There is a reason why ultra-high-definition televisions were invented to replace old cathode ray tube TVs (CRT) – for clarity and details. The display technology in modern TVs is incredibly sharp and with more content at once, giving viewers a more dramatic and immersive experience. However, there is something magical about the good old CRTs that make people who are into retro gaming want to hold on to them. Some even spend an insane amount of money just to get them. Those 8-bit and 16-bit retro video games were simply not designed to run on modern TVs.
Ardent retro gamers would even say Mario and Donkey Kong will not look right on HD flat screens. So if you want the full retro gaming experience, you need a CRT TV or a professional video monitor (PVMs) if possible. But where and how do you find the best TV for retro gaming?
Well, for starters there are Facebook Groups, subreddits, and even YouTube channels that can be great resources. But more often than not, they can be just overwhelming; anyone can jump and give conflicting opinions.
Believe it or not, the demand for CRT TVs has grown tremendously over the past couple of years. The subreddit channel r/CRTGaming, which started in 2016, has now more than 65,000 subscribers and growing. Also, the highly coveted Sony GDM-FW900 CRT Monitor is priced at $4,000 on eBay. Obviously, you don’t necessarily need to shell out that insanely huge amount of money to enjoy retro games on retro TVs.
Types of CRT TV for retro gaming
There are two common types of CRT TVs used for retro games, consumer-grade CRT TV, and professional video monitors (PVMs).
The Consumer-grade CRT is exactly the old TVs you commonly find in most households in the 80s and 90s. It comes equipped with S-video, component, and composite inputs that connect with old video game consoles. High-end CRT TVs have as many as 480 horizontal lines.
Professional video monitors (PVMS) on the other hand, are simply the turbo-charged version of CRT, as it takes the latter to the next level. They are built for professional use, thus, you commonly found them in video editing suites, graphic design studios, broadcast studios, and places where image quality is extremely important. They have a higher resolution display than common CRTs with as many as 1000 horizontal lines in high-end models.
Running Retro Consoles and Playing Retro Games on Modern TVs
Also, you don’t really need to go full retro. You can actually run some old titles with modern TVs, there are actually a few modern TVs in the market that can run retro consoles and retro games.
If you are thinking of running retro games on a modern TV, make sure your TV can support the retro game consoles first. This means your TV must have the S-video, component, and composite inputs.
Here are some of the best modern TVs for retro gaming:
You will need the RetroTINK 2X Pro Zero Lag Line Doubler for Retro Console to make your TV compatible with retro games.
The combination of these two will give you the best of both worlds – ultimate retro gaming with a modern visual experience. If you are used to running your retro games on older CRT TVs, you will be amazed at the image quality of this one. The 4K resolution makes everything look so much better.
The VA panel of this TV comes with excellent picture quality, thanks to an excellent high contrast ratio that produces deeper blacks and more vivid bold colors. The screen is quite reflective though, which means it is not well-suited for well-lit rooms or sitting next to the window.
With a good response time, this Samsung TV for retro gaming will give you a more immersive experience in your retro games.
If you yearn for something bigger, then this 40-inch LED Smart TV from Hisense is for you. Of course, you also need to pair it with RetroTINK 2X Pro Zero Lag Line Doubler for Retro Console to make it compatible with your retro consoles.
It runs at 1080p picture quality, which may not be all that impressive by today’s standards, but it can definitely make a huge difference in your retro games, thanks to the incredibly wide screen.
It is also a Smart TV, which means it has all the bells and whistles you can expect from a good modern TV. Thus, when you are not using it for playing games with your old consoles, you can watch Netflix, etc., on its gorgeous screen.
If you are looking for an affordable option, you should definitely check out this Smart TV from TCL. Again, you also have to pair this with RetroTINK 2X Pro Zero Lag Line Doubler for Retro Console for your retro games.
It has a 720 resolution, which is far from impressive by today’s standard. However, it has all the functionalities and features of a Smart TV, as well as connectivity input options, making it extremely versatile. It works with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for your convenience.
Shopping for the best TV for retro gaming
So if you are looking for the best TV for retro gaming to complete your recreational room, or to simply cure your longing for nostalgia, this entry is for you. Here is a comprehensive list of the best CRT TVs for your retro gaming needs.
Keep in mind that most TVs on the following list are pre-owned. This is because they are no longer in production, making these appliances incredibly rare.
Sony is easily one of the most recognized brands in consumer electronics. The company has been around since the 1940s, which is a testament to the brand’s quality and reliability. They have been making TVs, digital cameras, smartphones, etc., for decades, but they are also associated with a widely popular line of home video game consoles – the PlayStation.
