Are you ready for a trip down memory lane with retro games? Classic video games like Tecmo Bowl, Tetris, Pong, and others spark so many great nostalgic memories. Believe it or not, retro games have made a comeback in a big way. In 2021 an unopened copy of Super Mario 64 sold for more than $1.5 million. And there are reports of other retro originals selling for six figures, too.
But you don’t have to spend big to experience games from the past. Through emulation, old hardware, and more, new tech can put retro gaming at your fingertips. Here are five ways to play retro games today.
1. Downloading an Unofficial Emulator
To play video games from your past, you can download an unofficial emulator. With emulators, you are downloading software onto a computer that can emulate the hardware of old like Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.
Two examples of emulators are:
- MAME: a free multi-purpose emulation framework available for Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems
- Dolphin: a free emulator specific to the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo GameCube consoles, also available for Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems
To go along with these emulators, many companies are now selling retro controllers you can hook up through Bluetooth or a USB connection.
So, if you’re looking to enjoy your Nintendo games of old, you’d buy a third-party Nintendo controller, set it up via USB to your laptop, and use it to play with your emulator. This complete setup helps to accurately simulate the retro game experience.
2. Buying a 3rd-Party Compilation Game Console
Building on the emulation option, some companies are selling compilation consoles. This is an actual console that you plug into your PC or Mac. The console comes loaded with video games from your past including games you may have played at the arcade. A compilation game console is essentially a pre-built emulator.
One of the more popular compilation consoles out there is the Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade. This third-party compilation console gives you access to retro games from virtually every historical 8-bit and 16-bit console.
Another option is the Evercade Retro Home Console. But this console also allows you to pull out your old cartridges and play them once again. This company is based in the U.K. but also sells its products to U.S. consumers through various retailers.
3. Tracking Down the Original Hardware
The most classic way to play retro games is to track down the original hardware. There’s nothing like firing up an Atari 2600, Nintendo Game Boy, or Mega Drive you haven’t seen light up in decades.
There are outlets, including retail stores (DKOldies, GameStop), that specialize in selling these pieces of gaming history. If you manage to track down the original hardware, it gives you a priceless window into the history of video games. The cost of the original hardware may be higher than other retro gaming options, but it will be the most authentic.
4. Purchasing One of the New Classic Mini Consoles
Many of the big players in the video game industry have realized that retro games are very popular, and this has led to the release of:
These new classic consoles are miniature versions of their predecessors, rereleased and preloaded with retro games. Unfortunately, the downside to each mini console is that you can’t expand their libraries; they’re limited to what ships preinstalled.
5. Playing on Virtual Consoles
Virtual consoles have become a big part of the online services provided by the major video game makers. Within each service, which usually comes as part of a subscription, you have access to an evolving virtual console library hosted online.
For example, Nintendo Switch Online makes more than 100 retro games available from its library of Nintendo and Super Nintendo consoles.
Xbox and Sony have virtual consoles as well. Xbox offers the Xbox Games Pass service, while Sony has PlayStation Plus.
The whole premise of releasing these retro games is that it breathes new life into the aging software and also is an appealing add-on to the manufacturer’s regular subscription services.
Retro Games Are Here to Stay
There’s something to be said for the fact that we want to go back and visit games developed decades ago, especially given the next-generation technology we have at our fingertips today.
Tecmo Bowl, Pong, Super Mario Bros., and more all bring smiles to our faces, even at a random mention. They strike chords of nostalgia and bring us back to our childhoods.
Thankfully, these tech options mean we can continue to play these retro games for years to come.