How to Get into Retro Gaming: A Beginner’s Guide

Reliving classic video games from past decades is an extremely rewarding hobby. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start getting into retro gaming as a beginner. From suggested starter consoles and must-play games to display connections and collecting tips – let’s dive deep into the world of retro gaming!


Thanks to nostalgia and their timeless gameplay, retro video games from the 70s, 80s, and 90s have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Playing iconic retro consoles and titles can be a blast from the past. The retro gaming scene has exploded but it can feel intimidating for newcomers to know where to start.

In this in-depth beginner’s guide, we’ll cover:

  • Recommended first retro consoles and must-play essential games
  • How to properly connect retro systems to modern displays
  • Where to buy retro console hardware, controllers, and video games
  • Tips for collecting, playing, and maintaining classic games
  • The thriving retro gaming community and resources
  • Overview of retrogaming emulators and mods

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to enjoying retro gaming in no time! Let’s rewind back to the early days of home video games.

Key Takeaways for Getting Started with Retro Gaming

  • The NES, SNES, and Genesis make ideal first retro systems thanks to their iconic game libraries and affordability.
  • Upscalers and CRT TVs allow connecting retro consoles to modern displays for the best visual results.
  • Must-play games like Super Mario Bros, Sonic, The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Metroid are essential experiences.
  • Buy hardware and games from reputable sellers. Thoroughly test items before purchasing.
  • Learn proper game cleaning and console maintenance techniques to keep them working like new.
  • Join online communities to connect with fellow retro gamers for tips, troubleshooting, and deals.
  • Balance playing on original hardware along with the convenience of software emulators.
  • Build your retro collection slowly, focusing on quality over quantity. Be patient – deals will come!

Recommended Starter Retro Gaming Consoles

For newcomers to retro gaming, here are some great first systems to consider getting started:

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

With over 700 games in the library and genre-defining titles like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, the NES is a foundational retro system. Refurbished units and common games are widely available and affordable.

Super Nintendo (SNES)

Considered one of the greatest consoles ever thanks to masterpieces like Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, and Super Mario World. The SNES has a staggering catalog of games spanning all genres.

Sega Genesis

Sega’s 16-bit workhorse is home to the Sonic series, sports hits like Madden NFL, Streets of Rage beat ‘em ups, and a huge library of arcade ports like Golden Axe and Altered Beast. Affordable game prices make the Genesis very beginner friendly.

Sony PlayStation

Sony’s first console brought 3D visuals and CD quality games like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Twisted Metal, and Final Fantasy VII to the mainstream. The PS1 has a massive and diverse game library to explore.

Must-Play Retro Games

Here are some of the most critically acclaimed, influential, and genre-defining retro games that every gamer should play:

Super Mario Bros. (NES)

The quintessential side scrolling platformer that rocketed Nintendo’s mascot into international stardom. Its precise controls, physics, and level design translate into universally appealing and addictive gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

This 16-bit masterpiece set the template for all future Zelda adventures. Its massive world, swordplay, puzzle solving dungeons, and expansive quest cemented the action-adventure genre.

Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA Genesis)

Sonic’s lightning fast gameplay struck a chord with Genesis owners. The catchy music, colorful art, and rollercoaster-like levels made Sonic a worthy competitor to Nintendo’s Mario.

Street Fighter II (SNES/Genesis)

Capcom’s head-to-head fighting game revolutionized arcades and home play. Its combo system, special moves, and competitive gameplay popularized the fighting genre. Perfect for multiplayer battles.

Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)

This landmark PS1 RPG featured 3D visuals and CG cinematics that were groundbreaking at the time. The mature storyline and intricate mechanics made it a modern classic.

Connecting Retro Consoles to Modern Displays

Since old game systems output low resolution 240p/480i analog signals, getting them to display cleanly on new HDTVs takes some specialized equipment. Here are some good solutions:

  • RetroTINK 2X – An affordable HDMI upscaler that massively improves image quality over composite cables alone. Simple plug-and-play use.
  • Original CRT TV – The native display for retro systems. Provides an authentic experience but requires space and multiple inputs.
  • Emulation – Software emulators for PC allow playing retro games in HD. More setup work but very flexible and cost effective.

For real hardware, the RetroTINK 2X is highly recommended. It cleanly upscales old systems to 720p/1080p over HDMI for pixel perfect visuals on new displays.

Where to Buy Retro Gaming Hardware and Software

Here are some reputable places to pickup retro gaming gear:

  • eBay – World’s largest auction marketplace. Massive selection but beware condition issues. Thoroughly vet sellers.
  • DKOldies – Specialized used retro gaming shop. Higher prices but excellent graded condition guarantee.
  • Local Classifieds – Check Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, and thrift stores. Finding deals takes patience.
  • Retro Game Conventions – Events like Portland Retro Gaming Expo have rows of retro gems and accessories.
  • Local Game Stores – Some local game shops carry used retro items. Selection varies but you can inspect condition.
  • Online Forums – Members often sell/trade extra items in forum market sections like NintendoAge’s.

