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 2012.
Retro to go-go
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 can help. ThinkGeek.com's iCade ($99.99) 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.
Coming soon is a smaller version, the iCade 8-Bitty ($24.99), a Bluetooth-enabled gadget designed to work with 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 will work with many hundreds of games, with a full list available at thinkgeek.com/icadegames.
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- 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 $5 to $10 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, 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.
Go big and go home
If budget permits, you might consider picking up the Gamerator ($3,499) for your basement or "man cave." This custom-built, full-sized arcade cabinet contains nearly 100 video game classics - including Beer Tapper, Joust, Mortal Kombat, Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Special Edition - plus you can also connect new video game consoles, if desired, to the 26-inch flat-panel HD screen with dual joystick and trackball controls.
Speaking of beer, there's a special surprise for those who'd like to sip a cold one while playing: inside the Gamerator is a built-in tap and keg fridge for your favorite brew.
By Marc Saltzman