The crew here at RetroDodo are quite familiar with retro handheld consoles; it’s kind of our specialty. But today we want to look at the best consolizers… emulation machines that you play on your television like a first-party console.
When it comes to emulation handhelds… having a giant library of our favorite retro games in a portable device is something our childhood selves would never ever believe would be possible. We are truly living in magic times.
I have been known to pack at least two consoles in my bag when I go out, ’cause you never know what game you wanna’ get into or which console will look best at the coffee shop you end up at.
But as the first-party home video game consoles get crazier and crazier (I freakin love my PS5), it’s hard to remember we used to play our favorite retro games on a television.
Some of us still remember those crispy scanlines!
Most of those retro home console games now live in portable form in our favorite Handheld Games Consoles.
But there are a lot of really great devices that do the same kind of emulation right on your home television!
Sure, there’s the Nintendo Online service… but that means you’ve ‘gotta own a Switch, you have to pay for the service, and they only have a handful of games.
These emulation machines, commonly referred to as “consolizers”, can offer some of that same great retro gaming on a big screen with an unlimited game library.
I have been wanting to research a consolizer for myself, so why not do it for all of us?
So, let’s take a look at some of the best consolizers in 2023!
6. Super Console X
This is one that Brandon has actually purchased and tested himself, so it’s cool to go back and watch his video and see how these consolizers were performing even a couple years back and know that they should be even better now.
The Super Console X comes with two ultra cheapo controllers that are PS2 knockoffs. And the console itself looks like a miniature SNES.
But cheap externals aside, this thing can still do some solid emulation.
For as low as $45, you get a home consolizer that can emulate stuff from Game Boy all the way up to Playstation, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo DS!
The whole thing is running emuElec, which is one of the common Linux based emulation operating systems, much like some of the best retro handhelds. It looks exactly like what I see on my Anbernic device.
Sure… the console looks terrible. The controllers are garbage. But for $45… you can play Nintendo DS on a big screen? I think that sounds pretty incredible.
You can also use your own wireless controllers, such as those from 8bitdo, if you have their usb adapter.
This is a great start to our list of the best consolizers in 2023. And it only goes up from here.
5. Super Console X Pro Plus
The “Super Console X” line of consoles has been ongoing for a few years now. So they have an entire evolution chart of devices that span price and power capabilities. Our next few entries will show some of that range.
The Super Console X Pro Plus is where we start to enter into more premium build quality and slightly better performance.
This is a device that typically sells for around $99, but can often be found at discount for closer to $65.
For that price, you are going to get a device that looks much nicer than something like the Super Console X, and it even comes with dual-boot options to run both Linux and Android.
That means you open up the entire range of Android apps, which gives you some flexibility for standalone emulators as well as stuff like Netflix or Youtube, all at a 4K HD output.
So the Super Console X Pro Plus becomes a more comprehensive entertainment solution with a lot of possibilities!
Or, if you’re like me, you can still just stick to the EmuElec Linux OS and use this as a dedicated retro emulation consolizer.
With its S905X quad-core processor, which is more powerful than RK3326, you should have no trouble with Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PSP, Nintendo DS.
Pretty wild for a device that costs less than most of our favorite handheld emulators.
4. Super Console X King
The Super Console X King is the middle range consolizer that is going to be much more powerful than the previous Super Console X or Super Console X Pro Plus.
And it’s also gonna be a much more premium build than what we see on the Super Console X.
Like the Super Console X Pro Plus, the Super Console X King actually looks like a premium device.
Once you power up the Super Console X King, you are greeted with EmuElec, a familiar operating system for any of us who regularly use emulation handhelds.
And it can also dual-boot into Android, which means you can install any Android app you want. So you can use some of the Best Android Emulators or just watch Netflix or Youtube on your TV using the Super Console X King.
You can also do game streaming from your home PC through apps like Moonlight if you are a bit tech savvy and know how to do that in Android.
This device is going to deliver near perfect emulation of everything up to Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Playstation and PSP.
And still very plug and play, like the Super Console X.
The main differences between the King and the Pro Plus are the aesthetics and the sheer amount of games that will come loaded on the device.
So it’s up to you if you prefer a sleeker design and are willing to pay more to save yourself the trouble of downloading additional games.
All of this for about $225 sounds like a pretty great deal to me!
Like with the retro handheld scene a few years ago, there are only a handful of actual manufacturers of these units, but what happens is you get companies that buy them and rebrand them.
3. Super Console X Mini PC
The Super Console X line also has an ultra powerful “final boss” iteration: The Super Console X Mini PC.
This consolizer features an Intel Celeron J4125 cpu and an Intel UHD 600 gpu… so this thing is packing some heat.
And it runs both Windows or Batocera (a linux OS similar to emuElec). You can boot Batocera through an external hard drive or thumb drive.
