Best console and retro emulators for PC

The oldest of the place will surely have played some of the classic consoles that made their appearance especially in the 80s and 90s. Others surely grew up with those that saw the light with the arrival of the SXXI. Surely we will all have good memories of those times, and possibly we would like to play those mythical titles that we enjoyed so much at the time, even if we no longer have the right machine. For this we can use the emulators.

If we have the thorn stuck in not having been able to finish a certain title or not having been able to play it at the time due to lack of money, now is the time to be able to do it. With these old console and computer emulators we will be able to play any game of yesteryear without having to spend a single euro.

Best console and retro emulators for PC

What is an emulator

When we talk about a video game emulator we are referring to a computer program through which we will be able to play old video games corresponding to obsolete systems and platforms on a current computer , without the need for the operating system or the machine. Its main use is to reuse classic, discontinued games or games from systems that have been out of the market for some time, although they can also be used to modify games or translate them.

These applications can be downloaded over the Internet and have different functional models that are responsible for imitating most of the first game systems. Therefore, we can find console emulators like Atari that already amazed the world more than 30 years ago, as well as other generational cycles where Sega, Nintendo or some more recent consoles such as Microsoft or Sony had a place. We will be able to play all of them to a greater or lesser extent from our desktop or laptop computer.

In general, we will be able to play the oldest games on consoles such as the NES or the SEGA Mega Drive with any minimally current computer, since their requirements are very low. However, for more modern options like a PS3 or an Xbox 360 and, above all, a PS4, we are going to need a moderately powerful computer to be able to run the games. If this is our case, you can choose between a good number of emulators, each one specialized in a different console so that we can choose our favorite, from the Atari to the PlayStation 4.

Emulators for Nintendo

Next, we are going to see the best emulators for PC that we have available for each of the different Nintendo consoles, both living room and portable.

FCEUX for the NES

It is one of the most complete emulators for the NES that has always been characterized as an “all-in-one” emulator. With it we obtain both precision and ease of use for all types of players, since it also has advanced options for the most experienced. One of its most amazing features is the ability to play over a local network or the Internet through its NetPlay feature.

FCEUX

It also has a game recorder, several save points, record the game on video, extract the audio while we play, as well as compatibility with the formats (PAL, NTSC and NTSC-PAL) although it can also work with ROMs stored in ZIP files , RAR and 7z. For all this, it becomes one of the best emulators to enjoy NES games again.

We can download this emulator for free from its official website .

Snes9x to play the Super Nintendo ( SNES)

To speak of Super Nintendo is to make it possibly the console with the best catalog in history. With Snes9x, we are talking about an emulator that does not require installation, since it is portable and we only have to unzip its content in a folder and click on its executable. It stands out for its small size, since it barely occupies 2 MB , which is not inconvenient to offer all kinds of functions and features.

Snes9x

With it we will have the possibility of saving games at any time since it has 10 save points , something that we can do with the press of a button. We can also configure the graphic settings, it has network gaming functions and it even allows us to load several games at the same time, so that we can change from one to another quickly. In addition, the original emulator has different versions such as Snes9k or Snes9x Direct3D that include special features, so we consider it one of the best emulators for SNES

If we want to download this emulator for SNES we can do it from the developer’s website .

No$gba, the best for the Nintendo DS

Although it was originally designed to emulate Game Boy Advance games, it was later the first to run Nintendo DS games. It has a fairly light size despite the large number of options and commands that we can execute in it, being possible to correctly configure all its graphic, audio and control options so that we can always enjoy the best experience while we play.

No$gba

With it we will be able to run most of the games for this console without any problem, for which we will only need some ROMS that can be found on the Internet, along with a large number of applications created by the community. It also allows you to play online and map the controls to get the best experience at all times, which is why we consider it one of the best emulators to enjoy the Nintendo DS again.

If we want to remember legendary games from this console, we can download No$gba for free from its website.

Citra, the most complete for the Nintendo 3DS

We are talking about an emulator for the Nintendo 3DS portable console, which is programmed in C++ and its source code has been published under the GP license, making it one of the most complete that we can find today. It is capable of running the games at their maximum speed and incorporates all kinds of features to improve its graphics . In addition, by means of the mouse the lower touch screen is simulated, although of course we will not be able to have the 3D effect.

