All in one retro gaming consoles
Why is retro gaming so popular?
Why would people still want to play these old games today? Who would be into retro gaming when modern gaming is so technologically advanced now with graphics and sound that are beyond anything we could have dreamed of a number of decades ago?
Old games from the 1980’s to 1990’s, have low resolution graphics with large pixels and can only do basic sound effects with ditty tunes playing in the background. They were all of an era of CRT televisions, so no high definition or 4K graphics here. Things have moved on a lot since then, so why the interest?
Like old cars, music, films and television shows, the same goes for retro gaming. There is a huge following for it. People of a certain age will have played these games when they were new and are revisiting their youth. For other people, it was before their time, but they still love these old games. Don’t get me wrong, these people will still like modern gaming as well, but retro gaming has a special place as well.
Retro gaming has a certain charm about it
Gaming has changed a lot in recent decades. Games of the 1980’s and 1990’s have a certain charm about them. They are mainly 2D games and can fall into categories like shoot ’em ups, platform, racing, adventure, etc. This was a simpler time and the games reflected this. But there is one huge thing these old games have, and that is playability.
They are just so enjoyable and addictive. Older games can be very difficult and can present a real challenge to complete. Modern gaming has often been criticised for being too easy and wanting you to complete them. A lot of older games have higher levels that are out of reach to some and only the best players can get to them.
For me, the graphics and sound is almost secondary to how playable a game is. A modern game can have amazing graphics and sound, but if it lacks good playability, then my interest will soon fade. I would sooner settle for a more basic looking and sounding game and have amazing playability to keep me interested for ages.
So what are these all in one retro game consoles all about?
As great as retro gaming can be, the hardware can present its own problems. Electronic devices are not made to last forever. The main culprits are electrolytic capacitors. Over time they will often leak and fail. This involves stripping down the device and replacing components, cleaning up internal mess, dust and grime. Even then after all this work, things can still go wrong with semiconductor devices failing and other assortments of problems. A die hard retro gamer will deal with all of this and get things working, but for others, this can be too much and put them off.
So a solution to this which has proven very popular are all in one consoles to recapture those good times. Companies make game consoles with permission from the original manufacturer and will often look like the console it portraying. The console will have a number of built in games internal to it and will basically play them all out of the box with no additional expense or effort.
This is not anything new and some have been around for over a decade now. We will just look at the more recent ones. This list is just really the tip of the iceberg and there are many others available. Other ones available might not have permission from the original manufacturer, but could actually have better game selections or features.
Also check out our list of retro all in one handheld consoles here.
Nintendo Entertainment System
Nintendo is a brand that has been around for a very long time and the NES and SNES consoles are the ones that really put them on the map for home console gaming. The NES and SNES are 8 bit and 16 bit consoles respectively. They both had a huge following worldwide and their impact on retro gaming is massive.
First up is the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Mini. This console contains 30 games and comes with one controller. Extra controllers are available separately. For some reason the UK version does not include a mains adaptor. You just need a USB style mains adaptor which are very common these days.
The first thing you will notice about this console is its size and that it will sit in the palm of your hand. It is really cute and looks just like the real thing and it uses an HDMI connector to connect to your television or monitor. The controller is the normal size and is pretty decent in its operation, but its cable is very short and will not allow you to sit too far away from the console. The operation of the console and game playing is really 2600good and will keep most people happy.
The included games are Balloon Fight, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Dr. Mario, Excitebike, Final Fantasy, Galaga, Ghosts’n Goblins, Gradius, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, Mario Bros, Mega Man 2, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Pac-Man, Punch-Out! Featuring Mr. Dream, StarTropics, Super C, Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tecmo Bowl, The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Next up is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Mini. This console contains 21 games and comes with two controllers. For some reason like the NES console above, the UK version does not include a mains adaptor. You just need a USB style mains adaptor which are very common.
