Retro-Bit's Generations Console: A 70-Game Leap Beyond the NES Mini

Retro-Bit's Generations Console: A 70-Game Leap Beyond the NES Mini

The latest entry in the classic clone mini-console wars seems likely to put all the rest to shame. Updated with full list of game titles!

This article has been updated with the full list of games slated to appear on the Retro-Bit Generations mini-console.

At some point over the past few weeks, standalone mini consoles crammed with classic games have gone from being a minor, casual-shopper curiosity to a sizzling trend — from Hot Topic to hot topic, if you will. Suddenly, it seems like everyone wants in on the action.

Of late, most clone consoles have come from AtGames, purveyors of the disappointing SEGA Genesis line of mini-systems. (They've also been responsible for ColecoVision, Atari 2600, and Intellivision clones.) The idea behind the retro consoles has merit — package a ton of beloved older games in a self-contained system that offers plug-and-play ease-of-use — but the results often fall short of the mark. Games like Streets of Rage 2 deserve better than flawed emulation and hideous, ear-shredding audio reproduction.

Nintendo's upcoming Classic Mini: NES, whose announcement acted as the watershed moment that suddenly thrust this obscure corner of gaming into the spotlight, seems likely to one-up AtGames' middling work. Nintendo will be offering a smaller but stronger selection of games than most clone consoles. More importantly, though, Nintendo has historically taken great care to present its classic, emulated games with high accuracy. NES games do look too dark and soft on Wii U, but on the other hand they sound correct, never skip frames, and don't include glitches that weren't present in the original cartridges. Still, while the Classic Mini: NES promises to be a great collection of excellent games, it has its shortcomings — most notably, it won't allow players to add new titles to its slim roster.

All of these caveats should help explain why Retro-Bit's newly announced Generations system could be the clone console retrogaming fans need and deserve. AtGames' systems include large rosters of games and often even allow players to plug in their own original cartridges, but their emulation and audio quality are bottom-tier; advanced games suffer major incompatibility issues; and, bafflingly, the devices only offer composite AV-out — something many modern televisions no longer even support. On the other hand, the Classic Mini: NES will almost certainly maintain Nintendo's high standard of classic game reproduction, use great controllers, and will support modern televisions with HDMI support... but those 30 games are all it will ever contain. What you buy is what you get.

The Retro-Bit Generations will, hopefully, offer classic gaming fans a "best of both worlds" scenario. Retro-Bit has been in the clone console business for a while, and while their NES and Genesis mini-consoles started out a bit rough (especially in the sound department), the company has refined its craft steadily over the years to the point that its most recent releases have earned very positive reviews. Their devices lack the versatility of the RetroN 5 or the Retro Freak clone consoles, but their emulation quality sits on par with the better portion of the competition: Not perfect, but quite acceptable for all but perfectionists. The Generations should offer a comparable experience.

Most people's biggest frustration with Retro-Bit consoles (mine included) has had to do with their video output options, which (as with AtGames) have lagged behind modern standards by a decade. The Generations offers the same composite video-out as previous Retro-Bit devices... but at last, the company has joined the ’10s and added an HDMI port as well.

Finally, the Generations also includes an SD card slot, which could potentially allow players to play additional games on the system. For the moment, distributor Innex simply promises SD cards will allow players to save and transport game progress — but even that's a notable fact, since Retro-Bit consoles until now have lacked suspend or save state features. The Generations console doesn't feature a cartridge port as with the company's Retro Trio or Gen-X systems, but that's less a failure of design than a natural consequence. See, unlike the other participants in the clone console arms race, the Retro-Bit Generations focuses not on console games but rather on arcade releases, an area of game history largely neglected by plug-and-play devices (outside of a few outliers, like Namco's old Pac-Man collections). Admittedly, this makes "Generations" a strange choice for a name, given that people typically associate the term "generations" with rigid console iterations rather than the more fluidly evolving hardware that drove arcades, but in fairness there's no indication that all titles included will be taken from coin-ops.

The system includes nearly 100 games, so this early box art mockup is a bit out of date.

Even if the inclusion of an SD card slot doesn't allow owners to expand their libraries, the console should contain a sufficiently expansive library to moot any complaints. Retro-Bit's site promises "60-80" games on the system, and a more recent press release upping the number to 100 suggests the specifics of the built-in library are still being locked down. Of the titles announced to date, most come from Capcom, with releases from Data East, Jaleco, and Irem putting in an appearance as well. Given Retro-Bit's solid reputation, it seems safe enough to assume the 100-game library will consist of known, desirable classic releases by major publishers rather than taking the AtGames Genesis clone approach of padding numbers with low-grade homebrew like "Jack's Pea" and "Mr. Balls."

