The 10 Best Console Emulators To Use for Retrogaming

Retrogaming has gotten big lately. You only need to look at the popularity of the world builder game and crafting game Minecraft to get a good idea of how popular this game trend is. If you’re used to highly sophisticated, cutting-edge graphics, you might be put off by the basic and almost clunky graphics of Minecraft.  

But there’s a method to this madness. Minecraft is so popular that Microsoft bought the company for a whole lot of cash. It has a huge community, and people would rather enjoy the gameplay mechanics and scalability of the game and sacrifice a little bit on the aesthetics side.  

Even though things look blocky and basic on a superficial level, many people can devote hour after hour playing Minecraft because it seems that it never runs out of possibilities and top-notch gaming experiences.  

Now, imagine the change when it comes to gaming preferences. This is why retro games are very popular. The graphics are substandard just by the look of them. They’re clunky; a lot of the gameplay is simplistic. 

From a certain perspective, you would think it’s such a step back that people wouldn’t be interested in these games. Think again. Many people are getting into retro games and that’s why it’s important to make sure you have the proper tools to ensure that your gaming rig or hardware is ready to accommodate lots of classic video game titles.  

The good news is emulators can help you quickly make the switch. This way, you don’t have to break a sweat or go out of your way to play the best games from the past. Many old games for the Playstation 1 and Super NES consoles are available for download online.  

You only need to take a subscription, and you’re good to go. You can get a wide range of emulators to accommodate the many different retro games out there. Here are just some of the emulators you might want to look at because they got the best reviews and biggest followings.  

Dolphin

This is the best emulator for GameCube and Wii. It is compatible with all versions of Windows as well as Linux and Android devices. It can emulate Wii’s motion control even without a Wiimote. You can play classics like Skyward Sword, Mario Galaxy, and it even can emulate the Nintendo wifi connection so you can play online.  

The upside to this solution is it allows you to use cheats. You can create a card path, save files, and it enables overclocking. It features anti-aliasing and graphics enhancements. It also supports other wireless controllers for GameCube devices and controllers and Wiimote (Bluetooth).  

You can even connect it to multiple gamepads. Last but not least, the Dolphin emulator can run on Android devices.  

This is a big deal because if you want an amazing mobile gaming experience, whatever emulator you’re using must run on an Android device. Android, after all, is the market leader when it comes to wireless devices like mobile phones.  

The downside to this emulator is it has technical limitations because GameCube and Wii games are very complicated and often conflicting in the earlier iterations of their systems. You also need a powerful CPU and GPU to avoid any glitches while playing.  

Finally, you also have to be careful as to the version you install. There are many unstable versions of Dolphin, so you have to go for the most stable version for a smooth experience.  

DeSmuME

If you’re looking for a DS top-notch emulator, this is it. Many people say that when it comes to Nintendo DS, the DeSmuME is hands down the very best. Grab this emulator pronto if you’re looking for top-notch performance on your Windows, Linux, or Android device.  

First, its main advantage is it enables you to feature saved states. You can also take screenshots as well as use cheats. If you’re a streamer and want to upload videos to your YouTube channel, you can do so because this emulator enables audio and video recording.  

You can also customize it for a real handheld device experience by using screen filters while playing. You can even use the microphone option. Even its screen gap can be customized. As far as hardware compatibility goes, you can use either the controller or the keyboard for hotkeys.  

You can use the cursor for gaming movement and interactions during game emulations. This is a good analogy for the DS touch screen experience. In terms of overall quality, to many critics, it offers high-quality emulation, optimized performance, and high-end graphics as far as the original design goes.  

As far as we know, it supports all commercial games for Nintendo DS. The only downside to this emulator is that it’s not available for mobile formats.  

Kega Fusion 

If you’re looking for a Sega Genesis emulator, this is it. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users. Many fans of Sega games swear by this amazing emulator. Why shouldn’t they? The main advantage it offers is it supports titles from other Sega systems from Sega 3000, Game Gear, Sega CD, SF-7000, Master System, 32X, and of course, SG-1000.  

It also offers multiple save slots. You can use cheat codes. In addition to enabling you to take screenshots, you can use netplay and customize your screens with filters. When it comes to sound, you can customize it. You can even configure your controller to a specific console.  

Despite its configurability, it’s shockingly easy to use. It’s very simple. The downside is that this project is pretty much stagnant because there are no updates available. Some users complain that it’s on the slow side.  

MAME Emulator 

If you love arcade games, you know that it’s quite a leap from the arcade experience to a PC. Worry no more. If you’re looking for the best emulator for arcade games, there is always MAME. This is your main option if you’re using Mac OS, Windows, and Linux on your personal computer.  

It offers a simple graphic interface, and its documentation is written in plain English. You can extract MAME into a specific folder, download the ROMs you want to play, and you’re good to go.  

Why use MAME? The main advantage of this emulator is that it enables you to play games from different systems. I’m talking about classic brands like Capcom, Namco, Neo Geo, Sega Arcade systems, or even games from much older consoles and PC games.  

This emulator also has a safe ROM download feature. In other words, you don’t have to worry about ROMs being contaminated with spyware or other nasty stuff.  

The downside of this emulator is that you have to have some sort of technical know-how even though it’s fairly simple to use. If you’re clueless about using a computer besides turning the system on and off, you might have a problem with this emulator.  

Many think it’s clunky and confusing. Finally, and this is a deal-killer for many, not all ROMs will play smoothly on this system. Maybe you can play up to a certain point while other available ROM titles won’t play at all.  

Mednafen

If you’re looking for a PS1 or Sega Saturn emulator, try this product. It’s made for the Windows and Linux operating systems and can be used on multiple programs or systems running at the same time.  

