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Best retro games consoles 2020: the top nostalgic gaming revivals

Best retro games console
The Sony PlayStation Classic, Sega Genesis and SNES Classic (Image credit: Sony, Nintendo, Sega)

When it comes to gaming, the past was a simpler time. You bought your console, paid for your games, and then you sat down and played them.

No online multiplayer, no downloadable content, no guides to spoil all the fun, and no patches to get in the way of you playing. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Over the years, several companies have attempted to bring this simplicity back with a variety of retro console revivals.

These boxes plug into the back of your TV, and use emulation software to allow you to play a number of games that would otherwise be impossible (or at least, very expensive) to find as a physical cartridges.

We've not ranked these revivals, like we do in some of our guides, because nostalgia is a key part but we will talk you through the pros and cons of each. Below are our top picks of the best retro console revivals that you can play right now.

SNES Classic Mini

(Image credit: Future)

SNES Classic Mini

One of the greatest, reimagined

How many games?: 21

Cute design
Star Fox 2!
Limited games
Short controller cords

Following the massive success of the NES Classic Mini, Nintendo has returned to the 90s in a more compact form with the SNES Classic Mini.

The box plugs into your TV via HDMI and comes with 21 pre-loaded games (one of which is the unreleased Star Fox 2!) as well as two mini controllers that will allow you to take advantage of multiplayer. 

The drawback of Nintendo's retro consoles is that once you've exhausted the fairly limited library you won't be able to play anything else. The console doesn't accept the original cartridges, nor does it let you download more content.

That said, it'll take you a little while to get through all of the titles included on the SNES Classic Mini allowing you to get your nostalgia hit. 

Read our full review: SNES Classic Mini review

Sega Genesis Mini

(Image credit: Future)

Sega Genesis Mini

The value for money choice

How many games?: 80

Great value
Huge selection of games
Controllers are light
Doesn't feel premium

Everyone remembers the Sega Genesis (or the Mega Drive as it was known outside North America) acting as a competitor to Nintendo's SNES. The console was home to such classics as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Earthworm Jim.

Unlike some of the other hardware on this list, the console, which is manufactured by Chinese firm At Games, will play any original Mega Drive cartridges that you have lying around.

Don't worry if you've not got any old cartridges lying around though, since the console comes with 80 game pre-installed, including Mortal Kombat and Golden Axe.

Also unlike the original Mega Drive, the console supports wireless controllers so you don't have to worry about the mess of controller cables that used to plague console gamers.

Read our full review: Sega Genesis Mini review

NES Classic Mini

(Image credit: Future)

NES Classic Mini

More games than the SNES

How many games?: 30

Iconic look
Classic games
Short controller cables
Can't add more games

If you want an even more retro hit, the NES Classic Edition was the first rereleased console from Nintendo and it came sporting 30 games onboard. Those games included The Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros and Castlevania.

The bad news is that once you've exhausted that library you won't be able to play anything else - the console doesn't accept the original cartridges, nor does it let you download more content.

You may struggle to now be able to find the NES Classic Edition. At the time of writing, it was difficult to find the retro console brand new from any major retailers in the US or UK.

That said, you may still be able to pick it up second hand and try out the retro experience for yourself.

Read our full review: NES Classic Mini review

PlayStation Classic

(Image credit: Sony)

PlayStation Classic

A big name, but not the best reboot

How many games?: 20

Two controllers
Built-in memory cards
Limited game selection
Misses key titles

The PlayStation Classic console is certainly fun, but we feel like it's missing a trick. Sony could’ve followed in Nintendo’s footsteps by releasing a populist's retro console, one that had the undisputed best games of the era like Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy 8 and 9 or Tomb Raider. But that's not the PlayStation Classic. 

It doesn’t include the majority of the console’s greatest hits and instead opts for some cult classics like Persona and Jumping Flash among a few well-received titles. Using Sony’s retro console is therefore a lot less like walking down memory lane, an experience we had with the SNES Classic and NES Classic Mini, and a lot more like a sample platter of what the PlayStation had to offer 20-some-odd years ago. 

Of course, some people might develop a real attachment to games like Destruction Derby, Ridge Racer Type 4 and Intelligent Qube - and if that's you, then the PlayStation Classic is going to be everything you've ever wanted in a retro console. 

If not, however, then you'll be disappointed with the game selection, unimpressed by the lackluster interface and forced to watch, often in horror, as late '90s FMVs are brought to life like Frankenstein's Monster on your 4K or 1080p TV.

Read our full review: PlayStation Classic review

ZX Spectrum Vega

(Image credit: Retro Computers)

ZX Spectrum Vega

A thousand games to play

How many games?: 1000

Over a thousand games
Properly retro
Difficult to find

The ZX Spectrum was one of the first mainstream home computers to come out when it was released in the UK in 1982. It was to the UK what the Commodore 64 was in the US, a trojan horse for getting computers into homes, and a device that would inspire a generation of coders.

Yes, its keyboard was a bit of a mushy rubber mess, but with a software library that contained classics such as the original Elite, Football Manager, and Manic Miner, you can't exactly fault the little console that could.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega looks nothing like the original console. Rather than having a full QWERTY keyboard, the console is instead packed completely into a controller which has 1,000 games built-in.

The device was available for £99.99 (around $130), but it's not quite difficult to find so you may struggle more to pick this up than other consoles in this list.