2021 Gift Guide for the Retro Gamer – Destructoid

All I want for Christmas … is this

My favorite pastime during the Christmas season is getting presents. That hasn’t changed since I was a child. Shopping is terrible, family is an uncomfortable reality (I’m kidding, don’t deny myself), and I’ve lost the ability to enjoy myself after an experiment gone wrong. So, do my December, show me how well you know me and bring me a present.

I also know that retro hobbyists aren’t easy to buy. Our collections are a minefield. An interactive 3DO multiplayer would make a great gift for the obscure lover, but does he already have one? FZ-1, FZ-10 or Goldstar?

As a retro hobbyist myself, I have your back. There’s still a little bit you need to know about setting up your destination gift recipient, but I can save you from rummaging through the second-hand and collector’s markets. All of the items listed here should be available either through the company’s storefronts or only through online stores like Amazon.

Just to note that this retro gift guide is not a sponsored item. None of the companies mentioned here have awarded me any compensation, nor is Destructoid associated with them or any of the linked storefronts.


If you think I’m promoting piracy, you’re out of your crow’s nest. An Everdrive is a cartridge that works in original consoles that allows you to insert an SD card and play games from it. In fact, yes, you can throw a console’s entire library at it and play anything, but it has benefits beyond cheap access to games while still maintaining the authenticity of playing on an original console.

The homebrew and ROMhacking scene is getting bigger every year and few consoles have not been touched by tinkering. Hell, there are homemade Atari Lynx and Virtual Boy games floating around. While you can just jam most of these into an emulator, nothing beats playing something like Gold finger 64 just as nature intended. Need a Japanese Famicom game that translates into English but you want to play it on your NES? An everdrive is a good way to do this. Do you have a ROM hack that only feels right on an N64 controller, such as Waluigis Taco Stand 64? Keep shining you crazy diamond

Gift Retro Bit Genesis

Modern controller for classic consoles

Getting controllers for old consoles can be a chore. New, packaged versions are hard to come by, and when buying used ones you need to watch out for things like gamer gunk and other wear and tear. Don’t give away any gamer gunk. Combining four additional Turbografx controllers so that you can play with five players Bomber Man ’93 can be an endeavor. Fortunately, the market is full of replica controllers.

Honestly, this takes a little research because there are so many out there. All of them may appear identical at first glance, and some of them are literally branded differently. However, things like button spring and firmness vary from one to the other. When it comes to an analog stick, such as an N64 controller, things get a little more complicated. Some people are very careful about how closely the stick looks like the original.

Even with certain brands, quality can vary between their controllers. Just because Retro-bit did a great job on the new Genesis and Saturn controllers doesn’t mean the quality is there across the board. There are many options, including more ergonomic N64 controllers (including tributes to the legendary Japanese Hori controllers) and other variations.

Gift 8BitDo controller

Classic controllers for modern consoles

Do you or your best retro gamer friend have a favorite controller? For 2D games, it has to be the SNES controller for me. Solid, light and equipped with a solid D-pad. For years I only used a USB adapter and a Super Famicom controller, but then got tired of fiddling with JoyToKey and decided to go for something a little more advanced. I took the 8BitDo SF30 Pro (discontinued, but here’s the current equivalent), a wireless controller modeled after my beloved Super Famicom, but with dual analog and an additional set of shoulder buttons. That means I don’t have to worry about compatibility as it supports Xinput, Dinput and even works on Switch.

You can generally find a USB version of any classic controller on the market, but like their classic compatible counterparts, quality can vary. If you don’t want to take any chances, you can also get hold of USB adapters. While you can usually just plug them into a PC and use Dinput, you can find all kinds of support for modern consoles out there these days. There are even adapters with which you can integrate modern controllers into classic systems.

If you’re feeling really brave, 8BitDo sells kits to modify official controllers to connect via bluetooth. Then you can take an NES or SNES adapter and plug it into the original hardware so that you can cut the cable for good.

