Emulators are powerful tools that allow users to run software designed for one system on another system, its allows you to install and play Android Games and Apps on your Windows PC. In the context of gaming, emulators can be used to play classic games on modern devices, preserving the legacy of gaming history and enabling new generations to experience the joys of retro gaming. In this article, we will explain how emulators work, why they matter, and how to use them safely and legally.
What are Emulators and How Do They Work?
Emulators are software programs that mimic the behavior of another hardware or software platform. By doing so, they can run software designed for that platform on another platform that is not compatible with the original software. For example, a Super Nintendo emulator can run Super Nintendo games on a PC or a smartphone, even though those devices were not designed to run Super Nintendo games natively.
To achieve this emulation, the emulator needs to simulate the behavior of the original hardware, including the CPU, the memory, the input/output devices, and the graphics and sound processors. This requires a high level of accuracy and efficiency, as well as knowledge of the internal workings of the original system. Emulators can be written in different programming languages and run on different operating systems, depending on their design goals and user preferences.
Which emulator do I need?
Before looking into how to use an emulator, you need to find out which emulator you need. There are two things to factor in here, which will determine the emulator you need to download:
- the platform which you will be using to run the emulator and to play the emulated game on (i.e. the host platform)
- the platform the game was originally released on (i.e. the platform you are trying to emulate or the guest platform)
We have created a list of popular emulators which you can browse at the bottom of this page.
Why Do Emulators Matter?
Emulators matter for several reasons:
- Preservation: Emulators allow users to preserve the software and hardware of older systems, which may no longer be available or supported by the original manufacturers. This is especially important for gaming history, as many classic games are no longer sold or supported, and the original consoles may be hard to find or expensive to maintain.
- Accessibility: Emulators make it possible for new generations of gamers to enjoy classic games without having to own or use the original hardware. This can broaden the appeal and cultural significance of retro gaming, and create new opportunities for game developers and publishers.
- Innovation: Emulators can be used as a platform for innovation and experimentation, as developers can create new tools, mods, and enhancements that would not be possible on the original hardware. This can lead to new game genres, styles, and experiences that enrich the gaming ecosystem as a whole.
- Education: Emulators can be used as a tool for education and research, as they allow users to study the internal workings of computer systems and software, and to experiment with different configurations and settings. This can help students and researchers to understand the principles of computer science and engineering, and to apply them in practical and creative ways.
How to Use Emulators Safely and Legally?
There are hundreds of emulators which can be downloaded and each emulator has its own set of instructions for use. Generally speaking, an emulator requires you to load up pre-downloaded files through its system. In gaming, these files are usually ROMs or ISOs of the games released on their original platform.
This allows the emulator to run these files in the same way as the original platform would run them, and display the games on your system roughly in the same way as they would be displayed on their original systems.
Each emulator also has its own set of controls which it has pre-programmed to be used on the host system. For example, when emulating old PlayStation games on PC, the L2/R2 buttons on the PlayStation controller would be mapped out to a certain key on your keyboard for example F1 and F2.
Are emulators legal?
Emulators in of themselves are not illegal. They are often user-created software that can be of significant educational value. However, what you choose to run using the emulators can be illegal.
For example, there are games that could still be sold on certain platforms – downloading a copy of these games and running them through an emulator is a form of copyright infringement.
The exception to this is cases where the game(s) are no longer being sold by the game developers or publishers. This is considered abandonware and legally is a gray area. You can read more about this debate on our FAQs page.
Where can I download emulators?
To help you find a suitable emulator, we have created lists of popular emulators available on different platforms. To find the emulator you need, choose the platform which you will be using to run the emulator (i.e your host platform):