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Retro revival brings back gaming glory days

You don't need to raid the attic to relive your youth with these retro consoles, writes Ronan Price

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Super Nintendo Classic Mini

Super Nintendo Classic Mini

The C64

The C64

Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64

PlayStation 1

PlayStation 1

Sega Mega Drive Mini

Sega Mega Drive Mini

Super Nintendo Classic Mini

Now that your mobile phone has thousands of times more horsepower than an early Nasa mission to the Moon, it seems perverse to even consider looking backwards to the formative days of gaming for entertainment.

But retro gaming is booming, fuelled by the stream of official replica machines that bring back the beloved chunky hunks of plastic that defined our youths. Even better, these reboots come bundled with a stash of top-notch titles, alongside time-saving measures such as multiple save slots, instant resume and HDMI output for your big-screen TV. You can seek out the original machines on sites such as eBay but the quality, cost and selection of bundled games can make it a bit of lottery.

So here are our top five picks to indulge your nostalgia, from replicas to originals.

 

1 SNES Classic Mini

Nintendo has bizarrely stopped making this 2017 reboot of the early 90s barnstormer console and it now fetches up to twice its original €90 price online. This scale-model redux followed Nintendo's successful revival of the 1983 NES and fixed its replica predecessor's mistakes (by, for example, including two, not one, controllers and making the gamepad cable twice as long).

But, again, the SNES shows how it's really all about the software. The NES certainly was brilliant for its time but the SNES Mini line-up (with 21 titles bundled) still holds up today as the pick of the crop from its era. Gamers of a certain vintage will be misty-eyed at the sights and sounds of Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country. And if the high difficulty of the bygone age overwhelms you, there's a time-rewind feature to whisk you back to before you made an error.

 

2 Sega Mega Drive Mini

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Sega Mega Drive Mini

Sega Mega Drive Mini

Sega Mega Drive Mini

 

Even on value alone, the Mega Drive Mini outscores the lot on this list, brimming with 42 games inside a case that's the spit of the 1990 machine that inspired it. Now petite enough to sit in the palm of the hand, the Mega Drive Mini looks unassuming enough in its matte-black design.

But Sega's original console shook up the world of gaming in 1990, challenging Nintendo's dominance with a brash and colourful marketing approach, introducing spiky hero Sonic the Hedgehog and winning followers for its versions of popular arcade games. The Mega Drive Mini has both quantity and quality on its side - among the games in its roster are genuine classics such as Sonic, Gunstar Heroes and Streets of Rage 2. It's a steal at €70.


3 The C64

 

Not a games console in the strictest sense, this licensed clone of the Commodore 64 qualifies by virtue of its vast library of freely available titles from the golden age of home computing in the 1980s. The C64 is a meticulous recreation of the physical hardware, from the burly, clacky keyboard to the stiff joystick. Your €130 nets you this well-built machine and 64 (but of course!) of the finest games from the Commodore era.

Admittedly, few stand up well now in the harsh light of day. But the handful of stone-cold classics included - Uridium, Boulder Dash and Impossible Mission, for instance - whet the appetite for the vast array of thousands more left in copyright limbo but freely available online.

Remember, the C64 is also a computer, so permits simple coding and other activities such as drawing and music.

 

4 PlayStation 1

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PlayStation 1

PlayStation 1

PlayStation 1

 

Don't be fooled into buying the PlayStation Classic, Sony's replica machine of its first gaming success. It was released in late 2018 and sank without trace. An uninspired selection of 20 games is further hampered by its ropey technical performance.

Seek out instead the glory of the original PlayStation 1 (or its slim redesign). A rummage around eBay will get you a second-hand version and a heap of games for maybe €50 tops. This is your ticket to a world of riches.

Introduced in 1994, the PS1 stunned the world with its CD-based music, elaborate 3D graphics and its edgy branding that attracted an older demographic. Even now, the likes of driving sim Gran Turismo or Japanese RPG Final Fantasy VII have the power to send a shiver down your spine.

 

5 Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64

 

Criminally, no replica of Nintendo's unsung great console exists. But it should. In the meantime, auction sites may be your best bet to track down a working original machine.

Currently fetching about €60 on eBay, the Nintendo 64 was probably an anachronistic beast even for the time (1996) with its usage of cartridges rather than discs. Yet again (see also the Gamecube, Wii and Switch), Nintendo confounded doubters. The innovative use of an analogue joystick was perfect for the mindblowing 3D exploration of Super Mario World. The list doesn't stop there - GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie and Zelda: Ocarina of Time were just three of the other crackers to grace the knobbly machine with the distinctive three-pronged controller.

Next week: See what's coming from Sony and Microsoft as the next PlayStation and Xbox consoles arrive in time for Christmas

Adrian Weckler is away

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