How to Play Your Favorite Retro Games on Modern Devices (2021)

By Joey Leave a Comment

Playing retro games is a great blast to the past, and lets you enjoy a time when game developers had an entirely different set of challenges. Many retro games were insanely difficult, requiring trigger reflexes and perfect pattern memory to get through stages. CPU opponents were intentionally designed to cheat, like a game industry conspiracy to get gamers to throw as many controllers as possible.

How to Play Your Favorite Retro Games on Modern Devices

But aside from the rage-inducing racers (hi, Mario Kart), the retro consoles had some of the best RPGs as well, with memorable classics like Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy that created franchises today. In this article, we’re going to show you several ways you can play your favorite retro games on modern devices.

Console emulators

For playing classic console games on PC or mobile, you need an emulator app. The availability of emulators varies by console and device it will be emulated on. Some of the most popular emulators by console include:

  • SNES: Snes9x, ZSNES, John NESS
  • Sega Genesis: Kega Fusion, Genesis Plus, Gens
  • N64: Project64, Mupen64
  • PSX: ePSXe, PCSX Reloaded, Zebra
  • Dreamcast: Redream, Flycast, NullDC
  • Arcade: MAME

Emulators for more modern consoles like the PS3 exist, but aren’t quite “retro” yet for this article.

Emulators fall into a legal grey area, so it’s best to first understand the laws regarding them. Downloading emulator software itself seems to be legal, but downloading copies of games you don’t own would be illegal. While true that it’s incredibly easy to find retro console games for download, these websites are often in a game of whack-a-mole with companies like Nintendo, springing up anonymously and changing host providers.

Web remakes

Instead of downloading an emulator, there are websites that serve up browser-based remakes of popular retro games, or offer browser-based emulation with the game files hosted on their site. For websites that offer exact copies of console classics in a browser emulator, it’s difficult to say exactly how they remain online. PlayEmulator, for example, states in their ToS that you must “Own the license for any game you play”, so scout’s honour is the code!

Other websites like CrazyGames serve up HTML5, iO, and WebGL games, which some titles may be retro-influenced. Slither.io for example is like a modern version of Snake, with multiplayer. Games like Smash Karts feel like classic Diddy Kong Racing, while 10×10 is a unique twist on the Tetris concept.

Build a retro computer

A lot of the classic PC games from the Windows 98 era require all sorts of jankery to get working on modern Windows 10. In many cases you find yourself downloading all sorts of compatibility patches, old drivers, and graphics wrappers to emulate old graphics cards.

All of this can be a headache and you’ll still run into game-specific issues without solutions. You could try your luck with a VirtualBox running a Windows 98 install, but that’s a headache too. In fact, your best bet is just building a retro gaming computer, which is actually a really cool project.

For the most part, you’ll be checking auction sites like Ebay, as retail giants like Amazon don’t typically carry Geforce2/3/4 Ultras from 2002. Some hardware can also be considered collectibles now, like a Geforce4 Ti 4200 for $250 on eBay.

Still it’s worth it, as the Windows 9x games will just run natively on the hardware. I mean yeah, owning retro consoles is cool, but those are a dime a dozen. Building a retro gaming computer is totally PC master race.

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