Emulation - when does it work for you?

Interesting to hear people's thoughts on emulation.

I know a lot of people if given the choice would prefer to play games on the original hardware, but is there any time where you would prefer emulation? For example, PS2 emulation on PC ([PCSX2](https://pcsx2.net/)) is pretty excellent and can make games look way better than if they were played on hardware. It's almost hard to go back.

With older stuff, I prefer to play them on a handheld rather than a console. The RG350 has made this really handy for me.

Even phone emulators are handy in some cases. In that recent Nintendo Game Boy leak, one of the roms was from a unreleased Hello Kitty Game Boy Camera (Hello Kitty Pocket Camera). Using the [Pizza Boy Pro](https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=it.dbtecno.pizzaboypro) emulator, I can use my phones camera to emulate hardware and software that would have never been possible even with a flashcart. You can even 'print' to .jpg! The [mGBA](https://mgba.io/) emulator for PC can do this as well.


What are some other cool emulator things?

See my thread here on the MiSTer if you want near authentic emulation of old consoles/computers:


I do like having small devices for emulation I can take with me like the Raspberry Pi. Plenty of games without to much loss if something happens to it on a trip.

Playing with save states has been huge since you bypass all of the time sink BS that plagued early games.

Plus the enhancements on old consoles is pretty sweet:
-Fixed PS1 Z-buffer is pretty sweet so you don't get the wiggles:

-Overclocked SNES Super FX chip so games can run smoother:

-Some new N64 emulation stuff came out recently with a re-written Low Level Interpreter to run games almost perfectly (which has taken a long time to do). It can also use an internal scaler to make the games look nice and crisp, but still like an N64 game.

And of course just being to play games that would otherwise be forgotten or I would never be able to play. I think emulation has exclusively kept old games alive and appreciated.

A lot of times, if given the choice, I'd give an edge to playing on original hardware, but not always.

Firstly, I'm of the opinion that emulation in 2020, broadly speaking, is good, and is every bit a viable way of playing retro games as original hardware. Besides, I don't want to spend every single moment tirelessly chasing after authenticity. It was years ago that I was much more insistent on original hardware and CRTs, but after a few itinerant years and a couple of overseas moves during which a lot of my original hardware and better CRTs were lost in storage, I started focusing more on emulation rather than try to reclaim all that lost hardware.

I appreciate the portability of emulation. You can use it on such a ridiculous variety of devices, often times hardware you already own, which makes it far more accessible to people worldwide than original hardware or the more boutique FPGA consoles (excluding projects like MiSTer).

But it's also just freeing to take the 100-hour JRPG you're playing away from the bulky CRT and on the move. It's nice to be able to effortlessly use a variety of input devices on a variety of systems without needing to use an array of adapters or mods; it's an asset to be able to use my existing arcade sticks on, say, a PC Engine emulator. And while modern displays will never 100% be a substitute for CRTs, there's still plenty of options available for reducing display latency and simulating the look of one.

I'm a fan.

I‘m embarrassingly out of touch with emulation. I was into it when I was in high school, using NESticle and Genecyst and just playing with a keyboard. I eventually decided that this was just too awkward of a way to play and stopped. Nowadays I’m mostly playing old games on original hardware on a CRT, but a lot of that‘s just because it seems easier to me than trying to tweak emulator settings to try to match the original experience. I really don’t like playing things on my PC.

Nowadays, when I'm emulating, it's usually through official releases like Nintendo's Virtual Console, classic game compilations, or the mini consoles.

I don't dig too much into Emulators these days, but I like the aesthetics of OpenEmu. It made it easy to categorize all of my roms.

I've also been preferring playing emulated ports of NES/SNES games on Switch. The portability helps, but that rewind feature's let me leisurely enjoy games without having to worry too much about failing. As much as I like Rygar, I don't have the time to deal with failing a pixel perfect jump.

Emulation has always been my go-to for playing older games. This is largely because it‘s significantly easier in terms of access, especially for the hyper-obscure shit I go out of my way to play, although I can’t overlook perks like being able to take screenshots. However, I have been experimenting with softmodding recently. I‘ve already softmodded my Wii, and I’ve been looking into buying a hard drive specifically so I can do the same for my PS2. In both cases, I‘m acting on convenience more than anything, since I know these machines were designed to run the games I’m making them run.

