Over 2019, we played on a lot of retro gaming devices. With so many options available (including, of course, playing on a PC!), we decided to sit down and chat about the best of the bunch and who should buy them.
As we outline in the video above, emulation dominates the landscape, because using original hardware with a modern TV can require both significant cash outlay and a willingness to hunt down converters to get a clean picture. The types we’ve tried fall into one of three categories: first-party software emulation, third-party hardware emulation, and third-party software emulation.
First-party software emulation is the simplest way to replay the classics. These are all-in-one consoles sold by their original makers that come with a selection of pre-installed games and work out of the box with modern high-definition TVs. Examples include the Nintendo Classic, Sega Genesis Mini, and PlayStation Classic. Though such consoles have their drawbacks, this option works best for someone who craves a go at the biggest games from a specific console’s library but doesn’t want to spend much time or thought on how to do so.
For fans who still own original systems (but perhaps not a working console), third-party hardware emulation allows the use of old cartridges and controllers. Playing what you already own, or treasures you find at a flea market or swap meet, is fairly straightforward provided you’re willing to shell out as much as $200 to get a crisp, close reproduction of classic gaming.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, third-party software emulation offers the greatest value, as you can load as many games as you please, from as many platforms as your hardware can support. That hardware varies widely, too—you can build your own device with a Raspberry Pi, buy a pre-built handheld device, or use a PC you already own.
This final option comes with the caveat of copyright issues, which we discuss in the video. Watch it for the full overview, plus all the details on the advantages, drawbacks, and even accessories you can add to retro gaming hardware to make your playtime even more enjoyable.
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Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.