If you are looking for the best way to relive some of your favorite retro gaming memories on the Atari 2600, we have the absolute best Atari 2600 emulator programs of 2023 for you!
Of course, we discussed the 2600 in detail in our article of All ATARI Consoles and handhelds in order.
And we saw LEGO show their appreciation for the classic game console in our LEGO Atari 2600 article!
The Atari 2600 is one of the most beloved retro game consoles of all time, and is a prime example of what most game enthusiasts think of when you talk about first video game experiences.
In fact, it took the number two spot on our list of the best 80s toys.
You likely do not have one at home right now, and it will cost you around $200USD on ebay if you wanted to get the original back in your entertainment cabinet.
But, if you wanted to play some of the awesome games from the early history of home video gaming, the best option might be emulation.
With the evolution of emulation in handheld consoles, it is very easy to play those early Atari consoles in portable for on most of the Best Handheld Games Consoles.
And whether it’s on your desktop computer or on a handheld, we have these emulators to thank for great Atari 2600 emulation.
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Thanks to the makers of an Atari 2600 emulator called Stella that we have an easy and convenient way to play Atari 2600 games.
If you’re someone who prefers to get straight to the point and use an emulator that is made for one console and one console only, then Stella is ‘gonna be the best way to play Atari 2600 on your computer.
You can grab a copy of the standalone Stella program on their website right now.
They’ve got Windows PC, Mac OS, Ubuntu, and Rasberry Pi ports available.
Stella is also under the General Public License. That means it is free to include in emulation packages.
So if you happen to use a multi-console type emulator, it’s possible you’ve been using Stella this whole time and didn’t even know it!
One really well known all-in-one emulation solution implements Stella, and that’s RetroArch.
We have praised RetroArch every chance we get here at Retro Dodo, and they take the number one spot on a bunch of our emulation lists.
RetroArch relies on the Stella core for its Atari 2600 emulator. So if you use RetroArch on your computer, or launch an Atari 2600 game on a handheld emulator, it’s using Stella.
Of course, RetroArch plays a million and one other game consoles, through the use of these kinds of public licenses…
So, if your particular emulation needs do not end with the Atari 2600, RetroArch is gonna be our number one recommendation for an all-in-one solution.
Z64K is another emulator that has strong Atari 2600 support.
And their claim to fame is that they boast pixel exact emulation and cycle accurate emulation of the Commodore 128, Commodore 64, Spectrum 48/128K, VIC 20 and most importantly… the Atari 2600.
Obviously the developers of the Z64K program really place heavy emphases on accuracy in how it recreates the environments of the retro gaming consoles it imitates.
Not that I would say most people would ever notice any inaccuracies on any other emulator on this list.
But, for those who are super super specific to getting precise recreation of the console environment, this is gonna be the best program for you.
We have one last interesting program to offer on our list of the best Atari 2600 emulators : Javatari.
What makes Javatari stand out on our list is that it is an entirely web based emulator.
All you have to do is load your own ROM file directly into the browser plugin and it is ready to play!
The main reason you have to load your own game is because they can legally create an emulator, but not legally provide you with the games to play.
It’s a small step to get your own ROMs, so you wont have any trouble playing on Javatari if you do a quick google search for one of your favorite games.
If you’re looking for some inspiration as to which games to play on your chosen Atari 2600 emulator, then take a look at our list of the 25 Best Atari 2600 Games of all time!
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Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.