Video game emulators

Video game emulators DEFAULT

Most of us grew up playing with one video game or another. Super Mario, Tetris, Pacman – whatever floats your boat – are part of our childhood and sometimes we want to revisit that childhood but alas, these games are hard to come by.

An alternative is to play these golden games with an emulator, right on your personal computer. There are a variety of video game emulators that are dedicated to emulating various consoles from the past.

In this post we will be listing 10 emulators that can help you play your favorite childhood games all over again. Before we begin, it should be noted that while emulation software is legal, downloading the ROM images (a copy of the game in software form) from the internet is not. Emulators are intended to play the games you already own and you will have to dump the ROM images from the cartridges yourself.

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1. RetroArch


Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile devices

RetroArch is an all-in-one emulator that is able to run games from pretty much every retro console out there. On the home console front, you will be able to run Playstation 1 games and older, while for handheld game consoles, it supports Game Boy Advance games and older.

RetroArch is actually based on cores, with each core emulating a console, i.e. GBA will have its own core as well as the NES. This means that as new emulators get created, it is possible to turn them to cores to run on RetroArch. In fact, it is also possible to run it on various modern consoles.

2. OpenEmu



OpenEmu is partially based off Retroarch but with the aim of providing a Mac-like experience. It includes a gallery view of games similar to that of iTunes, helping you organize your collection. The default download of the software won’t emulate the same amount of consoles as Retroarch can but there is an experimental version that will, note that it may not be as stable.

If you have a Mac and a lot of old video games lying around, OpenEmu is most definitely the one to get. With it, you can manage your collection with a beautiful front-end, as OpenEmu can help you name the games and get the box art online automatically.

3. Dolphin


Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux

Dolphin is a GameCube/Wii emulator and is currently the only emulator that can emulate a console of the 7th generation (PS3/XBox 360/Wii) and emulate it well, due to the internals being similar to the GameCube. The emulator boast a high compatibility rating so it is very likely that your favorite games will be able to run on it.

The emulator will also allow you to run your GameCube games on a HD wide screen, even if the game doesn’t support it. It is under constant development, with their latest being able to tap into Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, so expect continuous improvements and updates.

4. PCSX2


Availability: Windows, Linux

There’s no denying that the Playstation 2 is one of the highest-selling console to date and with PCSX2 you will be able to play its large backlog of games. The one disadvantage is that this emulator requires a fairly powerful computer due to the structure of the PS2 internals but if you’ve got that covered, it can run most of the games available on the platform.

PCSX2 is based on a plug-in system and with the proper configurations, you can upscale your games to HD quality. Note that a Mac version exists but is outdated with no signs of updates.



Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile devices

Playstation Portable Simulator Suitable For Playing Portably (PPSSPP) is a fairly new emulator with the purpose of running PSP games. It was created by one of the cofounders of Dolphin and just like Dolphin, is easy to set up and can play a large number of PSP games.

You can even transfer your PSP saves into it and continue where you left off. PPSSPP is still a work in progress with new features and fixes constantly being added.

6. DeSmuME


Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux

Nintendo’s dual screen console can be played on your computer using DeSmuME, with both screens simulated on your computer monitor. Your mouse is used as a stylus for the touch input. It even supports games that require you to play your device sideways.

It’s been in constant development with the developers improving and adding new features into it to make it run smoothly. And it has been on the scene long, so most games should be able to run on it without problems. Note that the Linux version has to be self-compiled.



Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux

DOSBox specializes in emulating an environment where MS-DOS programs can run as intended. So if you have some old DOS games lying around that won’t run on your modern PC, give it a try on DOSBox. It should emulate the game accurately and at native speed.

In fact, it runs so well that game companies use it to repackage their old DOS games so that they can be played on modern computers. As a side note, it is entirely possible to run Windows 9x and DOS-based operating systems on DOSBox if you want to.

8. ScummVM


Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux, various other systems

If you’re a fan of the old style click-and-point adventures, you’re sure to enjoy ScummVM. This program was design to run games that uses the SCUMM scripting language, which was used in many click-and-point games made by LucasArts as well as other companies.

Because of this, it can run games on systems other than the one originally intended. So games that were made for Windows can now run on Mac or Linux. Same as DOSBox, game companies use this emulator to repackage their games to run on moderns systems, so you know it is well worth a look.

. 9ePSXe


Availability: Windows, Linux

Considered by many to be the best Playstation 1 emulator for the PC, this program will allow you to run nearly all your PS1 games flawlessly, so long as your machine has the juice and is configured correctly. The emulator uses a plug-in system where nearly everything is handled using plug-ins, so you might want to research on the best way to configure it to your computer.

Same as PCSX2, with the proper plugins and configuration, and assuming a powerful computer, your old PS1 games can run in glorious HD, bringing your nostalgic memory in high resolution.

10. Mupen64plus


Availability: Windows, macOS, Linux

Mupen64plus is an N64 emulator. The program itself doesn’t come with a GUI so downloading a front-end may be required for ease of use, with the developers providing links to some recommended ones. Similar to many programs emulating its generation of consoles, it uses a plug-in system and you would definitely want to try a few to enhance your performance.

N64 emulation is a bit hit-or-miss, due to how the console was designed so it might not hurt to have an alternate emulator in case your game doesn’t run on it. But if it does, this is one of the best N64 emulators to get due to the plugin system.

If you know of more emulators that should be on this list, let us know in the comments.


The best console emulators (NES, SNES, Genesis, and more)

The best emulators allow you to replay classic games from systems like the Super Nintendo and PlayStation 2 on modern hardware — and usually with some enhancements to boot. Because emulators often meddle in a legal gray area, it can be hard to find emulators that run classic games consistently.

Thankfully, there’s one go-to emulator for most platforms. In addition to RetroArch, which covers a large range of retro consoles, there are also several stand-alone emulators that can fake more recent hardware — even the Nintendo Switch.

Further reading

One to rule them all: RetroArch

logo for the retro arch emulator

In the past, emulation was, more often than not, something of a juggling act. To play games that appeared on different consoles, you had to install and configure multiple programs — one for each console you wished to emulate. That could be a headache. These days, things have become streamlined and easier overall, thanks to a program known as RetroArch.

RetroArch is a program that acts as a hub for all your emulation needs. With it, you can download and install various emulation “cores” to the system, organize your ROMs and game files, and configure your experience through a single front end that makes emulation a breeze … once it’s set up. RetroArch’s open-ended flexibility gives the user a ton of control with which to customize and fine-tune their emulation experience, and for the most part, it’s easy to use.

From the download directory on the RetroArch, select your operating system and download the appropriate compressed files. Extract it into an empty folder, and launch the program by clicking the RetroArch executable or application file. If you don’t have a controller plugged in, use the arrow keys to navigate about the menu, with the X key taking the role of the A button and the Z key taking the role of the B button by default.

Once inside, you’ll need to install some cores. You can actually install them from directly within RetroArch via the Online Updater. Once there, select Core Updater and scroll through the list of available systems.

The breadth of options available for RetroArch can make it overwhelming to use, however, and some emulators require extra steps for installation. Because there are often multiple cores available for each system supported by RetroArch, we’ve selected our top picks to save you some guesswork and allow you to get straight to your nostalgic waxing. If you’re planning on using any of the systems below, this is by far the easiest way to emulate.

ConsoleRetroArch Core
Nintendo Entertainment SystemNestopia UE
Super Nintendo Entertainment SystemSNES-mercury
Nintendo 64Mupen64Plus
Nintendo DSDeSmuME
SegaGenesis X Plus

You’ll still need the ROM files for the games you want to play, but because of their varying legal status, we won’t be sharing any links here. Suffice to say, they aren’t hard to find, but remember that you’re likely only allowed to use ROMs for games you already own, depending on where you live. Save your ROMs in a folder that’s separated into subfolders by console. In RetroArch, navigate to Settings, select Directory, and choose File Browser Dir. Select the folder with your ROMs in it, and you should be ready to load them up.

A stand-alone emulator is likely the right choice if you’re looking to emulate just a single system, though, or if you’re put off by RetroArch for whatever reason. Luckily, we’ve included stand-alone picks for consoles and operating systems that are not currently supported by RetroArch. Check out each selection below for further details.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): FCEUX

Super Mario Bros. 2 on NES.

The NES was revolutionary and spawned several of the most iconic video game franchises of all time, including Super Mario Bros, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and TheLegend of Zelda. And even though it is far less powerful than most smartphones today, it’s still just as awesome for playing the best NES games.

