Atari 8-bit emulators for Windows
Altirra Atari 8-bit emulator
Altirra is the best Atari 8-bit emulator we have seen so far, for playing Atari 8-bit games on a Windows PC.
- Latest version 4.01 (2 February 2022)
- Works on Windows 11, Windows 10 and older (32/64 bits)
- Emulates Atari 400/800/1200XL/600XL/800XL/65XE/130XE/5200, depends on the used ROM file
- Supports CAS cassette files, BIN and CAR cartridge files, ATR, DCM, ATX, XFD and PRO disk image files, ROM files
- Comments: Altirra is a very complete emulator. It requires some configuration, but you'll be served with a great Atari experience. It also has a very elaborate help section.
- Project website www.virtualdub.org/altirra.html
Atari System ROMs
Altirra comes with its own operating system, Altirra BIOS, which offers a reasonable level of compatibility. However, not all disk or tape images will run flawlessly with the Altirra BIOS. For maximum compatibility, you need so called Atari System ROMs. These are files with the .rom extension. There are several versions of these ROMs available, but we will use ATARIXL.ROM which is the Atari XL/XE kernel ROM.
Install and configure Altirra
- Download the Altirra zip package (Altirra 4.x binary)
- Copy the contents of the Altirra zip file to an empty folder of choice, for example d:\Altirra
- Create an empty file called Altirra.ini in the Altirra folder, in this example you'll end up with d:\Altirra\Altirra.ini. Settings will be stored in this file. Otherwise settings will be stored in windows registry
Install the Atari System ROM(s)
- Create a folder called "roms" in your Altirra folder, in this example you'll end up with d:\Altirra\roms
- Download the Atari System Rom files in a zip file
- Copy the ROM files from the downloaded zip file to the roms folder, in this example you'll end up with d:\Altirra\roms\*.rom
- In this example we'll use the ATARIXL.ROM file primarily
Start Altirra and configure Altirra, including controls
- Start Altirra by double clicking Altirra.exe file in the d:\Altirra folder. You can use Altirra64.exe for 64 bit operating systems.
- Click on System in the main menu, select Firmware and click on Firmware images...
- As of version 2.60, click the Scan... button and navigate to the roms folder
- You can set the added rom files as default by selecting them and clicking the Set as default button
- If you use an older version of Altirra, you'll have to manually add the ROM files:
- Click on the line starting with OS-B and click on the button with 3 dots, navigate to your ROMs folder (in this example d:\Altirra\roms), select ATARIOSB.ROM and click on Open
- Click on the line starting with XL/XE and click on the button with 3 dots, navigate to your ROMs folder (in this example d:\Altirra\roms), select ATARIXL.ROM and click on Open
- Close the ROM images window by clicking on Ok
- Click on System, select Hardware and select 600XL/800XL
- To select specific firmware, click on System, select Firmware, select Operating system and choose your firmware. In this case, we'll choose Atari XL/XE. Choose Autoselect to let Altirra choose the firmware for the selected hardware
- Click on Input in the main menu, select Port 1 and choose Arrow keys -> Joystick (port 1). You can use the arrow keys to move and the left CTRL to fire.
- Other keys that you'll probably need:
- F1 - Temporarily enable warp speed
- F2 - Start key
- F3 - Select key
- F4 - Option key
- F5 - System reset
- F9 - Pause
- Shift+F5 - System reboot
- Alt+Enter - switch between windowed mode and full screen
Play Atari 8-bit games with Altirra on Windows 11, Windows 10 and older
So, what to do to play Atari 8-bit games such as Fort Apocalypse with Altirra?
- Create a folder called "games" in your Altirra folder, in this example d:\Altirra\games
- Download an Atari game file, like Fort Apocalypse
- Copy the contents of the downloaded zip file to the games folder, in this example d:\Altirra\games
- Start Altirra if it's not already started
- Select File in the main menu and choose Boot image...
- If a game doesn't start right away, reboot the emulator with SHIFT+F5
- When a game crashes when loading, try disabling the SIO patch by selecting System, Disk Drive, SIO patch and reboot the emulator with SHIFT+F5. Please note that by disabling the SIO patch, the game loading will not be accelerated. To speed up loading time try pressing F1 (warp speed)
- To start a new game when playing one, repeat the previous steps and select another game file
Playing games with multiple disk files
Some Atari games came on more than one floppy disk or disk side, like Seven Cities of Gold. When you download these games, they'll consist of several files (1 file for each disk or disk side). So what to do with those?
- Start the game as described above (select File and choose Boot image)
- When the game asks for another disk, select File, click on Disk drives... and change the disk file in disk drive D1 by clicking on the button with 3 dots, then click Ok.
- When the emulator doesn't start loading automatically, follow the instructions presented by the game (usually it says to press the fire button, which by default is the left CTRL button on your keyboard)