Hands-on: TurboGrafx-16 Mini is made for the retro gaming enthusiast

By 1989, Nintendo was dominating the home console video game market. Games like Super Mario Bros, Tecmo Bowl, and Legend of Zelda had a stranglehold on the market and kids were loving it.

While the NES was the go-to system for video games, in 1989, a couple of other companies were attempting to get some of that video game cash too. Sega introduced Sega Genesis to the masses, which saw some success with Sonic the Hedgehog leading the way. 

At the same time, TurboGrafx-16 was introduced in North America after seeing some moderate success in Japan as the PC Engine. And while its North American launch was considered a failure, TurboGrafx-16 was able to acquire a cult following with games like Bomberman ‘93, R-Type, and the Ys series being some of the must-have games for the system.

Now, 31 years later, TurboGrafx-16 is back, but in a smaller package. The TurboGrafx-16 Mini was announced during E3 2019 amid the hot trend of retro consoles being released in a “mini” form. The console features 57 games from both the original TurboGrafx-16 and Japan’s PC Engine console.

TurboGrafx-16 Mini was scheduled to launch in March 2020 but was delayed until May 22, 2020, and we were finally able to get our hands on the mini console.

The console is an exact “mini” replica of the original TurboGrafx-16 console, but there’s a removable section in the back of the device where you plug in your HDMI cable and your power cable, which is a simple micro-USB to USB cable. The controller, which is also a replica of the original TurboGrafx-16 controller is a USB plug-n-play controller that plugs into the front of the console. Additional controllers or an AC adapter for power are sold separately. 

Connecting everything to a television and powering everything up was simple, and we were good to go. The console outputs only 720p/480p, but it’s fine, none of the games on the console were made for 1080p or 4K resolution, it’s the ‘80s, man!

When powering up the console, the first thing you see is a menu for games that are featured on TurboGrafx-16, there are 25, and in the lower right-hand corner is the PC Engine logo which you can select to view its games, which total 32.

Truthfully, I hadn’t heard of most of the 57 games included. I’ve played Bomberman ‘93 before and on TurboGrafx-16 Mini, it’s just as fun. Same with R-Type, that classic side-scrolling shoot 'em up gameplay never seems to go out of style. Then there are the Japanese versions of classic games like Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo), Ghouls n’ Ghosts (Daimakaimura) and Ninja Gaiden (Ninja Ryukenden) but for the most part, a lot of it was new to me.

Alien Crush, a virtual pinball game I never played before was fun to play and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to get as many points as possible.

Not every game is a joy, however. Ninja Spirit was obviously a Ninja Gaiden copycat, JJ & Jeff was just weird and a bit pointless, and Chew-Man-Fu was a puzzle game that didn’t really lay out the goals for the player.

If I’m being honest, however, if I had a TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine in 1989 with these 57 games, I would’ve never left the house. Yes, some of the games didn’t age very well, but others are still fun and a reminder of where some of your favorite indies today get their inspiration. 

If you’re a retro gamer that lives for the 8-bit and16-bit era of gaming, this is an absolute must-have. There are endless hours of fun here, in one small package. If you’re so-so on that era, and you don’t recognize the games on the roster, the $99.99 price tag might not be worth it for you. For more on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, check out the official site here. Check out the list of games below:

TurboGrafx-16 games

Air Zonk

Alien Crush

Blazing Lazers

Bomberman ‘93

Bonk’s Revenge

Cadash

Chew Man Fu

Dungeon Explorer

J.J. & Jeff

Lords of Thunder

Military Madness

Moto Roader

Neutopia

Neutopia II

New Adventure Island

Ninja Spirit

Parasol Stars

Power Golf

Psychosis

R-Type

Soldier Blade

Space Harrier

Splatterhouse (TurboGrafx-16 Version)

Victory Run

Ys Book I & II

PC Engine games

Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood)

Aldynes

Appare! Gateball

Bomberman ‘94

Bomberman: Panic Bomber

Cho Aniki

Daimakaimura (Ghouls ‘n Ghosts)

Dragon Spirit

Dungeon Explorer

Fantasy Zone

Galaga ‘88

The Genji and the Heike Clans

Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire

Gradius

Gradius II: Gofer no Yab?

Jaseiken Necromancer

The Kung Fu (China Warrior)

Nectaris (Military Madness)

Neutopia

Neutopia II

Ninja Ryukenden (Ninja Gaiden)

PC Genjin (Bonk’s Adventure)

Salamander

Snatcher

Seirei Senshi Spriggan

Splatterhouse (PC Engine Version)

Spriggan Mark 2: Re-Terraform Project

Star Parodier

Super Darius

Super Momotar? Dentetsu II

Super Star Soldier

Tengai Maky? II: Manji Maru (Japanese exclusive)

Tokimeki Memorial (Japanese exclusive)

Valkyrie no Densetsu

Ys I & II