Accuracy has never been too much of an issue to me, as I'm not the type to sweat the technical details unless they absolutely (I tolerated _Maken Shao_'s exploding meshes because I could still play the game through them) interfere with my ability to play a game.


@Nemoide#6013 I’m embarrassingly out of touch with emulation.

I'm the same way. Hell, I still have folders for Project 64, VisualBoyAdvance, and Jnes, despite no longer using any of them.

@Video_Game_King @Nemoide

I pretty much only use Retroarch. It‘s really easy to install and get going. You just pick which systems or “cores” you want to download from the UI, load it and pick your game. Most modern controllers are pre-configured and it’s easy to update everything within the UI.

Picking which version of the system can be a little daunting but some searching with words like "best retroarch core for ____" will usually yield a good suggestion.

I do use standalone PCSX2, Dolphin, Redream, PPSSPP and Citra however.

@copySave#6023 yeah. this is pretty much my setup for PC. Retroarch does take a little bit of tweeking and I'm not crazy about the UI, but getting updated cores is super easy.

Speaking personally emulation came most in handy for me to experience Chrono Trigger without the hardware. Not sure I ever would have without that and it was worth it.

Emulation has been useful to me if I wanted to go on a "Ecco the Dolphin" or "front mission" lore dive or something. I own a nomad but no cartridges.

I feel we'd be remiss to not mention the frugality of emulators. I thing this is a huge point especially when thinking about the "global south".

A lot of less fortunate people play games though emulators because that's what's free and accessible.

But that has the effect of keeping these things alive in some way?

I‘ve found that to me the most important thing is nailing the feeling of the controller in my hands so I’m absolutely fine with emulation as long as I have an exact replica of that system's controller for it. Using a DS4 to play Saturn or SNES or something feels perverse.

@ttzop#6089 I’m perfectly comfortable using the wrong gamepad so as long as it’s one I like.

I’ll use an SLS Saturn pad to play a PS1 game because I’ll take a Saturn gamepad over a PS1 gamepad in almost any situation.

I used to emulate quite a lot of games, mostly 2D oriented systems and n64. I kinda stopped now becuase all the rom sites I used to use have been emptied, and I always find the newer sites from search results pretty sketcky.

The closest emulation I do now is a soft mod ps2 which can play burnt discs. I modded it because I found the ps2 emulator had pretty awful slowdown every now and then, and setting up a ps4 controller to pc is always annoying.

I think the best emulator experience I had was a gameboy player which my friends and I installed on our phones, it was good because the phones had direcitional buttons and decent size screens. (what's the proper word for phones that aren't smart phones???). I played a lot of super mario land, pokemon crystal and ponkotsu tank on it in high school. If I remember correctly the emulator had a cool feature where you could transfer saves and possibly games between phones.

Emulation is where it's at, for me. I still have old hardware, and enjoy using it when I can, but I get less fuss with RetroArch. But my setup is built around emulation with a Raspberry Pi tucked away, and recently I just hooked my CRTs up to my secondary display port on my PC with a nice HDMI-to-Composite adapter, so now I can just press Start+P four times to output to just those, then open RetroArch. The scaling is great with little to no bleed over.

It might not be accurate, but it's faster, less fussy, and I don't have to worry about things like floppy drives breaking down and whatnot. Sticking with RetroArch for most things, and using separate emulators for more options with others, like PCSX2 for PS2, the stand alone versions of emulators for PC88 and 98 games, Dolphin for GC/Wii, has been pretty convenient. Wii specifically gets a nice glow-up for a lot of games in emulation.

Emulation in general has always had me in its grip when I first tried it on I think an Intellivision emulator that was on a MacAddict shareware disc? Eventually my father would get Connectix Virtual PC for his Power Mac. From there I could play a Windows copy of Sonic CD, and eventually find Genecyst to relive my time with the Sega Channel playing Gunstar Heroes, Pulseman and Sparkster. It felt like magic to me.