Citra 3DS

Citra will allow us to view both screens at the same time or just one, being possible to control it using the keyboard or an external controller. In it we can once again enjoy classics like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds or Pokémon Sun and Moon, among others. In addition to the PC, the emulator is compatible with Android mobiles so we can always carry it with us in our pocket.

It is without a doubt one of the best PC emulators to enjoy the Nintendo 3DS and we can download it for free from its website.

Dolphin Emulator to enjoy the GameCube and the Wii

We are surely facing the most complete and advanced GameCube emulator that we can find and with which we can enjoy practically the entire catalog of this console. That yes, its configuration is not the simplest because we will have a large number of customization options in order to be able to improve performance at the expense of lower graphic quality.

Dolphin Emulator

It also allows us to scale the image of the games to 4K if our computer allows it, and we can even configure the Wii controls and connect the Wiimote to our PC if we have the corresponding adapter, since the console it also offers support for emulating Wii games. In addition, the program is completely free and free of surprises, which, together with its good number of functions, makes it one of the best emulators for PC with which to play the GameCube.

We can download Dolphin Emulator for free from its development website .

Project64 to return to playing the Nintendo 64

We are talking about an emulator for Nintendo 64 written in C, designed to be used on Windows and that has been active since 2001. It is one of the most advanced and has a very active development, which means that improvements are frequently added to both performance such as precision and compatibility. It works through game ROMs that we can download from the Internet and has its own game manager, from which you can configure the resolution and all kinds of graphics, as well as display an image and information about the game.

Project64

Despite the fact that it is very complete, it is worth mentioning that it is not particularly complicated to use , since we can start playing without having to make any type of configuration. So that we never lose our games, it has several manual quick save points. In addition, it is compatible with any controller or joystick that we have to play more comfortably. For all these reasons, we consider it one of the best Nintendo 64 emulators today with which to play classic games like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye 007 or Super Mario 64, among others.

We can download Project64 for free from its official website .

Play Nintendo Wii U again with Cemu

It is a closed source Nintendo Wii U emulator for Windows released in 2015 and currently continues to receive regular updates to improve performance and fix bugs. With it we will be able to play any game on this console with the possibility of reaching 4K resolution in some games, something unthinkable in the original console, and in many others they can be run at 1080p at 60 fps. Of course, some games run slowly and others require complex settings to work properly.

cemu

We can control the games by emulating the standard Wii U controller like the Pro or the classic controller to enjoy a more than satisfactory experience, although we can also use a mouse or gamepad to map the buttons to our liking. That is why we are facing an emulator as complete as it is complex with which to play games like Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Zelda BotW or Xenoblade Chronicles X, among many others with great performance.

We can download the Cemu emulator for free from its developers’ website.

Play the Nintendo Game Boy with VisualBoyAdvance

When it comes to talking about the best PC emulators for Game Boy, we can possibly consider VisualBoyAdvance as the best option. With it, we can not only emulate the classic Game Boy game, but it is also compatible with the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, so we can enjoy practically all the games released for this console.

VisualBoyAdvance

Its features include the ability to import and export saved games from other emulators , audio and video recording in WAV and AVI format, support for screenshots and the ability to save the game at any point. To obtain the best experience during the game, it offers compatibility with a joystick and a turbo button, allowing you to fully map the controls. In addition, it has emulation of the Cable Link connection through LAN or Internet, allowing you to enjoy games in multiplayer mode.

If we want to enjoy all the games of the original Game Boy, the Game Boy color and the Advance, we can do it with VisualBoyAdvance, downloading it for free from the developer’s website .

Emulators for SEGA

For those who are passionate about SEGA consoles, we tell you which are the best emulators for both MegaDrive and the Master System and the Game Gear.

Gens, to play with the classic MegaDrive

Without a doubt, one of the best emulators for Mega Drive that we can find on the market is Gens. A simple application for SEGA’s 16-bit console capable of emulating a large number of games including Sega CD, 32X and Genesis file formats. It stands out for its small size, since it barely occupies 1 MB and despite this it is full of functions of all kinds , being available with its entire catalog both inside and outside Europe.

Gens

The emulator has tools such as the ability to save games , take screenshots while we play, use Game Genie cheats and play online in multiplayer mode with our friends. In addition, it works both in window mode, full screen and with various image rendering modes. That is why we are facing one of the most complete PC emulators that we can find for SEGA’s 16-bit console.