Update: Retro-Bit has announced its full Generations game lineup, which does include some of those filler games—but seemingly only a few. For every "Creepy Bird" or "Zooming Secretaries," there's also a legitimate classic like Bionic Commando or Kung-Fu. You can find the full list of games at the end of the article.

The Retro-Bit Generations does come with a certain potential to disappoint — for example, it drops the Retro Trio's support for original classic console controllers in favor of two USB ports — but if the company manages to line up all the details their latest mini-console entry, this could be the one to watch for. At the very least, it appears to include a healthy number of arcade releases that have never before been archived for home release, e.g. Kid Niki: Radical Ninja. For classic gaming enthusiasts, the chance to legitimately own a variety of forgotten coin-op originals should be worth the price of admission alone. The Retro-Bit Generations may not have the cachet of its NES and Genesis competitors, but that makes it all the more potentially valuable.

Full list of Retro-Bit Generations games:

  1. 1942
  2. 1943
  3. 2048
  4. 10-Yard Fight
  5. Aguna
  6. Apocalypse II
  7. Argus
  8. Astrohawk
  9. Astyanax
  10. Avenging Spirit
  11. Banishing Racer
  12. Bases Loaded
  13. Bashi Bazook: Morphoid Masher
  14. Battle Squadron
  15. Battle Unit Zeoth
  16. Big Run
  17. Bionic Commando
  18. The Black Bass
  19. The Blue Marlin
  20. Brawl Brothers
  21. Broken Circle
  22. Captain Commando
  23. City Connection
  24. Commando
  25. Corn Buster
  26. Creepy Bird
  27. Escape from Atlantis
  28. Exed Exes
  29. Exerion
  30. Field Combat
  31. Forgotten Worlds
  32. Formation Z
  33. Fortified Zone
  34. Free Fall
  35. Ghosts ’N Goblins
  36. Gun.Smoke
  37. Hammerin' Harry
  38. Hero Pinball Party
  39. Higemaru
  40. Holy Diver
  41. Hoops
  42. The Ignition Factor
  43. Ikari no Yousai 2 (Fortified Zone 2)
  44. Image Fight
  45. JaJaMaru no Daibouken
  46. Jim Power
  47. Kaitetsu Yanchamaru 3 (Kid Niki 3)
  48. Kickle Cubicle
  49. Kid Niki: Radical Ninja
  50. Knights of the Round
  51. Kung-Fu
  52. Kung-Fu Master
  53. Lan Master
  54. Lawn Mower
  55. Legend E
  56. Major Title Golf
  57. Maru's Mission
  58. Mazezam
  59. Mercs
  60. Mr. Bloopy
  61. Night Defender 2
  62. Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun
  63. Onslaught
  64. Operation Logic Bomb
  65. The Peace Keepers
  66. Pinball Quest
  67. Questforge
  68. R-Type 3
  69. Ring King
  70. Rival Turf
  71. Rockfall
  72. Rocky Rodent
  73. Rod Land (Game Boy)
  74. Rod Land (NES)
  75. Skip and Friends
  76. Smart Mouse
  77. Soldam
  78. SonSon
  79. Sumo Slam
  80. Super Bases Loaded
  81. Super Bases Loaded 3
  82. Super Earth Defense Force
  83. Super Ghouls ’N Ghosts
  84. Super Noah's Ark
  85. Super Professional Baseball 2
  86. Super R-Type
  87. Sword of Sodan
  88. Thor's Quest
  89. Totally Rad
  90. Tuff E Nuff
  91. Varth: Operation Thunderstorm
  92. Water Margin
  93. Yang Warrior Family
  94. Youkai Club
  95. Zippy Race
  96. Zooming Secretaries

As you can see, the Generations now encompasses far more than the arcade titles than were originally pitched for it. While Irem and Capcom's games appear to draw primarily on arcade releases, the Jaleco selections in particular appear to come from the NES and Game Boy, including a number of obscurities that have never before been released in the U.S. "Hero Pinball Party," for example, is an early Game Boy pinball title pulling together a bunch of the company's 8-bit mascot characters that I covered in a video series last year. Also included: Holy Diver, a highly prized Irem Famicom game whose NES conversion was announced but never released; Ikari no Yousai 2, the unlocalized sequel to Game Boy shooter Fortified Zone; and Kung-Fu, the classic Irem brawler based on a Jackie Chan movie that played such a key role in the NES launch 30 years ago. The Generations includes two versions of the game; presumably Kung-Fu is the arcade release and Kung-Fu Master is the Game Boy remake/sequel. Anyway, it's a weird and eclectic lineup, but if the emulation quality turns out to be up to snuff, this device seems like a must-have for fans of classic gaming.

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