Console gaming

2020 will be huge for retro game systems

Greetings, Programs! While I, like most of the video game world, have been hungrily eyeing the next generation of Xbox and Playstation due out later this year, a veritable tsunami of retro game systems is heading our way at high speed.

As a gamer in my 40s, I’ve had the privilege of playing just about every major video game system ever released. Atari 2600? Check. Colecovision? Check. Intellivision? Check. Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Game Boy (both brick and advance)? Check. Check. Check. Check.

Hell, I’ve even played systems most people have never heard of. Vectrex. TurboGrafx-16 (admit it, aside from the whole Kayne West thing, you never heard of it). Atari Jaguar. Sega Saturn (just kidding! It didn’t flop that hard). Some were better than others but all were fun to play.

retro game systems
I kid you not, this was a BFD for a hot minute.

Which is why it was inevitable that most of these retro game systems would be resurrected. I just didn’t expect it to happen all at once!

I mean, seriously, the systems rising from the grave range from kind of old school to Ready Player One old school. The arcade might even see a massive renaissance starting next year. How insane is that?!

Let’s take a look at the next year of consoles which just also happen to mirror the first 18 years of my life.

Atari VCS

You might be saying to yourself, aren’t there already a ton of Atari emulators on the market? And you would be correct. My nephew has an Atari joystick that plugs into the TV with 20-something games on it.

But this is not just one of the endless stream of extremely limited retro game systems. The Atari VCS is also a new system with new games and updates of classics. And, naturally, it’ll have a bunch of the original titles as well because if you’re going to include a 21st Century version of the Atari joystick, you really have to have something to play it with.

retro game systems atari vcs

Here’s an interesting tidbit, though. You can install a secondary operating system like Windows or Linux and play your computer games on it. Assuming it works smoothly, that could be something worth looking into if you’re a real fan of retro but also want the new with the old.

You can even make your own games with the editor kit the system comes with. Maybe we’ll finally have a playable version of E.T. The Extraterrestrial! You know, if you like to punish yourself.

The Atari VCS is slated to come out in early 2020. Good luck!

Intellivision Amico

If you’re under the age of 30, there’s a good chance you’re not familiar with Intellivision. Go on with yourself, you little whippersnappers! They were the Sega to Atari’s Nintendo. And if you’re under the age of 20, you probably don’t understand that reference, either.

Anyway! Intellivision was an incredible system (for its time) but Atari ruled the market until the market crashed in the early 80s. Then there were no game systems of note until Nintendo came and single-handedly saved our favorite pastime.

Now we have the Intellivision Amico which, like the Atari VCS, is both retro and new. The Amico is not going for the crown in cutting edge graphics and gameplay. Instead, it’s aiming for a more family-oriented audience with simplicity being the throughline of all its games.

Intellivision® Amico™ - Reveal Trailer (2018)

All of the games are exclusive and E10+ so they’re serious about the family-friendly thing. That might sound limiting, but if you’re an adult looking for a system to play with your younger kids, this has a lot of potential.

Also, it will have a large library of both Intellivision and Atari games remade for the system. Burgertime, R-Type, Moon Patrol, and Archon alone might be worth the price.

Speaking of, the system will cost $149-$179 USD and all of the games will cost less than $8, which is pretty great if you’re on a budget.

The Intellivision Amico is due out on Oct. 10. Since this system doesn’t have the baggage of Atari and is not trying to play in the Xbox/Sony arena, they might just carve out a corner of the market for themselves.

TurboGrafx-16 Mini

Moving slightly forward in console history, we come to the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. That’s exactly what it sounds like: A miniature version of the original TurboGrafx-16. The TurboGrafx was a system that tried to compete with the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genisis in the United States and…failed. Rather spectacularly.

It was actually a really good system, but it never attracted enough third-party publishers in the U.S. It did, however, do quite well in Japan, briefly outselling the SNES before being left in the dust along with everyone else.

Somewhat annoyingly, the mini will only have pre-loaded games so those of us who may or may not have some of their old TurboGrafx-16 games (don’t judge me!) will not be able to use them.

TurboGrafx-16
Don’t let the picture fool you. You cannot slide your game into the slot. Dammit.

On the other hand, it’s going to have 57 games installed and among those are some of the best games I’ve ever played for any 16-bit system. Military Madness is Advance Wars a full decade before Advance Wars came out. Alien Crush is an insane pinball game (but where the hell is the sequel, Devil’s Crush?!?!). And Blazing Lazers was one of the best vertical scrolling shooters ever. The day I beat that nigh-impossible game, I almost cried with relief that it was over. And then I had to start from the beginning on the secret God of the Game level of difficulty. Sob.

Fun Fact! Kayne West, who really did almost name an album after the TurboGrafx-16, says Blazing Lazers is his favorite game. Say what you will about him, but he has impeccable taste in games.

Kayne West in silver body paint

 

The TurboGrafx-16 Mini is currently dropping on Mar. 19. I wonder if the Blazing Lazers codes will work…

Polymega

For the truly ambitious, and for those with some money to burn, there’s the Polymega.

This is a jack of all trades system that lets you play games from almost every CD-based game system ever. And I mean all of them, including the original PlayStation, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Neo-Geo CD, and others. Best of all, there is no region lock so you can play all of your imports as well. Mmmm… Radiant Silvergun

Polymega
Expensive? Yes. Worth it if you’re serious about retro gaming? Hell yeah!

But wait! There’s more! You can buy different modules to let you play cartridges from different systems. Right out of the gate, you’ll be able to buy modules for the Genesis, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and TurboGrafx-16. Each module will also be region free and there are plans to release more modules over time. And even if you don’t have any games for any of these old systems, you’ll be able to buy and download games from Polymega’s online store.

The Polymega should be out this February. It is not cheap, coming in at $299.99 and $59.99 USD per module. But this will allow you to collect almost every major system in one spot and if that’s what you’re looking to do, this is a relatively inexpensive way to do it. Oh, and there will be a lightgun so you can play Virtua Cop and House of the Dead the way they were meant to be played.

Retro game systems are the future. Sort of

One of the dumbest things we as a culture ever did was neglect to preserve early movies. We didn’t recognize the impact film would have on, well, everything and did nothing to keep the earliest movies from rotting away.

We eventually got our heads out of our asses but by then, a massive amount of our heritage was gone. And for a while, we were repeating the same mistake with video games. It’s for kids! This stuff is garbage! It’s not “real” art!

Ridiculous. Video games are an evolving art form and we are finding new ways to preserve our history while moving it forward at the same time. Are players who grew up on Halo and Call of Duty going to spend endless hours playing Pong? Of course not. No one is (I hope).

But it’s good that they’ll be able to see where it all started the same way it’s good to be able to see 1902’s “Voyage to the Moon,” the first sci-fi flick. It’s terrible by today’s standards but you have to start somewhere, right?

Voyage to the Moon
Don’t laugh, this was cutting edge special effect 120 years ago.

I expect that every decade or so, there’ll be a new wave of these retro game systems looking capitalize on both nostalgia and our collection of dusty games. That will change as all titles become purely digital, but at that point, every system will be able to play everything from previous generations and we won’t have to worry about losing our history anymore.

Suck on that, entropy!

This article is Part One of a three-part series. Part Two is the handheld edition and Part Three is the arcade edition.

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