How to Play Classic Arcade Games on your PC

If you are looking for a bit of nostalgic gaming then you do not have any real shortage of options. Nostalgia is big business these days too. Games that many of us grew up playing in arcades and even in our living rooms on consoles like the Atari 2600 (the first console), Sega Genesis and the original Nintendo box, are still popular.

Although I doubt many young children are playing these aging 8-bit classics, those of us who grew up on them still enjoy the trip down memory lane.

If you are just looking for a casual game now and then, or a simple solution, then you can head to the Atari web site, where many of the classics are available to be played right in your web browser. You will find many old favorites like Missile Command, Pong, Super Breakout, Asteroids and Centipede.

The games can be played in any web browser, but if you are using Internet Explorer then you will get an ad-free experience thanks to a partnership between Atari and Microsoft.

If you use Google Chrome as your web browser of choice then you can find Atari games in the Chrome Web Store and install them as web apps that can be played right on the New Tab page.

Atari and Activision have also made game packs available via popular mobile platforms like Android and iOS, although these are not free. However, they are affordable.

However, if you want to get more serious about playing old games, and not just ones from Atari and Activision, then you can find an endless supply of them available on the web. They are small files and can be download and played using an emulator. In this post we are looking at Atari 2600 games — the true classics. However, there are emulators for other older consoles as well.


Stella is not the only emulator available, but it is perhaps the best known and the one that seems to work the best. It is available for free from Sourceforge.

“Since its original release several people have joined the development team to port Stella to other operating systems such as AcornOS, AmigaOS, DOS, FreeBSD, IRIX, Linux, OS/2, MacOS, Unix, and Windows. The development team is working hard to perfect the emulator and we hope you enjoy our effort.”

On first run you will need to point to the folder where your ROM’s are stored. The easiest thing is to simply create a folder dedicated to this and then move all of your downloaded games to that folder so that Stella can find them. Navigate to the folder and click the “Select” button at the bottom of the screen.

There is also an “Options” button at the bottom of the screen. Here you will find various tweaks that can make your games sound and look the most authentic.


  • Video Settings
  • Audio Settings
  • Input Settings
  • UI Settings
  • Config Paths
  • Audit ROMs
  • Game Properties
  • Cheat Code
  • System Logs
  • Help
  • About
  • Exit Menu
For the most part users will not have any real reason to make changes to these options, but if you are a tweaker then you may want to go in and take a look at some of these options and, perhaps, make a few changes.


There are numerous locations where you can find ROM’s. My favorite is AtariAge, which has a very long list of classic games. AtariMania is also a nice source for finding games, as is FreeROMs. Remember, this is an Atari 2600 emulator, and that console played more than just games made by Atari, so you will find ALL of the old games by using these sites.

Once a ROM is downloaded and moved to that designated folder that I mentioned previously then it should appear in the list when the emulator is open, as seen in the image above.

Game Play

Now, finally, we arrive at the fun part — playing your “new” game. First of all, bear in mind that, for the most part, these ROMs are completely authentic. That means old-school 8-bit graphics. So do not expect fancy Need for Speed-like stuff here. This is playing a game the way it was played way back in the Atari 2600 days.

Controlling a game is fairly simple and straight-forward. For instance, in Asteroids the left and right keyboard arrows are used to turn the ship, while the space bar is used for firing. The fact is, the arrow keys and space bar control most every game, not just Asteroids. There really are not any other options for this — even a mouse does nothing for any of the games I have tried.


If you are looking for emulators for other classic gaming systems then you may want to head over to The Emulator Zone. You should also be aware of sites claiming to offer emulators for new consoles like the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3. These types of emulators do not exist, as far as I can tell. That means that, chances are, you will be downloading malware to your computer. Stick with reputable sites and, when in doubt, simply move on or do a bit of research first.

If you follow those simple instructions then you should remain safe and have a lot of fun. As I said earlier, there are countless other solutions for playing these classic games. However, if you are serious, then you can not beat an emulator and ROMs to get the best experience. If you are more casual about this then simply stick with your web browser or smartphone.