Retro Console Roundup

NEO GEO Mini! PlayStation Classic! SNES Classic! Sega Genesis Flashback HD! And more!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 03/14/2019 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

If there’s anything that’s exploded in popularity over the past couple of years, it’s the retro video game console. From Nintendo to SNK, developers around the globe have been looking to the past in order to create today’s entertainment. Popular video game systems of old are being dusted off, miniaturized (or completely redesigned), and coated in shiny, HD paint for our consumption. As a result, there are more options than ever and surely a lot of fans are finding themselves confused as to which of these classic consoles is worthy of their cash. Well, as ever Nintendojo has you covered— we’re here to break down some of the more popular and controversial of these plug-and-play systems! For this piece, we’re going to focus on the consoles that feature games that are directly related to Nintendo or are closely adjacent.

NES Classic Edition

Price: $59.99 | Released: 2016 | Included Games: 30

The re-release of the granddaddy of all Nintendo consoles, NES Classic Edition is a wonderful piece of hardware. Its miniaturized form factor is both charming and astoundingly authentic. Other than the controller ports on the front and a lack of a hinge on the cartridge slot door, there isn’t much to differentiate NES Classic from the 1985 original beyond size. Everything down to the texture of the unit and the colors of the plastic were taken into consideration, and it’s this attention to detail that puts Nintendo’s retro console in a league of its own.

It’s the games that are especially important, however, and as noted in our initial review of the system, NES Classic is mostly a winner in this aspect. Here’s the list of included titles:

  1. Balloon Fight
  2. Bubble Bobble
  3. Castlevania
  4. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  5. Donkey Kong
  6. Donkey Kong Jr.
  7. Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  8. Dr. Mario
  9. Excitebike
  10. Final Fantasy
  11. Galaga
  12. Ghosts ‘N Goblins
  13. Gradius
  14. Ice Climber
  15. Kid Icarus
  16. Kirby’s Adventure
  17. Mario Bros. 
  18. Mega Man 2
  19. Metroid
  20. Ninja Gaiden
  21. Pac-Man
  22. Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
  23. StarTropics
  24. Super C
  25. Super Mario Bros.
  26. Super Mario Bros.  2
  27. Super Mario Bros. 3
  28. Tecmo Bowl
  29. The Legend of Zelda
  30. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Without exaggeration, this is a killer lineup of software that contains within it some of the greatest and most influential games ever made. At a whopping $2 a pop (less if you factor in getting the console, HDMI and power cables, and a controller along with the $60 asking price!), it’s a veritable steal, which is, frankly, probably part of the reason Nintendo is keen on not producing any more of the system, despite its stellar sales numbers. As of this writing, there are still NES Classics to be had at retailers across the US, but anyone who wants one better act fast, as Nintendo has stated that once this stock sells through, it’s gone.

If there are any downsides to NES Classic, the most glaring is the ridiculously short length of the controller cords. It was a common gripe among reviewers and users back in 2016 and is still a problem now. Note, we’re only talking the cords; the actual controllers are identical replicas of the ’85 originals and function beautifully. Back to the issue at hand, there are cord extenders to buy, and even wireless controller options, so it’s definitely not an insurmountable dilemma, but one does have to factor in the additional cost(s). There’s also a disturbing lack of any of the delightful licensed games that helped make NES what it was, not to mention no way of (legally) adding to the console’s software library. Regardless, NES Classic is a must for retro enthusiasts!

SNES Classic Edition

Price: $79.99 | Released: 2017 | Included Games: 21

It was a game of give and take with SNES Classic Edition. Released a year after NES Classic, SNES Classic only comes with 21 games, but it does have two controllers in the box instead of one. The issue of cord length was mostly resolved this time around, although they’re still arguably a bit on the short side. The same level of authentic presentation mixed with a miniaturized form factor is present here. The flap that hides the controller ports is somewhat unintuitive to use, but it gets the job done and without it, the system would look pretty strange.

