Starting this week I’m going to be taking a walk through video gaming history to bring you the best emulators I can find for each system. This first instalment covers the golden age of video games when primitive games made their way out of the arcades and into homes around the world.
Some contain embedded games, though for most you’ll need your own games to play on these emulators. These are generally referred to as ROMs and provided you own the original media it is not illegal to download or possess digital copies.
The list is as cross-platform as can be, though Mac and Linux support is (regrettably) thin on the ground this time round.
1972 – Magnavox Odyssey [ODYEMU]
Officially the world’s first home video games console, the Magnavox Odyssey lived for three years until it was discontinued in 1975. It was powered by batteries, lacked sound and by today’s standards is pretty awful.
However, that is not the point. If you’d like to experience the thrill of the world’s first home console then you can, with the ODYEMU emulator for Windows. The system itself is completely emulated, with all 26 released cartridges integrated.
The Odyssey did need a few peripherals to get the job done though (see the video), and these aren’t all complete at the moment. The authors have appealed for help and contributions, so if you’re particularly passionate you might want to help them out.
1975 – Home Pong (Atari/Sears Telegames) [Pong-Story]
From the same authors who brought you ODYEMU come this small collection of Pong emulators for your Windows PC. The closest you’ll probably get to the home version is Pong 6.0, a near-perfect Pong representation.
There’s also a reproduction of Atari’s classic arcade Pong available, Pong 2.7. Speed is variable and there’s a two-player mode – prepare to lose an afternoon!
1976 – Fairchild Channel F [MESS]
Released in 1976 as the first in a second generation of video games consoles, the Fairchild Channel F is emulated via the Multiple Emulator Super System, or MESS for short. Don’t let “second generation” fool you – the Channel F had mono sound, supported 8 colors at a resolution of 102×58 pixels and ran at a staggering 1.79MhZ.
The system came with two integrated games, Hockey and Tennis, with 26 cartridges released in total. The latest version of MESS is only available for Windows, but there are older versions available for Linux. The emulator and immitates an incredible amount of systems and iff you’re searching for an all-in-one then check it out.
1977 – Atari 2600 [Stella]ï»¿
An iconic console from 1977 , the Atari 2600 sold 30 million units, with top-grossing game Pac-Man selling 7 million copies. Calling the Atari 2600 a success is somewhat of an understatement, and by the early 1980s the word “Atari” was as synonymous with video gaming as “Xerox” is to photocopying.
There exists a fantastic little multi-platform emulator called Stella to get your 2600 fix. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux (with pre-compiled binaries for Ubuntu, Mandriva and Fedora).
Known as the Philips Videopac G7000 in Europe and branded the “21st greatest video game console” in 2009 by video games website IGN, no console at the time had a full alphanumeric keyboard until the Mangavox Odyssey² turned up.
The open-source cross-platform (Windows, Linux and DOS ) emulator O2EM does a good job of emulating many of the 70 or so available games for the system. Users can also use MESS to play Odyssey² games.
Toy manufacturer Mattel’s Intellivision was released in 1979 and sold around 3 million units. It was a direct competitor to Atari’s 2600, and despite only selling a tenth of the 30 million racked up by Atari, the Intellivision was compatible with 125 games.
Nostalgia is a quality emulator with near-perfect emulation since hitting version 5. Unfortunately the author’s website has disappeared but thankfully the download is mirrored at Emulator-Zone. Nostalgia is Windows only, Linux users will have more joy with MESS which also emulates the Intellivision platform.
Unfortunately it has not been possible to find emulators for three first generation consoles, the Magnavox Odyssey 200 (from 1975), the Coleco Telstar (1976) and Nintendo’s Color TV Game (1977). If you do know of any good solutions, then please leave a comment below as we would love to hear about them!
Join me next time when I’ll be taking a look at the next batch of consoles from 1980-1987.
Do you have any favourite emulators? Still get your old Atari out of the attic once in a while? Go all retro and mushy on us in the comments.