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If you’ve decided to access your inner child by recreating the video game arcades of your youth in your home, the good news is that you’ve got plenty of options. You can go whole hog with a full-sized machine — which also makes a great conversation piece — or take things slow with a miniature handheld version. Both will deliver all the nostalgia feels you’re after.
What to Consider When Buying an Arcade Machine
Any machine you buy is unlikely to imitate the precise feel of playing on an arcade machine (unless you buy one from a literal arcade), so be prepared to sacrifice slightly in terms of joystick action or precision. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all machines are officially licensed, meaning you might be playing generic brand Mortal Kombat instead of literal Mortal Kombat.
Assuming the machine functions as its supposed to, most of the other decisions when looking for the best arcade machines you’ll have to make depend on your personal childhood memories. Here are some things to consider.
Size: The first, and possibly most important, decision to make is whether you want a full-sized cabinet arcade machine, or if you’re after a handheld novelty device. If it’s the former, be sure of the machine’s exact dimensions and other specs such as if it includes both single player and double player game modes. Full-scale models are great centerpieces for a game room or den; the best mini arcade machines let you take your gaming on the go.
Games: A large machine probably only has one game, so choose wisely. Handhelds sometimes come with many games, such as an entire library of SEGA classics.
Functionality: Even if this is a purely nostalgic purchase for you, you still want to make sure the game or games operate smoothly, the volume is adjustable, and the picture is decent. Even models whose main purpose are as collectible items should be fun to play.
1. Arcade1Up Street Fighter
If you want the most realistic home arcade experience and you’re looking for a large, cabinet-style machine, we really like this Street Fighter setup. It has two arcade-style joysticks and buttons for two or single-player games, and the display shows impressive graphics and artwork. While people say the joysticks don’t feel exactly like the real thing, there’s no denying the charm and nostalgia value.
2. Mini Arcade Game Machine
This mini arcade machine has several things going for it, first of which being the classic style and design, including joysticks and several buttons — but miniaturized to pocket size. The picture quality on the miniature screen is good, but if you’d prefer a larger screen you can simply plug the console into your TV.
The last thing we love about this machine are its 156 built-in games, including quite a few SEGA classics you didn’t even realize you’d been missing.
3. My Arcade Galaga Micro Player
Players report feeling immediately transported back to their youth while playing this Galaga mini arcade game. All the details you remember, down to the joystick controls and console artwork, are there. This little game makes a great collectible desk decoration, especially because it is also fully playable with full color displays and external speakers, so you can keep yourself busy while your boss is out of the room.
4. Tiny Arcade Pac-Man
This officially licensed Pac-Man arcade machine is another game that’s just as you remember it, including the light-up header and authentic game sounds. Players say that despite its tiny size (with just a 1.5 x 1 inch screen), the resolution and picture quality is great and surprisingly playable.