The FCEUX emulator is the go-to emulator of choice for most of the NES community, and it couldn’t be easier to install and use. Simply download FCEUX from the Downloads page, use Ctrl + O or Open from the File menu, and select the ROM you want to play. There’s no need to extract them; like a lot of older ROMs, FCEUX can play them straight from the zip or 7zip package.

The all-in-one application offers features for both the casual and more advanced gamer, providing user-friendly tools for debugging, video recording, ROM-hacking, and creating speedruns. It’s essentially a merger of various forks — when developers take the source code of one piece of software and use it to develop something else — of FCE Ultra, a previous NES emulator. This means that it combines different elements from the assorted forks to create more advanced emulation software. Current ports include Windows, MacOS, and Linux, among others.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES): SNES9X

Mario Kart on SNES.

SNES9X is the clear victor in the battle for the ultimate SNES emulator. It’s among the most compatible of any SNES emulator — it’s capable of running even the later Super Famicom releases — and also comes equipped with a ton of great features that have been continually honed and refined over the years, such as image upscaling, video filters, cheats, and online multiplayer. The Turbo Mode is another awesome feature for power leveling and fast-forwarding through games that seem to move along at a snail’s pace. Ports include everything from Windows and MacOS to mobile versions for iOS and Android. SNES9X is also available as a core for RetroArch, should you choose to use it over bsnes-mercury.

Some of the best SNES games included Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country, and dozens of others, and you can play them all on SNES9X.

Nintendo 64: Project 64

Paper Mario on N64.

Project 64 is one of the most compatible Nintendo 64 emulators out there and doesn’t require any sort of BIOS image like its PlayStation counterpart. The default plugins, though rather low-level in nature, work surprisingly well, closely mimicking the 64’s original audio and video components. The emulator isn’t too heavy on features, though there is multiplayer support, cheat functionality, and an intuitive tool for altering the aspect ratio without any unnecessary cropping or stretching that would compromise the original viewing experience. The emulator does a nice job of recreating the experience if you have a decent graphics card and RAM. It’s a straightforward emulator that allows you to play some of the best N64 games.

Nintendo GameCube and Wii: Dolphin

Samus in Metroid Prime.

Dolphin is the one-and-only GameCube and Wii emulation software you should consider, supporting some of the best GameCube games and Wii games of all time. The software performs just as well, if not better than the original consoles ever did, and comes loaded with some great features.

The trick here is that emulating Gamecube and Wii hardware requires a lot of computing horsepower. Only those with already impressive gaming machines will be able to achieve consistent performance. The FAQ page on the Dolphin Emulator site should help you navigate any issues that arise, as well as determine hardware compatibility.

In addition to anti-aliasing and quick-save functionality, you can also play games in 1080p high definition, a feature the actual Gamecube and Wii lacked. Even syncing your Nunchuck is a simple two-click process, assuming your computer is equipped with a cheap Bluetooth receiver. Sure, it has a few bugs here and there, but the open-source software is constantly being updated and enhanced to address various flaws and compatibility issues. It may be your only choice for a GameCube and Wii emulator, but it’s also a terrific one, available for RetroArch, Windows, MacOS, Android, and Linux.

Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance: VBA-M

Advance Wars on Gameboy Advance.

There may be a plethora of Game Boy systems out there, but one emulator seems to fit the bill better than any other: VBA-M. Like the FCEUX emulator, VBA-M merges the best elements of multiple Game Boy forks into an all-in-one emulator (both as a core for RetroArch and stand-alone), featuring both grayscale and color options. VBA-M is available from SourceForge, and at the time of publishing, it’s being updated frequently, though the project has moved to GitHub.

Other noteworthy tools include various graphic filters, debugging tools, screenshot utilities, real-time IPS patching, a full-screen mode, auto-fire support, and a fast-forward button akin to some of the other more popular emulators on our list. Despite being spearheaded by multiple people at different times, and a general lack of updates in the past several years, the software has been ported to Windows, MacOS, and Linux systems as well as the GameCube and Wii. The stand-alone emulator requires the latest version of Microsoft DirectX to run properly, so be sure to update the software if you haven’t already.

Nintendo DS (and DSi): DeSmuME

Super Mario 64 on Nintendo DS.

DeSmuME is the best DS core for RetroArch, but it does have a few limitations, especially when compared to stand-alone emulators. Most notably, its DSi compatibility is lackluster, and the RetroArch core version doesn’t support BIOS files. However, those minor limitations aside, DeSmuME is one of the best emulators for DS emulation. It’s simple to set up and use, has a handful of graphical and audio options to tweak, and even supports GBA emulation.

Citra (3DS)

Mario Kart on Nintendo 3DS.

Citra is a work in progress, but it’s come along surprisingly fast. You won’t be able to run any games at full speed, and even if you did, it’s likely they will be full of errors or glitches, or even completely lack any sound playback. It’s not unreasonable to think that you’ll be playing 3DS games on your PC at full speed and compatibility in the relatively near future, however. Now, this is of course very exciting, but it bears a massive caveat: The 3DS is still an active console. Nintendo is developing and releasing games for the system. This makes obtaining ROMs to run on the emulator even more precarious.


Super Mario Bros. U on Wii U.

Like the 3DS, Wii U emulation is in the early stages, with around 50% of the Wii U library playable, and requiring extremely powerful PC hardware due to the high resource needs. However, Wii U emulation does exist, and it’s actually coming along at a surprisingly quick pace, even faster than 3DS emulation in some respects, despite the more complex hardware. The sole Wii U emulator is CEMU.

A few months ago, programmers could barely get games to load; now, with the latest version of CEMU on particularly beefy systems with a fair amount of configuration, some users have gotten games like Mario Kart 8 and Twilight Princess HD to run relatively smoothly. Other games, like Mario 3D World or Splatoon, can at least be started and might even load into the game, but are currently unplayable. We wouldn’t expect to find many of these games all that easily either, since they are still being made and sold by Nintendo, meaning the company is more likely to actively stop any attempts to pirate their software. That said, given the speed at which development seems to be moving, within the next year or two, a decently equipped PC may be a feasible Wii U emulation machine.

Nintendo Switch: Yuzu

Nintendo Switch emulator.

Yuzu comes from the same makers as Citra, and unsurprisingly, development on the platform is moving at a brisk pace. The vast majority of the Switch library is either unplayable or nearly unplayable, but there are a few games you can give a shot. Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate work, but not well, while some indie titles like Super Meat Boy and Shovel Knight run with little to no issues. The bigger issue is finding ROMs for Switch. The console is only a few years old, and Nintendo shows no signs of slowing down development for it. If you want ROMs right now, you’ll need to resort to piracy, which we don’t recommend, even if you own the physical game.

Sega Genesis: Kega Fusion

Sonic on Sega Genesis.

Kega Fusion is the premier choice when it comes to emulating Sega games on your computer. Although it doesn’t have emulation options for the Saturn and Dreamcast, sadly, the comprehensive emulator still can run games fairly accurately from any other mainstream Sega console (i.e., Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, etc.). That being said, Fusion is compatible with almost every Sega game ever made for those systems and features all of the basic features we come to expect from a rock-solid emulator, including save states, cheat support, audio and video capture, online play, and various gamepad support.

The audio may sound a little off from time to time (the Yamaha YM2612 sound chip isn’t the easiest thing to accurately emulate), but the video is still as pixel-like as we remember it. Full-screen mode, upscaling, and various rendering filters are also at your disposal, and ports are available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux systems.

PlayStation and PlayStation 2: PCSX and PCSX 2

PCSX and PCSX 2 emulators.

Truth be told, there is no perfect PlayStation emulator out there, but the PCSX-Reloaded does a decent job of mimicking the original console. The emulator touts a nice set of standard features and robust compatibility that work accurately with most games, but also requires a few video plugins and an official PlayStation BIOS image in order to function properly — something that is technically illegal to download and distribute online. The stand-alone emulator supports Windows, MacOS, and Linux, and a core for RetroArch known as PCSX-Rearmed. Although your graphics card doesn’t need to be top of the line, you’re going to need a bit more power under the hood when you make the jump to emulating fully-fledged 3D games. Emulating PS games and games for subsequent consoles is not as straightforward as the earlier systems, but it can still be done.

The PCSX2 is basically your only option when it comes to emulating classic PS2 games on your computer. The software is compatible with most PS2 titles and is still being actively developed by the good folks who built the original PCSX. You will need to snag a BIOS file and a few plugins before you can play (which is just as legally suspect as downloading ROMs/ISOs), but the game does a decent job of capturing the proper speed given that the software is trying to replicate the PS2’s multiple-core processor.

