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.
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.Back to top
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.
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.
Project64 already comes equipped with a good video plugin. However, if you want Size: 15.3 MB - 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.Back to top
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.
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.Back to top
NintendoBack to top
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.Back to top
Game Boy Advance
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.Back to top
Game Boy ColorBack to top
Genesis, Sega CD & 32X
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.
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.Back to top
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.
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.
Contains 'mpr-17933.bin' (US/UK BIOS) and 'sega_101.bin' (JP BIOS), which are the BIOS files required by Size: 889 KB - multi-system emulators such as RetroArch and Mednafen.Back to top
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.Back to top
Game 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.Back to top
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 " duckstation-windows-x64-release.zip ".
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.
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. Size: 236 KB -*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.
This is "scph5501.bin", the BIOS file required by Size: 236 KB - 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.
If for whatever reason you need all the PS1 BIOS files, here they are. Size: 5.81 MB -*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.
To save you even more trouble, I put the best plug-ins for ePSXe in a zip file for you! :) This contains the following: Size: 1.37 MB - 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 1.4Back to top
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.
This is required in order to run games with PCSX2. Size: 12.7 MB -*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.Back to top
PSPBack to top
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.
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
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 hereBack to top
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.Back to top
Wonderswan & Wonderswan ColorBack to top
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: 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.
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. Size: 3.45 MB -*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.Back to top