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CRT vs LCD For Retro Gaming | Which is Better?

Retro gaming refers to the playing of video games from older gaming consoles, typically those released in the 1980s and 1990s. These consoles, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or the Sega Genesis, were designed to be used with CRT televisions, which were prevalent during that era. Retro gaming enthusiasts often seek to recreate the nostalgic experience of playing these classic games on original hardware and displays. However, the transition to modern LCD and LED screens has introduced challenges such as input lag, resolution scaling, and color accuracy, which can impact the authenticity and enjoyment of retro gaming. The purpose of CRT vs LCD for Retro Gaming comparison is to evaluate the suitability of these two display technologies for retro gaming and determine which offers a more authentic and enjoyable experience for enthusiasts.

What are Retro Games?

Retro games, often referred to as classic or vintage games, are video games that were developed and released during earlier decades, typically from the 1970s to the early 2000s. These games represent the formative years of the video game industry and hold a special place in the hearts of gaming enthusiasts worldwide. Retro games are characterized by their simplistic graphics, limited processing power, and gameplay mechanics that emphasize skill and strategy over flashy visuals.

They were originally played on a variety of gaming platforms, including home consoles, arcade machines, personal computers, and handheld devices. Despite their age, retro games continue to enjoy a dedicated fanbase and are celebrated for their timeless appeal, innovative design, and nostalgic value.

Some Popular Retro Games and Consoles

Several iconic retro games and consoles have left a lasting impact on the gaming industry and continue to be cherished by gamers of all ages. One of the most beloved retro consoles is the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), released in 1985. The NES introduced gamers to classic titles such as “Super Mario Bros.,” “The Legend of Zelda,” and “Metroid,” which have since become cultural touchstones in gaming history.

Another standout console is the Sega Genesis, released in 1989, which brought arcade-quality gaming into the living room with hits like “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Streets of Rage,” and “Golden Axe.”

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), released in 1990, further expanded the gaming landscape with its impressive library of games, including timeless classics like “Super Mario World,” “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” and “Super Metroid.” Meanwhile, the Sony PlayStation, released in 1994, revolutionized gaming with its CD-based format and 3D graphics, spawning iconic titles such as “Final Fantasy VII,” “Metal Gear Solid,” and “Gran Turismo.”

Arcade games also played a significant role in shaping the retro gaming landscape, with titles like “Pac-Man,” “Space Invaders,” and “Donkey Kong” captivating audiences in arcades worldwide. Handheld gaming devices such as the Game Boy and Game Boy Color provided portable gaming experiences, with games like “Tetris,” “Pokémon Red and Blue,” and “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” captivating players on the go.

These are just a few examples of the countless retro games and consoles that have left an indelible mark on gaming culture. From the pioneering days of the arcade to the golden age of home consoles, retro games continue to inspire and entertain gamers around the globe, showcasing the timeless appeal and enduring legacy of classic gaming experiences.

Significance of CRT Display in Retro Gaming

The importance of CRT displays, whether in the form of televisions or monitors, for retro gaming cannot be overstated. These displays were the standard during the heyday of retro gaming, and they were intricately intertwined with the gaming experiences of that era.

One of the primary reasons for their significance lies in their authentic representation of how games were originally intended to be played. Retro games were developed with CRT displays in mind, and their graphics, color palettes, and overall aesthetics were optimized for these screens. Therefore, using a CRT display allows players to experience these games exactly as they were meant to be seen, preserving their authenticity and nostalgia.

Another crucial aspect of CRT displays is their ability to replicate the visual characteristics unique to retro gaming. These displays naturally produce scanlines, which were a defining feature of older games and contribute to their retro charm. Scanlines not only enhance the visual aesthetics of retro games but also evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminding players of the arcade cabinets and gaming consoles of yesteryears.

Additionally, CRT displays offer vibrant colors, deep blacks, and smooth motion handling, further enhancing the overall gaming experience and immersing players in the nostalgic world of retro gaming.

Furthermore, CRT displays are renowned for their minimal input lag and zero motion blur, providing players with precise and responsive gameplay essential for retro games that often require split-second timing and precision. This instantaneous response ensures that players can execute maneuvers and actions with utmost accuracy, resulting in a smoother and more enjoyable gaming experience.

Moreover, CRT displays offer wider viewing angles and reduced eyestrain compared to modern LCD and LED displays, making them more comfortable for extended gaming sessions.

