Should you buy the original console or a modern clone?

In the last few years there have been a lot of budget gaming machines enter the market which allow you to play classic games and consoles. I’m sure you have seen them in a toy shop or a video games store. For example, there have been many Atari 2600 machines released, some of which are built right into the joystick itself. These are commonly known as clones.

Jakks Atari Classics

Some of these clones were officially licensed, like the Atari Flashback systems. However, most of them were developed by 3rd party companies. If you are looking to get a cheap system to relive some classic games from your youth then a clone is a good option.

Should you buy the original console or a modern clone?

For many gaming purists, the only way to play games is through the original system itself. Though there are many good reasons why you might consider purchasing a clone instead.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of purchasing a clone system instead of the original system itself.

Pros

  • Easier connectivity with modern televisions: Most modern clones are based on consoles which were popular in the 80s (Atari 2600, NES, Sega MegaDrive etc). These consoles connected to the television using an RF cable. However, most modern clone machines give you the option of connecting to the television using an RCA cable (sometimes known an AV cable).

    Bear in mind though that most light gun peripherals developed in the 70s and 80s only work with older CRT televisions and won’t work on LCD or Plasma televisions.

  • Additional features: As well as being able to connect easily to modern televisions, most clones offer additional features. For example, controllers are usually improved. Some have turbo buttons added to them whilst offers have wireless capabilities.

    Many clones also play games from Japan and other territories and some, like the FC Twin pictured below, can play games from different systems.

    FC Twin Video Game System

  • Size: Developers take advantage of modern technology and are able to make modern clones much smaller than the original system, which was usually quite big, bulky and used up a lot of power.
  • Reliability: With some original consoles being more than 20 years old, it’s understandable that there is a chance any original console you purchase may not be working 100% correctly. Dust and general wear and tear being the main factors.

Cons

  • Can’t play all original cartridges: Although many clones can play original cartridges and connect with all original accessories, they can’t play all games. For example, the NES clone Generation NEX apparently plays around 97% of original NES games though there are many great games that it cannot play.

    Many clones come with a set number of games built in and cannot play original game cartridges at all.

  • Emulation: One of the main benefits of owning a modern clone is it’s reduced size. However, in order to do this (and to save money), developers have had to use modern technology to power the system. This is good in some respects as the machines tend to be more reliable and consume less power.

    Though this also means that clones with built in games aren’t played in their original form. Rather, they are ported to this new system. Essentially, the original games are being emulated on the new device. This causes a lot of games to play differently than they were intended.

Modern systems which let you play games from classic gaming systems are usually pretty cheap. However, since millions of the original systems were sold in the 80s and 90s, you can usually pick up an original machine for the same price if not much cheaper than a modern clone.

Therefore the decision is less about price and more about how you want to play classic games. Personally, for me it comes down to space and convenience. I grew up in the 80s and owned the original Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System.

However, I already own a PS3, Wii and a gaming laptop. Therefore a smaller, more reliable machine which plays original cartridges is tempting.

What do you prefer – the iconic original console which plays all games or a smaller more reliable modern clone which plays most of them?