Emulation refers to the duplication of functions of one system using a different system. Specifically, an emulator is software specifically written to emulate aspects of the original console or computer, primarily the CPU, I/O and memory system.
This article selects the best free and open source software to emulate classic video consoles, such as the Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, Sega Mega Drive, Sony PlayStation 2, Sony PlayStation 3, and many others.
We’ve rated all of the emulators featured in this article. Take note that some of the video consoles are much harder to emulate than others. The scores don’t take that factor into account and therefore shouldn’t therefore be used as a comparative measure. Instead, we simply score each emulator on their own merits taking into account things like their accuracy, performance, features, and compatibility.
To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 21 high quality Linux video console game emulators. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wishes to have some fun and reminisce about their misspent youth.
We’ve included RetroArch, it’s an excellent frontend for many emulators. Other frontends are available such as BizHawk and OpenEmu.
Now, let’s explore the 21 emulators at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, providing a screenshot of the emulator in action, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.
|Video Console Emulators|
|Mesen||Cycle-accurate NES and Famicom emulator|
|Nestopia UE||Fork of Nestopia, an NES/Famicom emulator|
|higan||Nintendo multi-system emulator: SNES, and Game Boy Advance|
|Mupen64Plus||Plugin-based Nintendo 64 emulator|
|Dolphin||Nintendo video game consoles: the GameCube and the Wii.|
|SameBoy||Game Boy and Game Boy Color emulator|
|mGBA||Game Boy Advance emulator|
|DeSMuMe||Nintendo DS emulator that aims to be portable|
|Citra||Work-in-progress Nintendo 3DS emulator|
|PCSX2||Plugin-based PlayStation 2 emulator|
|RPCS3||Experimental Sony PlayStation 3 emulator and debugger|
|PPSSPP||Fast and portable PSP emulator with good compatibility|
|Genesis Plus GX||Sega 8/16 bit emulator focused on accuracy and portability|
|Yabause||Emulator for the Sega Saturn|
|Reicast||Dreamcast emulator derived from the nullDC codebase|
|Stella||Multi-platform Atari 2600 Video Computer System|
|Atari800||Atari 8-bit computer systems and 5200 game console emulator|
|RetroArch||Polished frontend for emulators, game engines and media players|
|MAME||Recreates the hardware of arcade game systems|
|AdvanceMAME||Port of the MAME 0.106 and MESS 0.106 emulators|
|Mednafen||Emulates GameBoy (Color), GameBoy Advance, and other systems|
Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk. There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.