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The Coolest Old Video Game Consoles that are Worth Money

There has recently been a huge wave of nostalgic product re-releases from the likes of Nintendo, Sega, Atari, and Sony.  Offering retro emulator versions of the old video game consoles – , these ’80s and 90’s console powerhouse reboots have received mixed reviews.  But that hasn’t stopped them from moving some serious numbers, with the Super NES Classic famously selling out repeatedly.  More than 20 years later, are these consoles still everything we thought they were as kids? And perhaps more importantly, are they worth the insane resale prices?

Old Video Game Consoles – NES Classic

NES Classic console constructed from Legos on space background with stars
Photo credit BrickinNick https://www.flickr.com/photos/nickdm/35841797313/

 

The Famicom was released in Japan in 1983 and was rebranded as the NES as it slowly entered American and European markets from 1985-1993.  A huge success at the time, Nintendo started the current industry standard practice of licensing third-party developers to develop games.

This led to a huge library of games that greatly contributed to the commercial and cultural success of the console.

Nintendo released the NES Classic in 2016 (MSRP $60) as an emulator with a fixed library of 30 handpicked games.  The retro console, bundled with two controllers, was a huge commercial success.

Production was ceased in 2017, until Nintendo announced another production run in June 2018. However, this second production run only lasted through December of that year. Due to their limited supply, the NES Classic is now only available from 3rd party sellers and sells for upwards of $95.

Among others, the game library includes:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simons Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Final Fantasy
  • Excitebike
  • Galaga
  • Super Mario Bros
  • Super Mario Bros 2
  • Super Marios Bros 3
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The legend of Link
  • Mega Man 2
  • Pac Man
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Punch Out

While these old video game consoles are no doubt classics, it’s hard to justify the price tag when the extremely dated 8-bit graphics hold up terribly and are easily emulated for free online. Unlicensed 3rd party emulator consoles also provide a comparable experience.

Video games have come a long way since the NES Classic, and nothing makes that quite so readily apparent as this retro console.  The hefty price tag here is justified primarily by the nostalgia that the console embodies.

Old Video Game Consoles – Sega Genesis Mini

Sega Genesis Mini console and two controllers
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Released as the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988, and the Genesis in the US in 1989, Sega’s 16-bit SNES competitor saw a retro re-release in 2019 as the Sega Genesis Mini (MSRP $50).

This retro console sells for $10 less than the NES Classic, before the 3rd party reseller markup. It comes bundled with 40 games and two controllers.

The 16-bit graphics format and iconic game designs mean that these games hold up significantly better over time than the 8-bit NES Classic.

Among others, the classic game library notably consists of games such as:

  • ToeJam & Earl
  • Street Fighter II
  • Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
  • Tetris
  • Sonic The Hedgehog
  • Sonic The Hedgehog II
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Mega Man: The Wily Wars
  • Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  • Ecco The Dolphin
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Contra

However, changing the language settings in the menu provides access to different games.  Changing it to Japanese grants access to games such as MUSHA, Puyo 2, and Rent a Hero.  While changing it to Korean or Chinese grants access to Alien Soldier, and Outrun 2019. These additional game libraries are an unexpected perk to this system!

Prospective buyers should be aware that most of these games can be found on more modern systems such as the Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch through the $30 Sega Genesis Classics game collection. This collection includes around 50 games, some of which overlap with the list presented above. However, if you’re looking for the original form factor with the controllers and miniature console, this retro console is a great deal.

PlayStation Classic

PlayStation Classic and two controllers
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Sony entered the old video game consoles market in 2018, on the 24th anniversary of the Playstation’s 1994 release.

Despite selling 120,000 units upon release in Japan, the PlayStation Classic (MSRP $20) received mixed reviews and flopped in the United States.  Originally releasing stateside at an exorbitant $100, the price has subsequently dropped over the years to $20.

Using the open-source emulator, PCSX ReARMed, the PlayStation Classic debuted with a measly 20 titles.

  • These titles include:
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
  • Resident Evil: Director’s Cut
  • Tekken 3
  • Rayman
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Battle Arena Toshinden
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Destruction Derby
  • Intelligent Qube
  • Jumping Flash!
  • Mr. Driller
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Revelations: Persona
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  • Syphon Filter
  • Twisted Metal
  • Wild Arms

While there are some legendary games in this lineup, the lack of PSN support is a huge missed opportunity, meaning that no future games can be added.  The original console boasted insane graphics specs for its time, with a 64-bit processor and polygonal graphics capabilities.  But when played on modern displays, the flaws of this graphics system are put under a microscope and it can be hard to look past this console’s glaring texture warping.