PlayStation Portable: PPSSPP

PPSSPP emulator.

When it comes to PSP emulation, PPSSPP is really your only option, and for good reason: The software runs incredibly well. On decent PC hardware, PSP games look and run better. The emulator has the capability of running games at twice their original resolution, effectively removing the “jaggies” on polygonal models that were caused by the PSP’s lower-resolution screen. In addition to that, the software is able to boost the resolution on certain textures that may have appeared blurry on the handheld’s screen. Unlike emulators for Sony’s home consoles, the PPSSPP doesn’t require any legally questionable BIOS files to run. It’s also available on the Google Play Store for Android.

It also has a number of fine-tuning options, as well as an impressive JIT (“just-in-time recompiler,” software that simulates PSP machine code). In some ways, the PPSSPP might be the better way to enjoy the PSP’s best games (if you’re willing to sacrifice the mobility of the original system, that is). That said, PSP emulation is tricky, and not every game is fully compatible, so keep that in mind. PPSSPP is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and a vast array of other operating systems and devices, and is also available as a core for RetroArch.

Arcade: Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME)

Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.

MAME is a great option for emulating classic arcade games without the quarters. The software is supposedly intended strictly for preservation and historical purposes, but that can’t be properly done without actually playing the games in all their glory. Features are pretty minimal — aside from a full-screen mode — and stay true to their arcade roots despite technological advancements and the increased ROM compatibility over the years. MAME also supports Neo-Geo games that are difficult to emulate anywhere else, but unfortunately, the software hasn’t received an overhaul in a good while. You can also use MAME to emulate and create your own in-home arcade machines. It is available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux, and as a core for RetroArch.

Questions about the best emulators

Where can you find the best emulators?

If you want to play retro console, arcade, or PC games, you can find the best emulators through RetroArch. It includes dozens of “cores” that allow you to play a large swatch of retro games. If you want to play games on more recent hardware, you’ll need to seek out a list of the best stand-alone console emulators.

Why do people use emulators?

Emulators help with video game preservation. As hardware and games get older and more difficult to find, they become more expensive. Emulation offers a way to play these games without a massive investment, as well as the option to play with updated visuals on modern hardware.

What game systems can you find emulators for?

You can find emulators for most retro consoles and all Nintendo consoles. That includes the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Game Boy, Nintendo DS and 3DS, and the Nintendo Switch. There are also emulators for the PS1, PS2, and PS3, as well as the Sega Genesis and arcade machines.

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Video Game Emulators: What You Need to Know

In the world of gaming, an emulator is a piece of software or hardware that emulates, or imitates, a video game console. With a video game emulator and the appropriate ROM or ISO files, it's possible to play retro Nintendo, Sega, and Sony games on your computer.

Information in this article applies broadly to all video game emulators. There are other types of emulators for different types of hardware.

A History of Video Game Emulators

Video game emulators became popular in the 1990s with the rise of personal computers and the web, which allowed aspiring developers to work together and create software capable of emulating their favorite game consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The goal of emulation is generally to match the experience of using the original hardware, but many game emulators include extra features like options to integrate cheats, take screenshots, and create save states. Emulators also make it possible to play homebrew games, or games designed by fans.

Most emulators today are still made by hobbyist developers, but major companies like Nintendo have started cashing in on the retro game craze by releasing emulators for their own systems like the NES Classic and the SNES Classic.

What Are Video Game ROMs?

To play a game on a console emulator, you also need a copy of the original game file, which is typically stored in the ROM (read-only memory) format. ROM files are obtained by using special hardware that downloads data from a cartridge to a computer. For disc-based consoles like the PlayStation, game data is downloaded as an ISO image using an optical drive.

Why Do People Use Game Emulators?

Even with the increased availability of video games, obtaining physical copies of old games can be difficult and expensive. Consequently, using emulators and ROMs is the only way to play many classic titles.

Programmers even modify ROM files to change the default language so they can play games that weren't released locally. For example, the only way to play the original version of Final Fantasy III in English is to use a fan-translated ROM.

As with most software, console emulation programs are OS-specific. Fortunately, there are emulators for Linux, Windows, and Mac.

How Do Video Game Console Emulators Works?

There are multiple methods of emulation. For example, it's possible to build a device that's identical to the original hardware, or you could create a program that utilizes a computer's hardware to behave like the console.

The latter method can be extremely taxing, even on a PC that's exponentially more powerful than the original console. Consequently, creating an emulator that runs smoothly and reliably requires a lot of trial and error to iron out all of the bugs. Most older consoles can now be emulated flawlessly, but emulators for newer systems like the Xbox 360 or the Sony PSP tend to lag behind their real-life counterparts in terms of performance.

Any video game console can theoretically be emulated, but there are several limitations. Most notably, console developers carefully guard the specifics of their hardware. Although companies have been making knock-offs of popular game consoles since the dawn of the industry, major developers have become more protective of their intellectual property over time.

Are Emulators Legal?

Using emulation software to play a video game you've already purchased is perfectly legal; however, downloading ROMs for games you don't own a copy of is technically not legal in the U.S.

That said, there's no shortage of places where you can download emulators and ROMs from the internet. The emulation scene is far too big for game companies to shut it down, which is why they've started re-releasing their old games and consoles.

Thanks for letting us know!


You’re bored: Here’s how to play any old-school video game you want

I will begin this guide by asking you to check your internet law degree at the door. Yes, emulation software is entirely legal. Yes, "backing up" games is entirely legal and downloading other people's backups of games you already own might be legal (but nobody has tested it in court). No, downloading other people’s copies of games you don't own is definitely not legal. Are we all clear on that? Great.

If you are a scared baby and cannot handle some gray market hi-jinx, I will direct you towards your local where you can purchase a variety of Classic or Mini consoles and game compilations. If you’d like to live your life within the confines of the PlayStation Store, Nintendo Switch Online, or the Google Play or Apple App Store, I cannot stop you. Go forth, rich person, and pay for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the twelfth time in your life. You are morally superior to us all and can close this tab.

Okay, now that the narcs are gone, let’s play some damn video games.

To start off, let’s assume you don’t know anything about emulation. An emulator is a piece of software that mimics the console hardware of game systems past, allowing other hardware to run games that were specifically built for another machine. The files of these games are pulled off of retail release copies and are mostly called ROMs or ISOs depending on the console’s software medium. TL;DR: The emulator is a copy of the console and the ROM is a copy of the game.

I cannot legally tell you where to find ROMs or ISOs for games you do not own. Perhaps you should Google "[Game Title] + ROM + download" and see what you find. Perhaps you should ask our friends over at for some help. Perhaps there are subreddits dedicated to this. Legally, I cannot say.

The emulator is a copy of the console and the ROM is a copy of the game

Now once you have a copy of a game, there are different places one can run an emulator, such as an Android device, PC, or Mac. At the moment Apple does not allow emulation on its iOS platform but if you’re interested I shall direct you to the geniuses behind

When you’ve decided which platform you prefer, each OS will have a variety of apps one can run for each console—but the universal solution for nearly every legacy console on nearly every piece of hardware is an open-source app called RetroArch. RetroArch is very powerful and versatile, but confusing enough that we shall set it aside for today. (I can hear the hardcore emulation enthusiasts groaning in the back but, I’m sorry, if you can work RetroArch, you do not need this guide. Please go argue with the aforementioned narcs.)

Below I will break down the piece of dedicated software I recommend that you use for each major retro console, depending on whether you use a Mac, PC, or Android device. Because each app has a specific interface and its own approach to controllers, graphics, and audio settings, we suggest you use YouTube to find a tutorial on each app.

Without further ado, here are the emulators you will need to play the vast majority of retro games:


Nintendo games are by far the easiest to emulate, thanks to their popularity and straightforward design. If you’d like to emulate the NES, you can do that in your browser, but for the best experience, we suggest traveling to the Mushroom Kingdom via higan, a multi-system emulator for Windows, OpenEmu, a gorgeous multi-system emulator for Mac, and NES.emu for Android.

To step things up to the 16-bit SNES, you can use the same Mac and PC apps, but we’d recommend Snes9x EX+ for Android. For N64, there’s Project64 for Windows, trusty old OpenEmu for Mac, and Mupen64Plus FZ on Android.

