Returning To CRT Gaming


Anybody else ever had to hook up an older game console to a shiny new HDTV? Looks terrible doesn’t it?

I’ve been going through this situation for a while now and have finally started to really look at my options. There are solutions to the problem, but they’re all at least fairly difficult.

I guess it’s the same problem you face when you play any old standard definition media on an HD set: SDTV signal, DVDs, VHS, etc. I guess the difference with video games is that it’s a lot harder to legally acquire a lot of older content in newer formats. TV shows are re-aired in HD and it seems like almost every noteworthy film get’s preserved and remastered in each new format. I’ve gone at length here before about how this is definitely not the case with video games. So, there’s a lot more reason for you to keep old consoles around.

Right now, partly just to see if I could do it and partly because I ran out of room, I have an NES hooked up to a 46” Samsung Smart TV through RF. Expectedly stuff like this or Super NES games look terrible, but what really hurts me is looking at early 3D games on N64 or Dreamcast on newer TVs. Looking at GoldenEye is just unbearable.

So, I decided to go ahead and dig out my old 14” Samsung CRT and find a place to sit it next to the other TV. As unwieldy as this setup sounds, it kinda made me realize how much I miss CRT gaming. In combination with old school consoles there’s a kind of directness to it that’s been lost on today’s games.

These days you gotta wait a few seconds for the TV to book up (in my case a Smart TV), the navigate your PS3 or Xbox 360’s menu, and then wait for the game to load up the disc or DLC or achievements or whatever. With my N64 on the CRT you just turn the TV on and turn the game on. It’s about to reach a point where I might flip that thing on whenever my PS3 or my PC is busy doing something. I’m even looking for a few classic games to serve that purpose.

If you don’t have the room for two TVs though and still want not-terrible image quality from older consoles, another option only super-enthusiasts seem to know about is buying an external scaler. It’s basically a converter you connect between the console and the TV that tells the TV how to properly interpret the archaic signal. It doesn’t result in HD graphics or anything, but it makes the older games look much closer to how they used to appear on curved-screen tube TVs. You get the return of things like scanlines and discrete pixels. It’s also supposed to cut down on the input lag that LCDs add to games. Problem is, these scalers, like the XRGB, tend to cost around $500.

Lastly, and this might be easier depending on what hardware you own, you could just hook a computer up to the HDTV and run some ROMs on that computer. I personally haven’t tried it yet but I don’t see why it can’t work. Emulators already re-render classic games at modern resolutions and often provide lots of extra tools to optimize image quality. Of course that means you’re downloading ROMs.

Crap like this is the reason game publishers are putting out so many HD re-releases and why Nintendo is trying to re-sell you games on Virtual Console. The video game industry just does a much worse job of it compared to other media.


  • As of this writing, Gunpoint is half-off for about another day. You should go get it.
  • Didn’t know Michiko and Hatchin was out on Blu-Ray in English. Just one more anime Blu-Ray I can’t afford right now.
  • As of this writing, Ni No Kuni is $20 on PlayStation Network. Don’t know if it’s permanent or a sale.
  • They’re trying to bring back Mutant League Football but it’s kind of being ignored.
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