These games can be played on PS2, PS3, PSP, and PS Vita with enhanced texture smoothing and graphic support, so there is little incentive to buy a PlayStation Classic when it comes to gameplay specifications.  While the PlayStation Classic has a majorly revamped graphics and memory system, it offers little customization, hard locking video output at 720p, and muddying the original graphics with an amalgam of clunky filtering. It is hard to justify this purchase based solely on performance when these games and more can be played with better graphic and audio performance on any modern PlayStation console or PC.

However, the PlayStation Classic offers much in the way of nostalgia.  The classic startup screen and the game selection screen, which is modeled off the original memory card/cd player media selection interface, are features that will appeal to any nostalgic gamer.  Furthermore, the Classic is the only way to play these games with an original, non-Dualshock, controller.  At an average resale value of $20, this console is a solid option, especially when compared with the exorbitant resale prices that Nintendo’s offerings are fetching.

Old Video Game Consoles – Super NES Classic

Super NES Classic console with one attached controller
Photo credit Bago Games https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/28032609214

 

The Super NES Classic dropped in 2017 (resale $200).  Coming with 21 games and two controllers, this miniature emulator successfully recaptured the cultural buzz that surrounded the 1991 release of the Super Famicom, or Super Nintendo as it is known in the United States.  Also known as the Super NES Mini, the Super NES Classic was in such high demand at release that Nintendo was criticized for lack of availability, and scalpers jumped on the opportunity, reselling the emulator for 300% markups.  Overwhelming demand since has prompted updated production runs from Nintendo, which finally ceased in 2018.  Originally sold at $80, limited availability has driven the resale value to around $200.

The games included on this emulator are:

  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario Kart
  • F-Zero
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Metroid
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Mega Man X
  • Final Fantasy III
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2 (previously unreleased)
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Secret of Mana
  • EarthBound
  • SuperGouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Super Punch-Out!!

Outside of the typical Nintendo availability restrictions, there are not many flaws with this console.

It boasts an Allwinner R16 system on a chip with four ARM Cortex-A7 CPU’s, an ARM Mali 400 Mp2 GPU.

Storage-wise, it has 512 MB of flash storage and 256 MB of DDR3 memory.  All this is to say that it handles the 16-bit games perfectly, which is all you can ask of a SNES emulator.

The Super NES Classic features an HDMI display output, which is perfect for the modern home entertainment setup.  The two controller ports are hidden behind a front flap modeled after the original Super NES controller ports.  While this adds no functionality, it is a nice homage to the original system and certainly adds to the nostalgia factor of the console as a whole.

The USB connectors on the two bundled wired controllers are compatible with Nintendo’s Wii ecosystem as well.  This means that Wii’s Classic Controller is compatible with the Super NES Classic, and the Super NES Classic controller is compatible with the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console.  This is a great touch on Nintendo’s part and allows gamers to use these classic controllers on whatever retro games they own on Wii or Wii U.

All in all, this is a fantastic old video game consoles emulator.  But when these games are being offered on Wii’s virtual console ecosystem and Switch’s Nintendo Online emulator’s, you are only paying for the form factor here.

Retro Console Workarounds

Old Video Game Consoles – Nintendo DS Lite

White Nintendo DS Lite with stylus
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

If you can look past the nostalgia of form factor, there are a lot of bargains to be found that will allow you to play retro games and more.  For instance, a Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP resales now for over $100, but the Nintendo DS Lite can be had for around $70.  Considering that the DS Lite is compatible with original Gameboy Advance (GBA) cartridges, this is a no brainer.  While it can be difficult to track down the original cartridges, some classic games can be played on this.  The GBA supports some of the best-designed games of all time, such as The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Golden Sun, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Metroid Fusion, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords, Advance Wars, Pokemon Emerald/Ruby and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.

In its most powerful form, the SP, the Gameboy Advance had fairly limited internals, featuring a 32-bit ARM7TDMI CPU, 15-bit RGB capability, and 240 x 160-pixel resolution.

This meant that developers had to rely heavily on pixel art and innovative gameplay design to push this hardware to its limits.  Over 15 years later, these games have aged gracefully and offer hours of engrossing gameplay.  And when played on the Nintendo DS Lite, it can be taken anywhere on a hyper portable device with insane battery performance.

