Super Retro Champ delivers pure nostalgia with portable SNES and Genesis games

super retro champ
(Image credit: Marshall Honorof/Tom's Guide)

LAS VEGAS – There’s something almost magical about the Super Nintendo. We’ve had better controllers, more powerful systems and more ambitious games since then, but gamers keep coming back to Nintendo’s early-‘90s console like magnets to a lodestone.

Whether it’s pure nostalgia, historical curiosity or simply appreciation for good old games, Super Nintendo games still have a lot to offer us – and with the Super Retro Champ from My Arcade, now they can offer it to us on the go.

The Super Retro Champ is an incredibly simple idea with an equally straightforward execution: give gamers a portable system for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis cartridges they already own. The gadget will cost $110 and launch sometime later this year, although the exact release date will depend upon My Arcade’s production schedule, and the amount of interest the device garners before its launch.

super retro champ

(Image credit: Marshall Honorof/Tom's Guide)

Super Retro Champ design

Those who have seen My Arcade’s soon-to-be released Retro Champ (for NES game) should have a pretty good idea of what the Super Retro Champ has in store. This square-ish device resembles an oversized Game Boy, and measures about stands about 10 inches tall. In the center, there’s a 7-inch LED screen; on the left side, there’s a D-pad; on the right side, there are four SNES-style face buttons. (The top two are concave, and the bottom two are convex, just like on the original SNES controller.) There are also start, select, reset, volume and power buttons located within easy reach.

You won’t have to reach too far for the shoulder buttons, as they’re located on the back, just where you’d rest your fingers. The top section of the back is dedicated to an SNES game slot, while the bottom lets you insert Genesis games. You can’t have two games inserted at once, however, otherwise the console wouldn’t “know” which one to prioritize. You’re also able to use both Western and Japanese SNES/Super Famicom cartridges.

In its handheld configuration, the Super Retro Champ reminded me of a Wii U controller, in that it’s essentially an oversized tablet that just plays Nintendo (and, in this case, Sega) games. The battery will last for up to five hours, and can recharge via micro-USB, making it an easy sell for both everyday commutes and long flights. But if you prefer to hook the console up to a TV, it’s extremely easy to do so. Simply connect an HDMI cable, then use one of the system’s two included wireless controllers.

super retro champ

(Image credit: Marshall Honorof/Tom's Guide)

Potential pitfalls

The device does have a few compatibility shortcomings, however. There’s no Bluetooth pairing available, so you’re stuck with the controllers that come with the Super Retro Champ. You can’t use an Xbox One controller, or the excellent 8bitdo retro controllers, for example. This will be a particular bummer to fans who buy the Super Retro Champ for its Sega Genesis compatibility, since the system’s controllers are almost button-for-button homages to the SNES peripherals. You’ll also be stuck with wired, 3.5 mm headsets.

Furthermore, even though the Super Retro Champ is a portable system, My Arcade won’t be offering any kind of case to protect the screen. This will make it fairly difficult to stash in backpacks for trips, since you’d run the risk of scratching that beautiful LED screen.

Finally, unlike many home-based retro consoles, the Super Retro Champ will not upscale any of its games. Systems like the Retron 5 or the Analogue Super NT will usually give you the option of upscaling or smoothing your games so that they don’t look too pixelated on a big, modern (U)HDTV, but the Super Retro Champ won’t be able to do that. This won’t bother purists, but it also means that old games won’t look very good on newer displays.

Even so, the ability to play SNES and Genesis cartridges on the go is something that never could have happened back when the systems first came out. (We won’t talk about the Sega Nomad.) My Arcade will soon open up pre-orders for the Super Retro Champ, so if you’ve still got your childhood cartridge collections handy, they may be about to get a second life.

Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub for the latest news and hands-on impressions out of Las Vegas, as well as our Best of CES 2020 awards.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.