How To Play Old Games On Your Computer: Atari 2600 Emulation In Windows

atari emulation windows 8

Ah, the Atari 2600. Those 6 switches across the face of this thing will be forever ingrained in my childhood. Any time I see a finely ridged surface in a video game I think of the old faithful atari’s grill like case. I loved that thing. I believe mine was ruined in a flood.

In this “How to play old games on your computer” we’re going to look at how to emulate the Atari 2600!

Stella Atari 2600 Emulator

Pretty much anyone who has messed with this stuff will agree that Stella is the best Atari 2600 emulator out there. If you’ve never set it up before though, it can get a tiny bit confusing. I’ll take you through the install step-by-step to get you playing as fast as possible.

1)Get the emulator!

download it here:

If you’re unsure about which version of windows you have, just open a file browser and look at your c: drive. If you’ve got 2 “program files” folders like the picture below, you have the 64 bit version of windows.

I'm not going to explain why, this just means you've got the 64 bit version.

I’m not going to explain why, this just means you’ve got the 64 bit version.

2) Install that sucker! 

Once you double click the installer you’ll probably get a warning from windows. Say yes, that you’re sure and carry on. During the installation you’re just going to keep clicking “next” till it finishes what it is doing.



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3) Creat Roms Directory

Before you go opening the software, you’re going to need to take a step to make sure everything is going to work. The first time you load the software it will ask you where the rom directory is, so lets just go ahead and create one.

I created a directory called “stella” in my downloads folder. Inside the stella directory I have created a place for roms and a place for snapshots. The snapshots folder isn’t necessary for this tutorial.


4) Load the software the first time

Click that fancy icon that is now on your desktop. emulate atari

Once you open it up, it will ask you to identify the rom directory.


atari emulation on windows

select OK



windows atari 2600

Navigate to downloads



atari 2600 emulator

select the folder you created (mine was “stella”


play atari on windows

choose the rom directory


You can now Close Stella. You’re going to need some roms to go any further!

5) Get Roms! 

There are many places out there to get roms. Google is your friend here. Technically you’re supposed to own the games to make it legal. I’ve had a lot of luck rebuilding my childhood collection from atari 2600 roms available at The top 100 list is pretty good.

Download your rom. It will come in a zip file. Unzip this to get to the .bin files.  Then Copy and paste those bin files into your rom folder.

Drop your Atari 2600 roms into the folder. Make sure you unzipped them first

Drop your Atari 2600 roms into the folder. Make sure you unzipped them first


6) Play some Atari 2600 games on your computer! 

Open stella back up and click on the name of the game you wish to play.

Atari 2600 emulator ready to play!

Atari 2600 emulator ready to play!

It should open right up and be ready to go!

Playing Atari Donkey Kong in Windows

Playing Atari Donkey Kong in Windows

The default controls are space bar for firing and arrow keys for movement.






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