Whereas other consoles on this list consist of completely custom designed hardware, the Vectrex Regeneration is slightly different since it’s first and foremost an iPad app.

Simply download the app onto an iPad, and such classics as Cosmic Chasm, Fortress of Narzod and…Solar Quest?

Ok we’re less sold on the games, but if you combine the app with an iCade iPad housing things get a lot more interesting. Simply connect your iPad to the cabinet via bluetooth, slot it in place, and have fun playing games as they were originally intended with arcade controls in a box that closely resembles the form-factor of the original console.

The app itself is available for iOS for $2.99/£2.29, but unfortunately the iCade cabinet appears to be a little harder to come by Amazon US is selling the cabinet new for $195 and Amazon UK has them for £59.99.

It might not be as portable as other handhelds, but the SupaBoy gives you a SNES you can take on the go.

It even goes one better than the NES Classic Edition by accepting original SNES and Super Famicom cartridges.

Other than the 3.5-inch LCD screen, the SupaBoy is designed to look just like the original SNES pad, while the two front ports are compatible with SNES controllers if two of you fancy playing on it like a regular TV.

The length of the rechargeable battery seems to vary a bit, but you’ll be looking at close to the four hour mark.

While the handheld’s form factor seems convenient, it’s unlikely to be of much use to anyone without some old SNES cartridges lying around. Since the SupaBoy is unlicensed, Hyperkin is unable to include any games as built-in software.

So it’s appeal might be limited, but if you do happen to have a couple of cartridges lying around then you could do a lot worse than trying out the SupaBoy, which can be found on various auction sites for around $80 (£60).

The PlayStation Classic console is certainly fun, but we feel like it's missing a trick. Sony could’ve followed in Nintendo’s footsteps by releasing a populist's retro console, one that had the undisputed best games of the era like Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy 8 and 9 or Tomb Raider. 

But that's not the PlayStation Classic. 

It doesn’t include the majority of the console’s greatest hits and instead opts for some cult classics like Persona and Jumping Flash among a few well-received titles. Using Sony’s retro console is therefore a lot less like walking down memory lane, an experience we had with the SNES Classic and NES Classic Mini, and a lot more like a sample platter of what the PlayStation had to offer 20-some-odd years ago. 

Of course, some people might develop a real attachment to games like Destruction Derby, Ridge Racer Type 4 and Intelligent Qube – and if that's you, then the PlayStation Classic is going to be everything you've ever wanted in a retro console. 

If not, however, then you'll be disappointed with the game selection, unimpressed by the lackluster interface and forced to watch, often in horror, as late '90s FMVs are brought to life like Frankenstein's Monster on your 4K or 1080p TV.

Read our full review: PlayStation Classic review

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