Its main advantage is that it emulates Nintendo Playstation games, TurboGrafx-16, PC engine games, and Sega Saturn supported titles. Accordingly, it can support a wide range of titles for Gameboy Advance, Sega Genesis, Super NES, Neo Geo Pocket, and NES.  

What kind of features does it bring to the table? It allows saving states in games; you can use the rewind option and the screen filters. You can even access cheat codes that you can use with this emulator.  

On top of all of that, you can take screenshots and record video and audio. If you prefer to play with hotkeys, there’s an option for remapping keys. It also supports controller connectivity and offers netplay. If you need any kind of help, documentation is readily available online.  

The Downside of This Emulator 

Sadly, this is going to be a non-starter for you if you’re not a techie or willing to learn the basics of reading online software documentation. First of all, there’s no graphical interface. It is not user-friendly at all because you have to do your research and follow instructions.  

Many people stop at the lack of a graphics user interface. For many players, this is too much of a hassle when weighed against the benefits you would get and given that there are many options out there.  

Still, for people who use emulators a lot, this is one of their top choices. If you know what you’re doing, this offers the power to get the emulation experience you’re looking for.  

Mesen

Voted by many veteran emulator users as the best emulator for NES systems, this software is available on the Linux and Windows operating systems. You can use it to play games from the old Nintendo Entertainment System.  

The main advantage it brings to the table is that it supports Famicom Disk System. It also has a VS system and features Dendy. What does it lead to? Well, you have a system that has a built-in video and audio recording.  

You can take screenshots, do debugging on the fly. It also supports netplay, and yes, you can rewind. This ensures the kind of enhanced gameplay that you need to play retro games. Just how awesome is this package? You can use palette filters as well as overclocking features.  

You can even customize your video and sound. Finally, you can replace texture to ensure the best graphics on your device. Documentation is readily available online for you to figure all this out.  

The downside? Well, as you already know, given the tremendous amount of customization that you can do, it’s not very user-friendly.  

OpenEmu

If you’re playing retro games on the Mac, this is hands down the best emulator for that OS. It is a multi-system emulator and packs the kinds of advantages that you would expect a Mac user to look for.  

First of all, it has a user-friendly interface. It doesn’t have any compatibility issues within its system; it’s fairly easy to set up and works with a wide range of gaming systems. How wide? Well, let’s start with the granddaddy of them all, Atari games, and work from there.  

It handles DS, GameCube, NES, N64, PS1, PSP, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Sega Genesis, and Super NES. How’s that for a list? It also features a huge library of retro games along with homebrew games.  

On top of all of that, you can also save your game states. It can take screenshots, figure controllers, and add filters. The downside? This product is exclusive to the Mac OS.  

PCSX2

If you’re looking for a PS2 PC game emulator, try this product. It works on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux operating systems. This uses a plug-in architecture and requires some configuration.  

What do you get? It can play PS2 ROM files and work on game disks from computers’ disk drives. It allows saved states; takes screenshots. It has HD video recording capabilities. You can even turn on the debugger option.  

You can also map memory cards and connect controllers via a plug-in, keyboard, or mouse.  

The downside? As you can tell from the features, this emulator is hard to set up. You can get confused, and it burns up your resources. We’re talking about a huge memory uptake for a fairly large ROM. 

If you’re not doing anything else, you may be able to use this because it’s hardware intensive. How much resources does this take up? Let’s put it this way; you will need a lot of CPU and GPU power for this emulator.  

PPSSPP

This emulator has been voted as one of the best for the PSP. Available for the Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android systems, it’s completely free and has a gold program for developer support.  

The upside? It offers a customizable game library. It allows you to download homebrewed games directly to your system. You can have many input options for your mouse and touch screen control capabilities.  

It ensures that when you’re playing the game, you’re in maximum control. You’re not at the mercy of the software because it can accommodate a wide range of hardware inputs. On top of that, you get a long list of benefits that you get from other emulators, like audio and video recording.  

This is a big deal if you have a YouTube channel or you make money on YouTube. Being able to record audio and video as you play enables you to create content fairly easily. You can easily save your game states, take screenshots which are helpful for game bloggers.  

When it comes to cheat codes, you don’t have to worry about anything because this feature is fully supported. You can use screen filters to maximize the quality of your gaming experience. Among console emulators, this product offers vsync and upscaling of frame skip options.  

Compared to other console emulators, the downside of this product is that it suffers quite a bit of stuttering. Things may be going smoothly, then they start to slow down, freeze up a bit, then go back to normal, and the process repeats again and again. There are also reports of frame drops. 

Mupen64plus

When it comes to emulators for the Nintendo 64 for N64 system, this has been voted one of the best. You can use this software on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android systems. Just like with other emulators, it allows you to save your game states.  

It also supports keyboard shortcuts ensuring multiple system use. When it comes to vlogging or saving gameplay screenshots, you can easily do that with this software. What about cheats? This software is so robust that it has built-in cheats for whatever game you’re playing. Imagine that. 

It also supports online play. As far as graphics enhancements go, it has you fully covered because it features anti-aliasing and vsync.  

There is no need for complex commands to set it up. You don’t have to be a computing genius or software engineer. Everything is straightforward. You also don’t need any kind of interface plug-ins.  

Finally, the ROMs are not stored in the GUI, which is very important for maximum portability and scalability.  

The only downside to this offering is its graphics glitches depending on the game you’re playing. If you’re unlucky enough to play a game that’s known to glitch with this software, there’s not much you can do because this is already the best software out there for Nintendo 64.