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Retro Duo NES and SNES Clone Console Review

Jennifer Wilber is a teacher and writer. She holds a B.A. in English and an Associate's in Computer Game Design. She is a life-long gamer.

A promotional photo of the Retro Duo in red and black.

A promotional photo of the Retro Duo in red and black.

What Is the Retro Duo?

The Retro Duo is an NES and SNES clone console developed by Retro-Bit, which can play both NES and SNES cartridges. It can play games for these systems released in any region, including Japan, Europe, and North America. The Retro Duo is not licensed by Nintendo, but it has the highest capability of any similar clone system. It supports both first-party and third-party SNES controllers (but not NES controllers). The Retro Duo is perfect for gamers who no longer have a working NES or SNES, or for gamers who simply don’t have the space for both an NES and SNES.

The Retro Duo shown with an SNES game cart and one pack-in controller.

The Retro Duo shown with an SNES game cart and one pack-in controller.

Benefits of the Retro Duo Over Other Clone Systems

There are many other similar NES/SNES clone systems out there, but the Retro Duo is widely regarded to be the best option, aside from the original hardware. Though all clone systems have some compatibility issues, the Retro Duo can play games that other clone systems have problems with due to hardware issues. These games include Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse on the NES, Star Fox on the SNES. The Retro Duo supports both PAL and NTSC games.

Though, like other clone consoles, it isn’t compatible with many NES and SNES accessories, the Retro Duo is compatible with the Super Game Boy device and the Game Genie cheat cartridge.

Because the Retro Duo has a small footprint and combines both NES and SNES functionality into a single unit, it takes up much less space in your entertainment center than a separate NES and SNES would. With classic gaming becoming increasingly popular in recent years, the original consoles will also likely cost you much more to purchase than the Retro Duo if you no longer have your old NES and SNES consoles.

A top view of the Retro Duo without game carts.

A top view of the Retro Duo without game carts.

Game Emulation Issues

As amazing as the Retro Duo is, it isn’t without a few problems. As with other emulators and clone consoles, there are some slight sound and color differences between the Retro Duo and the original systems. I didn’t notice any issues that were too obvious on the games I own, however. There are also a handful of games that are incompatible or partially incompatible with the Retro Duo, as well as certain NES accessories that are incompatible.

NES Titles Incompatible With the Retro Duo

The following NES titles are either incompatible, or partially incompatible, with the Retro Duo.

  • 720° (NTSC)
  • Battletoads (NTSC) – This game hangs after level 2, though there is a cheat that allows the player to jump to level 3.
  • Digger T. Rock: Legend of the Lost City (PAL) (plays title screen, in-game crashes with graphics glitch, rendering it unplayable)
  • Duck Hunt (NTSC and PAL) – The NES Zapper cannot be plugged into the Retro Duo. It works with NES to SNES adapting cables that have accessory support. (Note that NES Zapper only works with a CRT TV set.)
  • Maniac Mansion
  • Paperboy (NTSC) – The controller is not recognized, however, there is a hacked version that works.
  • Rolling Thunder – This game works with Retro Duo 2.0 and above.

SNES Titles Incompatible with the Retro Duo

The following SNES titles are incompatible, or partially incompatible, with the Retro Duo.

  • ActRaiser 2 (NTSC)
  • Batman Returns (PAL)
  • Donald in Maui Mallard (PAL)
  • Donkey Kong Country (PAL)
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (PAL)
  • Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! (PAL)
  • EarthBound (NTSC) - This game has only minor incompatibility with the Retro Duo. An antipiracy check will activate in this game, which causes an increased enemy spawn rate. The game is playable, however.
  • GP-1: Part II (PAL)
  • Illusion of Time (PAL)
  • Kirby's Fun Pak (PAL)
  • Lethal Enforcers (PAL)
  • Out of This World (NTSC) – The screen border flashes and some sprites either load distorted or not at all.
  • Plok (PAL)
  • Pilotwings (PAL) – Pilotwings has only a minor incompatibility with the Retro Duo. When played on the Retro Duo, target platforms blink and sometimes produce a mirroring effect. There are also minor screen flashes and haze. It is playable, however.
  • Secret of Mana (PAL)
  • Starwing (PAL)
  • Stunt Race FX (PAL)
  • Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (PAL and NTSC) - The stage 3-2 boss is invisible, and Stage 4 is completely black except for enemies, player, and certain platforms when played on the Retro Duo. Because of this, it is virtually unplayable.
  • Super Mario All-Stars (PAL)
  • Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World (PAL)
  • Super Mario Kart (PAL) – The game runs, but there are numerous graphical glitches.
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Metroid (PAL)
  • Terranigma (PAL) – An antipiracy check is tripped when played on the Retro Duo, as well as on all other clone consoles.
  • Zombies (PAL)
You will need an original NES to play with ROB.

You will need an original NES to play with ROB.

NES Accessories Incompatible with the Retro Duo

The following accessories are incompatible with the Retro Duo, unless you use NES to SNES cables with accessory support.

  • R.O.B.
  • NES Zapper
  • Power Pad
  • NES Advantage
  • NES Max
  • Power Glove
The controller that comes with the Retro Duo.

The controller that comes with the Retro Duo.

The Controllers

The Retro Duo supports Super Nintendo controllers, both official and third-party. It does not, however, support NES controllers.

It does come with two SNES clone controllers in colors to match the system. These controllers do feel a bit cheap compared to the original SNES controllers. One of the biggest differences I noticed between the Retro Duo controllers and the original SNES controllers is that the X and Y buttons aren't concave on the Retro Duo controllers like they are on the original controllers. They feel extremely cheap and delicate, so you will likely want to switch the pack-in controllers with official SNES controllers, or perhaps higher-end reproduction controllers if you can’t get ahold of the official SNES controllers.

The Retro-Bit Retro Duo Portable in red.

The Retro-Bit Retro Duo Portable in red.

Retro Duo Portable

There is now also a portable version of the Retro Duo available. The Retro Duo Portable has a 3.75” screen and allows players to play classic games on the go. It can play SNES cartridges via its cartridge slot in the back. The Retro Duo Portable also supports NES, Genesis, and Game Boy games with an appropriate cartridge adapter for each system. The NES cartridge adapter is included, while the Genesis and Game Boy adapters are sold separately.

The official SNES controller compared to the Retro Duo controller.

The official SNES controller compared to the Retro Duo controller.

My Thoughts

Though there are some emulation issues, the Retro Duo is a worthwhile investment for gamers who enjoy classic gaming. It allows players to play the majority of SNES and NES games that were released in the US, Japan, and Europe. Because it plays games from all regions, it is a worthwhile console for anyone who is interested in playing import games, even if you already own the original consoles.

The controllers that come with the Retro Duo are nothing special, but they can easily be replaced with original SNES controllers or better quality reproductions.

The Retro Duo is an excellent NES/SNES clone for anyone interested in classic gaming who does not own the original hardware, who wants to play import games, or who just wants a backup system that takes up less space than the original consoles.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber

Comments

Nathan Bernardo from California, United States of America on July 25, 2018:

I used to play those old games and have been wanting to play them again. Thanks for the review, I'm going to check out the Retro Duo for sure. I stopped playing games way back in the days of the Sega Genesis, so all I know are the old games. But I go way back to the Atari 2400. Somewhere in there I got a Nintendo. Later got a Genesis. I probably haven't had a game system since the early 90s. Well, I recently got a Wii, but I mostly play Mario Kart on that.