CRT and LCD Display Technologies

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)

CRT displays operate by using a cathode ray tube to generate images on a phosphor-coated screen. Inside the tube, an electron gun emits a stream of electrons, which are accelerated and focused into a narrow beam. This beam strikes the phosphor-coated screen, causing it to emit light and create the images seen on the display.

The electron beam sweeps across the screen horizontally, line by line, from top to bottom, multiple times per second, creating a complete image. This process is known as raster scanning and is fundamental to how CRT displays render images.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

LCD displays utilize liquid crystals to modulate light and create images on the screen. A backlight shines through a layer of liquid crystals, which can be manipulated to allow varying amounts of light to pass through.

Each pixel on the screen consists of three subpixels, one for red, green, and blue, which combine to produce a full range of colors. By controlling the orientation of the liquid crystals in each pixel, LCD displays can create the desired colors and images seen on the screen.

Characteristics of CRT and LCD Relevant to Retro Gaming

CRT displays possess several characteristics that make them particularly well-suited for retro gaming. One such characteristic is the natural production of scanlines, which occur due to the space between each horizontal line drawn on the screen. These scanlines contribute to the distinctive visual aesthetic of retro games, enhancing their nostalgic appeal.

Additionally, CRT displays typically have a high refresh rate, often exceeding 60 Hz, resulting in smooth motion handling and minimal motion blur. This is crucial for retro games, which often feature fast-paced action and require precise timing and control.

LCD displays possess certain characteristics that can impact their suitability for retro gaming. One such characteristic is input lag, which refers to the delay between a player’s input and the corresponding action on the screen. LCD displays may exhibit higher input lag compared to CRT displays, which can affect the responsiveness and precision of gameplay, especially in fast-paced retro games.

The native resolution of LCD displays may differ from the resolution of retro games, leading to scaling artifacts and loss of image fidelity. While some LCD displays offer features like upscaling and image processing to mitigate these issues, they may not fully replicate the authentic retro gaming experience provided by CRT displays.

Video Signal Resolution

Retro gaming consoles, such as the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and Sega Genesis, typically output video signals at lower resolutions compared to modern standards. During the early years of gaming, resolutions were limited by the capabilities of CRT displays and the processing power of gaming hardware.

These consoles often operated at resolutions ranging from 240p to 480p, with the emphasis placed more on gameplay and mechanics rather than graphical fidelity. As technology advanced, newer consoles introduced higher resolutions, but retro gaming remained rooted in the lower resolution era, shaping the visual aesthetics and design of classic games.

Different Video Resolutions

Standard definition (SD) resolutions, such as 480i or 480p, were prevalent during the early years of gaming and provided a baseline level of detail for retro games. High definition (HD) resolutions, including 720p and 1080p, became standard in the late 2000s, offering increased clarity and sharpness for modern games.

4K resolution, also known as Ultra HD (UHD), represents the latest advancement in display technology, providing even higher levels of detail and realism. While modern displays support these higher resolutions, retro games were designed for lower resolutions, and playing them at higher resolutions may result in scaling artifacts and loss of authenticity.

Impact of Resolution on Retro Gaming

The resolution of a display can significantly impact the retro gaming experience, influencing the clarity, fidelity, and overall aesthetics of retro games. Playing retro games at their native resolutions allows players to experience them as they were originally intended, preserving their nostalgic charm and authenticity.

Lower resolutions, such as those found in retro gaming consoles, often result in pixelated graphics and simpler visuals, which contribute to the retro aesthetic and appeal of classic games. While higher resolutions may offer increased detail and sharpness, they can also highlight imperfections and limitations present in retro games, detracting from the overall experience.

Impact of Aspect Ratio on Retro Gaming

The aspect ratio of a display refers to the ratio of its width to its height, and it plays a crucial role in how retro games are displayed. Many retro games were designed for displays with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which was standard for CRT televisions and monitors.

As a result, playing retro games on modern widescreen displays with a 16:9 aspect ratio may result in stretching or distortion of the image. Some modern displays offer options to maintain the original aspect ratio of retro games, adding pillar boxing or letterboxing to fill the extra space.

However, maintaining the original aspect ratio is essential for preserving the integrity and authenticity of retro games, ensuring that they are displayed as intended by their developers.