By the time you get to the GameCube or Wii, your main option is Dolphin for all platforms. It’s very good! For the entire Game Boy and Game Boy Advance libraries, we’d use mGBA on Windows, OpenEmu again on the Mac, and GBA.emu on Android. For Wii U, use Cemu.

DS emulation has come a long way recently and you can use DeSmuME on Windows, our old pal OpenEmu on Mac, and DraStic DS on Android. If you’re really ambitious, you can get into 3DS emulation with Citra for Windows and Mac and its unofficial port for Android. Phew!


Sega does what Nintendon’t! Sega systems are a bit harder to emulate than Nintendo systems, largely thanks to their architecture. When systems are harder to emulate, you’re going to see scattered differences between what plays on the emulator and what you’d get from an official console experience. For Sega systems, these are most often sound problems. However, if you’d like to emulate the Sega Master System or Game Gear you can once again use higan for Windows, OpenEmu for Mac, and MD.emu or Nostalgia.GG for Android.

For the giant library of Sega Genesis/Mega Drive/CD/32x (never change, Sega) games, we’d use Kega Fusion on the Mac and PC and MD.emu on Android. Sega Saturn is a bit harder to emulate than other consoles, both due to a lack of public interest in the library and its overly complex architecture. However, if you need some Panzer Dragoon, we’d use Yabause on Windows and Mac and Yaba Sanshiro on Android.

Finally, to play Dreamcast’s phenomenal library of classics, download the excellent Redream which is compatible with all three platforms. SEGA!


Sony’s PlayStation consoles each have enormous libraries, but after the PSX it gets a bit harder to run each of them. To play Crash Team Racing on PSX, use ePSXe for Windows and Android or OpenEmu for Mac.

For PS2, you can use PCSX2 on Windows with mixed results, or DamonPS2 on Android for very, very bad results. Mac users are left out in the cold here. Similarly, the PS3 can only be emulated on Windows with RPCS3. You won’t be running PS3 games on your MacBook. (Sorry, babe, but why did you think that would be possible?) Finally, for all your PSP needs, there is PPSSPP available for all platforms.


Neo Geo and Neo Geo Pocket Color games like the King of Fighters series can be played using Mednafen on Windows, OpenEmu on Mac (you’ll need to enable "experimental" cores in the settings menu and then download the MAME core), or either NEO.emu or NGP.emu on Android.


Though it goes by many names, the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine/CoreGrafx platform is home to some spectacular titles (like Ys I & II) you might have missed out on in your youth. To play these games, use Mednafen on your PC, OpenEmu once again on the Mac, and PCE.emu on Android.


Save your quarters and get your old school arcade fix using Mednafen on Windows, OpenEmu on Mac (you’ll need to enable "experimental" cores in the settings menu and then download the MAME core), or the appropriately titled Mame4droid on Android.


And not to end on a sour note but, for a variety of reasons, there are no good options for emulating Xbox or Xbox 360 games. The good news is that many Xbox exclusives are also available for Windows because... ya know… Microsoft. All hail Master Chief (at least for the first two games.)

And with that, we leave you to go get your feet wet with emulation. There are so many games scattered throughout the history of this glorious industry that you will likely never run out of retro titles to explore. But, once more for legal reasons: Don't pirate games. 😉


Emulators video game

Video game console emulator

Program that reproduces video game console's behavior

"Console emulator" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Terminal emulator.

This article is about what a console emulator does. For a list of existing emulators, see List of video game emulators.

A video game console emulator is a type of emulator that allows a computing device[fn 1] to emulate a video game console's hardware and play its games on the emulating platform. More often than not, emulators carry additional features that surpass the limitations of the original hardware, such as broader controller compatibility,[fn 2]timescale control, greater performance, clearer quality, easier access to memory modifications (like GameShark), one-click cheat codes, and unlocking of gameplay features. Emulators are also a useful tool in the development process of homebrewdemos and the creation of new games for older, discontinued, or rare consoles.

The code and data of a game are typically supplied to the emulator by means of a ROM file (a copy of game cartridge data) or an ISO image (a copy of optical media), which are created by either specialized tools for game cartridges, or regular optical drives reading the data.[1] Most games retain their copyright despite the increasing time-span of the original system and products' discontinuation; this leaves regular consumers and emulation enthusiasts to resort to obtaining games freely across various internet sites rather than legitimately purchasing and ripping the contents (although for optical media, this is becoming popular for legitimate owners). As an alternative, specialized adapters such as the Retrode allow emulators to directly access the data on game cartridges without needing to copy it into a ROM image first.


By the mid-1990s, personal computers had progressed to the point where it was technically feasible to replicate the behavior of some of the earliest consoles entirely through software, and the first unauthorized, non-commercial console emulators began to appear. These early programs were often incomplete, only partially emulating a given system, resulting in defects. Few manufacturers published technical specifications for their hardware, which left programmers to deduce the exact workings of a console through reverse engineering. Nintendo's consoles tended to be the most commonly studied, for example the most advanced early emulators reproduced the workings of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Game Boy. The first such recognized emulator was released around 1996, being one of the prototype projects that eventually merged into the SNES9X product.[2] Programs like Marat Fayzullin's iNES, VirtualGameBoy, Pasofami (NES), Super Pasofami (SNES), and VSMC (SNES) were the most popular console emulators of this era. A curiosity was also Yuji Naka's unreleased NES emulator for the Genesis, possibly marking the first instance of a software emulator running on a console.[3] Additionally, as the Internet gained wider availability, distribution of both emulator software and ROM images became more common, helping to popularity emulators.[2]

Legal attention was drawn to emulations with the release of UltraHLE, an emulator for the Nintendo 64 released in 1999 while the Nintendo 64 was still Nintendo's primary console - its next console, the GameCube, would not be released until 2001. UltraHLE was the first emulator to be released for a current console, and it was seen to have some effect on Nintendo 64 sales, though to what degree compared with diminishing sales on the aging consoles was not clear. Nintendo pursued legal action to stop the emulator project, and while the original authors ceased development, the project continued by others who had gotten the source code. Since then, Nintendo has generally taken the lead in actions against emulation projects or distributions of emulated games from their consoles compared to other console or arcade manufacturers.[2]

This rise in popularity opened the door to foreign video games, and exposed North American gamers to Nintendo's censorship policies. This rapid growth in the development of emulators in turn fed the growth of the ROM hacking and fan-translation. The release of projects such as RPGe's English language translation of Final Fantasy V drew even more users into the emulation scene.[4]


Emulators can be designed in three ways: purely operating in software which is the most common form such as MAME using arcade ROM images; purely operating in hardware such as the ColecoVision's adapter to accept Atari VCS cartridges, and hybrid solutions, such as hardware bridgeboards for various Amiga computers that could run IBM PC-compatible software.[2]

An emulator is created typically through reverse engineering of the hardware information as to avoid any possible conflicts with non-public intellectual property. Some information may be made public for developers on the hardware's specifications which can be used to start efforts on emulation but there are often layers of information that remain as trade secrets such as encryption details. Operating code stored in the hardware's BIOS may be disassembled to be analyzed in a clean room design, with one person performing the disassembling and another person, separately, documenting the function of the code. Once enough information of how the hardware interprets the game software, an emulation on the target hardware can then be constructed.[2] Emulation developers typically avoid any information that may come from untraceable sources to avoid contaminating the clean room nature of their project. For example, in 2020, a large trove of information related to Nintendo's consoles was leaked, and teams working on Nintendo console emulators such as the Dolphin emulator for GameCube and Wii stated they were staying far away from the leaked information to avoid tainting their project.[5]

Once an emulator is written, it then requires a copy of the game software to be obtained, a step that may have legal consequences. Typically, this requires the user to make a copy of the contents of the ROM cartridge to computer files or images that can be read by the emulator, a process known as "dumping" the contents of the ROM. A similar concept applies to other proprietary formats, such as for PlayStation CD games. While not required for emulation of the earliest arcade or home console, most emulators also require a dump of the hardware's BIOS, which could vary with distribution region and hardware revisions. In some cases, emulators allow for the application of ROM patches which update the ROM or BIOS dump to fix incompatibilities with newer platforms or change aspects of the game itself. The emulator subsequently uses the BIOS dump to mimic the hardware while the ROM dump (with any patches) is used to replicate the game software.[2]


