Play Old Games On New Systems

For the most part, playing old games on newer systems defeats the purpose of this site.  That being said, I wanted to explain both the shortcomings of doing that, as well as many ways it can be beneficial.  Just keep in mind that even though many of these methods produce an experience extremely close to the original, it will never be an exact match:  Lots of games have quirky sound issues and some have lag, graphic or aspect ratio issues.  Also, sometimes certain games only feel right with the original controllers.

Playing older games on newer systems can be broken into two groups:  Buying the games from an official outlet, or downloading roms (illegally) and playing them through emulators.  I’ll start with the legit method:

Buying classic games on newer systems:
It’s my personal opinion that buying a classic game on a new system is great for specific purposes:  Maybe you’re not a huge fan of the Sega Genesis, but really want to play Sonic the Hedgehog?  Don’t bother getting a full console setup just for that, simply buy it on a newer system!  If that’s similar to what you’re looking for, here’s your main choices: 

– Nintendo’s Virtual Console
Using Nintendo’s Virtual Console, you can legally buy a large selection of games from the classic systems and even some arcade games.  The original Wii only upscales the games to 480p, but the Wii U upscales games to 1080p.  Unfortunately, no light gun or Sega 3D games will work, but there are still tons of great games available.  In the Wii section, I do side-by-side comparisons of the Virtual Console games to the original.

One thing to note is the Wii classic controller works perfect, but it doesn’t feel the same as the original console controllers.  Luckily, you can get adapters that allow you to use controllers from almost all of the classic systems on both the Wii and Wii U.  Check out the Controller Adapter page for more info.

– Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade or Sony’s PlayStation Network
Like Nintendo, both Sony and Microsoft offer classic games for sale via their online service.  They don’t offer any titles from Nintendo (obviously), but they offer many other classic games that are excellent.  My favorite is Daytona USA (available on both platforms).  It’s exactly like the arcade version, but re-done in widescreen resolution (not stretched either, the game was actually re-made for 16:9).

One thing to note:  Many of the classic games play in a windowed mode when in 1080p resolution, as 240p doesn’t scale directly into 1080p.  This keeps the game in its proper aspect ratio and in my opinion is the correct way to view the game, Other games have actually been re-done for HDTV’s and scale perfectly to a widescreen, 1080p resolution without stretching the image at all.  Here’s an example of how Altered Beast looks on the PS3, vs Daytona USA on the PS3:

iOS and Android (plus Fire TV) App Stores
You can find many classic titles in both the Apple and Google app stores.  I purchased a few titles on my iOS devices and Fire TV.  Although it’s absolutely no replacement for the original, it’s still a lot of fun.

PC & Mac Versions
Many games have always had computer versions released, but it’s generally a different experience then a game console.


Playing roms via emulators:
I have a love / hate relationship with emulators.  I love them, because I can try any game I want for free, on many different platforms.  I hate them because of the frustration they can cause and because of the lag you often run into.  Please allow me to explain:

I’ve been using emulators since the first NES emulators were ever released for PC’s (some of the original developers are still working on them today!).  I was so amazed by the emulation scene that followed, that the first website I ever created was dedicated solely to emulators (I started it on Geocities…damn, I’m old).  I can honestly say without exaggerating that in the past 20 years, I’ve spent thousands of hours messing with emulators of all kinds.  It was worth the time, simply to satisfy my geeky curiosity, but I ended up spending much more time tinkering with the emulators then I did playing games.  Also, eventually, something would go wrong:  A setup would have to be re-configured, a savegame would be lost…it’s inevitable.  If you’re the type of person who enjoys tinkering with things as much as playing games, then I suggest you give any or all of the methods below a try.  If not, maybe use them as a tool for testing games, but stick to the above methods or original consoles to play your games.  Either way, here’s the most common methods of using emulators:

– Via a computer
Computers can adapt to pretty much any resolution required, making them easy to match to any display, including RGB monitors.  Also, there are adapters available that allow you to use original controllers with the emulators (please check out the links on the right, as they shoud be exactly what you’d need).  Through some tweaking and hacking, you can get USB light guns and even the Sega 3D Glasses to work.  Keep in mind, you’ll mostly be using your keyboard and mouse to navigate the emulators and games, which is not the most ideal setup for a TV (you can set up a GUI front end, but it’s a bit of work).  As a result, I don’t recommend this as a permanent solution, only a “try-before-you-buy” tool for checking out classic games you may want to get.

Raspberry Pi 2b
The Raspberry Pi has been an excellent device for many different things.  I currently use mine as a Media Center, however there’s an entire scene dedicated to emulation on it:  http://blog.petrockblock.com/retropie/

Mobile Emulators for iOS and Android devices
This is actually my new favorite way to play roms (usually to test out a homebrew game before playing on the original system).  In fact, I dedicated an entire page of the website to it.  Please check it out if you’re interested:  Mobile Emulators

– Nintendo Wii – Hacked
A hacked Wii can emulate lots of different systems reliably and output up to 480p.  Also, you can use the WiiMote as the “light gun” with almost any emulator, however it certainly doesn’t feel the same as using the original zapper.  I’ve found the Wii’s emulation to be the most reliable out of all the hacked consoles, but that’s just my experience.

– Hacked Xbox (original Xbox) or PS3
Both the original Xbox and the PS3 (if hacked) can play almost every old system in high definition.  Also, emulators on both systems will allow you to adjust screen size and aspect ratio.  They work well for some systems, but others (Sega CD, 32x, Saturn, Neo Geo, N64 and others) are a poor experience that doesn’t really compare to the original.  With this method, you can’t use any light gun game or any Sega 3D games.


One last point on emulators:  Emulators have savestates, which is blatantly cheating, since it allows you to save anywhere in a game, even if the system didn’t allow it.  Granted, I’d never be able to beat Super Mario 2 without using them, but it still takes away from the experience of the game.

In conclusion, I recommend using emulators either as a tool to check out games, or a way to play games from a system you don’t plan on owning.  It’s funny…I remember being 12-years-old and daydreaming about how cool it would be if there was one system that could play every video game.  I’d have shit my pants if I knew not only would I own many devices that could play every game ever invented (at the time) through “amazing software called emulators”, but could also play them all on my iPhone (I’d then first have to explain what a cell phone was, then an iPhone).  What would be even more shocking to “little me” is even though I have all these devices that run emulators, I still prefer using the same original systems I used back then (just cooler and through an infinitely more expensive TV).    

Please head to the Display RGB page for more info on how to get an RGB signal on your display.  If you’re here as part of the RGB Guide, please move along to getting your SCART RGB cable into your display.  If not, I welcome you to check out the main page.