Hand a modern controller to someone who hasn’t gamed since the days of the original Atari console and they’ll be immediately overwhelmed by its complexity. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, controllers featured a joystick and a single button, and if you’re looking for the most authentic way to play retro games, you can actually get that classic hardware to play nice with the Nintendo Switch.
On the YouTube channel Will It Work?, Niles Mitchell has taken on the task of finding ways to connect the hardware of yesteryear with the gadgets of today. Experts have cautioned against keeping all of your important files, like photos, on digital mediums that may not exist or be supported in a decade’s time. But by figuring out how to connect an Iomega Zip Drive to an Apple Watch, for example, Mitchell negates those concerns, assuming users are okay with jumping through a series of technological hoops.
Mitchell’s latest accomplishment is arguably far more practical than loading images from a long dead disk format that was notoriously unreliable. Retro gaming is huge now, but enthusiasts are divided on how best to enjoy games released decades ago. Do you seek out the original console hardware and game cartridges for the most authentic experience possible, or stick to reproductions and emulators that easily work with modern TVs and offer a far more convenient experience? Mitchell’s latest hack offers a compromise between the two.
The Atari CX10 joystick was released alongside the Atari Video Computer System back in 1977, but a year later was replaced by the cheaper Atari CX40, while the console was renamed the Atari 2600. As gaming peripherals go, the CX10 is just about the oldest purpose-built controller you can find, so you’d assume that making it work with the Nintendo Switch would require the electronics inside the joystick to be gutted and completely replaced. But that’s not the case.
Making a 43-year-old video game controller work with the Switch was relatively easy using two different adapters: the $30 Genesis/SMS/Atari controller adapter from Raphnet that allows the Atari CX10 to connect to the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii, and 8BitDo’s $20 GBros. Wireless Adapter that allows Wii and Gamecube controllers to wirelessly connect to the Nintendo Switch. The connectivity is relatively painless, except for the fact that anyone wanting to try this setup at home will have to get used to constantly remapping the Atari joystick’s single button to replicate the action button needed for the game they’re playing.
Trying to use the Atari CX10 to play something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an act of futility. But Nintendo Switch Online subscribers also get access to a collection of retro NES and SNES games through the service, and playing something like Donkey Kong is not only doable with the CX10, but potentially looks like an experience more akin to playing the original arcade cabinet version of the game.