All in a device that is so small that you would think it’s a small portable speaker, not a home video game console.
For the pricetag of $400, you get a home console that can emulate games all the way into GameCube, PSP and even some Wii and 3DS games. They advertise PS2, but that’s gonna be a no go in most cases.
Because this is literally a computer, you can load new games to your hard drive by simply plugging in another hard drive that contains your ROM files and drag them into your main games hard drive.
And you can also use the Windows OS to do web browsing, watch videos, and even install Windows based games.
You can use your own controllers using wired usb connection or a wireless controller using a usb adapter.
The Super Console X Mini PC comes with a wired controller that is the most usable of the prepacked controllers in the Super Console X consolizers.
One of the biggest selling points of this $400 package is that this includes a 2TB hard drive that comes loaded with thousands upon thousands of game ROMs, saving you the time of locating them and downloading them yourself.
The only drawback to the Super Console X Mini PC is that it is not as plug and play as the earlier Super Console X devices. It does require some tinkering.
2. Beelink SER3 Mini PC
Like the Super Console X Mini PC, there is a bunch of Windows based mini PCs available that can be used as retro consolizers.
These are much more powerful than what is needed for retro emulation, but also open up a lot of opportunities for more modern emulation, as well as current-gen PC gaming.
The Beelink SER3 Mini PC is a very powerful and premium device that is also made to allow for easy modifications and upgrades.
Let’s take a look at some of the specs: AMD Ryzen 7 Quadcore, Radeon Vega 10 CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, an internal 512GB SSD, up to three 4K displays.
So yeah, that’s quite a lot of power for around $400 in a device that looks like a hard drive from the early 2000s, you are getting a full PC unit.
As I will say a lot on these mini PCs, this is way more power than what I personally need for my retro gaming needs. But it is interesting to see what options are out there for high end users who want to have a single unit that can play everything from Game Boy all the way to Steam games.
Using Windows emulators, you can easily play GameCube, PSP, Wii, and even Wii U and simple Switch titles. 3D Switch games, Xbox and PS2 are the limit, those will just not be playable.
Overall, if you are looking for one of the most powerful mini pcs that you can use for a dedicated game console, the Beelink SER3 Mini PC is certainly on the higher end of options.
1. Minisforum EliteMini TH50
The Minisforum EliteMini TH50 is another example of a high end consolizer running Windows OS, this one coming in at around $450.
This is a very powerful PC with an Intel i5-11320H cpu and an Iris Xe gpu. That’s small stuff for a gaming PC, but on the powerful end of the spectrum for retro game emulation.
Like the Super Console X Mini PC, this is an actual computer unit, not a specialized Linux or Android box. So that means you can load full Windows based games like on any other Windows PC.
My own personal gaming tastes are going to be more retro, if I’m not going to be playing on a home console like a Playstation 5. So the power of something like the TH50 are beyond my own needs.
But, with something this powerful, you can easily run standalone emulators for older consoles and you will have some pretty great performance. Stuff like GameCube, Nintendo DS, PSP, and PS2 should all run great.
As seen in Taki Udon’s review of the TH50, this thing can even get into PS3, Wii U and Switch. And Retro Game Corps also had a review that showed many current gen games running quite well.
But again, in a consolizer, I’m looking to do lower end stuff. If I want to play Switch games, I can do that on my actual Switch that costs much less than the TH50.
But it’s cool to know options like this are out there for those not interested in the limitation of first-party consoles. Obviously, something like the TH50 offers a ton of capabilities and it’s amazing to have one device for such a giant range of emulation options.
As you can see, there are a ton of options available to gamers looking to have a dedicated emulation consolizer on their desktop or at their television entertainment unit.
I initially wanted to look into the options because I knew that there were some of the super low end consolizers ($20-40) that had a reputation of being unusable garbage.
But I was quite surprised to see just how premium things got once you started to get into the mini pc realm.
But overall, I saw exactly what I was hoping to see: a wide range of consolizers, including affordable options that could play everything my handheld emulators could (and more).
Most (probably all) consolizers are going to come in a particular flavor: Android, Linux, or Windows… and sometimes will offer dual-boot options.
So it’s really up to the purchaser to decide which operating system they prefer and which will best serve their intended use.
I am a little more straight forward and simple with my gaming, so I lean towards Linux interfaces. I do not need the more advanced customization levels of something like Android or the more powerful Windows.
A Linux based consolizer from $50-100 is exactly what I hope to purchase for myself soon. Paired with a nicer 8BitDo controller, and that will give me everything I need for 8bit, 16bit and 32 bit gaming.
This was an awesome learning opportunity and I will certainly be making a purchase soon. I hope I exposed you to some fun options as well.
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Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.