Welcome to Legally Retro, a new series of articles that talk about how to play retro games within the bounds of the law. We will talk about legal clone consoles, buying original consoles, and other legal ways to play the retro games you love. Today, we consider the Atari home game consoles. Atari started in home game consoles with the Video Computer System (VCS) which later was renamed the 2600, and followed that up with the Atari SuperSystem, the 5200, 7800, Lynx handheld and the Atari Jaguar. They also ventured into home computing with several models but we won’t go into that here.
Buying Original Hardware
While not the easiest way to play old Atari home console games, it is the most authentic. Atari game consoles are still available in retro game shops for reasonable prices and are not extremely difficult to find. In fact, online retro gaming stores generally carry a range of old consoles.
However, the complications come when trying to attach and play them on modern TVs. Clearly, TV connections have changed over the decades. There are several options to get the console connected to your TV including directly through the coaxial TV antenna connection. Depending on what connectors come with the console you buy, you might need an adapter like an RCA female to F male connector. This converts the old Atari connector to a coaxial connector. There are also more complex connectors and adapters that will take your old console and connect it through the HDMI port. However, don’t expect any expanded graphics as that was a limitation of the original hardware. For that, you must read on, adventurer!
Retro Atari Clone Consoles
Easier, but not as authentic, are the new waves of retro clones. These are licensed consoles that are made to play old home console games. For the Atari, there is a clone console from Hyperkin called the RetroN 77: HD. It connects to the TV through an HDMI and can output up to 720p. The console has several options on it so you can play just like we did back in the 70s and 80s – 4:3 ratio (the old square TV aspect ratio), color, and black and white. They even have a faux wood panel version if you want that old-school aesthetic.
Atari Flashback Consoles
With built-in games, this is a less authentic, but perhaps most affordable, way to play all the popular games on the platform. With various versions from single game USB-based hardware to full replica consoles with dozens of games, you can find a way to scratch the retro Atari itch, at a cost.
Digital Store Collections
The least authentic way to play is by purchasing a digital pack of games on a modern console. You get the comfort of the modern controllers but lose the feel of how it really was playing those games back when they were new with some really odd joystick models that were not quite ergonomically terrific. These packs might be the most cost-conscious way to get back to those original old-school games, but when faced with that not-so-good port of Pac-Man to the Atari 2600, this might give you less buyer’s remorse in the end. These are available on almost every modern console now as well as on the PC through platforms like Steam, etc.
Meanwhile, for the Atari Jaguar there are large markups if you manage to find them in an online shop.
Atari on the Go
For the Atari Lynx it’s a different game altogether. Again, original Lynxes can be found in retro gaming shops, albeit with hefty markups and are harder to find given that there were around 3 million sold. Plus, collectors love these! That means they’re hard to come by in general. Games on the other hand are far easier to find in various states from loose all the way up to still packaged like new. It all depends on what you want to spend, if you’re collecting to play, or collecting to have a complete set of everything Lynx-like.
There are numerous ways to game illegally, but at Retro Magazine we want to focus on the legal ways to buy, play, and collect those consoles that helped get us to where we are today. This series of articles will continue to grow and expand over time to include all platforms and as many legal ways to play them as we can find. While some are purists and only want original games and consoles, some are more nostalgic and just want to play the games they grew up with and still others are the “gotta get ’em all” sorts and want to have a copy of every single games, release, system, and accessory…new if possible. We are here for you all and will continue to source and cite legit places to buy any legal version of retro games and consoles.