Going with a DS Lite to play GBA advance games also gives you access to the DS’ classic library of games, which are beginning to approach retro status as well.

Some great DS games include:

  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  • Chrono Trigger
  • The World Ends with You
  • Pokemon Heart Gold/Soul Silver
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Similar to their GBA counterparts, these games rely more on good gameplay design and gorgeous pixel art over demanding graphics.  As a result, they hold up incredibly well over time as well.  Compared to the NES and SNES Classic, the pixel art of these games appears much richer and, if you can look past the nostalgia factor, offer much more depth of gameplay.

Old Video Game Consoles – Xbox One

Xbox One Console and a cordless controller
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

While the Xbox One is probably the furthest can get from a retro console, factoring in the extensive catalog of backwards compatible games, it is far and away the best-valued emulator.  The backwards compatibility team at Xbox has worked tirelessly to add classic games to this service, listening to community polls and adding fan favorites one by one over time.  And factoring in the Xbox Live support, this service is difficult to rival.

Looking at original Xbox titles, this service offers classics such as:

  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Star Wars Battlefront II
  • Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
  • Destroy All Humans!
  • Blinx: The Time Sweeper
  • Panzer Dragoon Orta
  • Fusion Frenzy
  • Grabbed by the Ghoulies
  • Ninja Gaiden Black
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
  • SSX 3
  • Red Faction II
  • Prince of Persia
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates

For those who were too young to grow up with the consoles of the ’80s and ’90s, those pricey emulators offer little in terms of gameplay.  But kids born in the ’90s will fondly remember playing Blinx: The Time Sweeper couch co-op with friends, or losing themselves in the aggressive pace of Panzer Dragoon Orta.  On top of these offerings, backwards compatibility offers access to the Xbox 360’s catalog of games. And with many Xbox Live Arcade games having been released on the Xbox 360, you will also have access to many of the Sega titles that the Genesis Mini offers as well.

Highlights from this 568-game catalog include:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Skate.
  • Skate 3
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Halo: Reach
  • Ikaruga
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • Fable II
  • Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • Mass Effect
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Viva Piñata
  • Portal 2

There is much to be found in the way of nostalgia in this catalog.  But more than that, these games hold up very well by modern standards, and if you are yearning to replay a game from your childhood, it can often be found for very cheap on the Xbox marketplace.  And from a more retro game standpoint, Rare released Rare Replay in 2015. This bundle includes 30 games developed by Rare, from 1983’s Jetpac to 2008’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.

The Xbox One will not offer the same form factor nostalgia as many of the other retro console offerings. However, the value for your money is unparalleled, as the system also gives you access to modern titles if you ever get sick of playing 8-bit Donkey Kong games.

Old Video Game Consoles – Nintendo Virtual Console (Wii U, Switch, 3DS)

White Nintendo Virtual Console
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Nintendo’s Virtual Console service renders much of their retro console offerings obsolete.  A Wii U can be found for around $ 150-second hand and will allow you to play Virtual Console games in either tablet mode or on your TV.  The Virtual Console library consists of titles from the NES, Super NES, and Gameboy Advance.

Available for the Wii U Virtual Console are games such as:

  • Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
  • MEGA MAN BATTLE NETWORK 6 CYBEAST FALZAR
  • Mario Bros
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Xenoblade Chronicles
  • Game & Watch Gallery 4

But the best Virtual Console value is found in Nintendo Switch’s Nintendo Switch Online service.

The service offers little utility and is poorly implemented, especially compared to PSN and Xbox Live’s offerings.

But if retro gaming is what you seek, then this $20 yearly service is well worth it.

It provides access to the fixed yet regularly updated NES and Super NES emulators that include titles such as:

  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Kid Icarus
  • Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Wario’s Woods
  • Metroid
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • Balloon Fight
  • Baseball
  • NES Open
  • Pop’n TwinBee
  • Smash TEnnis
  • Operation Logic Bomb
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Star Fox 2
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Many of these titles are redundant with Nintendo’s retro console offerings, and with the limited availability and resale prices of said consoles, it is very hard to justify those prices.  However, the experience of playing these games on a sideways joycon doesn’t compare to the original controllers.  So if you have the money to blow on nostalgic controllers, go for the retro consoles.

Otherwise, hands down the best value for retro gaming is found in modern consoles such as Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

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