Like the NES console above, this one is also tiny and cute looking and looks like the real thing and it uses an HDMI connector to connect to your television or monitor. The controllers are the normal size and are a really nice quality and work really well. This time the cable is a lot longer, but we think it should have been longer still. The console plays really well and most die hard fans will be happy.
The included games are Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the past, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Punch-Out!!, Super Castlevania IV, Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, Kirby Super Star, Final Fantasy III, Kirby’s Dream Course, Star Fox, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Contra III The Alien Wars, Secret of Mana, EarthBound, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Star Fox 2.
Sega Mega Drive / Genesis
Like the Nintendo NES and SNES, the Sega Genesis also made a huge impact in home console gaming. The Sega Genesis is basically another name for the Sega Mega Drive. Nintendo had Mario and Sega had Sonic The Hedgehog. Both characters became icons of the games for their consoles.
Here we have the Sega Genesis Flashback with 85 games and comes with two controllers. It looks just like a Mega Drive and is a little bit smaller. Unlike the Nintendo consoles above, these controllers are wireless giving more freedom of use. But unfortunately the quality of the controllers is not great and feel cheap and you do not even get the AAA batteries included to run them. But luckily you can still use genuine wired controllers if you have them.
The console connects to your television or monitor using a standard HDMI lead. What is clever about this console is that you can also plug in genuine game cartridges as well if you have them. So this gives more choices if you are not happy with the built in games. There have been complaints on how well the games play and not getting the real experience. This might be down to early models. Most casual gamers would be happy, but a die hard gamer might not be so keen on this if the problems have not been resolved.
The included games are a little misleading as they are not all Mega Drive games. You get a bunch of unknown games and some Sega Master and Game Gear games as well. So the number of Mega Drive games is actually 45. But still a decent amount and more than the Nintendo consoles above.
The included Mega Drive games are Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Alien Storm, Altered Beast, Arrow Flash, Bonanza Bros, Chakan: The Forever Man, Columns, Columns III, Comix Zone, Crack Down, Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, ESWAT: City Under Siege, Eternal Champions, Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, Gain Ground, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Golden Axe III, Jewel Master, Kid Chameleon, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III: Generations Of Doom, Phantasy Star IV, Ristar, Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention, Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal, Shining in the Darkness, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog II, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, The Ooze, Vectorman, Vectorman II and Virtua Fighter 2.
Two consoles are represented here for the Atari 2600. First is the Atari Flashback 8 which is the most recent model in a line of Atari Flashback models. There are various versions of the Atari Flashback 8. A regular, Deluxe, Gold, Gold Deluxe and Gold Activision. The regular version includes 105 games and the other versions offer some more games than the previous version. It also has wired controllers and some versions have wireless controllers and some versions include paddles used for certain games.
The console is small and made to look like the original Atari 2600. Two joysticks are included which are also just like the originals. An SD card slot is provided one some versions which allow you to run additional games over the included ones. The Gold and Gold Activision versions can output HDMI. Playing the games is very satisfying and the joysticks ( wired or wireless ) respond well and play like the originals. This will satisfy any fans of the old Atari consoles.
The included games for the regular version are 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Adventure II, Air-Sea Battle, Aquaventure, Asteroids, Backgammon, Basketball, Bowling, Canyon Bomber, Centipede, Championship Soccer, Circus Atari, Combat, Combat 2, Demons to Diamonds, Desert Falcon, Dodge ‘Em, Double Dunk, Fatal Run, Flag Capture, Frog Pond, Fun with Numbers, Golf, Gravitar, Hangman, Haunted House, Home Run, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Miniature Golf, Missile Command, Night Driver, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Basketball, Realsports Soccer, Realsports Volleyball, Saboteur, Save Mary, Secret Quest, Sky Diver, Space War, Sprintmaster, Star Ship, Steeplechase, Submarine Commander, Super Baseball, Super Breakout, Super Football, Surround, Swordquest: Earthworld, Swordquest: Fireworld, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Video Pinball, Wizard, Yars’ Revenge, Breakout, Crystal Castles, Front Line, Jungle Hunt, NFL Football, Polaris, Pong, Return to Haunted House, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Space Invaders, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Tempest, Warlords, Black Jack, Air Raiders, Armor Ambush, Astroblast, Dark Cavern, Frogs and Flies, International Soccer, Super Challenge Baseball, Super Challenge Football, Space Attack, Star Strike, Sea Battle, Sword Fight, Chase It, Escape It, Miss It, Shield Shifter, Millipede, Atari Climber, Indy 500, MotoRodeo, Radar Lock, Secret Quest, Solaris, Swordquest: Waterworld, Yars’ Return, Frogger, H.E.R.O, Kaboom!, Pitfall!, Pressure Cooker and River Raid.
