Despite the competition in terms of ways to play old games, the Evercade – as we found in our Evercade Review – is a sturdy, technically proficient console that’s truly plug and play (and can even be used on a TV or monitor via the mini-HDMI connection) which makes it incredibly appealing.
The console uses cartridges; curated collections of up to 20 games on each one, with retro-style packaging including manuals; the appeal of building up a collection – particularly as each case is numbered – is truly restored, in a way that can quite often feel out of reach given the cost of buying retro games these days.
The cartridges – with multiple slots for save states on every individual game – feature a great mix of popular and more obscure retro games, with some even featuring more modern indie games that were released for old consoles.
Excitingly, there have also been home brew and otherwise unreleased titles included in some collections. So the appeal of the Evercade goes way beyond just collecting retro titles – but with twenty cartridges now available and such a wide range of games featured, which are the best?
Let’s take a look with the 10 best Evercade games list!
10. Atari Lynx Collection 2
Though it looked as if it should have absolutely wiped the floor with its main competitor – Nintendo’s monochrome, 8-bit Game Boy – Atari’s innovative, colour-screened 16-bit handheld, the Lynx, struggled to sell.
This was due to a much higher RRP, the original model’s incredibly unwieldy, impractical size (fixed somewhat with the launch of the more compact Lynx II), a smaller, less critically acclaimed game library and lastly – with this a real deal breaker for a portable console – it ate its way through batteries far too quickly.
Yet it did have some superb games in its lineup, which not enough players got to experience. Many best Lynx Atari games are collected here; despite there being a larger number of titles included on the Evercade’s Atari Lynx Collection 1 (which sits just outside the 10 Best Evercade games list), this second cartridge is much more consistent in terms of the overall quality of the games, all of which are worth playing.
This collection has eight games: the port of sunny sports compilation California Games (which was bundled with the console), After Burner-esque shoot ‘em up title Blue Lightning, logic puzzler Chips Challenge, pseudo-3D run ‘n gun action game Electrocop, old school racer Checkered Flag, non-linear 2D shoot ‘em up Gates of Zendocon, innovative platformer Todd’s Adventures in Slime World and vertically scrolling shooter, Zarlor Mercenary.
9. Data East Collection 1
Data East released a huge number of video games in its long history as a developer and publisher – beginning in 1978 with arcade game Super Break and continuing with a phenomenal run of titles both in the arcades and on home machines.
With plenty of games to choose from across Data East’s long history, there’s a great variety of games included on this collection.
There’s a few disappointments on the cartridge – Bad Dudes, for example, is a flickering mess in its NES incarnation (sadly the version that’s featured here), Side Pocket is an odd, arcadey pool sim that plays by its own rules and Karate Champ, though fondly remembered, is a little too slow and basic by modern standards.
However, the standouts that elevate the cartridge and make it worthy of a place on the Best Evercade games list are the NES version of arcade classic Burger Time, caveman platformer Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics, addictive colour matching puzzler Magical Drop 2, Street Fighter II rip-off Fighter’s History (which was so similar to Capcom’s game that Capcom sued Data East for copyright infringement, albeit unsuccessfully), chunky scrolling beat ‘em up Two Crude Dudes, blisteringly fast top-down combat racer Bump ‘n’ Jump and finally, the superb, Contra-esque Midnight Resistance – which features some brilliantly diverse level design and addictive run and gun gameplay.
8. Piko Interactive Collection 1
A company specialising in bringing back long lost games from the dead, Piko Interactive are relatively new, having only been around since 2013.
Yet they clearly have a keen eye for quality and an admirable desire for preserving video game history – this collection features an amazing selection of 20 diverse games from both the 8 and 16-bit eras, with lots of genres represented.
There’s truly something for everyone here, with scrolling beat ’em ups (Water Margin and Iron Commando), racing (the sublime 16-bit Top Racer, also known as Top Gear), Punch Out-style boxing in Power Punch II, RPGs (including the open world, party-based Drakkhen), a vertical shoot ’em up (Magic Girl) and numerous platformers, with some real obscurities included too, with the previously unreleased Genesis/Mega Drive version of Jim Power – The Lost Dimension featured on the cartridge.
