Mini NES is gone? Here are some Nintendo backup options

If you need your retro Nintendo fix and the NES Classic is nowhere to be found, there are a few alternatives to consider.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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Scott Stein
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Bad news: The Mini NES is impossible to find. This year's hot retro gaming gift might be a pretty tough thing to track down outside of getting ripped off on eBay.

If you can't get your hands on a Mini NES, there are some other ways to get a classic Nintendo fix. I can't promise they'll be as affordable -- or adorable -- but at least you have some options.

Nintendo 2DS: At least it's portable.

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1. Nintendo 2DS and Virtual Console

This is the next most affordable way to play Nintendo games right now, and $80 will get you a system (and a preinstalled game too: Mario Kart 7). From there, you'll need to download Nintendo classic games via Nintendo's 3DS e-shop, under Virtual Console games. There are plenty of options, and more games to choose from than the Mini-NES can offer. But each game is $5 a pop, which can add up. Also, you can't connect the 2DS to your TV. But it's a great way to play games out and about.

By the way, going with the 3DS/2DS platform has another advantage in its breadth of retro game platforms. Nintendo's Virtual Console features Game Boy, NES, Sega Game Gear, plus a fantastic library of Sega 3D Classics that perfectly port hits like Outrun and Sonic the Hedgehog. (On the 2DS, you'll just play them in 2D.)

2. Black Friday $99 New Nintendo 3DS, for your SNES fix

A step-up option is Nintendo's New 3DS offer for the holidays, which brings the price down on Nintendo's step-up handheld starting November 25. The New Nintendo 3DS has better 3D effects and a second mini-analog stick for games, but the real reason to go for this version is its exclusive access to Virtual Console Super Nintendo games. You need a "New" 3DS to get to the SNES games, oddly, so enjoy picking up Super Mario World, Super Metroid and others...but for $8 each.

The Wii U is old and far from cheap, but it can play old NES games...if you buy and download them.

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3. There's always the Wii U

The Wii U is expensive, and it's on its way to becoming extinct. But it does have a lot of great games, and it's also connected to Nintendo's Virtual Console game library for retro gaming. The same $5 for NES games and $8 for SNES games rules apply, but there are also a number of Nintendo 64 games, too. The Wii U is still absurdly expensive at $300, but if it goes on sale anywhere, it's something to consider. It's no Mini NES, but it connects to a TV.

4. Find some retro games on sale

And there are a handful of games on sale through the holiday season on the 3DS and Wii U via the Nintendo eShop, which means you'd have to download them digitally. But a few stand-outs include the original NES Legend of Zelda for $2.99 and Link's Awakening DX (the Game Boy game) for $3.59 on the 3DS, or Super Mario Galaxy 2 on Wii U for $9.99.

5. Do you know about NES Remix?

The quirky game, released several years ago, is a compilation of mini-games based on over a dozen NES games. It's bite-sized retro gaming, not the full experience. It's not great. But I found it oddly addictive. And, hey, it could give you enough retro fun over the holidays to make you forget about the Mini NES and its siren song of 80s temptation. It costs anywhere from $20 to $30 for Wii U or 3DS (look for it on sale somewhere used).

6. Pick another retro toy, like that Sega Genesis

You could also just declare Nintendo bankruptcy and go with a novelty Sega Genesis all-in-one system, although the quality of the hardware and game selection isn't as good. But it just might scratch a bit of that retro itch until the Mini NES arrives back in stock...whenever that might be.

Watch this: We fixed the NES Classic's biggest problem