Outside of official usage, emulation has generally been seen negatively by video game console manufacturers and game developers. The largest concern is nature of copyright infringement related to ROM images of games, typically distributed freely and without hardware restrictions. While this directly impacts potential sales of emulated games and thus the publishers and developers, the nature of the value chain of the industry can lead to potential financial harm to console makers.[2] Further, emulation challenges the industry's use of the razorblade model for console games, where consoles are sold near cost and revenue instead obtained from licenses on game sales. With console emulation being developed even while consoles are still on the market, console manufacturers are forced to continue to innovate, bring more games for their systems to market, and move quickly onto new technology to continue their business model.[2] There are further concerns related to intellectual property of the console's branding and of games' assets that could be misused, though these are issues less with emulation itself but with how the software is subsequently used.[2]

Alternatively, emulation is seen to enhance video game preservation efforts, both in shifting game information from outdated technology into newer, more persistent formats, and providing software or hardware alternates to aged hardware. Some users of emulation also see emulation as means to preserve games from companies that have long-since gone bankrupt or disappeared from the industry's earlier market crash and contractions, and where ownership of the property is unclear. Emulation can also be seen as a means to enhance functionality of the original game that would otherwise not be possible, such as adding in localizations via ROM patches or new features such as save states.[2]

Legal issues[edit]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2010)

United States[edit]

As computers and global computer networks continued to advance and emulator developers grew more skilled in their work, the length of time between the commercial release of a console and its successful emulation began to shrink. Fifth generation consoles such as Nintendo 64, PlayStation and sixth generation handhelds, such as the Game Boy Advance, saw significant progress toward emulation during their production. This led to an effort by console manufacturers to stop unofficial emulation, but consistent failures such as Sega v. Accolade 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir. 1992), Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corporation 203 F.3d 596 (2000), and Sony Computer Entertainment America v. Bleem 214 F.3d 1022 (2000),[6] have had the opposite effect, which has ruled that emulators, developed through clean room design, are legal. The Librarian of Congress, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), has codified these rules as allowed exemptions to bypass technical copyright protections on console hardware.[2] However, emulator developers cannot incorporate code that may have been embedded within the hardware BIOS, nor ship the BIOS image with their emulators.[2]

Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted code remains illegal, according to both country-specific copyright and international copyright law under the Berne Convention.[7][better source needed] Accordingly, video game publishers and developers have taken legal action against websites that illegally redistribute their copyrighted software, successfully forcing sites to remove their titles[8] or taking down the websites entirely.[9]

Under United States law, obtaining a dumped copy of the original machine's BIOS is legal under the ruling Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc., 964 F.2d 965 (9th Cir. 1992) as fair use as long as the user obtained a legally purchased copy of the machine. To mitigate this however, several emulators for platforms such as Game Boy Advance are capable of running without a BIOS file, using high-level emulation to simulate BIOS subroutines at a slight cost in emulation accuracy.[citation needed]

Impersonation by malware[edit]

Due to their popularity, emulators have also been a target of online scams in the form of trojan horse programs designed to mimic the appearance of a legitimate emulator, which are then promoted through spam, on YouTube and elsewhere.[10] Some scams, such as the purported "PCSX4" emulator, have even gone so far as to setting up a fake GitHub repository, presumably for added trustworthiness especially to those unfamiliar with open-source software development.[11] The Federal Trade Commission has since issued an advisory warning users to avoid downloading such software, in response to reports of a purported Nintendo Switch emulator released by various websites as a front for a survey scam.[12]

Official use[edit]

Due to the high demand of playing old games on modern systems, consoles have begun incorporating emulation technology. The most notable of these is Nintendo's Virtual Console. Originally released for the Wii, but present on the 3DS and Wii U, Virtual Console uses software emulation to allow the purchasing and playing of games for old systems on this modern hardware. Though not all games are available, the Virtual Console has a large collection of games spanning a wide variety of consoles. The Virtual Console's library of past games currently consists of titles originating from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Wii, as well as Sega's Master System and Genesis/Mega Drive, NEC's TurboGrafx-16, and SNK's Neo Geo. The service for the Wii also includes games for platforms that were known only in select regions, such as the Commodore 64 (Europe and North America) and MSX (Japan),[13] as well as Virtual Console Arcade, which allows players to download video arcade games. Virtual Console titles have been downloaded over ten million times.[14] Each game is distributed with a dedicated emulator tweaked to run the game as well as possible. However, it lacks the enhancements that unofficial emulators provide, and many titles are still unavailable.[which?]

Until the 4.0.0 firmware update, the Nintendo Switchsystem software contained an embedded NES emulator, referred to internally as "flog", running the game Golf (with motion controller support using Joy-Con). The Easter egg was believed to be a tribute to former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who died in 2015: the game was only accessible on July 11 (the date of his death), Golf was programmed by Iwata, and the game was activated by performing a gesture that Iwata had famously used during Nintendo's video presentations. It was suggested that the inclusion of Golf was intended as a digital form of omamori—a traditional form of Japanese amulets intended to provide luck or protection.[15][16][17] As part of its Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, Nintendo subsequently released an app featuring an on-demand library of NES and SNES titles updated regularly.[18] The app features similar features to Virtual Console titles, including save states, as well as a pixel scaler mode and an effect that simulates CRT television displays.[19]

Due to differences in hardware, the Xbox 360 is not natively backwards compatible with original Xbox games.[fn 3] However, Microsoft achieved backwards compatibility with popular titles through an emulator. On June 15, 2015, Microsoft announced the Xbox One would be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 through Emulation. In June 2017, they announced Xbox original titles would also be available for backwards compatibility through emulation, but because the Xbox original runs on the x86 architecture, CPU emulation is unnecessary, greatly improving performance. The PlayStation 3 uses software emulation to play original PlayStation titles, and the PlayStation Store sells games that run through an emulator within the machine. In the original Japanese and North American 60GB models, original PS2 hardware is present to run titles; however all PAL models, and later models released in Japan and North America removed some PS2 hardware components, replacing it with software emulation working alongside the video hardware to achieve partial hardware/software emulation.[20][21] In later releases, backwards compatibility with PS2 titles was completely removed along with the PS2 graphics chip, and eventually Sony released PS2 titles with software emulation on the PlayStation Store.[21]

Commercial developers have also used emulation as a means to repackage and reissue older games on newer consoles in retail releases. For example, Sega has created several collections of Sonic the Hedgehog games. Before the Virtual Console, Nintendo also used this tactic, such as Game Boy Advance re-releases of NES titles in the Classic NES Series.[22]

Other uses[edit]

Although the primary purpose of emulation is to make older video-games execute on newer systems, there are several advantages inherent in the extra flexibility of software emulation that were not possible on the original systems.

ROM hacking and modification[edit]

Disk image loading is a necessity for most console emulators, as most computing devices do not have the hardware required to run older console games directly from the physical game media itself. Even with optical media system emulators such as the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, attempting to run games from the actual disc may cause problems such as hangs and malfunction as PC optical drives are not designed to spin discs the way those consoles do.[citation needed] This, however, has led to the advantage of it being far easier to modify the actual game's files contained within the game ROMs. Amateur programmers and gaming enthusiasts have produced translations of foreign games, rewritten dialogue within a game, applied fixes to bugs that were present in the original game, as well as updating old sports games with modern rosters. It is even possible to use high-resolution texture pack upgrades for 3-D games and sometimes 2-D if available and possible.[fn 4]

Enhanced technical features[edit]

Software that emulates a console can be improved with additional capabilities that the original system did not have. These include Enhanced graphical capabilities, such as spatial anti-aliasing, upscaling of the framebuffer resolution to match high definition and even higher display resolutions, as well as anisotropic filtering (texture sharpening).

Emulation software may offer improved audio capabilities (e.g. decreased latency and better audio interpolation), enhanced save states (which allow the user to save a game at any point for debugging or re-try) and decreased boot and loading times. Some emulators feature an option to "quickly" boot a game, bypassing the console manufacturer's original splash screens.

Furthermore, emulation software may offer online multiplayer functionality and the ability to speed up and slow down the emulation speed. This allows the user to fast-forward through unwanted cutscenes for example, or the ability to disable the framelimiter entirely (useful for benchmarking purposes).

