With HD Televisions taking over our living rooms, retro video games have been left behind. Bland colors, input lag, and a lack of scan lines plague those who are fans of playing retro video games. There are many great companies out there who are trying to preserve the aesthetics and gameplay but these options come at a price. Modding consoles, bulky Sony Trinitrons, and expensive add ons all to get the best possible picture out of outdated hardware. These options are great for the collectors who want to take the time and money to mod their consoles and there is plenty of documentation like from the YouTube Channel like My Life in Gaming.
This guide is for those collectors, like myself, who want to play retro video games on original hardware without sacrificing square footage of their house to bulky CRT TVs setups. Or if you’re like a lot of retro video game collectors you have multiple systems and spending hundreds of dollars updating older consoles is just out of the question. We’re definitely sacrificing picture quality for cost in this guide but for some of us, a slight increase in quality is just what we need to enjoy these older systems.
For the Following Systems: Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Famicom, Super Famicom, Mega Drive
Let’s get this out of the way. If you’re looking to play all of the major cartridge based systems on your TV and have limited space. This might be the route you’d like to take. Yes, it’s emulation but picture quality is definitely better than what you’ll get hooking up your retro systems to a TV with composite cables. That’s because it uses HDMI and upscales the games to 1080p. Another benefit is that you’ll also save space in your home theater setup as it replaces 5 consoles. I know I don’t like having that many consoles out all at once and the cable management is a nightmare.
There are some negatives to this system. For starters they have been caught stealing open source emulation code and using it as their own. If you’re alright morally with them doing this then be aware that certain games will not work on the system. Be sure to Google the latest list of games that will not work on this system. I know a couple of my favorites were on it. Between these two reasons this system does not suit my needs.
If you don’t have the consoles already and want to get into retro gaming, the Retron 5 is cost efficient as it sells on Amazon for around $120.
HD Retrovision Cables
For the Following Systems: Super Nintendo, Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Saturn (with adapter), NEO GEO (with adapter), and PlayStation. Dreamcast cable to be released by end of 2018
The creators of these cables are very passionate about what they do. In fact you should see watch their comparison videos so you can understand the picture improvement you can get from these cables.
The creators have stated multiple times that they are not in it for the money but treat it as a hobby. As such do not expect to go on their website and purchase them on a whim. Their last batch of cables in lasted about a month but once they’re gone you’re looking at waiting another six to eight months for another batch. Each component cable will run you around $55 and the adapters for certain consoles are $15 each. Do not buy these on eBay as scalpers have driven up the price.
Good Old Fashioned Component Cables
For the Following Systems: PlayStation 2, GameCube, Nintendo Wii, and Original XBOX
While it’s not HDMI, component cables will help improve picture quality. Just make sure that you go into your system settings and change the resolution to the highest possible. You can access the console’s system settings by starting it up without a game in it. Just remember that not all of these games have 480p support. You’ll be able to tell if a game supports the increased resolution by the back of the box in most instances.
Let me take a moment to talk about the official component cables Nintendo released for the GameCube. You should not be spending $200+ on pair of official cables. In my mind it’s absurd to spend that much. Shielding may be better but not when the price difference between the two is more than $200. In fact I suspect the prices to come down a bit as a HDMI GameCube adapter just came out called the GCHD Adapter that costs around $80. I heard it does an excellent job of upscaling the console and you can purchase it on Amazon as well.
Overall component cables are pretty cheap and each one will run you around $10 for a 6ft cord.
Upscaling Using the PlayStation 3
For the Following Systems: PlayStation 1 & PlayStation 2 (Original PS3 Only)
The PlayStation 3 is a great system if you want to play the older Sony games. All variations of the PS3 play original PlayStation games. If you want to play PS2 games you’ll need the fatter, glossier version of the PS3. Once the system was redesigned, Sony removed the capabilities to play PS2 games as a cost saving measure. Just be warned that these fat PS3 consoles suffer from the yellow light of death. Similar to Microsoft’s red ring of death, the yellow light of death is caused by the system overheating.
No matter which system you get, the PS3 will upscale the games so the picture will look crisper and cleaner. No blurry text here. Just make sure you’re hooking the system up with an HDMI cable. Once you add in the wireless controller, you’re able to enjoy modern gaming conveniences.
Fat PS3 will run around $100 used on eBay. The newer slim models cost around $175 new but I’ve seen used PS3s go for around $50-100 on Facebook marketplace.
Cheap NES Alternative
For the Following Systems: Toaster Nintendo Only
On the original toaster style Nintendo there were only two outputs, video and audio. While it gets the job done there is a cheap RCA Male to Female Y splitter you can buy. Plug it into the audio slot and get a pair of male audio cables. While the guys at My Life in Gaming can explain it better, the gist of it is that there is less noise when the signal is split from two sources to three. I was skeptical when I heard it but after I picked up the splitter I can tell you I definitely noticed a difference. The colors were slightly brighter and there was less pixel blur on the screen. This isn’t a replacement for an HDMI mod, but I can’t beat the price
The RCA Male to Female Y cost me around $4. I already had a set of RCA audio cables at home but those shouldn’t run you more than $10 depending on the cable length you need.
Still Waiting on a Cheaper Alternative
For the Following Systems: Nintendo 64
Hopefully this section will be filled out eventually but for now the only way to get the best picture out of your N64 is through an expensive modding.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the best picture out of your system. Stick within your budget and you’ll be able to find that fits lifestyle and situation. If you have some tips on getting the best picture out of your retro consoles, please comment below.
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