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Best retro game consoles in 2024

This list of the best retro game consoles offer a blast from the past, allowing you to play the best games of all time both at home and on the go.

A photo of two of the best retro game consoles, the Super Pocket Taito Editions and the Super Pocket Capcom Edition, with some Evercade cartridges and Razer Quartz products around them

While modern games with flashy graphics are great, the best retro game consoles are the perfect way to revisit iconic adventures of the past – and, in this guide, we take you through all of our favorite options to help you pick the right one for you.

Of course, to make the most of your flashy retro game console, you need a bunch of games to play – and we’ve got you covered there, too, with our list of the best retro games. Or, if you’re looking for more handheld happiness, be sure to check out our list of the best portable gaming consoles.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At Pocket Tactics, our experts spend days testing games, phones, tech, and services. We always share honest opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

Super Pocket

The best retro game console for emulation.

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Capcom Edition:

Taito Edition: 

Super Pocket specifications:
Display 2.8-inch 230 x 240 IPS screen
Size 5″ long x 3″ wide x 1″ deep
Bettery 4+ hours
Charging USB-C
Reasons to buy
  • Strong library of pre-installed games with the option to expand through cartridges
  • Compact and attractive design
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Decent speakers
  • Very affordable
Reasons to avoid
  • Small screen that struggles with some games
  • Buttons are quite close together making it uncomfortable for bigger hands
  • Only compatible with Evercade cartridges, which can be pricey
  • Can’t remap buttons
  • D-pad and shoulder buttons could be better

The Super Pocket is a retro handheld that currently comes in two versions – the Taito Edition, in turquoise and black, and the Capcom edition, in yellow and blue. They’re small, compact, and stylish, and come with a collection of officially licensed games pre-installed based on the version you purchase.

The Taito version features 17 games, including Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble, Space Invaders, and The New Zealand Story, while the Capcom version features 12 games including Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Final Fight, Mega Man, and Captain Commando. Beyond that, you can also expand its library through a wide range of Evercade cartridges, which slot neatly into the back.

The Super Pocket predominantly emulates arcade versions of games, and does a pretty good job at it – though, of course, with the resolution and such a small screen, some games fare better than others. The console offers a decent level of customization, such as an easy mode which tweaks the difficulty of built-in games, save slots, and the option to change the display and adjust the presence of scanlines.

The speakers on the Super Pocket are surprisingly good, and its build quality is pretty great. However, the size of the console does mean that longer play sessions can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you have larger hands, and the D-pad and shoulder buttons leave a bit to be desired.

However, overall, the Super Pocket is a neat and affordable little console that’s easy to pick up and play, and with its officially licensed emulation and unique color patterns, it makes for a great collector’s item. If you want to know more, be sure to check out our Super Pocket review, in which we cover both versions.

Analogue Pocket

The best retro game console for Game Boy fans.

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Analogue Pocket specifications:
Display 3.5” 1600 x 1440 LCD (615 ppi)
Circuit Field-programmable gate array
Battery 4300 mAh lithium-ion
Storage microSD card slot
Charging USB-C
Reasons to buy
  • Top-tier retro gaming
  • Fantastic design and form factor
  • Doesn’t rely on emulation
Reasons to avoid
  • No ROM or emulation compatibility
  • Relies on your physical GB cartridges
  • Expensive/hard to get

If you’re a fan of the Game Boy and are looking for something to relive the glory days, then the Analogue Pocket is the retro game console for you. It’s capable of playing any Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games with cartridge input, and boasts a crystal-clear 3.5” LCD screen.

That screen does a great job of upping the brightness on our favorite GB games, with its 1600 x 1440 resolution rendering original Game Boy games perfectly in ten times the original resolution. The only real issue with its design is that original GBA titles have a different aspect ratio, meaning you have to choose between black letterbox bars around the screen or compromising on the visuals.

The shape and design of the console hits all the nostalgia buttons, feeling like a proper Game Boy console (albeit a bit heavier) for the modern day, and it hosts quite a few tricks such as options to adjust visuals with a variety of color palettes and display modes. Its performance is solid, and it even has the ability to connect to a TV if you’re willing to splash out a bit of extra cash.

However, while our Analogue Pocket review does state that “this is the best modern device to play Game Boy games by a wide distance”, it’s not without its flaws. The main issues are its lack of ROM or emulation capabilities, meaning your game library solely relies on you how many GB game cartridges you own.

On top of that, it’s been very difficult to find stock of it, and, therefore, if you do manage to snap one up, you better expect to pay a pretty penny for the luxury. But if you’re a big Game Boy fan with an even bigger library of games and the cash to spare, we consider this little beauty a must.


A truly unique retro-style handheld.