Next is the Atari Retro TV Joystick which has not actually been released yet and should be out in May. This one is very compact as the whole console is actually inside the joystick. This makes for a very clutter free setup. A 2.5 metre cable is provided which outputs a regular composite video and sound for any television with A/V inputs.
The included games are 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Air-Sea Battle, Asteroids, Black Jack, Bowling, Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Casino, Centipede, Circus Atari, Crystal Castles, Demons to Diamonds, Desert Falcon, Dodge ’em, Double Dunk, Fun With Numbers, Golf, Gravitar, Haunted House, Home Run, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Millipede, Miniature Golf, Missile Command, Night Driver, Off the Wall, Pong – Video Olympics, Quadrun, Radar Lock, Realsports Football, Realsports Tennis, Realsports Volleyball, Sprintmaster, Steeplechase, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Submarine Commander, Super Baseball, Super Breakout, Super Football, Swordquest: Earthworld, Swordquest: Fireworld, Swordquest: Waterworld, Tempest, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Video Pinball and Yar’s Revenge.
Okay, the next two are not actually consoles but home computers. They are probably the best known home computers for games of the 1980’s 8 bit era. The C64 Mini is obviously the Commodore 64.
This is a really neat looking unit and looks just like a mini version of the real thing. Unfortunately the keyboard is just for looks, but you cant have everything. The detail is amazing and it really looks the part and even though the keyboard is not real, it is very realistic. It has 64 games included and comes with one joystick. Unfortunately, no mains adaptor is provided, but any USB type adaptor will work. Output to the television is via an HDMI lead.
The menu system for selecting the games is really impressive and a lot of thought has gone into it. You can see a screenshot of each game before you run them to be sure what the game will be like.
Not only can you play games, but you can also access the command line and type in basic programs. You have to painfully select keys on a virtual screen keyboard using the joystick. This would take ages and only a crazy person would do more than a hello world program this way. But all is not lost as you can plug in a regular USB keyboard and use that instead, which then makes programming a joy.
The games play really well and it is just like being back on the real hardware. This would definitely satisfy someone who was a fan of the Commodore 64. The joystick is not bad to use, but not excellent. Even though it looks like a pro joystick of the era, unfortunately it does not use micro switches to give a precise movement. But it does play well. There are additional buttons on it to do various functions needed to operate the unit.
There is even a way to load games from a USB memory stick which will add more excitement to the already included games. You can even update the firmware which would address any bugs or even add new features.
The included games are AlleyKat, Anarchy, The Arc Of Yesod, Armalyte: Competition Edition, Avenger, Battle Valley, Bounder, California Games, Chip’s Challenge, Confuzion, Summer Games II, Spindizzy, Slayer, Star Paws, Super Cycle, Cosmic Causeway: Trailblazer II, Creatures, Cyberdyne Warrior, Cybernoid II: The Revenge, Cybernoid: The Fighting Machine, Deflektor, Everyone’s a Wally, Firelord, Gribbly’s Day Out, Hawkeye, Street Sports Baseball, Speedball, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, Thing Bounces Back, Thing on a Spring, Heartland, Herobotix, Highway Encounter, Hunter’s Moon, Hysteria, Impossible Mission, Impossible Mission II, Insects In Space, Zynaps, Mega-Apocalypse, Stormlord, Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe, Trailblazer, Uchi Mata, Uridium, Mission A.D, Monty Mole, Monty on the Run, Nebulus, Netherworld, Nobby the Aardvark, Nodes Of Yesod, Paradroid, Pitstop II, Rana Rama, Steel, Snare, Who Dares Wins II, Winter Games, World Games, Robin of the Wood, Rubicon, Skate Crazy and Skool Daze.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Last on our list is the ZX Spectrum Vega. This is a really nice looking unit and really captures the original Sinclair Spectrum look, but in a smaller size. As the Sinclair Spectrum had such a huge library of games, this one comes loaded with 1000 to keep even the most hardcore Spectrum player happy.