Reasons Why CRT is Better Than LCD for Retro Gaming

Authentic Experience

Using a CRT instead of an LCD for retro gaming provides players with an authentic gaming experience reminiscent of the era when these games were originally released. The characteristic flicker, scanlines, and curvature of CRT screens transport players back to the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, evoking nostalgia and a sense of immersion that is difficult to replicate with modern displays.

Better Image Quality

CRT displays often offer superior image quality compared to LCDs, especially when it comes to displaying retro games. The inherent properties of CRT technology, such as deeper blacks, richer colors, and smoother motion handling, contribute to a more visually appealing gaming experience. This enhanced image quality ensures that retro games are displayed with the fidelity and clarity they were designed for, preserving their original charm and aesthetic.

Vibrant Colors

One of the standout features of CRT displays is their ability to produce vibrant and saturated colors, which significantly enhances the visual appeal of retro games. The phosphor-based technology used in CRT screens results in colors that are more vivid and lifelike compared to LCDs, making retro gaming sessions more immersive and enjoyable for players.

Wider Viewing Angles

CRT displays typically offer wider viewing angles compared to LCDs, allowing players to enjoy retro games from various positions without experiencing color distortion or loss of image quality. This wider viewing angle ensures that players can fully immerse themselves in the gaming experience, regardless of their seating position or the orientation of the screen.

Native Compatibility

CRT displays have native compatibility with older gaming consoles, making them the ideal choice for retro gaming enthusiasts. Unlike LCDs, which may require adapters or converters to connect to legacy consoles, CRTs can directly support the analog video signals output by classic gaming systems, ensuring a seamless and hassle-free gaming experience.

More Durable Screens

CRT screens are known for their durability and resilience, making them less prone to damage from impacts or rough handling compared to LCDs. The robust construction of CRT displays, including their thick glass screens and sturdy chassis, ensures that they can withstand the rigors of regular use, making them a reliable choice for retro gaming setups.

Great Contrast Ratio

CRT displays typically offer a higher contrast ratio compared to LCDs, resulting in deeper blacks and brighter whites. This enhanced contrast ratio contributes to a more dynamic and visually striking gaming experience, allowing players to fully appreciate the details and nuances of retro game graphics.

More Immersive Experience

The combination of authentic aesthetics, vibrant colors, and immersive gameplay offered by CRT displays creates a more immersive gaming experience for retro gamers. The flicker, scanlines, and curvature of CRT screens draw players into the world of retro games, enhancing their sense of immersion and engagement with the gaming content.

Less Ghosting or Image Retention

CRT displays are less susceptible to issues such as ghosting or image retention compared to LCDs, ensuring a cleaner and more visually consistent gaming experience. This lack of ghosting or image retention allows players to enjoy retro games without distractions or visual artifacts that can detract from the gaming experience.

Zero Input Lag

One of the most significant advantages of CRT displays for retro gaming is their minimal input lag, which ensures instantaneous response times and precise control inputs. This zero input lag eliminates any delay between player actions and on-screen reactions, providing a responsive and seamless gaming experience essential for retro games that require split-second timing and precision.

Better Response Time

CRT displays offer faster response times compared to LCDs, resulting in smoother motion handling and reduced motion blur during gameplay. This improved response time ensures that fast-paced retro games are displayed with greater clarity and fluidity, allowing players to enjoy smoother animations and more responsive controls.

Less Prone to Screen Burn-in

Unlike LCDs, which are susceptible to screen burn-in when displaying static images for extended periods, CRT displays are inherently less prone to this issue. The phosphor-based technology used in CRT screens allows for more uniform wear across the screen, minimizing the risk of permanent image retention and ensuring long-term reliability for retro gaming enthusiasts.

Scanline Aesthetics

The natural production of scanlines on CRT displays adds to the retro aesthetic of classic games, enhancing their visual appeal and authenticity. These scanlines, created by the horizontal lines of phosphors on the screen, contribute to the iconic look and feel of retro gaming, evoking fond memories of arcade cabinets and vintage gaming consoles.

Original Resolution

Retro games were designed to be displayed at the lower resolutions supported by CRT displays, ensuring that they are presented in their original resolution without distortion or upscaling artifacts. This preservation of the original resolution allows players to experience retro games exactly as they were intended to be seen, maintaining the integrity and authenticity of the gaming experience.