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Playdate specifications:
Display 400 x 240 1-bit display
CPU 68MHz Cortex M7
Battery 8+ hours
Memory 16MB with 4GB flash storage
Charging USB-C
Reasons to buy
  • Strong selection of original, exclusive, retro-style games
  • Inventive form factor
  • Compact design
Reasons to avoid
  • Limited game library
  • Expensive and hard to obtain

Now, this one’s a bit different, and may not fully align with your idea of a ‘retro games console’ considering it primarily hosts modern indie games rather than older classics. However, if you ask us, it captures the spirit of retro gaming perfectly, all in a lovely little package. So, if you’re interested in old-school-style handheld gaming but are still open to a touch of inventive innovation, the Playdate should be right up your alley.

The Playdate is a truly unusual little handheld, as you can immediately see from its design in all its bright yellow glory. Compact yet somehow chunky, it hosts a small screen, simple button scheme, and a hand crank on the side. That’s right, this little beauty has a working hand crank, which has led to many inventive gaming experiences.

Its main draw is its selection of truly unique games made by a wide range of indie devs, including the minds behind Cursed to Golf, Bennet Foddy (creator of Getting Over It), and Lucas Pope (creator of Return of the Obra Dinn). It really breaks the mold both in the world of retro gaming handhelds and portable gaming consoles overall, and certainly won our hearts in our Playdate review.

The real downside with this one, outside of its selection of games being limited to those made specifically for it, is that it’s an incredibly limited console. This means that, not only is it extremely difficult to get hold of, but it also costs quite a bit if you do manage to find it in stock somewhere. But if you manage to get your hands on it, we’re sure you’ll have plenty of fun – plus, it looks adorable on display.

Nintendo Switch OLED

The best current-gen console for retro gaming.

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Nintendo Switch OLED specifications:
Display Multi-touch capacitive 7.0” OLED touch screen 1280 x 720 (60Hz)
CPU/GPU NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Internal battery Lithium-ion battery / 4310mAh (approximately 4.5 – 9 hours life depending on what games you play)
Storage 64GB (expandable via miscroSDHC or microSDXC cards up to 2TB)
Charging USB-C or via dock
Reasons to buy
  • Good value for performance
  • Works both as a handheld or home console
  • Strong library of both retro and modern games
Reasons to avoid
  • Limited by the Switch/NSO library which lacks some big retro titles
  • Outdated hardware
  • Emulation/homebrewing is tricky

While it’s not an actual retro handheld itself, the Nintendo Switch is easily the best modern console for retro enthusiasts. Plus, we all know the Switch’s main draw – the flexibility to either use it as a handheld console or dock it and use it as a home console. It also has a pretty decent battery life, and the option to expand your storage is always welcome (though you’ll have to fork out a bit of cash to buy one of the best micro SD cards for Switch for the best results).

While its hardware is aging and struggles to keep up with current-gen games, it’s more than capable of emulating its wide selection of retro games, whether you’re using physical cartridges, CD-keys, or Nintendo Switch Online. Of course, you can also use this console to play a lot of other Nintendo exclusives and some amazing indie games, whether you’re curled up at home or on a long trip.

Unfortunately, Switch emulation and homebrewing is pretty fiddly (though it is possible), and NSO is both a premium subscription service and lacking in a lot of retro classics. However, if you want an easy-to-use console that’s flexible and can play both modern and retro games, the Nintendo Switch OLED is a good shout.

Of course, the OLED model isn’t the only option – there’s also the original Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite. If you’re wondering which one to get, we’ve got a comprehensive guide to the best Nintendo Switch console right now, as well as details on the fabled Nintendo Switch 2 for you to check out.

Steam Deck

The most powerful retro game console

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Steam Deck specifications:
Display 7.0” 1280 x 800 RGB (60Hz, 400nits)
Battery 40Whr battery ( 2 – 8 hours of gameplay)
Storage 64 / 256 / 512GB (expandable via SD, SDX, and SDHC microSD cards)
Charging 45W USB-C PD3.0 power supply
Reasons to buy
  • Massive and affordable library of games
  • Powerful processor
  • Good control scheme
Reasons to avoid
  • Limited by battery life
  • Not compatible with all Steam games
  • Fiddly to use emulators/third party launchers

Like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck is a more modern console, but with the ever-growing catalog of compatible games on Steam, you should never run short of brilliant retro titles to explore, as well as heavy-hitters like the fabulous Baldur’s Gate 3, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, and more. Plus, the Steam sales are well-known for great discounts, allowing you to snap up some brilliant games for as little as a few cents.

The Steam Deck is a powerful portable PC that can take on just about anything, and offers a lot more flexibility in terms of its game library, modification, and more. However, it does also require a bit more fiddling than some of the other options on this list when you first get it out of the box, and it can be time consuming to set up emulators or third party launchers if you want to play games outside of your Steam library.