Connection to the television is via a regular A/V output and it is powered from a USB socket. It is intended to be powered from a USB socket on the television, but there could be instances where the socket cannot provide enough current to do the job. If this is the case, then you will need to use a mains USB adaptor which is not provided. The leads are very long and allow you to sit back from the television.
Even though there are 1000 games included, there are a lot of games that you will not care about. But most of the classic are there. An SD slot is provided and this will allow you to load additional games if you want.
Instead of the usual keyboard, they have opted for a minimal one which is enough to play the games. As nice as it looks, it does feel a little cheap for the money and has no HDMI output. Most Spectrum game players should be happy, but the real hardcore ones might prefer the real hardware or an emulation solution.
Other older all in ones consoles
There are a number of older all in one retro gaming consoles that came out a long time ago starting from around 2003. These are not really available new anymore, but can be easily found second hand.
There is another Atari 2600 one called the Atari Joystick Controller TV Video Game System. This like the one above has everything inside the joystick. It has 10 games which are Adventure, Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Circus Atari, Gravitar, Missile Command, Pong, Volleyball and Yar’s Revenge.
There is also a paddle version with 13 games which are Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Casino, Circus Atari, Demons to Diamonds, Night Driver, Steeplechase, Street Racer, Super Breakout, Video Olympics, Warlords, Pong and Warlords.
And yet another Atari 2600 one called the Activision Plug And Play TV Games System. This includes 10 games which are Crackpots, Atlantis, Pitfall, Grand Prix, River Raid, Tennis, Spider Fighter, Ice Hockey, Boxing and Freeway.
Another Commodore 64 one called the C64 Direct To TV. This one is really clever and basically has a single chip Commodore 64 inside it. There is a big hacking community for it with all sorts of modifications to enhance its operation. The 30 games included are Summer Games, Winter Games, Pitstop, Pitstop II, Super Cycle, Jumpman Jr, Impossible Mission, Impossible Mission II, Championship Wrestling, Gateway to Apshai, Sword of Fargoal, International Karate, California Games, Silicon Warrior, Alleykat, Nebulus, Paradroid, Eliminator, Cyberdyne Warrior, Cybernoid, Cybernoid II: The Revenge, Ranarama, Marauder, Head the Ball, Mission Impossibubble, Firelord, Exolon, Netherworld, Uridium, Zynaps, Speedball, Bull Riding, Sumo, Flying Disk and Surfing.
There are a number of Namco Plug And Play joystick consoles. They are Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Pac-Man Arcade Gold, Retro Arcade Featuring Pac-Man, Pac-Man Connect And Play, Namco Classics Volume 1. Each one includes a handful of games additional to the title game.
And last of all is the Space Invaders Plug And Play. This includes 5 games which are Space Invaders, Lunar Rescue, Colony 7, Qix and Phoenix
All of these retro gaming consoles can be a bit Marmite and you either love them or hate them. The main problem is that you are stuck with the choice of games they include. If the choice is lacking in your favourites, then you could be a bit disappointed. Some models offered a means of loading your own games which makes it much more flexible. A more serious retro gamer would probably prefer to use real hardware or emulation on a PC or ARM device. But a casual gamer looking for some 1980’s retro gaming would probably be more than happy with these. But some units are still very good and like the C64 Mini for example, offer a really good experience with some very nice features thrown in.