The Complete Guide to PlayStation Emulation on Ubuntu


The original Playstation was undoubtedly a great game console. It was the first console to bring disk-based games to the mainstream, and it was home to a whole host of now classic games, spawning more than a few legendary franchises.

The day of the PS1 has long passed, but the games are still great, and the options to play them now are unfortunately limited. However, there is hope with emulators. For Linux systems like Ubuntu, one of the best emulators is PCSXR, and it’s available right from the default Ubuntu repositories.

PCSXR is a reboot of a classic PS1 emulator, PCSX, which was abandoned. PCSXR is very easy to use, and it has a lot of great controls to make playing your games an enjoyable experience.

Install PCSXR

Since PCSXR is in the default repositories, just install it with Apt.

sudo apt install pcsxr

Yes, it’s really that simple.

PCSXR Options

Launch PCSXR

Open PCSXR. Depending on your desktop environment, it’ll be listed under the “Games” section of your launcher, or you can just search for it in GNOME.

PCSXR On Ubuntu

There’s not a whole lot going on when you first open the emulator. There really doesn’t have to be, though. Click on the memory card icon first.

PCSXR Memory Cards

A new window will pop up with two columns. Those columns list potential save blocks on two virtual memory cards. Below each row there’s a button to change the location of your virtual memory card. You can keep making them, so you’re probably never going to run out of space to save your games.

PCSXR Graphics

Head back to the main window. Click on the monitor icon this time. That’ll open your graphical options. There’s not a lot that you need to do here, but you can change the emulator’s screen size, which is really nice because the default screen is really small.

PCSXR Controller Options

There are also sound and controller options there. You can have a look around there too. The controller is just a simple table, so it’s not hard to set up the controller of your choosing to work with PCSXR.

Getting Games

You have a couple of options when it comes to getting games. Ideally, you have your own games, and you can actually just insert them into your computer’s disk drive and run them from PCSXR. The first icon in the menu is for just that. It’s kind of a pain to use physical CDs all the time though, and not every computer today has a disk drive.

You can, however, make copies of your games for continued use. If you have an available disk drive (USB or internal) and the physical games, you can load the CD images onto your computer and use them whenever you choose. It’s very easy on Ubuntu.

Insert a disk into the drive. Then, copy the image to a designated location with enough space. Just be careful doing this, and be sure to specify an output file name. The dd utility can easily wipe a hard drive clean if you’re not paying attention.

sudo dd if=/dev/sr0 of=/path/to/game.iso

PCSXR can use the resulting ISO file.

When all else fails, you can find and download ROMs online. Downloading ROMs is a nasty legal gray area though, so be sure you know the laws in your area. In a lot of cases, downloading a digital copy of a game you already own is considered okay, but still check to be sure. Also, be cautious of your download sources. There’s a lot of malware out there tied to shady download sites that provide ROMs.

Playing a Game

PCSXR Running Valkyrie Profile

Playing games with PCSXR is very easy. Assuming you have a game image, either one you ripped yourself or from a download, you can click the second icon from the left on the top menu of PCSXR. It looks like a little Playstation. That’ll open a window that lets you browse to your game image. When you select it, the game will open and begin playing through PCSXR.

Control your game with whichever controls you set up. Of course, with PCSXR being a PC-based emulator, the keyboard will always work as a default.

You’re all set up and ready to enjoy the glory days of the original Playstation on your Ubuntu desktop. It’s a good idea to organize your game images and memory card saves someplace where you can easily find them. No one likes digging around for misplaced CDs, even if it is in digital form.

This article was first published in March 2008 and was updated in June 2018.

Nick Congleton
Nick Congleton

Nick is a freelance tech. journalist, Linux enthusiast, and a long time PC gamer.

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