So, you're looking around the wiki, find some good games to play for the older consoles, but you don't actually have it. And you're not willing to buy a new console just to play it, or as a result of time passing, dem bricks have jacked up their price tags on eBay beyond your budget. So what do you do? Use the emulator. This page has the best emulators for each console, along with it's features.
Note: Emulators aren't perfect. Depending on the game, you might get some glitches. Few of these should be game-breaking, though. Also, some games may flat-out not work, so you may want to check compatibility lists. PS3 and Wii U emulation has gotten better over the years, but they're still far from perfect. Expect to wait a decade for those. Xbox emulation is still extremely rough.
- Admin note: Don't link to ROMs or any .exe direct-install links. (This note is just to cover the site's collective ass, and I apologize for the need of it.) - Derpiko
There's another wiki that is better maintained: Emulation General
|bsnes||Super Nintendo Entertainment System||Excellent||Windows, macOS, Linux||The most accurate SNES emulator out there, though it can be a pain in the ass sometimes. It has much higher system requirements than the others, but can play most, if not all, games perfectly. If your computer isn't cardboard, this is probably your best choice. Note: The developer only provides a Windows version, so if you're on macOS or Linux, use RetroArch with the bsnes/higan core.
Now part of the super
|Cemu||Wii U||Good||Windows and Wine||Hey, kid. Wanna play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at 1080p resolution and with 60 frames-per-second? This emulator right here should do the trick. Remember to download Cemuhook and get some shader caches here to reduce slowdown. Oh, and while you're at it, grab some graphic packs as well. Needs a high-end PC (NVidia cards are recommended) to run things smoothly.|
|Demul||Sega Dreamcast||Great||Windows||One of the best DC emulators. This one may have higher accuracy than NullDC/reicast, but at a performance cost. It too supports Naomi and Atomiswave arcade games, but it's also the only that support Windows CE, albeit not too well (Makaron is dead, so it doesn't count).|
|DeSmuME||DS||Decent||Windows, macOS, Linux||For better or worse, this is the only real option for DS emulation. Requirements range from fairly low to moderately high. Games may rarely need a stronger CPU than general PS2/Gamecube emulation, though most games should be fine.
Despite all its problems it's highly compatible and supports microphone, dual-slots, lua scripting, and a fairly large amount of customization. Recently, however, there are alternatives that are still being worked on in an attempt to make DeSmuME obsolete, so be on the look out for years to come.
|Dolphin||Wii and Gamecube||Excellent||Windows, macOS, Android||Notable for being the only emulator out there to play Wii games, which is a godsend for pirates. Aside from that, it's a very great emulator, and is updated often. Includes support for the Wiimote, so you don't have to use the mouse for it (you're on your own for a sensor bar though), and allows you to output to even 3D 1080p. Hell, it's also really good for N64 emulation, though that's only assuming the Virtual Console actually supports certain games.
It should be said, that if you're gonna download Dolphin, be sure to download development versions, as stable releases tend to be far behind, resulting in them being outdated in the long run.
Also note that Dolphin has some really steep requirements. If your computer can barely cut it, there's always the Ishiiruka build with its Async shader compilation.
|DOSBox||DOS||Let's Get Dangerous.jpg||All computer OSes, numerous forks for consoles||Probably the most famous emulator, DOSBox emulates the old IBM PCs of the '80s and early '90s. Plays everything from Duke Nukem to The Oregon Trail. Although made for playing games, it's built around FreeDOS, a DOS clone, so other programs are supported. You can even install Windows! HUGE WARNING: This is a complex, dangerous emulator with a fair amount of bugs. Read the instructions, check compatability, and please, do NOT set your drive to C:\. This does have a chance of fucking up your computer if you're not careful. It's not totally sandboxed, and can do many things the Command Prompt can. BE WARNED.
|Genesis Plus GX||Sega Genesis/MegaDrive, Sega CD, Master System, Game Gear, SG-1000||Excellent||Windows, Wii, GameCube||SSSSEEEEEEEEGAAAAAAAA!!
Originally a homebrew application for both the Wii and Gamecube that's based on an old DOS emulator, this emulator has surpassed the more famous Kega Fusion in terms of emulation capabilities and compatibility for every game made for SEGA systems that aren't the 32x.
To play on computer, RetroArch is your best option.
For 32x Emulation, Kega Fusion and PicoDrive-libretro are solid choices, though Fusion hasn't been updated since 2010 and PicoDrive is best played on the PSP and RetroArch, so Kega Fusion's only purpose now is netplay for bro times in games like Sunset Riders.
|MAME||Countless of systems||Varies||Multi-platform||The legendary emulator itself! Can play almost every arcade game accurately from before 2002, from Pac-Man to Ghosts n' Goblins to Mortal Kombat, and can even play some console games! Requires a front-end to even navigate it. Also, if you're gonna download some arcade games, pay attention to whatever version of sets they're from, as they require some updates every now and then. Some games (Capcom, SNK) run better on FinalBurn Alpha, Playstation/Namco-based hardware runs better on ZiNc. NAOMI and NAOMI 2 games can be emulated in Demul and/or reicast, with varying compatibility. Nebula also has additional optimization for SNK, Capcom, Konami and PolyGameMaster systems, as well as the Sega Model 2 Emulator, but they haven't been updated in years. For Model 3 games, Supermodel 3 is the only that can do it (for now). For most PC-based arcade games, use Teknoparrot.|
|Mednafen||Multi-system||Varies||Windows and Linux||If you're asking yourself, "What the fuck kind of name is 'mednafen'?", it stands for "My Emulator Doesn't Need A Frickin' Excellent Name".|
Anyway, mednafen comprises of several emulators that were likely modified from older versions. However, its own original emulators for Virtual Boy, Turbografx-16/PC-FX, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn are the ones you should look at, as they have a high degree of accuracy. Of course, there's also cores for the Neo Geo Pocket, Wonderswan, and the Atari Lynx that are forks from abandoned emulators, but they are all improved on, and are also highly recommended to use over every other emulator for those systems, especially the emulators they were based from.
That being said, mednafen is command-only, so try to find some front-ends that suit your taste, or better yet use RetroArch, as plenty of mednafen's cores are available (not sure why the PCE-Accuracy core wasn't included when its PCE-Fast core is).
|Mesen||Nintendo Entertainment System||Near Perfect||Windows, Linux||Originally reserved for Nestopia, Mesen was born in 2016 with a goal to reach 100% accuracy and succeeded. Excellent emulator, compatible with everything - from your traditional NES titles to Famicom ones, and even the Famicom Disk System games.
Miss Duck Hunt? Mesen has a mouse function to replace the zapper. Supports over 220 mappers, netplay, 4 players, and even custom HD textures. It also has a debugging tool if that's your thing. Seriously, what more can you ask for?!
Of course, Nestopia (Undead Edition) and puNES are also very good choices in case you have a reason why you can't use Mesen, with the former being more speedier
Available on RetroArch.
|mGBA||Game Boy/Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance||Excellent||Windows, macOS, Linux, 3DS, Wii, Switch and PS Vita||This spot was originally reserved for VisualBoy Advance, but in recent years, mGBA came out of the wood-work and blew VBA away with its accuracy, functionality, portability, and higher compatibility (from WarioWare: Twisted!'s rumble and tilt sensor to Boktai's solar sensor). Also included for RetroArch.
Higan's GBA core is also good, but less speedier than mGBA's, so your mileage may vary.
|Mupen64+||Nintendo 64||Great||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android||The best all around N64 emulator; it has high compatibility, can look great, and runs fast. Yet, it doesn't have a GUI, so if you plan on using this emulator, use this. The downside to this is the audio getting delayed, so for improved audio latency and sync, consider using mupen64plus-libretro through RetroArch.|
|PCSX2||Playstation 2||Great||Windows, macOS, Linux||A frequently updated PS2 emulator. The compatibility is quite amazing excluding a few problem games. The audio rarely has problems even with speedhacks enabled. It supports hardware and software rendering, deinterlacing, custom resolutions, MSAA, and texture filtering. What else could you want? Well, plenty of games have fairly high requirements, and it's unlikely that certain games will ever become playable.
The official compatibility list isn't updated too often, so you may have to refer to the forums or wiki on occasion.
|PCSX-Reload (PGXP build)||PlayStation One||Excellent||Windows, macOS, Linux||While not as well known as ePSXe, PCSXR is a plugin-based emulator that can let you play 3D-based game at a high resolution. It also lets you use the excellent PCSX2 controller plugins, and compatibility surpasses ePSXe. Be sure to get the latest SVN from emuCR, as the current stable build is quite old. Grab the shader pack while you're there. They are intended to be used with Pete's OpenGL2 plugin.
"The PGXP fork adds texture perspective correction, reduced polygon culling, and reduced polygon jitter (more so than mainline PCSX-R's GTE hack). Mainline has a major issue where a hack written for WipeOut causes slowdowns in many games. This is fixed by making the hack an option (in CPU settings; off by default), and also adds an option for CPU overclocking. It is recommended to use this fork until mainline fixes this issue." (Quote from the Emulation General wiki)
Mednafen's PSone core is more ideal for 2D-based games, or for games that glitch on PSCXR, and is readily available on RetroArch. Even so, both of them are better than Sony's official emulator and ePSXe.
|Project64||Nintendo 64||Good||Windows||The other best all around N64 emulator; it has high compatibility (even supports 64DD games), can look great, and runs fast, just like Mupen64+. Best if you want something with a GUI, just whatever you do, do NOT even try emulating Resident Evil 2, use Mupen64+ for that.|
|PPSSPP||PlayStation Portable||Great||Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, Meego||
Vastly superior to JPCSP, so forget about that. It features moderately low requirements, built-in shaders, up to 10x internal resolution (that's 4800x2720), the superb xBRZ texture filter, a fantastic UI with automatic update checks, and large compatibility. Stable releases have become infrequent, though dev builds are released daily.
The downsides are the barely noticeable input delay and inability to play PSN titles.
Ad-hoc support is in the early stages, but a handful of games work flawlessly. Setup/networking tutorials and general info for ad-hoc can be found here.
Via CWCheats, many games have been given 60fps patches.
|Reicast||Sega Dreamcast||Great||Windows, Linux, Android||Another DC emulator, except it's an open-source emulator based on NullDC (made by the same team too) and has seen some improvements over the years, though compatibility isn't as great as Demul (granted some compatibility lists are outdated as hell), but it isn't a resource hog, so it's a pretty excellent choice overall.|
Available on RetroArch.
|RetroArch||Multi-system||Varies||Windows, Linux, macOS, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Android, and more||A multi-system emulator frontend for open source emulator libraries in format called "libretro". Allows you to play NES, SNES, GB/GBC, GBA, Arcade, Atari 2600, PC-Engine/TurboGrafx16, Playstation, and more, using the same settings and interface. It also has extensive support for pixel shaders in both .cg and bSNES XML format, which are similar to the filters in other emulators except they run on the GPU instead of the CPU and allow you to do more complex effects without slowing down the emulator (such as this shader that simulates a CRT TV screen). Guides to using RetroArch can be found here and here, and shader files can be found here (.cgp) and here (.glsl). PC-Engine CD and Playstation require BIOS files to be placed in "system" directory you define in Settings>General.|
|RPCS3||PlayStation 3||Good||Windows and Linux||One of the oldest PS3 emulators out there, and the only one that's still active thanks to Patreon, and because of that, as of September 2018, over 1000 games are playable! It does require a beefy PC to even run at full speed.|
|Sameboy||Game Boy/Game Boy Color||Excellent||Windows, macOS||Originally Gambatte was the most accurate GB/C emulator, but it hasn't been developed since 2014 (although its libretro core is still in active development), so about a year later Sameboy entered the foray. Years down the line, Sameboy is hands down the most accurate Game Boy and Game Boy Color out there thanks to years worth of extensive hardware tests. It has the essentials that come with every modern emulator such as save states but it doesn't support game linking, as if that matters unless you're actually curious (in that case, use BGB). Also available on RetroArch.|
Despite all of this, Gambatte is still a pretty accurate emulator that's worth looking at, living on through RetroArch.
|SNES9X||Super Nintendo Entertainment System||Great||Windows, macOS, Linux, PSP, Android, iOS, and more||Another excellent SNES emulator. No visual eye-cancer like ZSNES, but you will get more accurate sound with this one, and it plays games even better. There are ports for tons of systems, both official and unofficial, including a GP2X version you can play with an OpenPandora.
Version 1.55 and later support MSU-1 co-processors, so that's cool.
|SSF||Sega Saturn||Decent||Windows||Shockingly compatible Saturn emulator, even though it's still a beta. It took quite some time due to the Saturn's terribly complex setup of processors, but now you can play some (if not most) of your favorite Saturn games on your computer. It doesn't run disc images natively, so you have to either play the originals or burned discs, or mount the images with something like DaemonTools (Warning). You'll need a reasonably mid-tier computer to run games at full speed, and you may also want to use the Saturn BIOS to make the system settings easier to manage, and improve compatibility.
With that said, mednafen's Saturn core is supposedly a lot more accurate, maybe even better, than SSF, but requires a more beefier computer than what SSF requires.
PlayStation Portable (PSP)
|POPS (PlayStation One Portable Station)||PlayStation One||Great (not all games will work)||An official PS1 emulator and the only option for the system. Some games are available for purchase on the Vita's PSN store while others need to be packaged as an EBOOT via PSX2PSP or Popsloader v4g. If you don't have a Vita, but want PS1 games, your best bet is to pirate them, as the PSP's store closed down in 2016 and it's too old to support WPA2 connection.|
The downside is the lack of the L2/R2 buttons and a right analog stick, but this shouldn't be an issue for some games, as you can just simply map them to either the d-pad or the analog stick.
|NesterJ||Nintendo Entertainment System||Good||A very good NES emulator made basically for PSP. Has neat features like the slow down/speed up buttons (A.K.A. L and R) as well as screenshots and savestates.|
|Snes9xTYLme Mod||Super Nintendo Entertainment System||Meh||SNES emulation isn't that great on PSP unfortunately, but this is the fastest and most compatible one out there (Snes9xtylcm is more suited for the Vita despite better options). Download|
|DaedalusX64||Nintendo 64||Poor||The best N64 emulator for PSP. There's a big problem though: it's a N64 emulator for PSP.|
|Master Boy||Game Boy/Color, Master System, Game Gear||Excellent||Plays your GB/GBC or Master System/Game Gear games on the go.|
|TempGBA4PSP||Game Boy Advanced||Great||A good GBA emulator that pretty much is the one and only for PSP. Has good features and supports most games. Said to work with Golden Sun.|
The fastest DS emulator currently available for Android. Will run most games at good speed and audio on most modern devices (Snapdragon 800+). Performs alright on older chips. However it comes at a very steep price, so just pirate it (be sure to find the latest version).
Fun fact: Using this one on an Android emulator outperforms DeSmuME by miles. How crazy is that?