Over the last couple of years there has been a revival when it comes to retro gaming, 80s and 90s video games and especially retro game consoles with built in games. Last year I was gifted the SNES Classic Mini and even though I was never really into Super Nintendo as a kid (I loved my Mega Drive too much!) I was delighted at playing some classic old skool video games like Street Fighter 2 and of course Mario Kart! Even though I own the SNES mini and I have an original Sega Mega Drive, I wanted to know if there was a gaming system that encompasses all the retro games my hearts so desires from not just one, but various video game consoles.
I did entertain the idea of bagging one of these Pandora’s Box which not only looked epic with the feel and touch of playing retro arcade games, but it was reasonably priced and it could sit pretty anywhere on a surface without taking up too much space in my compact flat.
Then my imagination spiralled a little and decided that I had all the fun tokens (I don't!) and I should just go big or go home with a table top video arcade machine I had played one similar at the 8-Bit Gaming Conference in Dublin last year, and I may have got over excited screaming at the inanimate object!
But then I decided to calm myself down and think about something different that could satisfy my unhealthy obsession with wanting to play retro games all the live long day! That is when I came across the DIY starter kit for Raspberry Pi with RetroPie. It’s essentially a tiny computer where you build and install yourself that can run a shit tonne of games from so many consoles that you can find in a museum! The price was also cheaper than buying just one retro gaming console, so it seemed like a no brainer! However, before I embark on this little project of actually building my own retro gaming system, I decided to see if it was worth it by comparing it to my SNES plug and play gaming console. With a little research and asking all the questions, here's what I found!
Why the SNES Classic Mini is awesome!
If you’re all about the simple life, the SNES is the way to go. You can literally play this out of the box with no need for stress. It also has that authentic feel you will only get from a genuine Nintendo product and your nostalgia levels will go through the roof!
Why the SNES Classic Mini is a bit of a nightmare!
Yes, you can plug and play straight from the box, but you are rather restricted to what you actually have to play. Unless you know how to modify your console which can be tricky or daunting for a novice, then you are stuck with the 21 pre-installed games. There’s also no game slot like the original SNES or like the Sega Mega Drive all in one console that allows you to use original game cartridges.
Number of games: 21
Connections: HDMI, Micro-USB (Power Supply)
Includes: 2 controllers, HDMI cable
Processor: Quadcore ARM Cortex A7
GPU: Mali - 400 MP
Memory: 256 MB DDR3
Storage: 512 MB
Why Raspberry Pi with RetroPie is awesome!
The obvious reason why Raspberry Pi is great for retro gaming nerds is the fact that you can play an infinite amount of classic games from Nintendo64, PlayStation, SEGA, Gameboy, Atari to name a few. By downloading RetroPie you can add all your fave retro games and thousands more. It’s a lot more powerful than your pre-built gaming consoles and can be tweaked and customised to your exact liking. You also can configure and use your controllers from say your Xbox or PlayStation, so purchasing the ‘retro styled’ gamepads are not necessary. The Raspberry Pi also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity which makes all round usability with different tech (keyboard, controllers etc) a lot easier. It may seem like a daunting DIY project to build your gaming emulator, but it’s quite straight forward with many guides online to help troubleshoot and run you through the basics.
Why Raspberry Pi with RetroPie is a bit of a nightmare!
You will have to spend at least an hour out of your day with the initial setup. It is a project fine friends and not a pre-built gaming console like the SNES Classic Mini, so there’s no getting around that. Sorry not sorry! Also, you will have to pirate certain ROMs for SNES games which is simple enough, but as you don’t own them from Nintendo, you will be illegally downloading.
Price for the starter kit: £64.99
Number of games: Infinite
Processor: Quadcore ARM Cortex A7
GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV
Memory: 1 GB DDR3
Connections: HDMI, 4x USB, Ethernet
The SNES Classic Mini is faster (with very little lag in gameplay) and simpler. It looks all shiny, authentic and retro from the get go. It’s also 100% legal with Nintendo’s blessing! On the other hand, RetroPie is more powerful, flexible and heaps more customisable.
If you want to get a quick fix of a nostalgic high, then the SNES Classic Mini is your best option. However, if you take off your rose-tinted-retro-specs and see past the need to have a replica of an old gaming system, then with a little patience and configuration the Raspberry Pi with RetroPie allows you to re-discover all the classic games from your childhood from so many fab old skool consoles at your fingertips.
I think I’m going to give RetroPie a go and see if I have the will power to build a piece of tech without losing my shit/starting a fight with a screwdriver! I'll let you know how I get on!