PlayStation is a name that instantly takes us back to the golden age of gaming, sparking memories of classic games like Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot, and Metal Gear Solid. These games defined a generation and are still loved by many for their innovative gameplay and captivating narratives. Using a modern emulator, you can relive these timeless PlayStation 1 games on your Mac laptop or desktop.
Which PlayStation 1 Emulator for Mac Should I Choose?
When it comes to PlayStation 1 emulation, Mac users have two main options:
- DuckStation is your go-to if you're all about PlayStation 1. It's a free, open-source PlayStation emulator that's as ducky as they come. It's packed with features like upscaling, texture filtering, overclocking, and even advanced cheat code support. The best part? It's easy to set up, getting you from download to gameplay in no time.
- RetroArch, on the other hand, is a great choice if your appetite for retro video gaming extends beyond PlayStation 1. It's a cross-platform frontend for a wide array of emulators, game engines, video games, media players, and more. It's a Swiss army knife of retro gaming!
Tip: looking to play your favorite PlayStation 2 games? We have you covered with our guide on how to emulate PS2 games on a Mac.
The developers of DuckStation provide universal binaries for both x64 and ARM64 (Apple silicon), which makes installing the emulator easy:
- Visit the DuckStation releases page on GitHub, and download the "duckstation-mac-release.zip" archive.
- Extract the zip archive by double-clicking it, and optionally move the extracted app to a preferred location, such as the "Applications" folder, then launch the DuckStation app.
Configure BIOS Using DuckStation
Now that you have DuckStation installed, it needs at least one PlayStation BIOS image to function correctly. By default, the emulator will search in this location: "/Users/username/Library/Application Support/DuckStation/bios"
Ideally, you should dump the BIOS image from your own PlayStation 1 console, but it's also possible to find these files online. Just know that the legality of downloading BIOS files can be a bit murky and largely depends on where you're located. Follow these steps to let DuckStation know where your PlayStation games are stored on your Mac:
- Open DuckStation's "Settings" menu. Select the "Game List" option, then click the plus sign "+" located in the top-right corner.
- Point DuckStation to the folder where you've stored your PSX disk images, then click on "Scan For New Games," and close the "Settings" window.
- Double-click your chosen game in the list, and get ready to be transported back to the glory days of the PlayStation 1.
Good to know: whether you choose to use the UEFI or BIOS firmware interface, both have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Configure DuckStation to Work With Your Controller
If you want a more authentic experience than what your Mac's keyboard can provide, configure DuckStation to accept input from just about any Mac-compatible controller:
- Make sure your controller is connected to your Mac, then open DuckStation's "Settings" menu.
- Select the "Controllers" option, and choose "Controller Port 1" from the left pane.
- Click the "Automatic Mapping" button, and choose your controller, as shown below. In this example, we are using an Xbox One S controller to play our PS1 games.
Tip: do you also enjoy life simulation games? Discover how to play The Sims 4 on your Mac for free.
Emulating PlayStation 1 games on RetroArch requires a different approach than DuckStation, but don't worry – it's not all that complicated. The first step is getting RetroArch installed on your Mac. The most straightforward way to do that is by using Homebrew, a package manager for Mac that makes it easy to install third-party software:
- Type in the following Terminal command to install Homebrew:
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
- Type in this command to install RetroArch:
brew install --cask retroarch
- Launch RetroArch and select "Online Updater" from the main menu.
- Navigate to the "Core Downloader" section.
- Scroll through the list until you see the PlayStation 1 cores. These include Beetle PSX, Beetle PSX HW, PCSX ReARMed, and SwanStation. Select and install SwanStation.
- Return to the main menu, and select the "Load Core" option.
- Choose SwanStation from the list of installed cores.
Good to know: looking to game on your PC? You can also play PS1 games on your PC using RetroArch.
Configure BIOS Using RetroArch
Since SwanStation or the other available emulation cores don't come with BIOS files, it's up to you to add them manually. By default, the emulator will search in this location: "/Users/username/Documents/RetroArch/system"
Follow the steps below to load your favorite PSX game and start playing:
- Select the "Load Content" option in the main menu, Point RetroArch to your game, and start playing.
Tip: you can connect your PS4/PS5 to your Mac for a modern gaming experience.
Configure RetroArch to Work With Your Controller
While playing with the keyboard is an option, using a controller is always the best way to go when it comes to retro gaming on your Mac. Follow these steps to set it up:
- Connect your controller to your Mac, launch RetroArch, then head to the “Settings” menu, and select the “Input” category.
- Scroll down and select "Port 1 Controls." This corresponds to Player 1’s controller.
- Scroll down to the "Device Index" option, and select your connected controller.
- Map the buttons on your controller to correspond with the PlayStation's controls. To do this, simply click on each button entry, then press the corresponding button on your controller.
Tip: remember that not all controllers are created equal, and some may require additional steps for proper functionality if RetroArch is not working properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal to emulate PlayStation 1 games on Mac?
The legality of emulation can be complex and varies by country. In general, using an emulator like DuckStation or RetroArch on your Mac is legal. However, distributing or downloading copyrighted BIOS files or games (ROMs or ISOs) without owning the original copy is considered illegal in many jurisdictions. As always, it's best to check the laws in your area.
How well do PlayStation 1 games run on modern Macs?
Most PlayStation 1 games run exceptionally well on modern Macs. Emulators like DuckStation have made significant strides in ensuring compatibility and performance, and they also offer features such as upscaling and texture filtering to improve graphics quality.
Can I connect my old PlayStation 1 controller to my Mac?
Yes, but you'll need a USB adapter that's compatible with PlayStation 1 controllers. Once you have that, plug your controller into your Mac, then configure the emulator's settings to accept input from your controller.
How do I convert my old PlayStation 1 disks into disk images?
To convert your PlayStation 1 disks into disk images, you'll need a disk drive that can read these disks and a program capable of creating disk images from them, such as ImgBurn. (It's Windows only but works in Wine.)
Image credit: Pexels. All screenshots by David Morelo.
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