Reduced Eyestrain

The softer, more natural light emitted by CRT displays reduces eyestrain during extended gaming sessions, making them more comfortable for retro gaming enthusiasts. Unlike the harsh backlighting of LCDs, which can cause eye fatigue and discomfort over time, CRT displays provide a gentler and more comfortable viewing experience, allowing players to enjoy retro games for hours on end without experiencing discomfort or fatigue.

Cultural Preservation

Using CRT displays for retro gaming helps preserve gaming culture and history by maintaining the authenticity and integrity of classic gaming experiences. By experiencing retro games on the original hardware and display technology, players can gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance and historical context of these iconic titles, ensuring that they are remembered and celebrated for generations to come.

Which One Should I Get for Retro Gaming, CRT or LCD?

When considering whether to choose a CRT or LCD display for retro gaming, several factors come into play, each influencing the gaming experience differently. CRT displays offer an authentic and nostalgic experience, faithfully reproducing the look and feel of retro games as they were originally intended to be played. The natural production of scanlines, vibrant colors, and minimal input lag make CRT displays highly desirable for retro gaming enthusiasts seeking an immersive and authentic experience.

Additionally, CRT displays are compatible with the native resolutions and aspect ratios of retro games, ensuring that they are displayed accurately and without distortion. However, CRT displays may be bulkier and harder to find compared to modern LCD displays, and they may require additional space and maintenance.

On the other hand, LCD displays offer several advantages that may appeal to retro gamers, including sleek and modern designs, higher resolutions, and compatibility with a wide range of gaming consoles and devices. LCD displays also tend to be more readily available and affordable than CRT displays, making them a convenient option for gamers looking to build a retro gaming setup on a budget.

However, LCD displays may exhibit higher input lag and scaling artifacts compared to CRT displays, potentially impacting the authenticity and responsiveness of retro games. Additionally, LCD displays may not reproduce the scanline aesthetics and color accuracy of CRT displays, resulting in a different visual experience for retro gaming enthusiasts.

Ultimately, the decision between CRT and LCD displays for retro gaming comes down to personal preference and priorities. If authenticity, nostalgia, and an immersive gaming experience are paramount, a CRT display may be the preferred choice. However, if convenience, affordability, and modern features are more important, an LCD display may be the better option. You can still enjoy retro games on an LCD by playing them at their native resolution and high refresh rates.


The debate between CRT and LCD for retro gaming hinges on a balance between authenticity and convenience. While CRT displays offer an unparalleled nostalgia trip, faithfully replicating the original gaming experience with scanlines and vibrant colors, they come with drawbacks such as bulkiness and maintenance requirements.

Conversely, LCD displays offer modern features and accessibility, but may sacrifice some of the retro charm and authenticity. Ultimately, the choice between CRT and LCD for retro gaming depends on individual preferences and priorities. Whether seeking to preserve the purity of retro gaming or embracing the convenience of modern technology, both CRT and LCD displays have their place in the hearts of retro gaming enthusiasts, each offering a unique perspective on the timeless classics of gaming history.

Therefore, the decision of CRT vs LCD for retro gaming is less about determining a definitive winner and more about finding the perfect balance between nostalgia and practicality in one’s gaming setup.


1. Which display type, CRT or LCD, offers a more authentic retro gaming experience?

Answer: CRT displays are often preferred for their ability to faithfully replicate the original look and feel of retro games, including scanlines and vibrant colors, providing a more authentic gaming experience compared to LCD displays.

2. Are CRT displays still readily available for retro gaming setups?

Answer: While CRT displays are becoming less common in modern times, they can still be found through online marketplaces, thrift stores, and specialized retro gaming shops, although availability may vary depending on location.

3. Do LCD displays introduce input lag that affects retro gaming performance?

Answer: LCD displays may introduce input lag, resulting in a delay between player input and on-screen response, which can impact the responsiveness and precision required for retro gaming, especially in fast-paced games.

4. Can LCD displays accurately reproduce the visual aesthetics of retro games, such as scanlines and color accuracy?

Answer: While LCD displays may offer higher resolutions and modern features, they may struggle to replicate the authentic retro gaming experience, including the distinctive scanline aesthetics and color accuracy of CRT displays.

5. Are there any alternatives to CRT and LCD displays for retro gaming?

Answer: Yes, some retro gaming enthusiasts opt for alternative display options such as CRT emulation software or specialized gaming monitors designed to mimic the characteristics of CRT displays, providing a compromise between authenticity and modern convenience.

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