We can download this emulator for free from its website.

Play the Master System and Game Gear with MasterGear

We are talking about one of the most complete specific emulators for Sega consoles since it allows us to load games for their -bit consoles such as the legendary desktop Master System or the portable Game Gear. It has been running since 1996 under a version that ran on MS-DOS and its latest version dates from 2017, the date from which it is available for Windows and also for Android mobiles.

MasterGear

It is a very light program since its executable file occupies a mere 100 KB and it is tremendously easy to start up and use, since it does not have many configuration options either since we can only configure some graphic parameters. It will only be necessary to obtain the game ROMs and load them into the emulator to play the 8-bit games of our childhood again. In addition, we can play multiplayer games thanks to the use of NetPlay.

We can download MasterGear for free and enjoy our beloved Master System and Game Gear games again.

Microsoft emulators

If we are lovers of Microsoft consoles, we will be able to play our favorite original Xbox and Xbox 360 games with these emulators.

Use Cxbx-Reloaded to play with the Xbox

One of the most complete original Xbox emulators Cxbx-Reloaded, which has been designed to have a fast and smooth emulation of the games of this console, which is characterized by being one of the most difficult to emulate since advertised almost as a PC equivalent to a Pentium III of the time, although its processor was developed specifically by Intel for Microsoft. With it we can assemble the different Xbox SDKs to compile code and thus be able to access and modify the game files.

CXBX-Reloaded Emulator

Its main drawback is that it’s a complicated emulator to configure, so it’s not suitable for all users and only those with advanced knowledge will be able to play its game catalog. Despite not being very extensive, we can play some of their most popular ones such as Otogi, Jade Empire, Fable, Conker Live & Reload, Kotor, among others

We can download Cxbx-Reloaded from its project page on GitHub .

Xenia, the best emulator for Xbox 360

Xenia is an Xbox 360 emulator for Windows released in 2013 and has managed to progress steadily to this day, being able to load different types of files such as ISO, XEX and XCP. On its website it has its own compatibility list of games that it supports, offering its developers excellent support with constant updates , thus achieving debugging and correct operation for all games on the platform.

Emulador Xenia Xbox

Unlike other emulators, Xenia does not store a digital library of our games, but after opening an ISO image of one of them, it loads it and runs it immediately. As we can imagine, to be able to play them correctly on our PC, we will need quite a machine , since a 360 cannot be emulated on any computer. It is to be hoped that future versions of the emulator will improve compatibility with all the games on the platform.

We can download Xenia from its website.

Sony emulators

Sony has become a benchmark in terms of desktop consoles, although it also had portable consoles. If we want to play with them we can do it through these emulators for PC

ePSXe, the best PlayStation 1 emulator (PSX)

If we want to play PlayStation 1 games again, nothing better than opting for the ePSXe emulator, which offers wide compatibility with all the games that were released for this video console. It is a program that is simple to use and to configure, which will allow us to play the PSX games both from the discs inserted in our CD or DVD drive and through ISO images. It has the possibility of configuring plugins to offer the best performance and compatibility to the games, although we can adjust the operation of the program to whatever we want.

ePSXe

The emulator allows us to configure the game, video and audio controls and even save games since it has a memory card simulator. Of course, in order to configure it correctly , the BIOS files of a console that does not include the program are necessary . Despite the fact that it has not been updated since 2016, it is one of the best options that we can choose.

We can download ePSXe from the developer’s website .

Play PlayStation 2 (PS2) again with PCSX2

We are talking about one of the emulators that has been working for the longest time and that is giving the best results to play the classic PS2 games. In order to work, it will be necessary to load the BIOS of a PS2 that we must search for and download by ourselves since for legal reasons it cannot be included. Once we have it, from it we can load the game.

PCSX2 - Jugar Burnout

Among its advantages, it has the possibility of customizing the resolution up to 4096×4096 pixels . It also has an Anti Aliasing system and texture filters for better game quality. Within the PCSX2 options we will find an infinity of parameters that we can customize. With them we can adjust the operation of the CPU, graphics, sound, customize the plugins. It also allows you to save games by simulating the use of a memory-card and supports compatibility with all kinds of controls, as well as the use of the keyboard and mouse.

We can download PCSX2 for free from its official website.

RPCS3, to enjoy the PlayStation 3 (PS3)

When it comes to talking about the best emulators for PC to play PS3, without a doubt we should mention RPCS3, an open source emulator written in C++, which is characterized by being one of the options that has the highest compatibility index with games of this console. On its official website, we can see all the compatible titles, differentiating between those that work without problems, which ones may contain errors and which ones cannot be emulated.

RPCS3

Its configuration process is not complicated and we will be able to customize both the graphic options and the controls, as well as the command that we want to use or opt for the mouse and the keyboard. Depending on the power of our computer, we can choose the graphic quality and resolution that best suits us, allowing many titles to be played at 4K and 60 FPS smoothly. In addition, it has filters to improve its finishes. Therefore, we are facing the most comfortable solution to be able to play our PlayStation 3 games from our PC

We can download this emulator for free from its official website.

Orbital, the most advanced option to emulate the PlayStation (PS4)

We are talking about the first emulator that emerged for PS4 through the virtualization of different firmware versions of the console such as 4.55 and 5.0, in a way that allows access to the XMB of the console and to be able to load certain games. At the moment it is still under constant development and its use is especially focused on the most advanced users, since it will be necessary to complicate each of the parts of a binary such as the BIOS, QEMU and GRUB, as well as extract the keys from our own console.

Orbital PS4 Emulator

That is why it will be necessary to have the necessary knowledge to be able to play PS4 on our computer, in addition to having a powerful team with which to play certain games. We can download it for free from its repository on GitHub.

PPSSPP, the most complete emulator for PSP

It is undoubtedly the best known PSP emulator and it is capable of producing almost the complete catalog of Sony’s portable console on our computer and in HD quality . It is a free and open source program capable of offering us the best experience during its use, since it has different configuration options, such as the possibility of forcing filters, activating VSync and anisotropic filters, among other settings.

PPSSPP

Another of its features is its compatibility with touch screens, so we can use it comfortably on our Android mobile phone. It also allows us to save the game in save points to be able to load them whenever we want, as well as continue the saved game on our PSP on the PC. With it we can play games like Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite or GTA: Vice City, among others, with a higher graphic quality than the original console.

We can download PPSSPP for free from its GitHub repository .

Vita3K the only emulator for PS Vita

It is the first functional PS Vita emulator, with which we can play some games of this portable Sony console on our computer. If it is possible to say that not all the games work, because it is still an experimental software, so we will only be able to play some commercial games together with other homemade software developed for this console.

Vita3K

It stands out for the number of options available and the similarity with the real interface offered by Sony’s PS Vita. Of course, to be able to run the games it will be necessary to have some minimum knowledge, especially considering that it is not a finished project. It is possible to see a list with all the games that are compatible and those that are not, so that we avoid wasting time on our own.

We can download the latest version of Vita3K from its official website.

other emulators

Finally, we are going to see emulators to be able to play both Atari and classic MS-DOS PC games.

Play the Atari 2600 again with Stella

Stella is a multiplatform emulator with which you can play any Atari 2600 VCS game developed under the GNU GPL license, standing out for being as simple as possible to use, so that it can be used without problems by all types of users and play legendary platform games like Space Invaders, Enduro, Keystone Kapers, PitFall that already existed more than 30 years ago.

Stella Atari

The emulator stands out for having the graphics, sound and operation similar to those of the original console, along with great compatibility with respect to its catalog of games. It has a wide list of games from which to find the desired one or use its search engine to find a more specific one more quickly. In addition, it has support for cartridges using the Atari standard in 2K and 4K formats, as well as support for the NTSC, PAL and PAL60 television standards.

We can easily download Stella from its website.

DOSBOX, the best to emulate DOS games

We are talking about a great tool that will allow us to run MS-DOS operating system software on current computers through its own command line, becoming one of the best tools to be able to play classic video games on a contemporary computer. It is a free and open source utility capable of emulating old technologies like 286 and 386 processors, as well as different video cards like CGA, VGA and EGA, SoundBlaster and Gravis Ultra sound cards, etc.

DOSBox Monkey Island

The emulator also has different operating modes to ensure that any game of the time can work without compatibility problems. The program does not have a graphical interface, so it is shown directly in a DOS window, from where we must enter the commands that we want to execute.

We can download the latest version of DOSBox for free from its website.