Here’s the lineup of games for SNES Classic:

  1. Contra III: The Alien Wars
  2. Donkey Kong Country
  3. EarthBound
  4. Final Fantasy III
  5. F-Zero
  6. Kirby Super Star
  7. Kirby’s Dream Course
  8. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  9. Mega Man X
  10. Secret of Mana
  11. Star Fox
  12. Star Fox 2
  13. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  14. Super Castlevania IV
  15. Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
  16. Super Mario Kart
  17. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  18. Super Mario World
  19. Super Metroid
  20. Super Punch-Out!! 
  21. Yoshi’s Island

Like its sister console, SNES Classic has a murderer’s row of games. The system includes industry-defining classics like Super Mario World, Super Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and they’re are as fun and relevant today as when they first hit store shelves. There’s even the oddity that is Star Fox 2 included, the sequel to the original Star Fox which was completed but never released (due to the then-impending launch of Star Fox 64!). There are no real complaints to bring up here beyond the same lack of licensed games and the inability to (legally) add to the game library, so by all means, snag one if you can!

Sega Genesis Flashback HD

Price: $79.99 | Released: 2017 | Included Games: 85 (don’t get excited just yet)

All right, deep breaths folks— things are about to get bumpy. When NES Classic launched, it sent ripples throughout the retro console manufacturing community. Prior to NES Classic, there had been plenty of these plug-and-play units, with the overwhelming majority of them being heartbreakingly disposable. Just budget, mindless units that played either terrible licensed games or offered a bare bones selection of a handful of retro “classics.” NES Classic changed all that by raising the bar, both in terms of presentation and software emulation.

AtGames, by the time NES Classic came to the market, had already earned itself a pretty shaky reputation as a result of its own dubious retro hardware offerings. Sega Genesis Flashback HD was meant to rectify things and mark a new beginning of sorts for the company. Boy, that didn’t quite work out the way AtGames planned. First off, that “85 games” promised on the box is an illusion of sorts. Ever hear of “Mr. Balls?” No, we didn’t make that up (you can’t make stuff up like that if you try!). How about “Checker?” Yes, singular, not plural. Yeah, if none of those games ring a bell, know that there are 28 titles like these built into the system.

This no-name software is meant to pad that total up to 85, which is odd because there are actually a ton of classic Genesis games here, far more than Nintendo’s offerings on either the SNES or NES Classic. Here’s the list:

Master System Games:

  1. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
  2. Alex Kidd in High Tech World
  3. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
  4. Dragon Crystal
  5. Fantasy Zone
  6. Fantasy Zone: The Maze
  7. Phantasy Star

Game Gear:

  1. Baku Baku
  2. Sonic Chaos
  3. Sonic Drift II
  4. Sonic Triple Trouble
  5. Tails Adventure


  1. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  2. Alien Storm
  3. Altered Beast
  4. Arrow Flash
  5. Bonanza Bros.
  6. Chakan: The Forever Man
  7. Columns
  8. Columns III
  9. Comix Zone
  10. Crack Down
  11. Decap Attack
  12. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  13. ESWAT: City Under Siege
  14. Eternal Champions
  15. Fatal Labyrinth
  16. Flicky
  17. Gain Ground
  18. Golden Axe
  19. Golden Axe II
  20. Golden Axe III
  21. Jewel Master
  22. Kid Chameleon
  23. Mortal Kombat
  24. Mortal Kombat II
  25. Mortal Kombat 3
  26. Phantasy Star II
  27. Phantasy Star III: Generations Of Doom
  28. Phantasy Star IV
  29. Ristar
  30. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
  31. Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention
  32. Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal
  33. Shining in the Darkness
  34. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  35. Sonic & Knuckles
  36. Sonic 3D Blast
  37. Sonic Spinball
  38. Sonic the Hedgehog
  39. Sonic the Hedgehog II
  40. Super Thunder Blade
  41. Sword of Vermilion
  42. The Ooze
  43. Vectorman
  44. Vectorman II
  45. Virtua Fighter 2

That’s a lot of Sega-goodness! Genuinely! It’s not the only good thing about the Genesis HD, either, as the system is a dead ringer for an original Genesis. It even has a cartridge slot built into the unit that allows people to plug in their legacy Genesis games, as well as authentic controller ports in the front for real, six-button Genesis pads (the three-button controllers sadly don’t work). This all sounds lovely, yes? With HD visuals to boot. So what’s the problem?

