How to Play Classic Console Games in Linux

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you grew up with classic video game consoles like the NES and Sega Genesis. For years Windows users have been enjoying high quality game emulation software, but many of the Linux options have been buggy or incomplete. It’s time to take a look at where things stand when it comes to playing console games in Linux. Here at MakeTechEasier, we’ve touched on console game emulation here and there, but never done a guide covering multiple systems. Today, we’ll show you how to run games for NES, SNES, Genesis, original Playstation, and Dreamcast.

Before we begin, it’s important to note one thing right up front – many console manufacturers do not look kindly on emulation, and some emulators require proprietary software (like the game system BIOS) in order to run. Because of the legal grey area occupied by some of this software, there may be some files or programs for which MTE cannot provide links, such as the actual game files (commonly called ROMS).

NES – GFCEU

We’ll begin with the system that brought video games into many of our homes for the first time, the Nintendo Entertainment System. NES emulators are often the easiest to find, install, and run. In my searching for quality NES emulators for Linux, I’ve found GFCEU to be my favorite.

emu-gfceu

Installation – It’s available in the standard Ubuntu repositories, so it can be installed easily with apt-get/aptitude/Synaptic, or with the command below:

sudo apt-get install gfceu

It is a graphical frontend for the console-based NES emulator FCEU, so if your distro does not have GFCEU in the standard repositories, look for FCEU to get the same capability.

SNES – SNES9Express

We’ve covered the ZSNES emulator before, so this time we’ll check out my personal favorite, SNES9Express. Like GFCEU above, this is a graphical frontend to a console emulator, in this case SNES9X.

emu-snesexpress

Installation - Like the NES emulators above, both the graphical frontend (SNES9Express) and the emulator itself (SNES9X) are available in Ubuntu’s repositories, so they can be installed easily with apt-get/aptitude/Synaptic like most other software.

Genesis – Gens/GS

Gens/GS is a fork of the popular Gens Genesis emulator. Its goal is to combine the various forks of Gens into one clean, functional program. It can support a wide variety of games and runs on both Linux and Windows, but unfortunately does not (yet) fully support 64 bit processors.

emu-GensGS
Image by SonicRetro

Installation - You can download Gens/GS for Ubuntu (32 bit only) and Windows here.

Playstation – pSX

Since we’ve covered pSX in detail before in this article, I wont go into a lot of detail here. pSX allows you to play many original Playstation games from your Linux PC. It does, however, have the same drawback as Gens/GS in that it does not currently support 64 bit environments.

emu-GensGS

Installation - covered in detail here.

Dreamcast – LXDream

Running Dreamcast games on PC requires a fairly fast machine. My Core 2 Duo with Intel graphics wasn’t quite up to the task, so LXDream only gets about 20% native speed for me. On the plus side, 64 bit CPUs are fully supported. You will need the Dreamcast system BIOS to run any games, and that’s one of those files you’ll have to find on your own.

emu-lxdream

The only problem I had with LXDream was that it didn’t have any controls configured by default. Fortunately, setting up the keyboard is as simple as opening Settings > Controllers and choosing Properties on Sega Controller section.

Installation - Source and binaries for Mac OSX and Linux can be found here. The Debian package installed perfectly on my Ubuntu desktop.

If you know any other high quality console game emulators for Linux, let us know in the comments.