Top 9 Best Retro Game Consoles You Must Know

Whether you’re looking for some new games to play with your emulators or just excited to find out more about these retro game consoles, stay tuned.

Although modern consoles are getting more and more capable of delivering stunning graphics and appealing audio, for many of us, nothing can beat our good old consoles. Below is a quick roundup of best retro game consoles that would definitely be entertaining if you’re tired of playing modern games.

1. Atari 2600

atari 2600 retro game console
The Atari 2600. Image by Bill Bradford via Flickr, released under Creative Commons License.
  • First Release: 1977
  • Sales: Over 30 million devices
  • Best Games: Asteroids, Pitfall, Space Invaders

The 8-bit gaming era witnessed two big competitors: Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System. For a very long time, gamers must play their favorite games on bulky arcade machines. But with titles like Pitfall, Space Invaders, or Asteroids, this system showed us that gamers could play their favorite video games right at home hassle-freely.

The Atari 2600 comes with the same control mechanic as conventional arcade machines but packed in a compact device that can be carried around or set up with ease.

2. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

nintendo entertainment system retro game console
The NES. Image by Emilio via Flickr, released under Creative Commons License.
  • First Release: 1983
  • Sales: Over 61 million devices
  • Best Games: Contra, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Bros

Though the Atari might be one of the first to deliver the concept of “console gaming” for gamers, it is the Nintendo’s NES that makes console gaming really popular.

Each NES comes with a powerful system and a simple yet comprehensive controller. You can see many systems today having the same resemblance as this one.

One thing for sure is that you won’t find many devices nowadays having the same huge library of games like this console. Each game has its own attractions and worth dozens of playing hours. Undoubtedly, NES is the best retro gaming console all in one ever being released.

3. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

super nintendo entertainment system retro game console
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Image by Jeena Paradies via Flickr, released under Creative Commons License.
  • First Release: 1990
  • Sales: Over 49 million
  • Best Games: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Megaman
Nintendo NES Classic Mini EU Console on Amazon.

Following the long and successful reign of NES, Nintendo continued their dominance with the Super NES or SNES, for short.

The system comes with better graphics and smoother overall experiences. But what makes it stand out from many other competitors is the brilliant compatibility. All games released on the system are perfectly executed with the powerful hardware.

You can even notice the better performance when comparing the SNES to the Sega Genesis – its main competitor. Not to mention that it also inherits the huge game library from the NES. Right now, you can purchase the Super NES Classic, which is a special edition of the system. It is a retro game console with built-in games, and all of them will look really awesome on your modern HDTV.

4. PlayStation 2 (PS2)

PlayStation 2 game console
The PlayStation 2 system. Image by Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain
  • First Release: 2000
  • Sales: Over 150 million devices
  • Best Games: Dynasty Warrior Series, God of War 1 and 2, Final Fantasy X, Pro Evolution Soccer Series

It is the most successful console from Sony up until now. For the first time in a decade, Nintendo has found themselves a real competitor.

The PS2 came with extremely powerful hardware at that time when action-adventure games thrived and many great titles were born. And the fact that it was capable of delivering impressive 3D graphics made it even more outstanding from the crowd. With that being said, you can spend countless hours exploring the game collection of this console.

5. Sega Genesis

sega genesis retro game console
The Sega Genesis. Image by Diego Torres Silvestre via Flickr, released under Creative Commons License.
Sega Game Classic Console on Amazon.

  • First Release: 1989
  • Sales: Over 30 million devices
  • Best Games: Earthworm Jim, Sonic The Hedgehog, Altered Beast

Even though it was Nintendo who dominated the console gaming market, Sega Genesis was no doubt a huge competitor with the SNES. Even now people still debate which one is the best system.

Sega Genesis has some seriously great titles, and Sonic: The Hedgehog is one of those. The title is still a big name even until today and considered as the Mario franchise.

6. NEO-GEO AES

NEO GEO AES game controller
The Neo Geo AES. Image by By Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain
  • First Release: 1990
  • Sales: Approximately 1 million devices
  • Best Games: Samurai Showdown, Magician Lord, Fatal Fury

It was created by the famous company SNK and was the most powerful system at that time. NEO-GEO AES comes with two different platforms which are the traditional insert-coin arcade machine and a console device. Although the game was expected to be a success due to a huge line up of awesome games at that time, the insane pricing made this console fall behind SNES or Sega Genesis in terms of the popularity.

But still, it is somewhat a high-class gaming console that most retro enthusiasts would love to have in their collection.

7. Nintendo 64

nintendo 64 retro game console
The Nintendo 64. Image by Ryan Somma via Flickr, released under Creative Commons License.
  • First Release: 1996
  • Sales: Over 32 million devices
  • Best Games: Donkey Kong 64, Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Harvest Moon 64

Released in 1996, it is one of the first devices introducing 3D gaming on home consoles. This has helped shape our next gaming era with the rise of modern games. You might not know that the console received the award “Device of the Year” from Time Magazine thanks to its success in the same year.

By keeping up their already-successful franchises, like Mario, Zelda, or Donkey Kong, Nintendo was able to maintain good sales. But it’s not as dominant as the previous decade with the introduction of a new competitor, PlayStation 1 and later, Microsoft Xbox.

8. PlayStation 1 (PS1)

playstation retro game console
The original PlayStation game console. By Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain.
  • First Release: 1995
  • Sales: Over 102 million devices
  • Best Games: Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 1, Crash Bandicoot

The console was a huge success which broken Nintendo’s domination in the gaming console market. It comes with a more powerful hardware and a big line up of some awesome titles. On top of that, Sony had set a standard for gaming controller with the introduction of the two analog sticks.

Both gamers and developers loved the system. That’s PS1 received really good sales and had a considerable collection of exclusive titles. It was one of the best retro gaming consoles for those who were growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s.

9. GameCube

nintendo gamecube retro game console
The Nintendo GameCube. Image by Johan Larsson via Flickr, released under Creative Commons License.
The GameCube on Amazon.

  • First Release: 2001
  • Sales: 22 million devices
  • Best Games: Metroid Series, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros

Although the console can’t help Nintendo win in their competition with Sony and Microsoft, it was a great product. The controller is quite odd but still effective, especially for playing Nintendo games. Moreover, GameCube is backed by hundreds of retro games that you’d love.

Summary: Top 9 retro game consoles you must know

Thank you for taking your time reading through our list of best retro game consoles. What do you think of this list? Which one is your favorite? Let us know by commenting below.

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