Well, there are quite a few issues here and some will be deal-breakers for a lot of gamers. To begin with, the system might look like a classic Genesis, but its build isn’t anywhere near as solid. The unit feels overly light, the plastic flimsy, and as Chris Grant of Polygon noted, there’s something about the AtGames logo being stamped right on the top of the unit that’s blindingly obnoxious and out of touch. This is a celebration of Sega and the Genesis, not AtGames. It speaks a lot to the seeming lack of vision that the company has when it comes to producing gaming hardware for anyone who isn’t a casual or juvenile fan of the medium.

This build quality problem extends to the controllers. There’s a nonsensical screw that must be taken out every time the batteries need to be changed (and at $80, one would think that AtGames could throw at least a single set in the box). The pads are wireless, which is cool, but they’re finicky, needing to be very precisely positioned in front of the unit in order to work (they are better than previous versions, however). They’re also arguably too small. It was definitely a bright decision to include a menu and rewind button, so kudos for that, but overall the controllers are mediocre. Utilizing authentic Genesis pads is the best way to go, but it’s not going to be feasible for everyone.

Perhaps the worst part about AtGames’ Genesis HD is the actual emulation. It’s jittery and flawed, with frame rate issues that really stand out in titles like Sonic the Hedgehog. Even more insufferable, the menu screen itself to get to these games is woefully unintuitive. We won’t say that Genesis Flashback HD is unplayable, but it can be painful at times. Someone with more forgiving tastes will likely be able to live with its quirks and blemishes but, overall, AtGames dropped the ball hard on this one. So much so that when Sega announced a new Genesis Mini console would be coming, AtGames infamously tweeted in support, clearly assuming it would be the manufacturer… only to later delete the Tweet when it became unclear whether or not Sega would be partnering with the company for the new system. Ouch.

PlayStation Classic

Price: $39.99 (Formerly $99.99) | Released: 2018 | Included Games: 20

Now here’s another heartbreaker, although not one as debilitating as AtGames’ Sega Genesis Flashback HD. Sony went in-house with the development of its PlayStation Classic, but it’s clear that what could have been was a lot more exciting than what fans got. Like SNES and NES Classic before it, PS Classic is modeled after the baseline version of the original PlayStation, but in a miniaturized form. Its build is sturdy, with some wonderfully intuitive use of the console’s buttons for new functions (the “open” button allows players to digitally switch discs in-game, while the “reset” button returns players to the main menu). PlayStation Classic comes with two controllers in-box, which are recreations of the original PlayStation pads. This means no analogue sticks or rumble, but this is hardly an issue for anyone besides the most pampered and rigid of pundits.

If we want to talk about real problems, PlayStation Classic has those elsewhere. The most glaring issue with PS Classic is the selection of games. Here’s the list:

  1. Battle Arena Toshinden
  2. Cool Boarders 2
  3. Destruction Derby
  4. Final Fantasy VII
  5. Grand Theft Auto
  6. Intelligent Qube
  7. Jumping Flash
  8. Metal Gear Solid
  9. Mr Driller
  10. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  11. Rayman
  12. Resident Evil Director’s Cut
  13. Revelations: Persona
  14. Ridge Racer Type 4
  15. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  16. Syphon Filter
  17. Tekken 3
  18. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  19. Twisted Metal
  20. Wild Arms

There are some legitimate classics on here, to be clear, including Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, and others, but sit and think about it long enough and it becomes abundantly obvious that this is as hodgepodge a collection of software as Sony could put together. The “why” of it is a real mystery, although with series like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro pushing shiny new remakes of their PSOne-era originals elsewhere, and licensed fare like Gex and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 being a big part of the first PlayStation’s success… well, the picture starts to paint itself.

