Digital Crave

Retro gaming is so tubular, dude

Marc Saltzman
Digital Crave

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Today's video games may boast photorealistic graphics, surround sound and worldwide multiplayer matches via the Internet, but many still long for the days when games were, well, simple.

You know, when you didn't need to master 14 buttons just to beat a level, or suffer from vertigo because of a dizzying first-person perspective.

If you've got a sentimental spot for bustling arcades of the early '80s -- or sitting on a shag rug in front of the boob tube, with an Atari beside you -- then you'll be happy to know there are many ways to regain the glory of the "golden age of gaming" -- in 2013.

Retro to go-go

For example, many of the game apps for smartphones and tablets are the classics from yesteryear. You can download authentic versions of Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Centipede, Asteroids and Space Invaders, to name just a few – many of which are just $0.99 cents apiece. Some, like Atari's Missile Command and Breakout, are completely free.

But a touchscreen might not feel right to video game purists. If you agree, a couple of the iCade accessories from ThinkGeek can help. The iCade (from $79.99) is a tabletop arcade cabinet that lets you drop in your iPad tablet to play classic games – complete with a red-topped joystick, responsive buttons and faux coin slot.

Another – and more portable – solution is the iCade 8-Bitty ($29.99). Similar to its iCade big brother, this Bluetooth-enabled gadget is ideal for those who own an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Android device. The wireless game controller sports a vintage D-Pad and button layout reminiscent of retro 8-bit game consoles from the '80s and '90s, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Master System. The battery-powered device works with many hundreds of games, with a full list available at thinkgeek.com/icadegames

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Android users might also opt for Power A’s MOGA game controller (from $44.99).

TV time

If you prefer to play these digital diversions on your big-screen television, all three video game consoles – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii U – offer downloadable versions of retro games.

The Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) for Xbox 360, for example, offers nostalgic titles like Asteroids, 1942, Frogger, Choplifter, Defender, Dig Dug and Bomberman. Most of these titles are 400 to 800 Microsoft Points (or $6 to $12 each).

Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN) for PlayStation 3 also houses many downloadable titles for a couple of bucks apiece, like Crazy Taxi, Mega Man, Crash Bandicoot, Yar's Revenge, Marvel Pinball and Worms. Some games are new spins on old favorites, like Space Invaders Infinity Gene or Galaga Legions DX.

Nintendo's Virtual Console on the Nintendo Wii and Wii U, has dozens of classics from older Nintendo systems, including games from The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Final Fantasy, Mega Man and Bomberman series. These timeless adventures usually cost between 500 and 1200 Wii Points, or about $5 to $12 per game.

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Go big and go home

If budget permits, you also consider an authentic coin-op machine for your home, such as the Dream Arcades products. Each with more than 200 games – such as Ms. Pacman, Centipede, Pole Position and Dragon's Lair -- the stand-up coin-op machine costs $1,899, while the sit-down "cocktail table" costs $1,999.

A pricier consideration is the Gamerator ($3,499) for your basement or "man cave" – with a special surprise inside.

Sure, at first glance, you’ll appreciate this custom-built, full-sized arcade cabinet with authentic controls and more than 100 video game classics -- plus you can also connect new video game consoles to the 26-inch flat-panel HD screen, if desired – but inside the Gamerator is a built-in tap and keg fridge for your favorite brew. Go ahead, pinch yourself.

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