Gift RetroTINK


Retro consoles look like crap on modern TVs. Worse still, the input lag is caused by the TV’s pathetic attempt to upscale lower resolutions, so games like Punch out !! practically impossible to play. If you or your retro gaming friend feel like tinkering, there is a solution with video upscalers.

The only player in the game for years was Micomsoft’s XRGB line; best known of the frame master. There was an announcement a few years ago that production would be discontinued, but at the time of writing they are still available. Yes, they are actually more than $ 600, and no, that’s not due to scalping.

Nowadays, however, there are alternatives, the two most popular being Open Source Scan Converter and RetroTINK. Both are much, much cheaper than the Framemeister and require less tinkering to get the perfect picture. At the same time, it also means you have fewer options to tweak things like the tricky syncing of the Sega Master system, but I think the cost makes up for it.

Regardless of what you get, there are a few adjustments that you will need to make. To get the best video image, you may need a SCART cable for each system that you want to upscale. Many older systems support this out of the box, but again this requires research and maybe even some modification in the case of systems like the N64. Remember, it is not only an investment but also an investment in time. Still, ask any retro hobbyist and they will either tell you an upscaler is imperative or look at you and tell you to get yourself a CRT.

Special HDMI adapters can make a great retro gift

HDMI adapter

Modern televisions are constantly alternating with older entrances. I don’t remember the last one I saw with S-Video. It’s even possible to find some that only support HDMI, and that is likely to become the norm in the decades to come. This means that middle-aged consoles such as the GameCube or the PS2 fall by the wayside. It’s pretty easy to find composite-to-HDMI adapters, or you can give away cleaner cables – there are options for most consoles that plug directly into their video port, too.

The GameCube has a very special option. It natively supports 480p but required an additional cable for component output. It was proprietary, very specialized, and made in limited quantities. As a result, it became incredibly expensive in the aftermarket. After some community work, the cable was eventually reverse engineered, allowing the development of HDMI adapters like the GCHD. The new MKII adapter even has a connector for the Wii’s SCART cable, so you can connect it to an upscaler for an even better picture. Note, however, that the digital output has been removed on later models of the GameCube and this is required for many of these HDMI adapters.


New games for old consoles

So what gift do you get for the gamer who has it all? They can ask what games they’re looking for, then search the aftermarket or find something they’ve never thought of before. Something like a brand new game for their old consoles.

As mentioned earlier, the homebrew market continues to grow over the years. What started with people soldering new ROMs into old consoles has blossomed into what looks like the days of third-party NES cartridges. Now there are real homebrew developer publishers out there who can publish their work. Company like Mega Cat Studios and the long-term AtariAge and RetroUSB frequently update their catalogs with titles that work on systems such as the Atari 2600, NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis.

You can also purchase replica cartridges from a number of seedy online retailers. Be careful though. Some might be perfectly happy with a fake Earthbound, but other players may feel like they are playing a lie.

Sega Genesis / 32X / CD

Energy options

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of my age, but I’m still happy when I see a fancy power strip. Lots of sockets, good distances for power supplies, battery backup, USB connections, USB-C ports! No matter how happy I am with my surge protector, there is always something better.

Console power supplies can be hard to come by, and you need to be careful when purchasing aftermarket power supplies to ensure that they perform well as the original equipment and will not damage a console. That’s not to say they are all bad, but you may need to read them first. The original is not always a good idea either. Take the old Commodore 64 power supplies, for example. They were made cheaply and the voltage regulator has a habit of failing, essentially killing your C64 with a spike in power. This is where the aftermarket comes in, just make sure you do your research before buying.

However, what Christmas would make any die-hard retro gamer is an all-in-one Genesis / 32X / CD power supply. Anyone who owns the entire Sega stack can tell you it is a chore to set up. Each individual component has its own adapter, which offers a lot of space on a power strip. Fortunately, someone came in and cleaned the squid.

Zoey Handley

Zoey is a crazy gaming hobbyist. She has played video games all her life and is a lover of new and retro games. She enjoys digging through the dirt and picking out the games that are perfectly fine if you clean them up a bit.

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