Firstly, they run old games, but often in updated form - such as the beautiful Rez HD on XBLA (pictured right). But also, they are home to brand new games with old-school values.
The most current example is the forthcoming PSN title Dark Mist - a game set in a mystical dungeon that you tackle a screen at a time. You have a few varied weapons and a smart bomb to clear the screen, and there are sub-bosses to face before you meet a big baddy after a few levels. There are secret items to find, collectables to power up your character (see how many boxes this is ticking?) but crucially - and what makes the difference for modernity - graphics that take advantage of the PS3's vast capabilities. This is the sort of game I imagined I was playing when I was 8 years old, lost in the imaginary worlds of the Spectrum 128k.
But of course, home consoles aren't the only new-gen systems. Look again at that technological advance. Trailing some ten years behind the inexorable behemoth of progress were the handheld machines. Technology-wise, GBA caught up with SNES, DS caught up with N64 and PSP caught up with... well, not quite PS2, so maybe Dreamcast. And they've all been a big success. I don't believe it's purely for their portability. How many times have you sat on your sofa, passing up the opportunity to play your main console, and settled down to a long Advance Wars, Animal Crossing or LocoRoco session instead?
Above: New Super Mario Bros has been a mainstay of the sales chart for some 87 weeks - proof that retro-like games still hold mass appeal
DS stands for everything I've been talking about. And it's not just my opinion - more members of the GamesRadar team personally own a DS than not. One GR editor claims he won't play 3D games on it because it 'just feels wrong'. And, considering PSP is more like a modern home console than DS, with its competent 3D capabilities - is it coincidence that it's not been anywhere near as commercially successful as its Nintendo rival?