Always test items thoroughly before purchasing. Pay with PayPal where possible for buyer protection.

Tips for Collecting and Maintaining Retro Video Games

Here are handy tips for starting your own retro game collection while keeping them in working order:

  • Start small – Focus on 1 or 2 must-have consoles rather than trying to collect everything. Curate over quantity.
  • Prioritize landmark essential games over full sets. Go for acclaimed classics before rare titles.
  • Learn to clean cartridge edge contacts using isopropyl alcohol to restore glitchy games. Opens up buying options.
  • Replace worn console cartridge slot pins carefully. Don’t force in dirty games.
  • Don’t blow into cartridges. Use approved cleaning methods only to avoid moisture damage.
  • Check console capacitors and belts for leakage/bulging. Replace as needed to avoid damage.
  • Seek collectors forum advice to check prices and authenticity before buying rare/expensive games.
  • Study guides to spot fake cartridges and resealed retro games. Verify legitimacy before purchasing.

The Thriving Retro Gaming Community

Connecting with the retro collecting community can make the hobby way more enjoyable and rewarding:

  • Forums – Huge forums exist for each console like NintendoAge, AtariAge, SegaAge, etc. Invaluable info and friendly collectors willing to help newcomers.
  • Subreddits – The /r/retrogaming and /r/gamecollecting subreddits feature news, help, and lively discussion.
  • Discords – There are many retro gaming Discord servers to chat and get real-time help. Great for quick questions and showing off scores.
  • Conventions – Check your local area for retro gaming conventions and expos to meet up with fellow enthusiasts. They often have huge show floors full of hidden gems.
  • Local Retro Stores – Visit local game shops and get to know the community. Lots of collecting advice.

Joining retro gaming communities provides guidance, can lead to good deals, and offers camaraderie around the hobby.

Retro Gaming Emulation and Mods

For power users, emulation and console mods provide added functionality:

  • Emulation – Software emulators like RetroArch allow playing ROMs conveniently on PC and mobile. Ideal is original hardware but provides portability.
  • ROM Hacks – Fan made game modifications that include new levels maps, characters, physics, and more. Breathes new life into classics.
  • Translations – Unofficial English translations for Japanese exclusive games not released outside of Japan originally. Opens up hidden gems.
  • Flash Carts – Specialized cartridges that can store and play ROM files from SD cards on original hardware. Convenience of emulation on real hardware.
  • HDMI Mods – Hardware modifications to output pristine HDMI video from retro consoles rather than analog. Improved image quality.
  • Overclocking – Safely increasing the CPU speed of retro consoles like the SNES to enable smoother performance and new capabilities.

Mods and emulators allow power users to explore new facets of retro gaming and digitally preserve classics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some easy retro consoles for beginners to start collecting?

The NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis are very straightforward and affordable systems to start collecting for. Their game libraries are massive, replacement parts are common, and repair expertise is widespread among fans of those systems.

Is it OK to play retro games on a Raspberry Pi emulator?

Absolutely! Software emulators provide a convenient way to experience classics. But playing on original hardware offers a tangible nostalgic feeling. Try both real hardware and emulation to find a balance you enjoy.

How much do retro video games cost?

Prices vary enormously based on rarity and condition. Common cartridge games often cost $5-$30. Rare titles in pristine condition can cost hundreds to thousands. Use PriceCharting as a reference for fair market value.

What’s the best way to connect a Nintendo 64 to a modern TV?

The N64 looks best outputting its native S-Video, combined with the RetroTINK 2X Pro upscaler for digital HDMI conversion. HDMI mods also exist. Avoid plugging an N64 directly into HDTV composite inputs.

How do I clean dirty used game cartridges?

Use high percentage isopropyl alcohol and a soft toothbrush to gently clean cartridge edge contacts. Remove built up grime and corrosion. Insert and remove a game into the console a few times to re-establish a connection after cleaning.


Reliving classic gaming history can be an immensely rewarding hobby. Some of the greatest video games ever made live on these iconic retro consoles.

Great places to start are beginner friendly systems like the NES, Genesis, SNES, and PlayStation. Play universally acclaimed games across genres to discover the diversity of experiences. Use upscalers and communities to overcome challenges. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert ready for obscure gems and import gaming.

Retro gaming offers a living history of the medium and shows how far games have come. Pick up that legendary controller and experience gaming’s evolution on original hardware. Game on!CopyRetry

Recent Posts