Although they are far from being official (let alone legal), console emulators give us the luxury of playing console games that have fallen out of popularity. I would not have been able to play the original Super Mario Bros. if it weren’t for an emulator, nor would I be able to revisit Suikoden on PlayStation if I didn’t have an emulator running on my laptop. More than the ability to play past games, emulators bring to people a sense of nostalgia without the hassle of having to find the consoles, some of which are, at this point, rare.
The lines between whether this is a form of piracy are clear, though. It is. At least I think it is. If you want to enjoy the games with a complete peace of mind, I highly urge you to seek out the console.
With that said, here’s your ultimate guide to console emulators.
Platforms: NES, SNES, N64, NDS, SEGA
Unlike other emulators (which are usually standalone), Retroarch is a multi-platform emulator that loads up NES, SNES, N64, NDS, and SEGA games. It’s an easy solution for people who wants to keep all their games in one emulation. If you, for some reason, wants to play a single console, there’s obviously some other choices for that.
Although the N64 emulation in Retroarch is sufficient, Project64 has been a go-to emulator for a lot of gamers. So far, it’s the best N64 emulator I’ve come across, being compatible with the most games, and mimicking the A/V of the original console the closest. The feature set isn’t anything to swoon for, but there’s multiplayer support, cheat functionalities, and a straightforward framework that’s not too heavy on your computer/device.
Platform: Gamecube, Wii
Dolphin is an obvious choice for both Gamecube and Wii. The experience is recreated with unbelievable accurate. A caveat, though: emulating both systems take much horsepower. This is fine if you’ve got a capable machine, otherwise, you might want to steer clear and skip.
Platform: Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance
VBA-M is packed with various graphic filters, debugging tools, screenshot utilities, real-time IPS patching, a full-screen mode, auto-fire support, and a fast-forward button, making it an obvious choice as our all-in-one emulator solution of Gameboy systems. If, for some reason, you’re looking for another emulator besides VBA-M, try No$GBA, which supports both Gameboy and Nintendo DS.
Platform: Nintendo DS
DeSmuME is a go-to DS emulator for many players. It works well in spite of a few limitations. It emulates the experience pretty well, and on top of this, offers users to modify the system’s audio and video settings. That being said, DeSmuME is one of the easiest emulators to set up.
Genesis is part of the RetroArch “core” systems.
Citra is a fairly new emulator and is technically currently a work in progress. There’s not a lot of games you can play in it, and it would take plenty horsepower to play the most recent Pokemon games, but the Citra team is hard at work developing nightly builds to make that possible in the near future.
Platforms: Wii U
The CEMU emulator is rapidly growing; just a few months ago, staple games were completely unplayable. That said, that doesn’t mean that the emulation doesn’t run with issues. Giving this a few more months and we’ll be able to play Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 on our PCs.
Genesis X Plus
Platforms: SEGA Genesis
Genesis X Plus supports all SEGA consoles across the board and emulates hundreds of games pretty impressively. It runs smoothly and plays really well.
PCSX / PCSX2
Platforms: PlayStation (PSOne), PlayStation 2
PCSX and PCSX2 are go-to emulators for me. Both has impressive sets of standard features, incredible emulation, and great compatibility. Note, however, that you will need to snag a few video plugins and Sony’s official BIOS images in order to make the emulator function properly.
I love PPSSPP. The double letters in its name is not an arbitrary either. The software runs smooth as hell, and sometimes perform doubly better than the original console. PPSSPP can also play games double the resolution of the original PSP game.
The Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME)
This is where it gets fun. Well, more fun. MAME emulates the arcade games we all grew up with and enables you to play them on computers and mobile devices. While the software is due an update, MAME makes for an excellent solution if you want to play some classic arcade games.