Bypassing regional lockouts[edit]

Some consoles have a regional lockout, preventing the user from being able to play games outside of the designated game region. This can be considered a nuisance for console gamers as some games feature seemingly inexplicable localization differences between regions, such as differences in the time requirements for driving missions and license tests on Gran Turismo 4,[23][24][better source needed] and the PAL version of Final Fantasy X which added more ingame skills, changes to some bosses, and even more bosses, Dark Aeons,[25] that weren't available in the American NTSC release of the game.[26]

Although it is usually possible to modify the consoles themselves to bypass regional lockouts, console modifications can cause problems with screens not being displayed correctly and games running too fast or slow, due to the fact that the console itself may not be designed to output to the correct format for the game. These problems can be overcome on emulators, as they are usually designed with their own output modules, which can run both NTSC and PAL games without issue.[citation needed]

Cheating and widescreen functionality[edit]

Many emulators, for example Snes9x,[27] make it far easier to load console-based cheats, without requiring potentially expensive proprietary hardware devices such as those used by GameShark and Action Replay. Freeware tools allow codes given by such programs to be converted into code that can be read directly by the emulator's built-in cheating system, and even allow cheats to be toggled from the menu. The debugging tools featured in many emulators also aid gamers in creating their own such cheats. Similar systems can also be used to enable Widescreen Hacks for certain games, allowing the user to play games which were not originally intended for widescreen, without having to worry about aspect ratio distortion on widescreen monitors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^These target platforms usually have available compilers to allow such emulators to be available.[citation needed] These include (but are not limited to) a personal computer, video game consoles, and Android devices.
  2. ^One example is PlayStation controllers being used with Nintendo 64 games.
  3. ^The Xbox architecture is similar to a PC with an x86 architecture, whereas the Xbox 360 is a PowerPC system.
  4. ^Having these improved textures requires a demanding graphics chipset which is capable of handling such.


  1. ^"Ripping Games - Emulation General Wiki". Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  2. ^ abcdefghijklConley, James; Andros, Ed; Chinai, Priti; Lipkowitz, Elise; Perez, David (Spring 2004). "Use of a Game Over: Emulation and the Video Game Industry, A White Paper". Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property. 2 (2). Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  3. ^"An Interview with Yuji Naka". The Next Level. 15 June 2004. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  4. ^"How Three Kids With No Experience Beat Square And Translated Final Fantasy V Into English". Kotaku. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  5. ^Gault, Matthew (May 6, 2020). "Using Leaked Nintendo Source Code Poses Serious Legal Risk to Emulators". Vice. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  6. ^"Sony Computer Entertainment America v. Bleem, 214 F. 3d 1022". 9th Circuit 2000. Google Scholar. Court of Appeals (published 4 May 2000). 14 February 2000. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  7. ^see Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 574 F.Supp. 999, aff'd, 704 F.2d 1009 (9th Cir 1982) (holding the computer ROM of Pac Man to be a sufficient fixation for purposes of copyright law even though the game changes each time played.) and Article 2 of the Berne Convention
  8. ^"COOLROM.COM FORCED REMOVAL OF NINTENDO ROMS DUE TO COPYRIGHTS". RealGamerNewZ. February 3, 2015. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  9. ^Good, Owen (July 22, 2018). "Nintendo sues to shut down two big ROM sites". Polygon. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  10. ^Musil, Steven (30 March 2017). "Don't get conned: That free Nintendo Switch emulator is a scam". CNET. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  11. ^Fenlon, Wes (15 January 2019). "PS4 emulators on PC don't work yet, so don't get scammed by a fake". PC Gamer. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  12. ^"FTC warns against fake Nintendo Switch emulators". TrustedReviews. 23 April 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  13. ^"Nintendo Japan Virtual Console overview" (in Japanese). Nintendo. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  14. ^Thorson, Tor; Ramsay, Randolph (20 February 2008). "Q&A: Nintendo's Satoru Iwata". GameSpot.
  15. ^Frank, Allegra (2017-12-27). "Switch's hidden Iwata tribute removed in latest update". Polygon. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  16. ^Humphries, Matthew. "Hidden NES Golf Game on Switch a Tribute to Satoru Iwata". PCMAG. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  17. ^"Hidden Switch game is actually a tribute to former Nintendo president [Updated]". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  18. ^Knezevic, Kevin (September 17, 2018). "Nintendo Switch Online Service: More Details Revealed In Nintendo Direct". GameSpot. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  19. ^Machkovech, Sam (2018-09-19). "Welcome to NES-flix: Testing Nintendo Online's new 8-bit library on Switch". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  20. ^"Play PSone and PlayStation 2 Games on a PlayStation 3". Sony Playstation Services and Support. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  21. ^ abLeadbetter, Richard (21 July 2012). "Digital Foundry vs. PS2 Classics on PlayStation 3". Eurogamer.
  22. ^"Classic NES Series (Concept)". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  23. ^"Gran Turismo 4 - The Cutting Room Floor". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  24. ^"Pal versus NTSC versions of gt4: What are the differences?".
  25. ^"Dark Aeons".
  26. ^"Version Differences (FFX)".
  27. ^Whizzy. "Game Genie, Action Replay, and Other Cheat Codes for SNES9x". CheatZILLA. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
The BEST Emulators for Your PC!

Standalone vs. Multi-system - which should you use?

Multi-system emulators (particularly RetroArch and BizHawk) have gone a long way. You can download just a single emulator to handle emulating nearly everything. For the most part, multi-system emulators replaced the need to use standalone emulators for NES, SNES, Genesis/Sega CD/32X, Game Boy/Color/Advance, Game Gear/SMS, TurboGrafx16/CD, Wonderswan/Color, PlayStation 1, and Nintendo 64.

Standalone emulators, though, are still a good option if you want something that 'just works out of the box'. They're easier to use and offer some features that multi-system emulators don't have. I recommend trying both standalone & multi-system emulators to find out which option works best for you.

Nintendo 64Gamecube/Wii

Size: Around 20 MB

Dolphin is an emulator for two recent Nintendo video game consoles: the GameCube and the Wii. It allows PC (and Mac) gamers to enjoy games for these two consoles in full HD (1080p) with several enhancements: compatibility with all PC controllers, turbo speed, networked multiplayer, and even more! Check out its compatibility list to ensure the games you want to play fully work.

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Nintendo 64Nintendo 64

Size: Around 40 MB

m64p (or Mupen64 Plus) is the best and most accurate Nintendo 64 emulator. I recommend it as #1. It can play games like Resident Evil 2, Rogue Squadron, Pokemon Snap, and World Driver Championship “out-of-the-box” (without the need to fiddle with settings, plugins, or anything of the sort). Versus Project64, it's a much more solid emulator with less bugs. However, it's not as feature-rich as Project64.

Size: 4.28 MB, Version: 3.0.0, Homepage

Project64 was once a top N64 emulator. Although “m64p” is the top N64 emulator now, you may still prefer Project64 as it has more features. Note that the latest versions of Project64 may not run games well. From my experience, version 2.0 is the most stable version. Games such as Ogre Battle 64 run well on it.
*Note: My download of Project64 does not contain malware, unlike the download on the official site.

Size: 16.5 MB, Version: 1.6-2.3, Homepage

The latest versions of Project64 run games differently. To help you find out which version runs your games best, here's a zip containing the latest builds. In this zip you'll find version 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3.
*Note: These downloads of Project64 do not contain malware, unlike the downloads on the official site.


Size: 15.3 MB - Project64 already comes equipped with a good video plugin. However, if you want the best video plug-in, you want the GLideN64 plug-in! Check out these sample shots to see it in action. It's demanding on the CPU so this is meant for higher-end computers/devices.

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Super NintendoSuper Nintendo

Size: Around 5 MB

Bsnes has the crown of being the #1 Super Nintendo emulator for its cycle accuracy. However, that doesn't mean BSNES is the best emulator for you. Its performance requires a fast CPU, so it may not run well on every computer/device. Features include 100% bug-free compatibility, Super Game Boy emulation, HD mode 7 graphics, a multi-threaded video graphics renderer, built-in databases for games/PCBs/cheat codes, and save state manager with screenshot previews.

Size: 3.67 MB, Version: 1.60, Homepage, Github

Snes9x has tons of awesome screen filters, supports Game Genie/Action Replay cheats, can capture SPC music, take screen shots, capture save states with multiple slots, supports Super FX, record AVI movies, and more. It's easy to use, it runs great on whatever speed your computer is, and it has such neat features. It's an excellent SNES emulator! New with version 1.54: Snes9x now uses the Bsnes core to emulate games with cycle accuracy. So now they run like the real thing!
*Note: If you find that this version of Snes9x is not working well for you, try the previous version before the Bsnes source was added: v1.53 64-bit
*Also note: If you can't run games because of a ddx9_38.dll error, read this for the fix.

Size: 847 KB, Version: 1.51, Homepage

ZSNES was the first popular video game emulator. It's a beloved classic. I have it here only for nostalgic purposes. I do not recommend ZSNES for a quality SNES emulation experience.
*You might also want to try ZMZ, a version of Snes9X with ZSNES's GUI.

