How to make vintage or retro games look better on an HDTV

CRT TVs are widely regarded as the best way to play old video games, and for good reason. Retro games look better and play better on CRTs because that’s the type of display they were designed for. But what if you don’t have a CRT, don’t have room for one, or can’t find one?

Vintage games can look terrible on newer TVs, which is bad, or suffer from lag issues that will make them almost unplayable, which is obviously worse. But there are several ways to make these Genesis or N64 games run on a modern HD or even UHD TV without them looking or playing like garbage.

In this guide, we’ll go through a few different setups to help you find the one that’s best for you and your collection. We will mainly focus on games played on their original hardware. natively with modern TV connections. Yes, these are all good retro gaming options that let you play old games on modern screens – which is the end goal – but we’re more concerned with how you can put your old consoles ( or at least your old games – see section on cloned consoles below) to work on your existing TV, without sacrificing looks or performance.

Improve the graphics of your old console with an external upscaler

If you plan to play your old games on their official hardware, you will need the help of an external device to boost the video signals to the proper resolution. Otherwise, the image will be a washed out and grainy mess.

Some people modify their old machines directly to support the desired video output, but it’s a difficult and potentially destructive process that we don’t recommend unless you’re already immersed in the retro gaming scene. (That said, pre-modified consoles are often sold on eBay and other third-party sources, and often pop up at trade shows or retro-gaming trade-in meetings, though they’re rare and can be quite expensive. )

The best solution for most of us is an external video converter dongle that converts your console’s video signal to HDMI output. For example, the Rad2x HDMI converter cables are a simple and common solution that does not require a secondary scaling device. There are also other console specific converters and cables that work well, such as the Armor 3 NuView HD Adapter for GameCube, the PS2 to HDMI adapter, or the PS1 to HDMI adapter.

Then there are upscaler boxes, which can accept inputs from multiple consoles or devices; the box does the job of sending everything to the TV in the correct HD format. There are many such devices, which range in price from $ 12 to $ 400 or more. However, we recommend that you purchase converters specifically designed for older high-end video games, as they are designed to provide crisp visuals with virtually no additional input lag. Retrotink’s line of upscalers are among the easiest to install and use, and are relatively affordable.

Other interesting options include the Open Source Scan Converter, GBS control, and the XRGB Framemeister. These options are more powerful and flexible, but much more difficult to configure and they can become very expensive. Some may also require additional cables so you can actually plug the consoles into the dongles.

Another decent upscaler is the classic, which can improve the resolution of a game to 1440p or 4K. It only works on consoles that already support HDMI output, either natively or via modding, but that means the mClassic also works on newer consoles like the Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 4. Keep in mind that the mClassic (and many other upscaler devices) can introduce minor tradeoffs in exchange for higher resolution visuals, such as a slight input lag or washed out colors. These aren’t likely to affect casual gaming, but purists should take note.

Play on “cloned” consoles with built-in HDMI support

Play your old games on consoles you’ve owned for years feels fine, but getting them to work on your new TV can require an expensive tangle of additional cables and secondary devices. The easiest option is to buy a “clone” console with native HDMI output. While it’s not as “pure” as playing on the older consoles in your collection, the cloned consoles will play the game cartridges you already own, automatically boosting the video signal to look good on your new TV – no special converters or cables are needed.

There are plenty of cloning consoles available from third-party companies, and some are better than others. The main difference between them is whether a given cloned console uses real hardware to run the games or relies on software emulation. We could spend the entirety of this guide detailing the differences between the two styles, but the bottom line is that hardware consoles are more faithful to the original experience and should be your choice if you want the games to play. as if they were running on a vintage console. Unfortunately, hardware clones are expensive and are only designed to support a single console.

Conversely, software emulation consoles are not as accurate, but they are cheaper and easier to produce, and allow manufacturers to add additional features that were once only possible on PC emulators, such as PC emulators. save states that allow you to drop and retrieve a game from any time. Some software emulation devices even support multiple cartridge formats, allowing you to play your SNES and Sega Genesis collections on a single machine.

While hardware and software clones each have their pros and cons (not to mention die-hard fans and detractors), the bottom line is that both will allow you to play your existing games on modern TVs in high definition, which is ultimately our goal.

Here’s a quick list of hardware and software emulation based consoles worth considering. Note that the price and availability may fluctuate.

Hardware-based console clones:

  • NT Mini (NES, Famicom, Famicom disk system)
  • Super NT (SNES, SuperFamicom)
  • Mega SG (Sega Genesis / Mega Drive / Master system)
  • Analog pocket (GameBoy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance; adapters for Game Gear, Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color sold separately).
  • Analog duo (TurboGrafx-16, TurboGrafx CD, SuperGrafx, PC Engine, PC Engine CD-ROM, Super Arcade CD-ROM)

Console clones based on software emulation:

Choose the right TV settings

So your console is plugged into your TV and your games run smoothly and look great. Now we need to make sure that your TV settings are configured for the best possible gaming experience.

Modern TVs and gaming monitors have more input lag than CRT displays, which can have a noticeable effect on gaming. Video games – and old-fashioned titles in particular – rely on precise timing. , but you’ll have a harder time getting through each step if your button presses are a few milliseconds late.

The easiest solution is to turn off post-processing effects on your TV, such as motion smoothing (which you should do anyway), to reduce the input lag. An easy way to do this is to select the “Game Mode” preset in your TV’s picture settings menu if it has one; this option will have the lowest possible input latency for your display. This should help the controls get closer to the original experience, but you’ll never get rid of the input lag completely, unless, of course, you’re playing on a CRT.