I bought a CRT TV for a retro gaming setup – and it was an existential nightmare

Recently, I’ve been wanting to tap into my childhood nostalgia, and as a longtime gamer, that mostly involved wasting money on a retro gaming setup. In a rose-tinted attempt to relive the games of my youth, I went all out and bought a PS1 (the impossibly tiny revision that still looks good), a bunch of games, and most importantly, a 14-inch Bush 1473T CRT TV to read them.

But with the CRT being such an outdated display method, why bother buying one? After all, surely any modern TV should suffice if all you have to do is plug a console into it, right? Not enough. The problem with even the best 4K TVs is that they lack an input for a SCART adapter, the primary method for connecting older consoles like the PS1 and N64 to AV.

Moving down to a 1080p display, you’ll likely find a SCART port. But another problem arises in that older games – especially pixel-based games or those with low polygon counts – were never designed with flat screen TVs in mind. This has the effect of making retro games worse. Edges can look too jagged and pixels aren’t blended as seamlessly. As a result, you lose a lot of visual depth when playing older games on more modern screens.

This is where the appeal of a CRT television comes in. The slightly rounded display, along with its sweeping lines, hides much of the imperfections of older games when it comes to visual quality. In fact, most retro titles were designed with these screens in mind, as they allow for a much smoother image that can blur pixels. As a result, objects appear much less jagged, and pixel-based characters and backgrounds look like they’re supposed to, not an ugly patch of colored squares.

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So when every key piece of setup arrived at my house, I wanted to get everything working as quickly as possible. I hooked up the PS1 to the CRT, made sure everything was plugged in and working as expected, and strapped in for the ride. Little did I know that was a ride I wish I hadn’t taken.

The nightmare begins


CRT TVs have a delightfully nostalgic design, but they can be a pain to operate properly. (Image credit: Shutterstock/Vlue)

In my desperation to create a nice little retro gaming setup, I completely neglected to take into account that setting up a CRT TV can be an absolute nightmare. Needless to say, they have absolutely none of the conveniences of a more modern display like the superlative LG CX. But on top of that, there are a few rather obtuse hoops you have to jump through to make a retro setup work.

If you run out of component cables, for example, your only other option is to use an RFU adapter, which comes with boxed PS1 consoles. This adapter does not go through AV, but it does require you to first find the channel the adapter is tuned to, then manually adjust the display until the picture is the way you want it. And usually you can’t tune a CRT TV without the added functionality of a compatible remote.

Luckily I was able to dig up a set of component cables and a SCART adapter to use. But that wasn’t the end of my woes, as I hadn’t thought about the fact that I would need a compatible TV remote to access the AV output in the first place. The Bush CRT television that I had bought on eBay did not come with one.

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A comedy of errors

Universal remote controller

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Filippo Carlot)

After fiddling with the buttons on the TV to no avail, I realized I had to track down a remote just to get access to my CRT’s AV output. Little did I know that would be by far the hardest hurdle to clear, because finding a remote that worked with my CRT was easier said than done.

I’ve tried several universal remotes and used remotes ordered from parts websites, which is one of the few reliable options left when it comes to buying an old CRT TV remote. None of them were working and I was starting to panic. Did I really waste all that money on a retro gaming setup, only to fall at the final hurdle? I felt exactly like when I fought some of the toughest bosses in Elden Ring: hopelessly trapped in an endless cycle of trial, error, and desperation.

The whole fiasco did one thing for me, though. It made me realize how much I took the conveniences of modern television for granted. Most modern 4K displays are incredibly easy to use. Whether it’s because of the simplicity of HDMI or the abundance of streaming apps built into these smart TVs, convenience reigns on modern screens compared to TVs of yore.

It hurts me to say that this story doesn’t have a happy ending. At least not yet. While the joy of being able to play games like Tekken 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the screen they were intended for still eludes me, my search for a working remote will continue.

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After all, I’m not about to give up when I’ve already spent a decent amount of money on the setup. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say.

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