A PS Classic was always going to have some hurdles to jump in terms of its software selection, but the above is really not an acceptable excuse for the lackluster lineup. Honestly, PlayStation’s library is easily one of the greatest of all-time, so to pretend that these 20 titles were the best Sony could do is really asinine. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had here despite Sony’s seeming lack of effort, but then another issue arises in the emulation. First, the upscaling is fairly pedestrian. PlayStation Classics (downloadable PSOne titles) on a PlayStation 3, Portable, and Vita look better than what’s provided here. Second, for some reason fans are being subjected to the PAL versions of some of these games, meaning insufferably lower framerates.

It’s just mind-boggling to think that Sony, which really has quite a pedigree at this point as a video game software and hardware manufacturer, could stumble as it has with PlayStation Classic. Thankfully, the console has seen a $60 price drop since it launched in December, but even at $40 this is a disappointing missed opportunity. With a blasé UI, zero ability to customize the on-screen presentation, a perplexing software lineup, and questionable emulation, this is not how the original PlayStation should be experienced. It’ll work in a pinch, but it’s very, very middle of the road.

NEO GEO Mini (International)

Price: $109.99 | Released: 2018 | Included Games: 40

This isn’t SNK’s first shot at a “classic” revamp of its hardware-making days of yore. Those who picked up a NEO GEO X back in 2013 will remember it as SNK’s initial stab at bringing contemporary fans a slice of bodacious ’90s bliss. While that system harkened back to the NEO GEO home console, NEO GEO Mini is meant to be more of an homage to its arcade cabinets. After all, NEO GEO was always meant to replicate the experience of SNK’s arcade titles— SNK’s roots are in the golden era of arcades, not home video game systems. Embracing an arcade cabinet form factor was a great move on SNK’s part, but what’s more it actually allows the unit to double as a quirky Switch, of sorts.

When not tethered to the TV, NEO GEO Mini can actually be played independently using its small joystick, buttons, and built-in screen on the arcade cabinet itself. It’s not the ideal setup, of course, but it works surprisingly well with all 40 of the on-board software options. Here’s the list:

  1. 3 Count Bout
  2. Art of Fighting
  3. Blazing Star
  4. Blue’s Journey
  5. Crossed Swords
  6. Fatal Fury Special
  7. Foot Ball Frenzy
  8. Garou: Mark of the Wolves
  9. Ghost Pilots
  10. King of the Monsters
  11. King of the Monsters 2
  12. Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle
  13. Last Resort
  14. Magician Lord
  15. Metal Slug
  16. Metal Slug 2
  17. Metal Slug 3
  18. Metal Slug 4
  19. Metal Slug 5
  20. Metal Slug X
  21. Mutation Nation
  22. Ninja Master’s: Haou Ninpou Chou
  23. Puzzled
  24. Real Bout: Fatal Fury
  25. Robo Army
  26. Samurai Shodown II
  27. Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa’s Revenge
  28. Samurai Shodown V Special
  29. Sengoku 3
  30. Shock Troopers
  31. Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad
  32. Super Sidekicks
  33. The King of Fighters ’95
  34. The King of Fighters ’97
  35. The King of Fighters ’98
  36. The King of Fighters 2000
  37. The King of Fighters 2002
  38. The Last Blade 2
  39. Top Player’s Golf
  40. World Heroes Perfect

If you’re curious what the “International” moniker is referring to, there are actually three versions of NEO GEO Mini to purchase: a Japanese one and a special Christmas Limited Edition (that comes in an insane red and gold design). The Japanese iteration of NEO GEO Mini is virtually identical to the International one with exception to its software lineup, which is more focused on fighting games, while the Christmas version boasts both more and different titles distinct from the other SKUs, two controllers, stickers, and other goodies.

