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Cyberpunk 2077 can run on the Atari VCS — here's how

Cyberpunk 2077 keanu reeves
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The troubled Cyberpunk 2077 game has been getting a lot of criticism for how poorly it plays on the standard Xbox One and PS4 consoles. But where those two consoles failed, it seems the long-awaited might have Atari VCS succeeded.

That’s right, the crowdfunded Atari revival, which was never intended to compete with consoles and gaming PCs, can run CD Projekt Red’s controversial RPG. Crucially, it doesn’t cheat by streaming the game from a cloud service such as Google Stadia.

The feat was achieved by YouTuber Kevin Kenson, who managed to install and run Cyberpunk 2077 on the Atari VCS. Unlike playing the game on Switch, which utilized the cloud, this time it’s actually running on the console.

How? As Kenson explains, the Atari VCS is actually a custom PC running a form of Linux. Obviously, that wouldn’t play so well with typical PC releases, so Kenson installed Windows 10 instead — an OS that can play AAA PC games like Cyberpunk 2077. But it wasn’t quite so simple, since the Atari VCS does not have the hardware to run such process-heavy games.

Because the Atari VCS only has 8GB of RAM, and doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, it couldn’t just run Cyberpunk 2077 out of the box. In fact, it struggled with much smaller games like Fortnite on their lowest settings, meaning some work had to be done. This involved forcing the machine to cancel processes and free up space, then using a partition on the SSD as virtual RAM. 

That enabled Cyberpunk 2077 to run on the machine, albeit not very well. The sample shots we see in the video show a sluggish frame rate, and graphics that aren’t particularly pretty, so you wouldn’t want to set this up for yourself in place of a last-gen console.

In fact, Kenson specifically says it’s noticeably worse than playing a hotfixed version of the game on Xbox One S. He notes that the Atari VCS might be running it better than a last-gen console on launch day, but the recent slew of updates have changed that.

In other words, don’t buy an Atari VCS just so you can hack it to play console games. Cyberpunk 2077 runs badly, and Kenson noted he couldn’t get Doom Eternal to run at all. And that’s after all the hassle of modifying the software to run the games. If a console isn’t for you, then it’s best to just pick up one of the best gaming PCs or sign up for Google Stadia.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.