Screenshot closeup of Sonic 2 running on tube TV
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is a SEGA IP.

You May Get CRT Retrogaming All Wrong

Misconceptions and wrong expectations

Scollurio
5 min readJan 18, 2024

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If you were a gamer back in the day, chances are that, in a gist of nostalgia, you might go back to classics like Streets of Rage, Super Mario Kart or any other flavor of 8-Bit and 16-Bit goodness you either enjoyed as a kid or missed out on.

Retrogaming is a growing field of interest for many, even non-hardcore-gamers, easily proven by several servings of mini consoles, an ever-growing emulation scene and skyrocketing prices for 30+ year old games on eBay and similar platforms.

But oh so much has changed since then. Mainly the technology we use to enjoy our games — and getting that “nostalgic childhood feeling” just right is a rabbit hole almost as deep as finding that perfect mechanical keyboard.

Playing retrogames on the Super Nintendo, Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) or TurboGrafx 16 (PC Engine) is fun, but on modern displays, or run through emulation, they can look quite different to what you expect. Perfect image clarity reveals every single pixel, gradients can look dithered and usually there’s a lot of aliasing.

Now you have three options:

  • Embrace the pixel artwork of yesteryear, a respectable approach, especially if you have a general interest in pixel art and how it was done back in the golden era.
  • Run an emulation box and fiddle with shaders and filters until the image of your favorite games looks like you remember (or think to remember) them.
  • Get an OG setup, a large, bulky tube TV, all the cables and hook your beloved retro console up the way it was supposed to.

But wait a minute, there is a huge misconception about that “CRT look”.

There is NO singular, right “CRT” look. Not only did technologies differ a lot between manufacturers, through the progression of time and even models within the same brand, a large portion of how your 16-Bit videogames looked back in the day was influenced by the signal reaching the TV. The way of connecting your console to your TV played an integral part in how the games would look.

Don’t fall into the rabbit hole

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Scollurio

Hailing from Austria, a self-employed graphics designer and writer since 2009. Loves long walks in the forest, rain, thoughtful solitude and silly raccoons.