The best way to play retro games

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Video games have been a passion of mine. I’ve been playing them for decades. As technology progresses, older systems get left behind. New televisions (those made after 2010) do not have the capability to detect a signal below 480p. While this isn’t really an issue for most people, it will be a problem if you like to play a system that’s older than the PlayStation 2. Working at the game store has exposed me to a number of customers who are calling asking why their Nintendo 64, our best seller, isn’t working on their modern TV.

The Nintendo 64 runs 280p on most games and a couple like Majora’s Mask run at 480i. That resolution is just outside of some TV’s spectrum and you’ll just get a blank screen. There are work arounds such as a HDMI upconverter which will take the lower signal and boost it up to 1080p. The downside being that the input lag would be unbearable for most games.  Even with the lag, games of that era do not scale well on the big screen since the original ratio is 4:3 and the new standard is 16:9.

So what’s the solution? Video games are meant to be played on their original hardware and you a TV is considered hardware. The question is which TV is the best. I currently have a 13inch TV that sits in the basement that I bring up from time to time to test light guns, but the picture and sound isn’t that great. After a bit of research  I found that the Sony Trinitron series of televisions, specifically the ones made in the early 2000s offer the best picture and sound quality for video game systems before the HDMI era.

The best thing about these TVs is that they’re plentiful and cheap. I just picked up a 32 inch KV-32FS13 Flat Screen Wega for 20 dollars off of craigslist. The thing is gargantuan in both screen size and heft. The old CRT monitors had solid glass panels that were up to 2 inches thick making them extremely heavy. My beast is 165lbs and too bulky to carry up the stairs myself. It took my fiancée and I a good 20 minutes to roll it gently up the stairs. In hindsight I should have gone with its lighter 27inch cousin who only weighs 85lbs and has handles on it. But 32 inches is a fantastic size and I can’t wait to play some Chrono Trigger or Goldeneye on this beauty.

For those of you who can’t lift that much or you simply don’t have space for a TV with such a large footprint, you can get a framemeister xrgb mini which offers the best HD solution for old system even adding the scanlines of old TVs to recreate the same experience. The only downside of this piece is that it costs $300

  • Miek

    I’m not really a console gamer but I do play a lot of retro PC games. Unfortunately the complications are just as annoying at times.

    I had recently played through the Goldbox series of RPGs that were made for DOS. They worked well. However more recent games like Neverwinter Nights 2 are almost a lost cause if you have Windows 7 or later.

  • While I was moving out I had to throw out a really nice big screen TV and this wasn’t a ps4 gen or ps2 gen era type of tv. These were the big screens for the NES/Genesis era. It had a wooden frame and swiveled left and right on top of this giant wooden block that was furnished with a green golf kit like carpet that was stapled onto the top of the base. But what made it feel like I was playing it back in it’s gen was that you had to turn it on with a pen or pencil. RIP childhood TV.