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5 Gadgets To Turn Your Phone Into A Retro Gaming Console (PICTURES)

20/05/2013 13:59 BST | Updated 20/07/2013 10:12 BST
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While both Android and iOS devices are resplendent with a huge array of available games, if you try and play anything with a 'retro' flavour you'll invariably discover a pretty big flaw - the controls.

Although most modern mobile games are designed with touch controls in mind, when it comes to emulators, retro-style platformers and arcade ports, on-screen buttons just won't do.

Some handset makers are starting to think of ways around this. The Nvdia Project Shield handheld is a pretty extreme example, but the prospect of Dual Shock support for Sony Xperia phones and even Samsung's (ropey, but interesting) GS 4 controller are starting to provide solutions.

But there are also a number of new, standalone products out there designed to get your playing retro-themed games with all the tactile guile of a proper retro addict.

Here are our five best gadgets for turning your phone into a genuinely cool retro gaming console.

8bitty

Joystick-IT Tablet Arcade Stick (£14.99)

With many retro-themed games, particularly on the iPad, the main controls are pretty simple - a few buttons and a joystick. And with this simple, battery-less little gadget, you can easily sort out at least one of those with a physical controller.

The Joystick-It is a simple idea. Pop the sucker onto the screen in the right position (tablets only, unless you have a massive 5-inch or higher screen), over the on-screen controls, and lean it forward to 'touch' the right part of the on-screen.

It's fiddly at first - and you have to find the right game for it to make sense - but when you hit the sweet spot it's an elegant, well made, attractive (and cost effective) way to play older games like you're back at the arcade.

8bitty

8 Bitty Retro Gamepad (£30)

The 8 Bitty gamepad is a Bluetooth, battery-powered like device with a minimalist design very reminiscent of the original NES controls. And used with the right apps, it works like a dream. On Android it functions perfectly with several key games and emulators - as long as you check you have the legal rights to play games on them in your local region. On iOS it's built to work with apps like the Atari Greatest Hits package, among many other games - all of which are listed here.

The pad is small, neat and solidly built. We found the button presses to be secure and solid, and the auto-off feature helps save battery.

It's only in compatibility that you'll have issues - and that's not just because not every app supports the iCade standard. The 8Bitty obviously only comes with a single D-pad, with no thumbsticks, and the result is that 3D FPS games and many top apps won't be an option.

That said if you're really looking to play 8 or 16-bit era games via emulators or official ports, this is a great, low-cost choice.

GameKlip case with PS3 Dual Shock controller

The GameKlip is a simple idea - to easily mount a phone above a PS3 controller, which is compatible with many (though not all) Android devices either via a cheap cable or using an App - albeit one generally only available to 'rooted' or jailbroken devices.

If you do have a spare Dual Shock around, and your phone is one of those on the list, it's pretty easy to set up and is compatible with many different types of games. The Klip itself is sturdy and well built, and the result is a decent experience. But we suggest checking your phone is compatible first - and if it is, maybe just think about using the controller separately, with a stand for the phone?

Wii Remote (And WiiMote Controller)

Judging by how many Wii consoles Nintendo managed to shift on the strength of Wavvy Hands Tennis, almost every gamer has a couple of WiiMotes around. So it's often a pleasant surprise to find that many Android phones are compatible with these simple little controllers - enough to play retro emulators or simple games.

As with the PS3 Dual Shock (above), however, it's not quite that simple. Not all phones work (including those running Android 4.2) and many of those that do often have issues.

But if your phone is one of the lucky ones, this is a great way to put a piece of kit which is probably gathering dust in your cupboard back to use.

8bitty

Gametel Controller (£27)

The Gametel Bluetooth gamepad is another great choice - again down mainly to price. For less than the 8 Bitty you get a device compatible not only with iCade standards, but those of a number of different devices. That means more games will work, and you'll get more out of the pad. Plus the attached phone holder is handy and secure - as long as your phone isn't too large (our Nexus 4 was a tight squeeze).

The downsides are slightly rickety build quality, and a lack of thumbstick controls which again means you'll be sticking to retro games. But for the money it's handy and well built way to get frustrated by old games like they were meant to be played.