We’re in a golden age of nostalgia right now, which makes it no surprise that mini versions of retro consoles are all the rage.
Dipping back into classic consoles can be a great way to spend a few hours, and we're still hoping to see an N64 Mini at some point. But not every retro console gets the respect it deserves these days.
Read on to rediscover the underrated consoles that really deserve to come back in ‘Mini’ form, or at least have their best games ported to Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Sega Master System
Alex Kidd. Right away that name may serve up some memories for you of playing as the character who could jump, punch and swim through many levels.
This was the mascot of the console, which was the predecessor to the Mega Drive. Released in 1986, it gained a cult following, with its ease of use and its power being more capable than its competitor, the NES.
The charm of it, especially when the Mega Drive came to succeed it in 1989, was that it was a system where you could play Alex Kidd without having a cartridge inserted. The ‘Pause’ button was on the console!
None of this ‘pressing pause on the controller’ that we’ve all been taking for granted these last thirty years. Granted there were no smart devices to divert our attention for an hour, but it seems like it would be a welcome addition if brought back now.
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Games such as Sonic 1 and Streets Of Rage are regarded as classics, regardless of them being conversions from their Mega Drive brethren.
Some even regard this version of Sonic 1 to be better, due to more varied levels and hidden Chaos Emeralds scattered across the levels instead of Special Stages.
If the SEGA AGES team, who are responsible for Switch ports of classic Mega Drive games and the Mega Drive Mini games, can port these to the Switch as well, it would be welcome.
Games to play from this hidden gem include Alex Kidd In Miracle World, Sonic 1, Psycho Fox, Afterburner, and Wonderboy III.
We’ve all been there; where we found ourselves in ‘Metropolis Zone’ in Sonic 2, but we had to go visit our family as a Sunday tradition.
We would press ‘Pause’ and hope that there wouldn’t be any power cuts so we could resume where we left off.
But what if there was a handheld that could have allowed you to play this on the go?
Well, there was. It was called the ‘Sega Nomad’, a handheld Mega Drive which really was ahead of its time. Released in America at the turn of October in 1995, it had a full 16-bit colour back-lit screen, with six buttons and a full dpad.
But what made this handheld unique was the controller port on the handheld, so someone could help you through a Streets Of Rage level when needed with a plugged-in Mega Drive controller!
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Another forward-thinking feature was the AV port, so it could be plugged into a TV, and you would have the same game you’ve been playing on-the-go, but now on a television. Sound familiar?
Of course, with it being released in 1995, it had to face off against the Sega Saturn, the Sony PlayStation, and the GameBoy; a the colossus of the handheld market. So it failed, and failed miserably.
It’s known as a collector’s item now, as its charm and features that have morphed into the Nintendo Switch today, really set it apart.
If it had been marketed as a ‘Mega Drive Mini’ around 1993, it may have had some success, but SEGA was in full-on panic mode from 1995, so it was killed off soon after, and it never saw a UK release.
Yes, the name sounds like a bra size. But if you gave this console a chance, you would've realised it was the tits.
This was marketed as an expansion pack to the Nintendo 64; a way of competing against the PlayStation with its ‘disk drive’, so it could prolong the life of the console, while also making it cheaper for developers to bring out more games to it, as the N64 cartridges were not cheap to develop for.
It was a device that slotted to the N64, with disks being able to be used instead of a cartridge for a game, but there were some titles where both were required.
After years of it being hinted at in interviews, ever since the launch of the N64 in 1996, it was released in Japan on the 1st December 1999, and its timing couldn’t have been worse.
The Sega Dreamcast had been released earlier in the year, and the PlayStation 2 only three months away from release.
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Rumours of an Expansion Pack to Ocarina Of Time, called ‘Ura Zelda’, roamed the rumour mill at the time, alongside Mario 64 2 and even Earthbound.
F Zero Expansion Pack is one experience that springs to mind, as it allowed the existing F-Zero X game to have tracks created and then played in quick succession.
This alone made it a viable purchase for many, as the game already had a fair few tracks, but this opened up the gates for even more to be added and modified.
Unfortunately, it didn’t catch on, with the N64DD being confined to a Japan-only release. But one can dream of how ‘Ura Zelda’ would have expanded Ocarina Of Time.
You may be asking yourself ‘I didn’t forget about the Dreamcast!’, and for that, we salute you.
But there are others out there who have no idea what this console is, and thought that games such as Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi did indeed first appear on the Gamecube and PlayStation 2.
You could say that the console was a pioneer, since a lot of its features are still being used today: DLC, internet browsing, multiplayer, MMORPG, and the plug and play keyboard.
The blue swirl released way back in 1998 in Japan, and other countries throughout 1999. The launch titles included Virtua Fighter 3, Sonic Adventure, Powerstone and House Of The Dead 2.
Pretty much one of the best groups of launch titles of the generation, these games had something for everyone, and eventually, sports games such as Virtua Tennis and the NBA 2K series would launch.
It also showcased the Shenmue series, a franchise which had its long-awaited third instalment launch at the end of last year.
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The Dreamcast controller reminds you of the Xbox controller except for one thing; the slot for the VMU, or the ‘Visual Memory Unit’.
It wasn’t just a memory card, but also a way of playing minigames with other owners of the Dreamcast and VMU. You could raise ‘Chao’ in Sonic Adventure as pets, and then fight against other ‘Chao’ on the VMU.
This was ahead of its time, and it also harkened back to the ‘Tamagotchi’ craze of the year before.
Some remember watching a news report about the launch of the Dreamcast and the coming of the PlayStation 2, and when you look back, the mistakes seem bizarre now.
No DVD support, no definitive third-party support from developers such as EA, Konami and NAMCO at the time. The mix of these had it on a back-footing almost when it released, and when the PlayStation 2 arrived, it served an ‘Ultimate Finish’ to the console, with the Dreamcast being discontinued in March 2001.
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There you have it; four consoles that you need to find and add to your console cabinet for the front room. We apologise now for making you remember that eBay exists... and did you know that a Sega Nomad could fit in your backpack once the lockdown lifts?
For more articles like this, take a look at our Features , Hardware , and Retro pages.