How to Play Older Gaming Consoles on HDMI-Only TVs
The nostalgia effect is powerful. If you’re still clinging to your old-school Nintendo Entertainment System (however you pronounce it) there’s no reason to let it collect dust in a closet or a forgotten corner of your home entertainment system. Your older gaming consoles will still work with your fancy new television, or even your sort-of new television; they just need a little TLC.
We’ve already covered how to physically connect older devices to your television if it supports component connections (red, blue, green), composite connections (red, white, yellow), or straight-up coaxial (spikey prong).
The problem? If your modern television only supports HDMI and coaxial connections, you’re going to want to avoid the latter at all costs. Sure, it might work—if your TV can even display an older’s console’s lower resolution—but a coaxial connection is more prone to interference and will generally look meh:
Instead, consider picking up a simple adapter that converts your device’s analog connections—component, composite, or S-Video—to HDMI. It’s the cheapest option, but one that won’t necessarily give you the best picture quality if you’re a gamer.
Each of these three connection types will give you a different-looking picture, depending on which you’re connecting to your converter. But let’s be honest: If you’re trying to play a legacy gaming system on a 4K television, for example, your television’s built-in upscaler can only do so much.
You’ll also need to be picky about any HDMI converters you’re considering buying. While you can certainly find a cheap converter that gets an older console working on your modern television, it might make your gaming sessions look terrible.
Your best option is to go with a well-reviewed converter that has a built-in upscaler. (And in the case of an older console that outputs a video signal at a resolution too low for your television to handle, like the Nintendo Entertainment System, an upscaler is a necessity.)
You can probably get by with a simpler converter/upscaler if you want the thrill of retro gaming without a gaping hole in your wallet:
An upscaler like the XRGB Mini Framemeister, which costs hundreds of dollars, can make your retro consoles look gorgeous on your newer television, but there are reasonable alternatives that balance expense and quality. (Also, the Framemeister only supports composite connections, by default, not component. You’ll probably want to pick up an adapter, which just adds to the total price.)
Even then, be prepared for a lot of setup if you go the Framemeister route. But find the joy in it, too. There’s something satisfying about getting older hardware to work on televisions that arrived decades later.
Sure, you could wave the white flag and buy an NES or SNES Classic, download a software emulator for almost any retro system you can think of, or go Craigslist shopping for an old CRT television that works perfectly with your older gaming console(s). That’s not nearly as satisfying as coming up with a crazy DIY setup that finally—after a little expense and a weekend or two—just works. I mean, just look at how happy this guy is with his crazy collection of playable, retro consoles. Be like him: