Kid's first game system: retro / DIY edition
July 16, 2016 11:19 AM   Subscribe

After reading Andy Baio's adventures of "educating" his son on video game history, I'm interested to get a plug-and-play type system to play old arcade games with my soon-to-be 5 year old son, but I'm not sure what to pick. Details inside.

We don't play many video games at home, but we have old game systems we've booted up a few times in the last year. My wife and I played a Wii game (Guilty Party) that used the Wii-mote and nunchuk, but our son didn't get the mechanics down, and was happy to watch us play.

After reading waxpancake's article, I looked for the pre-loaded "Pac-Man plug-and-play TV game," and found a similar looking one, along with a ton of other options. But then I was wondering, are there any options where you can load your own games? I've seen some pre-built MAME arcade sets, but I was looking for a simple two-button kit.

Does anyone have recommendations for factory made plug-and-play TV games, or home-built kits that allow you to load more games? Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Technology (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wait until November, then pick up the NES Classic when it's released. 30 NES classic games are pre-loaded -- and they are franchise titles as well, not just no-names. It's unnatural how excited I am for this, even though I've been playing those old games on emulators and the Wii for years.
posted by cgg at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you want to DIY - look into Retropie.

Some searching on Etsy and Ebay will also lead you to people who have already taken those steps for you, you just need to procure the roms. There'a variety of controllers you can then use to hook up to it, and you can limit to specific two button ones if you like.
posted by Karaage at 11:56 AM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Retropie works amazingly well on a pi 2 or 3, and I have it set up with two of these SNES-type controllers. You can get NES-style controllers, too, but the Buffalo ones are really well- made, and some others aren't. The setup is really easy on paper, but can be a bit wonky in practice, but there are really good guides out there.

You have to download ROMS for this, though, and it's a legal gray area... and the system cgg linked above has some really great games of all genres on it, and it's legit nintendo, and legit controllers, and the controllers work on the wii as well. I'd probably spring for that if I were you, and then re-visit the Retropie if he really gets into retro gaming.
posted by Huck500 at 12:24 PM on July 16, 2016

RetroPi is amazing, but it is a non-trivial amount of work. As someone who has done both, I would say that hacking a Wii and setting it up to play NES/SNES/Sega roms was actually easier than setting up the RetroPi. And hacking the Wii isn't especially easy.

If you're willing to do a little DIY work, I would suggest getting a Wii and hacking it. It is a perfect emulation console and their classic controller is lovely for these old games. For that matter, if you don't want ot get your hands dirty, but are willing to spend more money, there are a TON of NES/SNES/Sega/Turbografix games available for sale in the Wii store.

Otherwise, I would look at something like the Sega Classic or wait for the NES Classic that cgg mentioned.
posted by 256 at 1:36 PM on July 16, 2016

I got my kids Game Boy Colors and a bunch of cartridges to get them into retro games. It worked! Bonus is that they are a good size for the kids' hands, and run for ages on two aa batteries.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:52 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

oddly enough, Bed,Bath,&Beyond has a ton of these retro systems (usually of the form of a controller you plug into the tv) like 'Arcade", "atari 2600", 'sega genesis' etc. Pro:they tend to have a lot of games on them, like 60+, con: I don't think you can load games on them, Pro: cheap.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:10 AM on July 17, 2016

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