In the late ’80s/early ’90s, the Amiga was lightyears ahead of the competition. While most PC and Apple owners of the day subsisted on a handful of colours and bleep bloop noises, Commodore’s Amiga 500 was rocking 4096 colours, 4-channel digital audio, and preemptive multitasking. For a time, it was a major player in the games market. This how I came to know it, offering up large chunks of my childhood to the beige beast.
Masterminded by Retro Games Ltd, the folks who have twice resurrected the Commodore 64, The A500 Mini is a compact, 25-game reimagining of a true industry legend. I’ve put one through its paces, and I’m prepared to not only offer some initial impressions, but also show you the best places to order and accessorise one for yourself!
A500 Mini – 10 Images
Looks and Build
As far as construction goes, The A500 Mini is equal parts sturdy, authentic and adorable. While the dimensions of the original were not unlike a small aircraft carrier crossed with a keyboard, this too-long-in-the-dryer version is roughly the size of the OG’s power brick (25 x 7.8 x 17.7 cm).
Sadly, the ‘keyboard’ is just for aesthetics—boasting all the functionality of a 104-compartment ice cube tray turned upside-down. Your options are limited to summoning a nifty on-screen keyboard or plugging in in a generic USB one.
Likewise, don’t get too excited about getting those traditional red and green power/disk access lights that may function correctly, but lack the disk-crunching grunts. You know, that little percussion section which accompanied every game we played. (For the record: Amiga emulators do provide simulated audio solutions for that.)
I/O is pretty decent on the back. There’s a HDMI and USB-C port (the latter being used for the BYO power adapter). Those are flanked by three USB-A ports which can handle the included mouse, a CD32-styled gamepad and the option to whack in a thumb drive to expand your library of games. Obviously, you may ditch the mouse for a second controller, too.
Speaking of inputs, the ‘tank’ mouse comes on a 1.8m leash, is responsive, micro-switch clicky and (mercifully) modernised from ball to optical. Similarly, the pad on offer is pretty decent, offering four face buttons, two shoulders and home/menu options that suspend play. There’s also a slightly squishy but reliable dpad.
Personally, I feel a true “classic experience” should involve an actual joystick over this console-style gamepad, which can be configured to have 20 inputs (thanks to a shift button). That said, I can totally let this slide. Ye olde, one-button-only Amiga joystick was woefully unequipped for games with complex commands. First thing I did: rig up secondary buttons to greatly enhance “up to jump” platformers or shmups that wanted space bar for “special” moves.
Incidentally, I’m told the Quickshot knock-off joystick for The C64 will work on this mini console, too. That’s definitely the better option if you plan on playing those stick waggle athletics games.
As a crusty old connoisseur, I feel The A500 Mini experience is reasonably authentic—it gets way more right than it does wrong. For starters, I love that it removes those often minutes long, Workbench screen bootups for near instantaneous title screen arrivals. For seconds, the games selection is filled with mostly iconic stuff.
The full list includes: Alien Breed 3D, Alien Breed: Special Edition ’92, Another World, Arcade Pool, ATR: All Terrain Racing, Battle Chess, Cadaver, California Games, The Chaos Engine, Dragons Breath, F-16 Combat Pilot, Kick Off 2, The Lost Patrol, Paradroid 90, Pinball Dreams, Project-X: Special Edition ’93, Qwak, The Sentinel, Simon the Sorcerer, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, Stunt Car Racer, Super Cars II, Titus the Fox, Worms: The Director’s Cut, and Zool.
Having grown up playing 90% of that list, I can confirm they’re emulated quite well, though it’s a shame 720p 50/60Hz is the pinnacle up-rez offered. Speaking of visuals, there’s an ok array of stretch/crop/CRT/smoothing options, along with per-game configs. You can also save 4 lockable/thumbnailed save-states for each title. Plus, the UI is easy to navigate and is replete with endearing (sometimes hilaribad) boxart.
25 games sounds great, but there’s a distinct lack of Amiga must-owns here. Specifically, large voids in the disk-ographies of Cinemaware, The Bitmap Brothers, Bullfrog, Reflections, Sensible Software, Team 17, DMA Design, Factor 5 and, well, the list goes on. In all fairness, the Amiga platform was home to over 2,000 games before it was put to pasture. They were never going to please everybody.
The good news: if you still own physical copies of your faves, you can fairly easily locate and fill up a thumb drive with “LHA” versions of them. As a retro tragic hoarder, I still own a few dozen boxed copies of the crème de la Commodore, and I’m happy to say 90% of them ran remarkably well. There was the odd audio stutter/frame timing issue here or there, but that could largely be brought to heel with a decent amount of ‘expert option’ slider tweaks.
Once again, The A500 Mini is by no means perfect, but the included curated stuff works great and it’s firmware upgradable—your BYOGs can only get better. If you grew up living and breathing this now defunct chunk of gaming history, I daresay you’ll forgive the rough edges. If you didn’t, the appeal of reconnecting with this old amigo, and its many “best version of” gems, will probably whiz over your head faster than a lobbed speedball.
The Best A500 Mini Console Deals
The Best A500 Mini Accessories Deals
Adam’s our Aussie deals wrangler. You can watch him game on YouTube.