It's great! I also love what's happening with FPGA. It's awesome, more accurate, and fancy, but emulation is easier to get a hold of, and super flexible with less worry about putting any wear on older hardware.

Forgot to mention but the work Microsoft has done for original/360 Xbox emulation is great. Sure the list is never to be complete, but being able to play Ninja Gaiden Black and 360 NGII on the One X at higher resolutions, with smooth frame rates, and with other graphical enhancements was a huge selling point for me. Looking forward to playing them (and a bunch of other games) with interpolated HDR and even higher frame rates on the Series X.


@copySave#6133 On a related note, I remember reading an article a while back about how Sony implemented backwards compatibility into the PlayStation 2. (I‘d link to the article if Medium hadn’t made searching their articles impossible for some reason.) Looking back, it occurs to me that the business motivation in cases like these is probably ensuring your existing users have an investment in your latest project and don't jump ship somewhere else.

@Video_Game_King#6139 Is this it? Tom James does some amazing work. His twitter is a good follow.

[The Story of the PS2’s Backwards Compatibility From the Engineer Who Built It](https://medium.com/@freelansations/the-story-of-the-ps2s-backwards-compatibility-from-the-engineer-who-built-it-ec39cf5a0353)
edit: Medium links don't play nice with the forums!

@hellomrkearns#6141 The embed isn‘t showing up for me for some reason, but based on the attribution (I already follow him on Twitter), I’m pretty sure it is.

I‘ve got a really complicated relationship with emulation– on one hand, it’s let me play a bunch of games that are either practically impossible to play otherwise (I‘m thinking mostly of older arcade games… but I guess all arcade games are old now? Some arcade games are available widely, like most but not all NeoGeo games, and a handful of the same set of Namco games that constantly get reissued for new consoles) or prohibitively expensive stuff– which is to say Saturn and Dreamcast stuff that I never managed to buy when it was new. In a perfect world, all of the original publishers would exist and there would be some path to play all of their old works, but we’ve approached a point where unless there‘s a tremendous outcry for a game’s reissue or release on a new platform, or unless it‘s a Nintendo game, there’s basically no way to play a lot of games outside buying an expensive setup of old hardware and software… or emulation.

At the same time, I've found emulation to be a tremendous pain, primarily due to issues around finding roms from one or more extremely sketchy sites, getting them installed, having them not work because there's a newer, slightly superior dump that is now the one that's supported by the emulator, digging around on even sketchier sites for the newer dump, and downloading it to find that one or more files that it needs aren't included in the download, finding those files, only to find that the emulator has a new version available that breaks support for one or more other roms... anyway, I've made my point. And I should clarify, I'm not asking for advice on any of this, just explaining why I mostly don't bother with emulation anymore.

So I guess I'm saying that I like emulation in concept-- I mean, it's one of the only ways a bunch of games still exist anymore, especially for games for whom the rights holders aren't even clear anymore. It just often ends up being way more trouble than it's worth.

A couple notes. I got a lot of the rom sets in the last 10 years (from the isozone mostly) and have basically been copying them onto any new HDD I get so that I never have to go hunting for roms. I can't even imagine how unpleasant that task might be now (though CDromance seems to be okay).

I used to abhor emulation because it was so janky. This was mostly late 90s early 2000s. Or because it made you play with a substandard controller. I really came around on it come the time of the mini consoles where just the controller and playing it on a tv made things "feel" more correct. The quality of emulation is also a lot higher than it was when I was a teen.

I dunno, I recently started playing Game Gear games off my Everdrive on my screen modded GBA and its like, why would I ever bother with real Game Gear hardware at this point. This is good enough and more importantly portable enough that I am getting what I want out of it with the least amount of friction. I guess that's where it falls for me. Friction. If the emulation doesn't require endlessly futzing in menus to make the experience enjoyable, then I am perfectly fine with it. But if I'm having to tweak anything more than button remappings, I quickly lose interest.

@hellomrkearns @Video_Game_King#6139 Nice article! I think it's a double win. Existing owners get a nice upgrade if they go next gen while new owners can still buy the games even if they are almost 20 years old (at least in the case of Xbox BC).

I buy every major console and still have my original games going back to the NES, so it works nicely for me but I'm an outlier.