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Nintendo (NES)Nintendo

Size: Around 10 MB

The #1 emulator for the classic 8-bit NES. It's a cycle-accurate! The authors are proud of it--over 220 mappers are supported, offering very high game compatibility. It includes the usual emulator features: save states, rewinding, movie/audio recording, overclocking, cheat codes, netplay, and more.

Size: 2.29 MB, Version: 2.2.3, Homepage

FCEUX (FCE Ultra) is a classic NES emulator that's been around a long time. It's not as good as Mesen. However, FCEUX is friendlier on slower/older machines.

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Nintendo DSNintendo DS

Size: Around 30 MB

DeSmuME is the #1 Nintendo DS emulator! It's been around a long time. They've had significant improvements since 2018. It now uses less CPU/GPU resources. It especially offers some good options for the display, since the DS has the double screen thing going on. Its game compatibility is great and improving.
Note: The downloads page I'm linking to is weird, I know. That is actually the official downloads page for the latest version of DeSmuME from their homepage. It's confusing because their site's main page promotes v0.9.11 as the latest stable release, but their Downloads page says “Don't download the v0.9.11 stable release because it's old from 2015!” So trust me, you can download the latest version of DeSmuME from the weird link.

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Game Boy Classic/ Color/ AdvanceGame Boy Advance

Size: 17.6 MB, Version: 0.9.0, Homepage

mGBA is the #1 emulator for Game Boy Advance. It's focused on being fast enough to run on lower-end hardware than other emulators support, without sacrificing accuracy or portability. Game compatibility is high. It even offers support for the Tilt Sensor and Game Boy Camera. mGBA's drawback is that it lacks the cool features that VisualBoyAdv-M has.

Size: 20.4 MB, Version: 2.1.4, Homepage

Visual Boy Advance supports Game Boy Classic, Super Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and (of course) Game Boy Advance. It has several cool screen filters, supports cheats, record music, can take screen shots, capture save states with multiple slots, record AVI movies, and more. It's easy to use and it runs great on whatever speed your computer is. This version of the emulator is called “VisualBoyAdvance-M” (or Visual Boy Advance Merged), which is a continued effort by others since the original Visual Boy Advance authors abandoned the emulator in 2005.
*For the most accurate Game Boy Classic and Game Boy Color emulation, I recommend Gambatte in the Game Boy section.

Size: 597 KB, Version: 1.7.2

If for whatever reason you want the original Visual Boy Advance, here it is. Keep in mind that it hasn't been updated since 2005. “VisualBoyAdvance-M” above is the recommended version to use.

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Game Boy Classic and Game Boy ColorGame Boy Color

Size: 1.96 MB, Version: r571, Homepage

In terms of accuracy, Gambatte is the #1 emulator for Game Boy Classic and Game Boy Color. You get the highest quality emulation with this emulator. Although it lacks all the cool features that VisualBoyAdv-M has.

Size: 432 KB, Version: 1.5.7, Homepage

BGB supports Game Boy Classic, Super Game Boy, and Game Boy Color. The interface is uncluttered and clean. The screen is nice and sharp. BGB is good if you want something simple and fast/light-weight.

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Genesis, Sega CD, 32XGenesis, Sega CD & 32X

Size: 383 KB, Version: 3.64, Homepage

Kega Fusion a top Genesis emulator! In addition to Genesis, it also emulates Sega CD, 32X, Sega CD+32X (it's the only emulator that supports this), Sega Master System, Game Gear, Sega SG-1000, and SC-3000. It has high compatibility and good speed. Keep in mind, though, that I recommend RetroArch or BizHawk (the top multi-system emulators) over Kega Fusion and Gens as the best option for emulation of all Sega systems.

Size: 2.66 MB, Version: Release 7, Homepage

Gens/GS is a version of the famous “Gens” emulator. The main goal of Gens/GS was to clean up the source code and combine features from various forks of Gens, as well as improving portability to other platforms. Gens/GS has a high compatibility rate and good speed. It also has many nice features including the usual screen renders, Sega CD support, and 32X support. It has a few neat features that Kega Fusion doesn't have. Keep in mind, though, that I recommend RetroArch (the top multi-system emulator) over Kega Fusion and Gens as the best option for emulation of all Sega systems.


Size: 264 KB - The Sega CD BIOS files that are required for booting up US, Euro and Japanese games on Gens and Kega Fusion.

Size: 1.95 KB - Contains the 32X BIOS files required to boot 32X games on Gens.

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Sega SaturnSaturn

Size: Around 60 MB

Saturn emulation has always been horrible. Then in the mid 2010s, uoYabause surfaced and surprised us all. This emulator offers an excellent Saturn emulation experience. Game compatibility is high. 3D graphics are rendered in a higher resolution (just like with PSX and N64 emulation). The drawback is that this emulator can be demanding on the CPU, so it may not run well on slower/older computers. I recommend checking its compatibility list before trying out games. uoYabause does not require the Saturn BIOS in order to boot games.
*Note: uoYabause might prompt saying it's missing “SDL2.dll”. You can download this file below.

Size: 53 MB, Version: Preview R16, Homepage

Offers good compatibility and is easy to use. It lacks the fancy features we're used to with PSX/N64 emulation, like high-res 3D rendering and such. But hey, it's better than nothing! Its compatibility isn't perfect so I recommend checking its compatibility list before trying out games. And read my snippet about improving performance with SSF.

Size: 142 MB, Version: 0.06-0.12, Homepage

Curiously, games sometimes run better in certain older releases of SSF. If you're eager to have a game run as best as possible, download this zip and find out if an older version of SSF handles it better.


Size: 889 KB - Contains 'mpr-17933.bin' (US/UK BIOS) and 'sega_101.bin' (JP BIOS), which are the BIOS files required by multi-system emulators such as RetroArch and Mednafen.

Size: 2.18 MB - The BIOS files for NA, UK, and JP.

Size: 286 KB - On some machines, uoYabause requires “SDL2.dll” in order to run (Windows will prompt you that it's missing). Put “SDL2.dll” in the same folder as uoYabause.

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Sega DreamcastDreamcast

Size: Around 5 MB

Redream is compatible with nearly the entire Dreamcast library (Windows CE now supported), has a good user interface, is easy to set up, and can run without the BIOS. It can run even on low-end machines (provided that they support OpenGL 3.1). This is a big deal when compared to DEmul, which is CPU-heavy. The only catch is that if you want HD rendering, they're asking for $5 US for the premium version.

Size: 4.87 MB, Version: v0.7 build 111117, Homepage

A top Dreamcast emulator that's been around since the mid-2000s. Game compatibility and accuracy are high. It uses a plug-in system for video and audio outputs. The virtual memory card is also supported. It supports Windows CE games, but in general, they run worse than standard Dreamcast titles. DEmul hasn't been updated since 2018, so it's falling behind. I recommend checking its compatibility list before trying out games.


Size: 2.10 MB - This is required by DEmul. The zip contains the standard BIOS, Flash BIOS, and VMS BIOS.

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Game GearGame Gear/Master System

There aren't any standalone emulators for Game Gear and Master System that I recommend. Rather, there's a variety of multi-system emulators that support them. My standalone recommendation is Kega Fusion. But if you want the best emulator, you need to use RetroArch or BizHawk and its “Genesis Plus GX” core.

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Playstation 1PlayStation 1

Size: 20 MB

The #1 PlayStation 1 emulator! It focuses on playability, speed, and long-term maintainability. The goal is to be as accurate as possible while maintaining performance suitable for low-end devices. It comes with all the PGXP correction features expected from modern PSX emulators, has a robust Memory Card Editor, auto-downloads cheats, and more! It's also incredibly easy to use and well made.
*The DuckStation page can be a little confusing. Just scroll to the bottom and look for “Latest Development Build”. Then look for “”.

Size: 1.31 MB, Version: 2.0.5, Homepage:Click here

ePSXe is one of the most famous video game emulators. It takes advantage of the exciting plug-in system. It's a good emulator - if you're patient enough to work with that plug-in system (it can be annoying). Remember, Pete's Plug-ins are the best for ePSXe. You can download a bundle of the best plug-ins further down, as well as the ePSXe cheats pack. However, keep in mind that ePSXe hasn't been updated since 2016 and I do not recommend it. DuckStation is a far better emulator.

Size: 784 KB, Version: 1.13

If the above emulators aren't running well for you, you should give pSX a try. It's an old emulator, but it runs great on slower/older machines.