Though not all heavy hitters in terms of quality, the Piko Interactive Collection is another that’s definitely great value and it’s great to see lesser known – even unreleased – titles get another lease of life.
7. Technos Collection 1
The fact that this cartridge contains River City Ransom – known as Street Gangs in PAL regions – is almost enough to guarantee its place in the top 10 alone
A scrolling beat ‘em up originally released on the 8-bit NES, River City Ransom wasn’t a huge hit when it was first released – nor was it universally acclaimed by critics.
However, its non-linear, sandbox style gameplay and RPG elements mark it out as a unique beat ‘em up with surprising depth, especially for an 8-bit console title – and it has become a universally acclaimed title retrospectively.
The groundbreaking Renegade – a title which was responsible for many visual tropes and gameplay mechanics that became standard in the beat ‘em up genre – is also included, along with three Double Dragon games (the NES versions of Double Dragon and Double Dragon 2: The Revenge, along with 16-bit SNES title Super Double Dragon).
Finally, three fondly remembered NES sports games are in the collection – Super Dodge Ball, Super Spike V’Ball and the charmingly odd Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge.
The sports titles are a bit of an acquired taste, but for beat ‘em up fans this collection is an absolute must.
6. Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
Despite being founded in 2015, Mega Cat Studios is one of a number of contemporary developers/publishers who produce games for retro systems.
Since their inception, they’ve released a number of titles for the NES, SNES and Mega Drive/Genesis, many of which have also been ported to more modern systems such as Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Their games feel authentically retro, which is no mean feat – and though there’s a few games here that feel a little too retro in terms of their difficulty or mechanics (for example: beat ‘em up Almost Hero is far too simplistic as well as frustratingly punishing in terms of its difficulty and Punch Out homage Creepy Brawlers is unsatisfyingly basic, though admittedly appealingly lurid in its NES-style colour scheme), for the most part this is a great collection of titles.
Platform puzzler Multidude, scrolling beat ‘em up Coffee Crisis, the Strider-esque Tänzer and block painting platformer Super Painter are all excellent games, but Log Jammers, Little Medusa, Justice Duel and Old Towers also impress in various ways.
5. Atari Collection 1
For gamers of a certain age (ie: old – and yes, that includes me!), the classic Atari consoles – particularly the 2600, first released in 1977 (coincidentally, the year I was born) – were part of the reason why their love for video games began and endured.
Though incredibly dated and minimalistic by the standards even of the 90s, let alone today, the classic Atari games have still got that all-important factor which never ages: great gameplay. There’s generally no plot or backstory to worry about and the straightforward immediacy of the games is hugely appealing.
On this collection, the standouts are RPG-precursor Adventure, the 2600 port of Asteroids, oddly compelling horse racing game Steeplechase, classic arcade shoot ‘em up Centipede (in its Atari 2600 form) and the bizarre beat ‘em up/sports title Ninja Golf.
With several 7800 games included in addition to Ninja Golf, the sheer value of this cartridge is through the roof – games such as the Operation Wolf-esque on-rails shooter Alien Brigade are, like Ninja Golf, rare and expensive to buy, costing several times more than this entire collection in their original forms.
It’s collections such as this that make the Evercade so appealing not just for nostalgia purposes, but for game preservation too.
4. Namco Museum Collection 1
Though Namco are no stranger to milking their back catalogue for Namco Museum compilations (having done so since the mid-90s when the first Namco Museum games appeared on the PS1), what’s so exciting about this Evercade collection is the fact that it includes not just a number of familiar (perhaps over familiar in a few cases) titles, but also some more obscure games from both the 8 and 16-bit eras.
Of course, most players will head straight for what is still one of the best games ever, Pac-Man (here in its NES incarnation), as well as those aforementioned familiar titles (such as Dig Dug, Mappy and Xevious – all of which have been re-released countless times already).
The more obscure or at least lesser-seen titles are no slouches for the most part though – with classic arcade shooter Galaxian (usually it’s sequel Galaga that’s found on these compilations), colourful platformer (and Mappy sequel) Mappy Kids, odd arcadey puzzler Libble Rabble, Mode 7 SNES combat racer Battle Cars, excellent futuristic strategy game Metal Marines (which admittedly has a bit of a steep learning curve) and 8-bit first person spaceship sim Star Luster are all well worth checking out.
