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The Best Retro Gaming Gifts

The ideal gadgets for nostalgia-seeking gamers, which won't even require the TV to be set to channel three.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
A close-up of Super Mario Bros. being played on the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. handheld.
Photo: Gizmodo

The ‘80s was considered a golden era of marketing to kids, and several decades later, those kids who spent their childhoods with Saturday morning cartoons and 8-bit consoles are fully-grown adults with jobs and responsibilities, maybe looking to recapture some of the joy of their youth. Nostalgia is now a big business, and retro gaming is more popular than ever.

Sticking a Game Boy in the hands of a 10-year-old raised on modern consoles will probably end in disappointment and confusion, but there’s undoubtedly some grownups on your holiday shopping list that are eager to take a walk down memory lane, especially if that lane is full of Goombas, Piranha Plants, and Koopa Troopas. Here are the best consoles, accessories, and novelty gadgets for gamers who want to go retro.

Analogue Pocket

The black version of the Analogue Pocket, with Super Mario Land on the screen, against a black backdrop.
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Know someone with a stack of original Nintendo Game Boy, GBA, and Sega Game Gear cartridges they’re still hoarding, but with a decades-old handheld that’s dying a long, drawn-out death? Using special programmable chips that function exactly like the hardware inside those original handhelds did, the $219 Analogue Pocket plays retro handheld games perfectly, with an LCD screen that emulates the appearance of older hardware, and a slot on the back that’s compatible with original game cartridges (so saved games from decades ago can be continued today).

Buy: Analogue Pocket

Arcade 1Up NFL Blitz Legends

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Twenty five years ago, Midway Games released NFL Blitz, a coin-op arcade game that translated the action-packed frenetic realism of the company’s blockbuster NBA Jam into an American Football game. Blitz became a huge hit and is recognized as one of the all-time classic football games. Now Arcade1Up has released the original title and two of its follow-ups —NFL Blitz ‘99, and NFL Blitz 2000: Gold Edition— in a gorgeous home arcade machine with built in WiFi online multiplayer and leaderboards.

Buy: Arcade 1Up NFL Blitz

Miyoo Mini

The Miyoo Mini, showing its home screen on the display, being held in someone's left hand.
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For years, there’s been a steady of stream of handheld emulators pouring out of China: devices that look and feel like the original Nintendo Game Boy, but packed with software capable of playing thousands of retro games from countless systems. The $64 Miyoo Mini was a surprise hit this year, perfectly balancing a small footprint with playable controls and a well-sized screen. It can play classic games from systems all the way back to the Atari and right up to the PS1, and while it’s better suited for retro gamers who are more technically proficient, it’s still very easy to use and enjoy.

Buy: Miyoo Mini

FunKey S

The FunKey S handheld sitting on a Game Boy Advance SP.
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The original Nintendo Game Boy changed portable gaming forever, but it was kind of a beast, and just barely pocketable. The ~$68 FunKey S is actually smaller than a Game Boy game cartridge, but through emulation, is capable of playing thousands of retro titles, including 3D games designed for the original PlayStation. It’s about as portable as a portable gaming machine can get while still actually being playable without leaving your hands painfully cramped.

Buy: FunKey S

Blaze Evercade EXP

The Evercade EXP handheld in white, photographed against a black background.
Image: Blaze Entertainment
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We loved the original Evercade, because it made retro gaming incredibly easy for nostalgic gamers lacking a back catalog of old game cartridges. Instead of having to source copies of games using potentially sketchy methods, the Evercade used its own cartridges, each featuring a collection of officially licensed classic retro titles. The $150 Evercade EXP is the next generation of the handheld, which takes the same approach, but includes a better screen, bigger battery, faster processor, extra shoulder buttons, wifi for over-the-air software updates, and two additional action buttons, allowing the EXP to be used sideways for playing portrait oriented games in TATE mode.

Buy: Blaze Evercade EXP

Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite

The Nintendo Switch Lite in gray, with The Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening on screen, photographed against a white background.
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Both the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite can play the latest and greatest games from decades-old Nintendo franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario, but they both also have access to a sizeable collection of retro Nintendo titles from the NES, Super Nintendo, and now the N64—including GoldenEye 007through the Switch Online service. The $200 Switch Lite is the best option if you’re looking to be a generous gifter this holiday season, and you can guarantee that no one will be disappointed finding the $350 Switch OLED, with its upgraded screen, under the tree.

Buy: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, Nintendo Switch OLED.

