Who doesn’t love playing their favorite games from when they were younger? Retro gaming with emulators is great because it opens up all of your old favorites in one convenient place: your PC. If you’re on Linux, emulators are just as accessible and easy to use as they would be anywhere else.
These five open-source gaming emulators for Linux open up thousands of classic games from a load of popular platforms, and they’re all easy to use. Many can even be loaded on a Raspberry Pi to make a compact and portable console.
MAME used to stand for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, but now it’s just MAME. Obviously, the original goal of MAME was to emulate classic arcade machines. Now it covers more than just that, but the arcade is still its strong suit.
MAME emulates popular arcade cabinets as well as classic computing systems like the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, and even early Apple computers.
MAME itself has a fairly minimal graphical interface, so it’s best to use it with something like MESS that uses MAME as a backend but provides a much more robust graphical experience.
DOSBox is a DOS emulator. You might not think of DOS when you think about gaming, but DOS is home to some real classics.
DOSBox isn’t a full implementation of MS DOS, but it will play just about any DOS game that you can think of. You can actually get a ton of them for free at My Abandonware. My Abandonware hosts games that developers have abandoned. Because of that, all of the games are freely available.
Do you like old Nintendo games? You’ll love Higan. Higan started out as a Super Nintendo emulator called bsnes, but it’s grown to support NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance.
Higan has its own graphical interface, so you don’t have to worry about finding a front end for it. It’s nothing super fancy, but it’s easy to use and works. Higan is more of an old-school emulator, so it’s basic, but you can just add ROMs and go.
It’s kind of hard to think of Playstation as a retro console, but it was released over twenty years ago. PCSX-R is currently one of the best options for playing PS1 games on a PC.
The project is still active but very slow. It doesn’t need to evolve much, though; it already works well with most games. If you are looking for newer graphical improvements, there is a patched version, PCSXR-PGXP, that brings improvements to model geometry.
Mupen64Plus is a N64 emulator that’s been in active development for a while. It has an optional graphical interface or can be used from the command line.
Mupen64Plus relies on plugins but ships with everything that you need. It uses OpenGL by default and includes support for high-resolution textures.
Mupen64Plus has several great N64-specific features like rumble pack support and the ability to play both 32- and 64-bit games. It even has a built-in gameshark for cheat codes.
All of these are great emulators. They are open-source projects and are subject to change, so make sure that they’re still up to date when you come across this article.
Many of these emulators are actually available directly in distribution repositories. Ubuntu has all of them.
Keep in mind that even though emulators are legal in most places, ROMs may not be, depending on how you acquire them. The best way to be sure is to back up your own games, if you can.
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