The Sony PVM-14M2U is a great example of the brand’s commitment to reliability – despite being a couple of decades old, this particular model is still widely considered the best CRT TV for retro gaming.
Apart from looking at the part, this TV is a certified workhorse. The 14” TV has a 13” viewing screen, while that is not a log for today’s standard, that is actually the ideal size for playing games on old consoles. It has a Trinitron color screen that produces 600 lines of resolution, making old games look steady and smooth, and yes you can say well-defined, considering its outdated technology.
Aside from that, this TV also comes equipped with actual knobs for aperture control, chroma, and other adjustable features. Not a lot of TV brands and models from its time have this kind of adjustability.
Another extremely rare piece is this astronaut-helmet-looking TV from Philips. Also known as the ‘Space Helmet’, this television will warp you all the way back to the Space Age with its unique, if not odd-looking design from 1983.
Philips was actually commissioned by NASA to commemorate their first space shuttle that was launched in space in 1981. This TV comes with a tinted screen shield that allows you to watch on it or play games with the visor up or down. It didn’t come cheap with that TV, and the same thing can be said more than forty years after.
The best thing about this retro TV is it will not just be your retro gaming TV, it can also become an excellent collection and display piece for your retro gaming room, living room, etc. Surely, it will not be a cheap purchase, but if you want to jump all the way back into the era of the space race, this is the best thing your money can get.
No, the AF doesn’t stand for informal offensive swear word; it actually means ‘Advanced Format’. By the time of its release, the AF series introduced a new kind of gaming to the world – gaming on huge screens.
This 20-inch TV reigned supreme in a time where TV casings were all chunky and needs two people to lift them up. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio perfect for all retro games that were never made to be played on widescreen TVs in the first place. It runs at a maximum resolution of 480i and a 60Hz refresh rate, which is solid for its price. It also comes with a built-in speaker which is more than enough for most old titles.
This may not be as widely used for retro gaming, but it is more than capable of accommodating retro consoles and old titles thanks to its pretty tasty stats.
It comes with an 8-inch screen, which may be small for a retro gaming TV. However, it packs 450 lines of resolution and can be operated using a wired remote (yes you read that right, wired remotes were a thing, you can ask your grandma). This makes it a perfect TV for gaming with friends, as you can take it anywhere. It is compact, light, and portable, it even comes with a nifty handle. You can pair it with GameCube or NES, they both look good and run well with this retro gaming TV.
5. JVC D-Series
JVC D-series is the classic “first TV” for most American households. The D-series refers to the TV’s Digital 2 Line Comb Filter, and a component input for DVD players.
The 32-inch widescreen has a 4:3 aspect ratio that can make games like Super Mario 64 look amazing. It has a whopping 700-line resolution too.
Note that the hefty price tag of many of these TV comes from the notion that these are considered collector’s or novelty items, sought after by avid retro game enthusiasts. Obviously, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a working retro gaming TV, as most plasma or CRT TVs you can find can run old games and old consoles without any problems, whatsoever.
Frequently Asked Questions on Retro Gaming TVs
Q. What is a CRT TV?
A. CRT stands for Cathode-Ray Tube. It is a vacuum tube that contains one or more electron guns and emits electron beams and a fluorescent screen that is used to view images.
Q. Are CRT TVs better for retro gaming?
A. Aside from the nostalgia they bring, retro consoles and old title games are designed and optimized to work with older TVs like CRT TVs. This is why retro gaming enthusiasts swear on the advantage of CRT screens, especially the high-end CRT monitors.
Q. How can I make retro games look better on 4k TV?
A. You have to use an external scaler, also known as a video scaler. It’s a small device that converts display resolution and boosts display accuracy, making old games look good on HD TVs.
Q. Are old TVs good for gaming?
A. It depends on the kind of game you want to run and the console; modern consoles and modern games, look better (and usually only work) on modern TVs.
Retro games, on the other hand, are specifically designed to run on older TVs. It comes down to pixels. Pixels are the individual dots on the screen of your TV. When combined together, they make images. Modern TVs have significantly more pixels. A TV with a 1080 resolution has 1,920 pixels across, and 1,080 pixels down. 4K TVs have 3,840 across, and 2,160 down. While modern TVs have better picture quality, retro games are not meant to run on pixel-dense TVs.
Old TVs don’t have pixels, rather they have lines. The TV takes the game signal from the console and displays it on its screen one line at a time. These scan lines give retro games a distinctive look.