Backbone One Controller for iPhone and Android

The Backbone One controller for iOS, attached to an iPhone, photographed against a white backdrop.
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Modern smartphones are essentially pocket-friendly gaming systems with the big drawback of requiring players to rely on touchscreen controls. That’s far from ideal for retro games originally developed for gamepads, but you can easily turn a smartphone into a super-sized and super-powered Game Boy with the $100 Backbone One controller, designed for most iPhones and Android smartphones. It uses an adjustable clamping mechanism that can expand to accommodate even larger devices, adding physical action buttons, analog joysticks, a directional pad, and shoulder buttons to a touchscreen only device, with connectivity provided through the smartphone’s charging port.

Buy: Backbone One

8BitDo SN30 Pro

The 8BitDo SN30 Pro controller being held in two hands with a smartphone attached.
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There are lots of wireless controllers out there now, including those shipped with the latest and greatest consoles, that can be also connected to smartphones for playing retro games through emulation. But if you’re looking for an authentic retro feel without the hassle of a cord, the $45 8Bitdo SN30 Pro looks and feels like the Super Nintendo’s excellent game pads, but with the modern convenience of wireless Bluetooth, and a pair of analog sticks for playing modern games, too.

Buy: 8BitDo SN30 Pro

8BitDo Zero 2

The 8BitDo Zero 2 controller in blue being held in two hands over a wooden table.
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Is there such thing as a gaming emergency? Of course there is! Think weddings, lectures, or disciplinary hearings. You don’t want someone to be caught unprepared and forced to while away the hours playing retro games on their smartphone using touch controls, do you? The $20 8BitDo Zero 2 shrinks and reduces a wireless Bluetooth gamepad to its bare minimum, while still providing properly sized controls so it’s comfortable to play with. The Zero 2 is even compatible with the Switch as a motion controller, while being as sleek and pocketable as a Zippo lighter.

Buy: 8BitDo Zero 2

Super Impulse Micro Arcades

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Compared to the processors in today’s gaming machines, classic consoles were so underpowered that they can be recreated on credit card-sized handhelds thin enough to slip into a wallet, and that’s exactly what Super Impulse has done with its Micro Arcade lineup. Priced at around $20 each, the handhelds feature classic games like Pac-Man, DigDug, Galaga, and even The Oregon Trail, playable on tiny full color screens with all the sounds of the original games. These are the definition of stocking stuffers.

Buy: Super Impulse Micro Arcades

Nintendo Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.

The Nintendo Game & Watch The Legend of Zelda, with The Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening on screen, photographed against a green background.
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Longstanding video game companies like Nintendo are more than happy to sell you the same game again and again and again if it scratches a nostalgic. Classic titles like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda have been reissued for countless platforms, but they’re somehow even more enjoyable on Nintendo’s $50 handheld Game & Watch revivals, which now feature color screens, rechargeable batteries, and a handful of retro Nintendo titles on each. If you can’t decide between the two, the Legend of Zelda version would be our pick, as it features Link’s Game Boy outing, one of the best in the series.

Buy: Nintendo Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo Game Boy Digital Watch

A closeup of the Paladone Game Boy digital watch, photographed on a white wood side table.
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Smartwatches are cool, but can the Apple Watch wake you up from a nap with an alarm that plays the Game Boy’s Super Mario Land theme? Spoiler alert: it can’t, so if you’ve got someone on your shopping list who devoted a good portion of their youth to the Game Boy, this $26 retro digital watch from Paladone oozes with charm and limps along with functionality. It can tell the time, show you the day of the week, and reveal the date at the push of a button—that’s about it, but do you really need more with a tiny Game Boy replica strapped to your wrist?

Buy: Nintendo Game Boy Digital Watch

8BitDo N30 Wireless Charger for Mobile

A hand placing a smartphone on the 8BitDo N30 Wireless Charger for Mobile sitting on a wooden table.
Image: 8BitDo
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Know someone who grew up obsessed with the NES but as an adult doesn’t have the time to revisit the favorite games of their youth? If work consumes most of their free time, they probably have a smartphone, and if they have a smartphone, they’ll appreciate this wireless charger that looks like a classic NES gamepad, but can instead be used to bring a dead phone back to life without a cable. The $27 8BitDo N30 Wireless Charger for Mobile doesn’t have real buttons and can’t be used to play games, but it does have a fun retro gaming Easter Egg adorning its charging pad: the classic Konami cheat code that every ‘80s kid still has memorized.

Buy: 8BitDo N30 Wireless Charger for Mobile