Emulators are software or hardware products that enable people to play console video games on their PCs.
To “emulate” means to copy. This is precisely what happens with emulator gaming.
When you install emulator software, your PC copies the environment and internal processes that would enable it to play games that you could normally only play on a console.
Which game console platforms can you play on your PC through emulator gaming?
Take your pick from Nintendo to Sega to PlayStation or Xbox. Emulator software enables you to play the very best console titles on your desktop or laptop PC.
When Did Emulator Gaming Take Off?
Video game emulators became popular in the 1990s. This was around the time when a lot of the earlier generations of video gaming consoles like Atari and Nintendo systems became obsolete.
A lot of people who played game titles on those older gaming systems became nostalgic, and this created a market for people who missed the gameplay as well as the visuals of the earlier generation of games.
Make no mistake. In the 1990s, there was another wave of video game console hardware. It never really went away.
What happened was the technology changed and with it. A lot of older games with clunkier or outdated graphics simply were not supported anymore.
These were still quite popular, and this opened a market for software developers that could bridge a PC hardware infrastructure and the software platforms of these older games.
What Makes Video Game Emulators Different?
Emulator gaming is quite different from standard console software they come with added features. Not only does emulator gaming support cheats, but you can also take screenshots. Even better, you could save game states.
These are usually not supported by traditional video game consoles. On top of that, you can also play homebrew games. These are independently developed games that were never really commercially released. Also, they can be modifications of popular video game titles.
It’s All About Nostalgic and Retro Games
Gamers prefer to play older titles on their PC for a wide variety of reasons. But, generally speaking, this all boils down to nostalgia and the chance to finally play a very hot game back in the day.
For whatever reason, in many cases, a lot of it has to do with the expense. PC players didn’t want to play these games when they were first available on consoles.
Now that they are available as retro games, emulator gaming has enabled them to play these titles for close to free. In fact, in many cases, a lot of these titles are available via free downloads.
The Limits of Emulator Gaming
One key drawback to emulator gaming is that you can’t just download the software straight to your PC. Emulators need a ROM file for the original game.
This can usually be obtained by special hardware to download data from a computer cartridge. Other consoles like the PlayStation download an ISO image with an optical drive.
Programmers then modify the ROM files to change the language which will enable players to use their PC to play software that normally is hardcoded for video game consoles.
How Emulator Gaming Works
An emulator software creates an artificial hardware environment.
For example, if you downloaded a Nintendo ROM file, your computer pretends that it is a Nintendo console so that the software will run “on original hardware.”
It is all, of course, a simulation. Your PC emulates the original hardware environment that the ROM was originally designed for.
This seems pretty straightforward, but there are actually two types of emulation software.
1. Low-Level Emulation Gaming
Low-level emulators will attempt to copy the same environment present in the original hardware.
Don’t let the term “low-level” fool you. This approach is more intensive and requires more hardware processing power because of the accuracy needed by the system. Otherwise, there’s going to be glitches in running the game ROM.
2. High-Level Emulation Gaming
The other alternative is high-level emulation.
This type of emulation gaming involves software that doesn’t actually copy the same environment. It just emulates hardware functions. This makes for a faster emulation and can cover a lot more games.
The downside is that it’s less accurate although it more than compensates for this drawback by being less resource-intensive.
Things to Think About Before Getting into Emulator Gaming
There are lots of websites out there that claim to have all sorts of emulators as well as video game ROM files. The vast majority of them are legit, but there is quite a number that pack viruses, spyware, or other forms of malware into the software packages they distribute.
It’s really important to make sure that you download only from trusted sources. Do your research before installing anything. Whenever you are installing untrusted or new software, make sure your antivirus package is fully installed and updated.
Also, keep in mind that there are maybe legal consequences here because you are technically using pirated software. The emulator package itself may not land you in legal hot water, but the ROMs that you’re loading can definitely be problematic.
What Are the Best Emulator Gaming Packages out There?
•For the NES emulator, try FCEUX or Mesen.
•For the best Master System emulators, try MAME or higan.
•If you want to emulate Genesis or SNES systems, try Kega Fusion or higan.
•For the very best in PS1 and Nintendo 64 emulators, try ePSXe as well as Project64.
•Finally, for PlayStation 2, try the PCSX2 emulator.
Emulator gaming is a whole lot of fun-if you’re into retro console games. Please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a completely perfect emulation solution. Since you’re using your PC to ‘emulate’ the original hardware processing of the game ROMs you are playing, you’re bound to run into some challenges. The only ‘workaround’ that will work every single time to deliver smooth and seamless gameplay is to actually buy the actual original consoles for the retro titles you’d like to play. Still, given just how much of a hassle this is, emulation software is the best solution out there for retro gamers.