People thought that emulating the PS3 on a PC would be impossible for decades, thanks to its wholly alien architecture. And yet, the team behind the RPCS3 emulator proved nothing is impossible since today we can play games made for Sony’s Playstation 3 on our PC! Let’s take a look at how you can now play PS3 games on your PC with RPCS3.
Download and Install RPCS3
Visit RPCS3’s official site and download the emulator to your hard disk drive. RPCS3 is available for Windows and Linux. We will be setting it up in Windows, but the process is more or less the same for all supported OS.
The Windows version is available as a ZIP archive. Extract the downloaded archive. RPCS3 doesn’t need installation, so you can run it directly by double-clicking on the rpcs3.exe file.
Run the emulator, and if you wish, as it suggests in the pop-up window that appears, check out its Quickstart guide at its official site to learn how to use it.
RPCS3 periodically exchanges information with its official site, like updated compatibility data for the games it supports. If you are behind a firewall, you should grant access to RPCS3 to allow it to update its data without having to do it yourself manually.
RPCS3 emulates the PlayStation 3’s hardware but not its software. For that part of the equation, you will have to download the original firmware that you would use on an actual console to update it.
To do this, visit the official PlayStation site and click on “Help” on the top-left menu. Choose “System Software” from the options that appear.
The PlayStation site offers firmware for the whole family of consoles in the PlayStation family that are still supported. Choose “PS3.”
Scroll down the “PS3 System Software Update” page and click on “Agree and Download Now” to download the file.
Return to RPCS3. Choose “File -> Install Firmware.”
Select the firmware you’ve downloaded from PlayStation’s site and wait a while for RPCS3 to install the necessary files.
RPCS3 will inform you when the process completes successfully.
You’ll have to wait a bit more while RPCS3 pre-compiles modules which will help your games load faster.
RPCS3 supports both digitally-downloaded games in PKG files and disc-based games in either ISO or uncompressed-folder format.
Note: downloading games you don’t own is considered illegal in most countries, and we won’t touch the subject since we don’t condone piracy.
To run a game in PKG format, you need to install it by selecting “File -> install .pkg.” Soon after, it will appear in RPCS3’s game list, from where you will be able to launch it with a double-click.
You can boot disc-based games directly by selecting “Boot Game” and then choosing their ISO or folder. Disc-based games might also need installation, but unlike PKG games, it’s done through the emulated PlayStation 3’s interface.
When booting a game for the first time, RPCS3 will compile some more files it needs to run. The process can be annoying, but thankfully, it only has to be done once per game.
Next, click on “Pads” to configure the emulator’s controls. RPCS3 supports keyboard input, but it’s better if you use an actual PlayStation controller connected to your PC by choosing “DualShock 3” or “DualShock 4” from the “Handlers” pull-down menu on the top left. Xbox and other “XInput” controllers are also supported by choosing the appropriate option from the same spot.
With your controller selected, check out if it’s detected by moving the two thumbsticks while watching their input live in the two circles at the bottom right of the window. Most joypads today have the same button configuration established by the first PlayStation’s DualShock joypad, so you probably won’t have to remap anything.
Lastly, click on your game to start playing.
That’s when you may meet a second problem: each game may need some tweaks in the emulator’s settings: some don’t run well (yet), and others are fully incompatible. In our case, Demon’s Souls was displaying its graphics as shadows.
There are two ways to configure the emulator: by clicking on “Config” or using the entries in the “Configuration” menu, you set up its options globally for all games. Alternatively, you can use per-game configurations by right-clicking on an entry in the game list and choosing “Create Custom Configuration” from the menu that pops up.
You won’t have to try all available options to see if the game works. Instead, pay a visit to the RPCS3 Wiki and search for your game to find the optimal settings.
Create a custom configuration for your selected game and tweak the emulator’s settings as suggested in RPCS3 Wiki’s game entry. Then, click “Save” to make the changes permanent.
Try rerunning your game, and, if it’s compatible, in seconds you’ll start playing as if you were gaming on an actual PS3.
This Is a PC!
Today’s PCs are much more powerful than the PS3, so for compatible games, you can also enable “Anisotropic Filtering” and “Anti-Aliasing” in RPCS3’s GPU settings for smooth game graphics with increased detail. Even better, you can increase the “Resolution Scale” to a number close to your monitor’s resolution to have RPCS3 upscale the emulated game’s graphics.
Note, though, that some games may “break” when the emulator’s settings don’t closely match the capabilities of PlayStation 3’s hardware.
Upgrade Games with Patches
Newer versions of RPCS3 allow you to easily download patches for games through the emulator itself. Those patches may tweak its code to increase compatibility with some games and modernize others to take advantage of our PCs’ increased horsepower. Some fix annoyances, such as removing long and unskippable intro videos.
To use them, first visit RPCS3’s patch management window from “Manage -> Game Patches.”
Initially, RPCS3’s patch list will be empty. Click on the Download latest patches button on the bottom left of the Patch Manager window that appears.
RPCS3 will download all available patches and, after its list is populated with them, will inform you that your patch file is up to date.
You can enable “Only show owned games” on the top center of the window to filter the list to show only the games you have. Alternatively, you can locate a specific title you’re interested in by typing its name in the Filter patches field on the top left of the window.
When you find the patches for a game you want (that is, if any patches exist for it), you can expand its title and enable them by ticking the checkbox on their left.
You can enable multiple patches for multiple games and won’t have to repeat the process in the future. They’ll remain active until you disable them. Thanks to those patches, you can play some of the supported games even better than on an actual PlayStation 3.
Demon’s Souls feels much smoother and responsive on the PC with its “Unlock FPS” patch than it ever did on the PlayStation 3 locked at 30FPS.
RPCS3 has passed the phase of trying to emulate most of the actual hardware, and now its team is squashing bugs, increasing its compatibility, and optimizing its performance, with new releases almost every month.
Even if a game doesn’t work today, it’s worth trying it out again in newer versions of RPCS3 after one or two months.
If you prefer access to a myriad of games from different gaming consoles instead, you need to try RetroArch.