Size: 236 KB - DuckStation, ePSXe, and pSX need this in order to boot games. It's “Scph1001.bin”, the most common BIOS file. In most cases this is all you need.
*Download by right-clicking the download link and go to “Save Link As”. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them. I also made this GIF animation to show you how to change the file extension.

Size: 236 KB - This is “scph5501.bin”, the BIOS file required by multi-system emulators such as RetroArch and Mednafen.
*Download by right-clicking the download link and go to “Save Link As”. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them. I also made this GIF animation to show you how to change the file extension.

Size: 5.81 MB - If for whatever reason you need all the PS1 BIOS files, here they are.
*Download by right-clicking the download link and go to “Save Link As”. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them. I also made this GIF animation to show you how to change the file extension.

Size: 1.37 MB - To save you even more trouble, I put the best plug-ins for ePSXe in a zip file for you! :) This contains the following: Pete's Soft GPU 1.18b, Pete's PSX GPUs 1.77, Pete's OpenGL2 PSX GPU 2.9, Pete's OpenGL PSX GPU 1.78, DirectSound Driver 1.0, Eternal SPU 1.41, Pete's CDR plug-in 1.4

Size: 1.67 MB - The official ePSXe cheats pack that contains Game Shark cheats for every PlayStation 1 game.

Size: 14.7 MB - If pSX is giving you a “Missing d3dx9_26.dll” error, download this!

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Playstation 2PlayStation 2

Size: Around 10 MB

This is the first and best PlayStation 2 emulator. Great compatibility and nice speeds make this a must-try on fast machines! It can run just about any game, with some minor hiccups (mainly Tri-ace games). The BIOS is required in order to boot games, which you can download below. Game compatibility isn't perfect; I recommend going through its compabitility list.


Size: 12.7 MB - This is required in order to run games with PCSX2.
*Download by right-clicking the download link and go to “Save Link As”. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them. I also made this GIF animation to show you how to change the file extension.

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Size: Around 20 MB

PlayStation Portable Simulator Suitable for Playing Portably (PPSSPP) is a free and open-source PSP emulator for Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10 and Symbian with an increased focus on speed and portability.

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This is a stub to highlight that my top recommendation for arcade emulation is the #1 multi-system emulator, RetroArch. It has the latest core for MAME, which is a big deal because using the standalone version of MAME is too complicated. RetroArch has a core for FinalBurn Neo (the latest version of FinalBurn) and FinalBurn Alpha. It has multiple cores for older versions of MAME by year. If you've tried arcade emulation before, you know it can be a frustrating experience due to finding out that many of the arcade roms readily available in rom sites don't work on the latest arcade emulators. So making it easy to jump between new & old arcade emulators is an essential feature for the best arcade emulation experience, which RetroArch does well. Otherwise, you can use the standalone arcade emulators below and manually swap between old & emulators.

Size: Around 10 MB

FinalBurn Neo is a continuation of FinalBurn Alpha. Aside from MAME, it's the only other top arcade emulator that is still in active development. Just like FinalBurn Alpha, this emulator supports many boards, such as Neo Geo, Capcom CPS1-3, and others.

Size: 7.09 MB, Version:, Homepage

FinalBurn Alpha is a great arcade emulator supporting Neo-Geo, Capcom, Konami, and Cave games. This emulator's last update was in 2018 and it was no longer active, so it is recommended to use FinalBurn Neo (above) instead.
*The attached download is for the 64-bit version. Looking for the 32-bit version? Download it here

Size: 15.7 MB, Version: 0.154, Homepage

MAME is the most compatible and capable multiple arcade machine emulator. Over 3,000 classic arcade games are supported, and development continues actively. MAME itself is a command-line-driven program, so it doesn't have a front-end GUI. For many years until 2014, “MAMEUI” was the top recommendation for MAME with a visual interface.
*The attached download is for the 64-bit version. Looking for the 32-bit version? Download it here

Size: 9.98 MB, Version: 1.15 (May '07)

Unfortunately, a lot of arcade ROMs that are readily available in popular arcade ROM sites do not work with the latest arcade emulators due to legacy reasons. So if you're having a lot of trouble trying to get games to work, this decade old version of MAME from May 2007 should work better for you.

Size: 552 KB, Version: 1.65

Kawaks is a fantastic arcade emulator with lots of neat features. However, Kawaks was last updated in 2016 and has since been abandoned. It's still awesome and runs fast. It only supports NeoGeo and Capcom games. On Windows 8 & 10 it might have issues with full-screen mode.


Size: 931 KB - MAMEUI and other modern arcade emulators need this in order to play NeoGeo games.

Size: 236 KB - Kawaks, old arcade ROMs, and other old arcade emulators need this. (Rename it to "")

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TurboGrafx16 / Turbo DuoTurboGrafx16

This is a stub to highlight that my top recommendtation for TurboGrafx16/PC Engine emulation is the #1 multi-system emulator, RetroArch or BizHawk. Game compatibility is excellent and it has full support for booting games from ISO files. Plus they offer a wide variety of features.

Size: Around 2 MB

When it comes to standalone emulators for TurboGrafx16/PC Engine, MagicEngine and Ootake are your best options. MagicEngine doesn't support ISO files and it costs $16 US, so scratch that off the list. Ootake is the next best option. It's a (free) emulator that has good game compatibility with HuCard, SuperGrafx, CD-ROM, Super CD-ROM and Arcade Card emulation. It is a Japanese emulator translated to English so expect the language to be a little quirky. Like MagicEngine, note that Ootake doesn't support running CD games from their ISO. You need to use RetroArch for that.


Size: 492 KB - The BIOS files that are required in order to boot CD games.

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Wonderswan and Wonderswan ColorWonderswan & Wonderswan Color

Size: 116 KB, Version: 1.7.3

Wonderswan Color isn't exactly a popular system, so emulation support for it is scarce. Oswan is old and simple; it was last updated in 2007. It gets the job done, though. It has good CPU timing and joystick support. The multi-system emulators below are better options for emulating Wonderswan. In RetroArch, look for “Bandai - WonderSwan/Color (Beetle Cygne)”.

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Size: Around 200 MB

I *love* RetroArch! It's my favorite multi-system emulator. It has a nice, clean UI--something that competing emulators such as Mednafen lack. It supports 40+ video game systems including PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, N64, Nintendo DS, SNES, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NeoGeo Pocket Color, Virtual Boy, Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega CD, 32X, Sega Master System, Game Gear, PC Engine/TurboGrafx16 (plus CD support), Wonderswan Color, Atari Lynx, and arcade (MAME). Its only drawback is that it offers many features & options, which can make RetroArch more intimidating than helpful for new users.
*I have a tutorial for RetroArch if you need help getting started with it.

Size: Around 30 MB

BizHawk is a multi-system emulator designed for speedrunners that supports NES, SNES, N64, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Genesis, SMS, Game Gear, Sega CD, 32X, PlayStation 1, PC Engine/TurboGrafx16, WonderSwan Color, NeoGeo Pocket Color, and retro computers. Unlike RetroArch, BizHawk offers a front-end Windows UI, so it's easier to use. Many of its cores are the same ones used in RetroArch, so emulation quality is generally the same between the two. RetroArch, though, still offers more features than BizHawk.

Size: Around 3 MB

An awesome multi-system emulator that supports NES, SNES (+Super Game Boy), Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Master System, Game Gear, Genesis/Mega Drive (+Sega CD/Mega CD), TurboGrafx16/PC Engine, NeoGeo Pocket/Color, Wonderswan/Color, and more. What separates Higan from other multi-system emulators is that it's impeccably programmed to be as accurate (cycle accurate) as possible. That also comes at the cost of processing - Higan is CPU heavy and isn't friendly on older computers or slow devices.

Size: 15 MB

Mednafen is a multi-system emulator that supports pretty much everything: PlayStation 1, N64, Nintendo DS, SNES, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NeoGeo Pocket Color, Virtual Boy, Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega CD, 32X, Sega Master System, Game Gear, PC Engine/TurboGrafx16 (plus CD support), Wonderswan Color, Atari Lynx, arcade (MAME), and more. Mednafen is command line based so it doesn't include a frontend GUI. The best frontend is Mednaffe.


Size: 3.45 MB - This is a handy bundle of all the BIOS files required for emulating PlayStation 1, Sega CD/Mega CD, TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD, Sega Saturn, and NeoGeo arcade games.
*Download by right-clicking the download link and go to “Save Link As”. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them.

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