As a passionate gamer who loves classic games, I've always admired the nostalgic experience of playing old school video games on my vintage CRT television. The lower resolution and authentic aspect ratio of these TVs truly enhance the visuals, making those retro games shine brightly. But what to do if you can't find an old CRT TV or don't have the space for one? That's where the challenge begins.
In the age of HD displays, vintage games often suffer when played on modern TVs. The stretched visuals and input lag can greatly diminish the gaming experience. But don't worry! There are several solutions to bring your beloved retro games back to life on your modern HD or even UHD TV without compromising their visual quality or playability.
Get an external upscaler
This is my best advice if you’re going to use the official hardware. Basically, you need an extra device to push the video signal up to the right resolution. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a grainy chaos.
I've researched various options. Some people choose to simply upgrade their old machines, but I wouldn't recommend this option unless you know precisely what you're doing. You can, however, find pre-modded consoles on various websites. They won't go cheap though.
A video upscaler dongle would be a better choice. It converts the video signal of your console to HDMI. There are quite a few good options out there, I won’t give you any recommendations because I don’t know what kind of games you’re into, but there are dozens of products to choose from.
Then, you can also try out upscaler boxes, which take inputs from more devices at once. Again, prices vary. What I do recommend is getting a converter that’s specifically made for old video games, as it will give you the best possible graphics.
Adjust the TV settings
This is one of the easiest and most common ways to try to improve graphics. Your setup is ready and everything is on the TV. Now, what settings do you go for?
First, modern TVs will have a bit of input lag, more than what we used to have in old CRT displays. Video games require great timing though, so this could be an issue.
Get into the TV options and find the post processing effects. Turn them off. There might be more options there, such as motion smoothing. All these things must be turned off to reduce lag.
If you can find the game mode option in your TV, go for it. It reduces the latency to the lowest possible value. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll get as close as possible to the original experience, but you won’t be able to completely get rid of the lag.
Get a modded console with HDMI support
Playing your favorite games on consoles you loved as a kid is definitely a nostalgic experience. But then, if you struggle to get them to work on your TV, you may try out a different solution.
Personally, I believe investing in all kinds of devices and cables is not really worth it, unless you’re an avid retro game fan.
At this point, a so-called clone console could be a better idea. As long as it has a new HDMI output, you’re good to go. Such consoles are modded to upscale the video to match the TV.
Now, again, there are lots of brands and consoles out there, some of them better than others. There's one major aspect to take into consideration. Some clone consoles rely on emulation, others use the original hardware. For a better experience, get one with the original hardware.
They’re more expensive, but they’re more accurate as well. They’re usually made for one console or another in particular, while emulation clone consoles can normally support more consoles and cartridges. At the end of the day, it depends on what you’re playing.
Find the right cables
The right cables could also ease the performance and help you make old games look new. There are different types of cables out there, each with its own particularities. Here are the main ones I’ve successfully tried:
- RF is cheap and low quality, but it works. It hooks up where you’re supposed to put the antenna into the TV.
- S-Video separates colors and offers a good image quality, but it’s not that easy to find.
- Composite is somewhere in the middle. It’s better than RF, but not as good as S-Video. Quality is not impressive either.
- RGB is also known as SCART splits colors better than S-Video and offers good quality. In fact, many retro systems support this type of cable, but make sure your TV does too. Such slots are more common in TVs commercialized in Europe.
- Component is like RGB, but unlike RGB, it’s more common in the USA.
To make sure you get the right cables, double check your console and TV first and make sure you find something suitable.
Bringing the old classic games to life on modern TVs requires a combination of the right equipment and settings. With these tips, you can enjoy the nostalgic experience of playing old classic games on your modern TV without compromising on visual quality.