Only the slow, visually drab 16-bit racer Quad Challenge lets the side down – but the quality of the NES arcade ports, as well the variety on offer with the rest of the games included, makes this collection an essential one.
3. Jaleco Collection 1
A fairly prolific publisher during the 8 and 16-bit eras, mostly on Nintendo consoles, Jaleco’s games were usually met with fairly average critical reception due to their sometimes derivative nature, yet – with one or two exceptions – their titles were often solid examples of their respective genres.
This collection showcases some of their finest NES and SNES titles and it’s incredibly good value – especially when you consider how much these games would have cost to acquire back in the day, let alone now on eBay.
There’s a great deal of variety on offer here too, with some real longevity that puts it ahead of the older game collections on the Evercade.
The NES games included are hack and slash platformer Astyanax, baseball game Bases Loaded, vehicle-based platform oddity City Connection and the superb, colourful, very 90s Totally Rad.
The SNES is well represented here with Rival Turf and its sequel Brawl Brothers – very Final Fight-esque scrolling beat ’em ups with impressively sized sprites and excellent action – horizontal shoot ’em up Super Earth Defence Force, soccer title Super Goal! 2, top down run and gunner Operation Logic Bomb and superb firefighting game The Ignition Factor.
With many more Jaleco titles unaccounted for here that could definitely do with being reintroduced to gamers, let’s hope a second collection is on the way.
2. Indie Heroes Collection
When the Evercade was first announced, it was assumed that we’d just be treated to fairly straightforward collections of old games.
Yet, as the two Mega Cat Studios collections, the Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood dual cartridge and this Indie Heroes compilation show, there’s also room for newer titles that have been designed on retro hardware too.
This particular cartridge features some absolutely superb games too, with 14 games featured. The platform genre is most commonly represented, with almost half of the games featuring platform elements of some kind (though that’s where their similarities begin and end).
Foxyland, Twin Dragons, Debtor and Doodle World are all excellent examples of the platforming fun included.
Flea is a hardcore platformer that’ll have you tearing your hair out and there’s also adventure platform game Ploid, along with platform battle game Super Homebrew War – which suffers a little from the lack of multiplayer on the Evercade (though of course the Evercade VS will remedy that issue).
More RPG-style experiences are here too, with the dark Game Boy horror title Deadeus, cute-but-sweary cop RPG Quest Arrest, 16-bit top-down fantasy Anguna: Warriors of Virtue and Kubo 3, which was created by a 7 year old and his dad. Shoot ‘em up Uchusen, addictive puzzler Alien Cat 2 and Game Boy endless runner Chain Break round out this superb collection of titles.
1. Codemasters Collection 1
Though a hugely renowned publisher in the UK, Codemasters are – or at least were – less well known across the pond.
They made their name releasing budget software on home computer formats in the UK in the 80s, before moving into developing and publishing NES titles, albeit ones not licensed by Nintendo (these were released by Camerica Games in the US and Canada).
Their brilliantly playable, technically impressive NES games are well represented in this collection; most are hugely fun to play and incredibly polished.
NES-era platform games are plentiful on the cartridge (with Cosmic Spacehead being the highlight in my opinion), but titles such as Psycho Pinball, bonkers top-down racer Super Skidmarks and the previously unreleased Tennis All Stars are also great, non-platform games that are all worth playing.
Of special note is The Ultimate Stuntman – though pretty challenging, it’s a neat title that combines numerous styles of gameplay, including driving, run-and-gun and puzzle elements. Unfortunately, some of their most fondly remembered 8-bit titles, including Micro Machines (no doubt due to licensing issues) and the highly regarded Dizzy games (as well as other titles by The Oliver Twins) aren’t here, but The Oliver Twins games can be found on their own Evercade collection – which itself narrowly missed out on a spot in this Top 10.
There are two titles that truly elevate this collection though, being two of the best games in the Evercade’s entire library: the delightfully anarchic, war-is-hell action/RTS title Cannon Fodder and evergreen soccer game Sensible Soccer, both of which remain as addictive and compelling today as they ever were.
In terms of entertainment value, The Codemasters Collection 1 sails to the top of the Best Evercade games list with ease.