And, of course, there are always those aforementioned Steam sales along with a selection of Steam-approved third party sites such as Humble Bundle and Green Man Gaming that sell Steam CD keys for a lower price, allowing you to expand your library without spending as much as you would on some of the pricier Switch games or Evercade cartridges.

On top of all of these features, the Steam Deck is also a pretty flexible console in terms of peripherals, supporting the use of headsets and controllers, and even allowing you to transform it into a home console with the help of one of these Steam Deck docks.

In our Steam Deck review we describe it as “an incredible achievement”, highlighting that it’s hard to find a worthy competitor that offers this many features in such an affordable package. To find out more, be sure to check out our analysis of the Steam Deck’s specs or our in-depth look at the Nintendo Switch vs Steam Deck. Alternatively, we also have a Steam Deck OLED review where we dive into the performance of the updated model.

Nintendo DS Lite

The best original retro game console.

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Nintendo DS Lite specifications:
Reasons to buy
  • Huge library of exclusive games
  • Can play GBA games
  • Early touch-screen innovator
Reasons to avoid
  • Online play is no longer possible
  • Certain games are very expensive
  • Stylus is easy to lose
  • Only available secondhand or through refurbishers

The Nintendo DS Lite was one of Nintendo’s most popular creations, and for good reason. Not only was it a big driver in touch-based gameplay becoming as popular as it is today (many of the best mobile games have a lot to owe it), but it also had tons of games built around its good old-fashioned button-pressing, and also boasts compatibility with the Game Boy Advance’s huge back-catalog. With all the GBA and DS games to choose from, this is an excellent way to dive into the world of retro gaming.

So what games has it got? Well, practically everything, including some true Nintendo classics. One of its launch titles was Super Mario 64 DS and, allowing you to play the original N64 game with the addition of some new characters and levels. That on its own is a slice of history, but then there’s also Animal Crossing: Wild World (which put the series on the map), The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (I don’t care what people say, Link has a train, it’s great), WarioWare: Touched! (truly one of the most fun touch-based games), Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (the game’s first official English release), Mario Kart DS (it has so many great tracks – also ROB), and many others.

Though Nintendo hasn’t always been popular with third-party developers, the DS was one console that had a very wide variety of games on it. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was an exclusive (briefly) handheld GTA experience, Final Fantasy III gave a fresh coat of paint to a classic game and brought it to the West, it has a trio of superb Castlevania games, the enticing drama of Phoenix Wright, and still, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Read our list of the best DS games to learn more.

You may wonder why I’m specifically recommending the Nintendo DS Lite rather than just the Nintendo DS. Well, as someone who bought the original, then saved up and got the DS Lite as soon as it came out, I think the Lite is the superior model. Aesthetically it’s much more pleasing, it fits more easily in your pocket, and it feels more resistant to damage than the original DS (I say this as someone who damaged my original DS, but not my DS Lite).

Unfortunately, you may find that a few of the popular DS games are fairly expensive nowadays – especially if you’re after Mario or Pokemon games. Having said that, there’s still a sizable selection of games that are pretty darn cheap, and you can get a refurbished console itself for a pretty affordable price, too. Starting your collection shouldn’t be too hard, but be prepared to accept that some of your favorites won’t be easy to find.

One last thing to note is that the DS stylus is quite easy to lose. It does slot into the console neatly, but it often starts to become loose over time. If you’re buying second-hand, make sure that you’re getting a version that has the stylus included, and keep in mind that replacing it might be bothersome.

How we chose the best retro game consoles

When it comes to picking the best retro game console, there’s a lot of factors to take into account – most of which depend on the type of gamer you are!

To us, the most important part of a retro game console is its library of games. Whether the games are pre-installed on the system, come in the form of cartridges, or are available through a platform like Steam or the Nintendo eStore, the range of different titles available can make or break a console. And, of course, for those of you who don’t mind going modern, the ability to play current-gen games as well as retro games is always a plus.

We also look at the console’s hardware, focusing on its processing power and performance, battery life, and display quality, so you know that you can really enjoy every pixel. Of course, controls also factor into this, as you don’t want to play your favorite fighting games with sticky buttons or input delay.

Another thing we take into account is the price. Unfortunately, as retro gaming is a relatively niche hobby and many of the original hardware is no longer in circulation, a lot of the best retro game consoles are quite expensive. So we’re always on the hunt for affordable options that can still offer that authentic retro gaming experience.

What Nintendo handheld console was popular in the 90s?

In the 1990s, the Game Boy was Nintendo’s popular handheld console, remaining one of the best-selling consoles of all time to this day. In 1998, they also released an enhanced version called the Game Boy Color, which could play all the OG Game Boy games, plus a selection of Color exclusives. The Virtual Boy was also released in this era (1995), but never became much of a success.

What was the first game made on Game Boy?

When the Game Boy was released in 1989, it had the following launch titles: Super Mario Land, Tetris, Tennis, Alleyway, and Yakuman.