Retro gaming time!
January 7, 2015 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Streets of Rage, Mortal Kombat, Golden Axe, Shinobii.. I'd like to play some retro games on a handheld console. What should I get?

Sega has the Blaze, Amazon seems full of unofficial systems, and then there is the OUYA which has a few emulators. I'd like to spend the time playing the game, not tweaking, and not replacing batteries every couple of hours. Apart from that I am open to suggestions :)
posted by devnull to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Android has a ton of great emulators that are easy to use. Saturn, Dreamcast, N64, NES, SNES, Playstation 1, GBA, Nintendo DS, the list goes on. Android also has built-in support for the Playstation 3 controller which makes for an awesome experience.
posted by mattholomew at 4:49 AM on January 7, 2015

Here's another one similar to the Blaze you linked. It's notable because it has an SD card slot, so you can load any games you want onto it.
posted by jbickers at 5:22 AM on January 7, 2015

Seconding something running Android. There are lots of cheap devices that would fit the bill. Adding a USB OTG cable for a couple of notes gives you the ability to add gamepads of various kinds.
posted by pipeski at 6:14 AM on January 7, 2015

Android is really great for this except that you need to either play on a touchscreen or plug in a controller (which sort of ruins the portable handheld feeling).

My suggestion would be a Nintendo DS with an R4 cartridge and some emulators. It can take between 15 minutes and a couple of hours to get everything running the first time (depending on how tech-savvy and/or good at following instructions you are), but it requires basically zero fiddling after that. Here's a how-to (it's just the first one that turned up on google, there are probably better ones).

There are all kinds of emulators for the DS. I personally have a fair bit of experience with the SNES and NES emulators and 90%+ of the games run great. Also, the DS inputs are basically a perfect analog of a SNES controller, so the games feel very natural to play.
posted by 256 at 6:57 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nope nope nope.

Get a used PSP for $60 from gamestop, put Custom Firmware on it and grab a couple of emulators and you're ready to go. Cheaper, faster, and a better screen than the DS, with the ability to easily run PS1 games on it as well.
posted by Oktober at 8:21 AM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

A PSP with custom firmware can more or less flawlessly run Genesis and older console games. It can also run most PS1 games more or less flawlessly, and Super Nintendo games more or less adequately (a bit of frameskip, and some emulation issues). It also runs Game Boy Advance and older portable systems more or less flawlessly. As long as you don't get the original fat model (PSP-1000, which has a terrible D-pad), it's great. It does require a bit of fiddling to set up, though.

If Oktober's link sounds like too much bother you might also look into an open source handheld like the GCW Zero.
posted by OnSecondThought at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2015

you can pay a lot less than 60 for a used psp, and there's way cooler models like the PSP go.

i was going to recommend something like the dingoo a380, but time has moved on and that never really got great with updates, just stayed mediocre to ok.

The GCW Zero seems to be what all the nerds are on about now. I haven't played with or used that, but it looks awesome and people are praising it.

It's around $150 though. And my question would really be, is it worth $100 more than a used PSP that will run everything pretty good? The 4:3 ratio, NTSC resolution screen is very cool for emulating old games... and the specs are nice... but that's a lot of dosh for something that can at least be approximated with much cheaper hardware.

If you go android, by the way, i wouldn't bother with anything that didn't have physical controls. Something like this.

Some people are super happy with those JXD devices, some people hate them. There's a LOT of models. The 7300 seems popular and well liked, but it's also... pretty big. This could be a feature or a bug, depending on what you wanted. The saddest thing about them, honestly, is that there's no model that's both the small psp-ish size and also has decent specs. You either get the big nexus-7-plus-controls gargantuan one, or you get a mediocre one. The beefier ones will be able to emulate everything up to the dreamcast no problem, the older ones? ehh... you might be able to squeak out an N64 game.

i really wish something newer and better more in the size of the dingoo a380 had come out. It was like, barely bigger than a gameboy micro, which is an awesome form factor for something like this. That or the tiny JXDs.

Personally, i wouldn't be able to resist the siren song of a cheap-ass PSP. But the other stuff is at least interesting. I hope that was a useful outline of what's out there right now. Worth noting my friends manage a retro game store, and they're always either buying or being sent samples of stuff like this because "OMG, check out our new handheld SNES that accepts real cartridges!". I, or they, have played around with a lot of this kind of stuff. Most of it sucks. Part of what was really nice about the psp was that it was also a real console by a major manufacturer and didn't exude shitty cheapness.

Another option is how nice of a phone do you have? I've been able to emulate anything that an emulator was available for since the iphone 4 days, and my LG G3 could run dreamcast games at 60fps non stop. Any iphone newer than the 5 can run 3DS games, and any snapdragon 600 or better android phone can run basically any console game there's software for(dreamcast, i think PS2, etc). A controller case might be an interesting way to go here.

If you get an android device, be prepared for HOURS of hackery though. Learning ADB, loading apps like ES file explorer to move files around and launch an FTP server to manipulate shit from your computer, etc. I have killed entire evenings getting stuff running on my firetv or an android phone. That was sort of the appeal of PSP/dingoo/GCW type stuff to me. I want to put the ROMs on a memory card and leave. I love nerding around with shit, but sometimes you just don't want to.
posted by emptythought at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I didn't know the PSP had been so thoroughly hacked. I still love the DS--it's a great little machine--but, yeah, the PSP looks like a better option.
posted by 256 at 6:35 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

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