If this is all sounding like NEO GEO Mini is king of the retro pile, it might be wise to pace yourself. It is, in a word, confusing how SNK has rolled this system out. It’s very hard to find the International version in stores. This writer personally saw a couple here and there at GameStop locations around Christmas, but that was it. The Japanese version and the Christmas Limited Edition both seem to be tethered to web retailers at varying price points. What’s worse is that a look at reviews of the products online yields mixed assessments. Some bemoan a lack of an in-box HDMI cable, for instance, yet the one I picked up has it. Determining what configuration of goods is in the box is hard to peg.

It’s also worth mentioning that the device’s picture quality isn’t perfect. NEO GEO X had a worse time with its low-end LCD screen and shoddy projection on TV screens, but NEO GEO Mini is not up to snuff, either. Everything displays at 720p, but there’s distortion regardless of what visual settings are or are not ticked off in the settings menu. It’s nothing that ruins the experience, but when compared to the ACA series of NEO GEO ports on Switch, it’s a bummer. Speaking of menus, some have maligned the UI of NEO GEO Mini for being too spartan, but that’s as big of a superfluous nitpick as someone could possibly make. Sure, it’s nothing as solid as Nintendo’s efforts with its own UIs in the Classic lineup, but NEO GEO Mini gets the job done— to put it frankly, no one’s here for a menu, they’re here for the games.

Playing these titles on a TV becomes tricky, by the way, because the controllers to do so aren’t included. They’re really awesome pads with that signature “clicky” control stick that NEO GEO is known for, but they’re $25 a pop and must be special ordered. If anyone is planning to dig into some 2-player Metal Slug, be sure to take that shipping and handling time into consideration. Ultimately, NEO GEO Mini is a sound option for retro gamers, but it’s got some logistical and technical flaws that mustn’t be ignored. It’s a step above PlayStation Classic, and definitely Sega Genesis Flashback HD, but considerably below the level of either SNES or NES Classic.

Analogue Super Nt

Price: $199.99 | Released: 2018 | Included Games: 2

Say what? A retro console with two games? For $200?! Before anyone pulls out pitchforks and torches, bear with us a moment. Analogue’s Super Nt is a masterpiece and the best way to play authentic SNES cartridges in HD on a modern television. While there are ways of jury-rigging a classic Super Nintendo to run in HD on a contemporary TV, generally speaking it never comes close to what one would expect the experience to look or play like. Super Nt, however, takes out all that hoop-jumping and provides an elegant solution (in part) to the dilemma of historical game preservation and playing the classics without need of emulation.

The console is built to allow for both the use of classic SNES controllers and the wonderful, exquisitely crafted matching 8Bitdo wireless SNES pads. The latter is a remarkable feat of mimicry that comes astonishingly close to Nintendo’s own efforts while affording an untethered connection to the console by which to play these golden oldies. There is a range of color options for both Super Nt and the 8Bitdo controllers that includes the European and Japanese gray (or is that “grey?”) color theme for SNES, the Americas’ distinct purple hues, and more. Essentially, this is the luxury version of Super Nintendo that hardcore fans will appreciate more than anyone else.

Perhaps therein lies the one real flaw with Super Nt, which is that it is indeed a luxury item. The $200 price tag will surely be a form of intimidation for more casual fans. It’s also important to remember that Super Nt doesn’t have any built-in games, with the exception of Super Turrican: Directors Cut and Super Turrican 2. Otherwise, the only way to play anything on a Super Nt is via legacy cartridges that consumers either have laying around or that they’ll have to buy on the secondary market. For those with the ability to jump aboard the Super Nt hype train, however, this is arguably the definitive way to play SNES games in 2019 without an original Super Nintendo and a tube TV. The Genesis version of Super Nt is on the way for those who are interested: Mega Sg launches later this year.

There are many other retro-gaming options besides what we’ve listed here, but we feel this is a nice, rounded selection of what’s available and what will be relevant to Nintendo enthusiasts. Still, keep an eye open for what’s out there. Hyperkin has its own range of HD legacy systems like Analogue, for instance, not to mention a whole host of repair options for missing bits and pieces for existing retro systems. If you feel like you’ve stumbled across interesting retro consoles, hardware, and more, please share with us in the comments and on social media!

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