Which Console Is Best for Retro Gaming? PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch

Many amazing next-gen games are released every day, but there is nothing quite like taking a trip down memory lane and indulging in some nostalgia with your favorite retro titles. But as time goes on and the games and consoles that play them become more obsolete, the price of these relics of the past can become astronomical.

Thankfully companies like Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation understand the importance of preserving these pieces of gaming history, and you can still play many retro titles on next-gen consoles. But which next-gen console is best for retro gaming?

Backward Compatibility

The easiest way to begin a retro gaming session would be to simply pick up your games and put them in your next-gen console, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Older games use technology that is no longer supported by newer consoles. So even if the disks still look the same as they did in the 90s, they are actually very different. Some game formats, like N64 cartridges, for example, have absolutely no hope of squeezing themselves into the Nintendo Switch.

Backward Compatibility on the Xbox Series X|S

Xbox has pretty decent backward compatibility. The Xbox Series X|S is compatible with all Xbox One titles, as well as all available Xbox and Xbox 360 titles. This could be due, in part, to the fact that Xbox consoles are newer than their competing counterparts.

The first Xbox was released in America in 2001, which is significantly later than the original PlayStation and Nintendo Entertainment System, which were released in 1995 and 1986, respectively.

Backward Compatibility on the PlayStation 5

PlayStation still uses a disk format for its games, which could lead you to believe they are all backward compatible. This is not quite the case, however, and any PlayStation disks from the PS3 or earlier are not compatible with the PS5.

A stack of CRTVs playing retro games

You can still use PS4 disks with your PS5, and many even benefit from the PS5’s upscaling. PS4 games aren’t quite retro, but it is certainly better than nothing.

Backward Compatibility on the Nintendo Switch

And nothing is exactly what the Nintendo Switch has to offer in terms of backward compatibility. Nintendo mainly uses cartridges for its games. These are hardier than disks and have a much longer lifespan, but these cartridges often change shape with each generation, meaning they are not interchangeable.

The Nintendo Switch takes small rectangular cartridges. So, unfortunately, no previous Nintendo games will fit in a Nintendo Switch.

Retro Gaming Services

Playing retro games on a new console is not as easy as plugging the game in and setting off on your trip down memory lane. But there is still hope yet.

All three next-gen consoles offer subscription services that allow you to access many retro titles on your new system. Some subscriptions are better than others, however, especially when it comes to retro games.

Retro Gaming Services on the Xbox Series X|S

Xbox offers a subscription service called Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass grants you access to a library of over 100 games for a monthly fee of $9.99. Xbox Game Pass is a tiered subscription, with each tier offering different rewards. Check out our guide on everything you need to know about Xbox Game Pass if you would like to know more about what it has to offer.

Dimly lit shot of two retro arcade games

Xbox Game Pass has a dedicated Classics category for its retro games. There are currently 13 games in the Classics category, such as Doom 64 and PacMan Museum. These are solid titles, but 13 games is a very small amount compared to PlayStation and Nintendo’s services.

Retro Gaming Services on the PlayStation 5

PlayStation offers users a subscription service named PlayStation Plus which grants the user access to a huge library of games, among other perks. If you upgrade to PlayStation Plus Premium, you unlock a library of over 400 retro titles ranging from the PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP.

PlayStation Plus Premium costs $17.99 per month. This is the most expensive service, but the quantity of games you get is far greater, and it is PlayStation Plus’s elite tier which combines all the perks of the other tiers plus the 400 retro games.

If you would like to know more about what the different tiers of PlayStation Plus offer, check out our guide containing everything you need to know about PS Plus.

Retro Gaming Services on the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch requires a subscription to play games online, so most Switch owners will be signing up for it regardless of whether they like retro games or not. They are, however, a much-appreciated addition and make the Nintendo Switch Online service well worth its price.

Close up shot of Super Nintendo controller

The Nintendo Switch Online service costs only $3.99 per month and grants you access to a library of over 100 NES and SNES titles. This is by far the cheapest subscription service, and over 100 retro games are certainly nothing to scoff at.

If the 100+ titles like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong aren’t quite scratching your nostalgic itch, you can also sign up for the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack to receive a further 20+ N64 and Sega Genesis games.

The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion pack contains all the benefits of the original tier, plus the extra retro games and DLC for $49.99 per year. You are unable to pay for the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack monthly.

What Console Is Best for Retro Gaming?

If retro gaming is what you are looking for in a console, you might want to reach for the Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a great library of physical backward-compatible titles, but a lot of them have been ported onto the system for you to access on the eShop. And as far as subscription services go, the Nintendo Switch Online service undoubtedly gets you the best bang for your buck in terms of retro games.

A room full of retro arcade games

The Nintendo Switch Online service is the cheapest subscription by far, and you don’t have to upgrade to a higher tier to access its library of retro games. Games like the original Legend of Zelda cost well over $100 to purchase physically, not including the price of the console needed to play them. This makes the monthly price of just $3.99 well worth it.

The Nintendo Switch is a great way to dip your toes into the world of retro games without having to pay an arm and a leg to try them out.

If You’re Looking For Retro Games, the Nintendo Switch Has You Covered

Preserving gaming history is important, and it is nice to see that each of the three gaming superpowers embrace their retro titles by providing gamers with ways to indulge in their favorite childhood games.

However, we think the Switch wins out over the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S and should be your console for retro gaming.

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