10 Retro Emulators to Play Early 80s Home Consoles on Your PC (1981-1986)

Tim Brookes 03-03-2011

On Wednesday I ran through the first in a series of home consoles and emulators, starting with the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 and finishing with the Intellivision in ’79. Today the journey continues as we enter the 80’s, heralding a new era of consoles, an Italian plumber and a plucky blue hedgehog.


As with the previous list, emulators are cross-platform where possible. You’ll need games to play, known as ROMs, and just a reminder that, provided you own the original game, it is not illegal to possess digital copies. Please don’t ask us where to get these ROMs from though, we won’t tell you!

1982 – Atari 5200 [Atari++]

list of retro video game console emulators

Introduced in 1982, Atari’s 5200 SuperSystem was manufactured as a competitor to the popular Intellivision console. The hardware in the unit was virtually identical to Atari’s 400/800 early home computers, except the 5200 was a gaming machine lacking keyboard input.

There were 69 officially released titles for the machine, most of which were arcade How To Play Old Arcade Games On Your PC Read More ports.

old video game emulators


Atari++ is an 8 bit Atari emulator for Windows and Linux. Windows users can download the binary for their OS whilst Linux users will need to compile from source How to Compile & Install TAR GZ & TAR BZ2 Files in Ubuntu Linux Read More . If you’re no dab hand with the console then there’s full instructions on how to do this on the homepage.

1982 – Vectrex [ParaJVE]

video game emulators

Without a doubt one of the most innovative consoles in the history of video gaming, the Vectrex was an all-in-one console and vector monitor which did not require a television to play. It came with an Asteroids clone called Minestorm which is still fun to play today. You’ll find original working Vectrex consoles on eBay, but even today they aren’t cheap!


There were just short of 30 Vectrex games released, though there is a large amount of homebrew available too. The ParaJVE emulator does a great job of emulating this iconic system, and runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, provided you’ve got Java The Wonder & Beauty Of Java Applets [Technology Explained] Read More installed.

1982 – Emerson Arcadia 2001 [WinArcadia]

video game emulators

Following the Vectrex came the Arcadia 2001 from US manufacturer Emerson. The company licensed the console to other manufacturers worldwide, though due to differences in hardware and cartridges not all games are compatible with all systems.

old video game emulators


This resulted in multiple systems being released with hilarious names like “Rowtron 2000″ in the UK and “UVI Compu-Game” in New Zealand. 51 games make up the game library for the Emerson (and its derivatives) and you can play most of them with the WinArcadia emulator for Windows, AmigaOS (yes, really) and the GameBoy Advance.

1982 – ColecoVision [ColEm]

video game console emulators

The ColecoVision went head-to-head with Atari’s 5200 which had superior hardware but less commercial success. There were just under 150 game cartridges released for the system in total, though with the controversial first expansion module released added compatibility with Atari’s popular 2600 console.


ColEm is an open-source ColecoVision emulator for a variety of systems. Official support comes in Windows, Linux, Maemo and Symbian flavors (amongst others) whilst there are ported versions for Mac and the PSP.

1983 – Sega SG-1000 [Bee] [Kega Fusion]

video game console emulators

Marketing for Sega’s first console, the SG-1000, was focused mainly at the Asian and Australian markets, and thus the console never really gained any ground in Europe or North America. If you’re amongst those who missed out first time round then Bee [Broken URL Removed] is the emulator for you.

Compatibility is high, and the emulator works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Bee also emulates a couple of other systems including the ColecoVision and Atari 2600. Kega Fusion is an emulator for Sega consoles will also emulate the SG-1000, on all three major operating systems.

1983 – Nintendo Entertainment System [FCEUX] [MESS]

video game console emulators

Launched the same day as Sega’s SG-1000 in Japan, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a tremendous success for Nintendo. The company shifted more than 60 million units worldwide and IGN singled the console out as the greatest of all time in a list of 25.

Nintendo introduced the current standard of licensing software to third party developers for use on the NES, which combined with the console’s appeal resulted in over a thousand games. You can enjoy these with the help of FCEUX, an emulator favoured by the die-hard NES community.

video game console emulators

FCEUX comes in Windows and Linux flavours or if you prefer, the multiple system emulator MESS will also play NES games.

1985 – Sega Master System [Gens] [Kega Fusion]

video game emulators

First released under the name Sega Mark III in Japan, the Master System was a direct competitor to the NES and sold a respectable 13 million units. The Master System is still being produced in Brazil, with 132 built-in games and no catridge slot.

video game console emulators

If you’d like to relive some classic Sega action then you can with the Gens emulator for Windows. The emulator covers a few Sega systems, and emulation is pretty much perfect. Linux and Mac users can use Kega Fusion for Master System and other Sega emulation.

1986 – Atari 7800 [MESS] [ProSystem]

video game console emulators

Released as a direct challenger to the NES and Master System, Atari’s 7800 finally hit the market in 1986 after Atari encountered financial difficulties. There were 59 licenced games for the system, a handful of after-market releases and the 7800 was compatible with all Atari 2600 games.

list of video game console emulators

You’re going to need the 7800 OS ROMs, and luckily you can get them here (PAL) and here (NTSC). To emulate the 7800 on Windows, the ProSystem emulator works a treat. MESS will also emulate the Atari 7800.

What’s Missing?

The only home console from this era missing from the list is the Casio PV-1000 which was released in Japan in 1983 and had just 15 games available. The console enjoyed very limited success. If you do find a capable emulator for the PV-1000 then let us know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article then be sure to join me next time when we’ll be taking a look at consoles and their respective emulators between 1987 and 1993.

Do you have any favourite games from these systems? Sega or Nintendo? Sonic or Mario? Atari or nothing? Reminisce in the comments!

Image Credits: Atari 5200, Atari 7800

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  1. Anonymous
    January 23, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    The Texas Instruments TI-99/4A home computer, Had one in 1983, was a member of the Columbus, Ohio TI99/4a computer club. We use to go to Lima, Ohio, chicago, illinois, and milwaukee, wisconsin for TI computer club fairs..
    Computer Hobbyist

  2. nitrofurano
    December 23, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    about pv-1000, Mess emulator seems to be a good one (it seems to emulate fine those classic 15 games), and there is also ePV-1000 from Takeda Toshiya (runs almost fine on Wine) - and i'm now trying to develop homebrew stuff for that using Boriel’s ZX-Basic Compiler (something can be find in the "released programs" area in the wiki there)

  3. Terd
    March 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    What about CHIP-8?

  4. Nologic
    March 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm


    Sega SG-1000

    Sega Master System

  5. Joe W.
    March 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    also missing from the list is the Intellivision it came out in the early 80s maybe earlier i don't remember.

  6. Ghua
    March 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    good old times, I love the adverts. ehh.... I am getting old :(

  7. Mike
    March 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I miss my C64. Why on earth did I sell it? Damn!

  8. Aibek
    March 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I miss the BattleTanks

  9. Penfold
    March 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Definately a mario fan! However, I did have a megadrive as a kid and still have my grey brick game boy somewhere! Ha! The good old days!

  10. Boussakka
    March 4, 2011 at 4:08 am

    haha cool article
    i like super mario best
    thanks ^^