Retro Gaming on OS X Yosemite

Retro Gaming on OS X Yosemite

Retro gaming is fun, but antique game consoles can be expensive! Fortunately for us, there are free emulators out there for OS X Yosemite which can run classic games.

In this article, we talk about how to set up emulators on Yosemite to play classic games. Obviously we can’t cover ALL retro gaming emulators, but we’ll look at the best which still run under Yosemite. A good rule of thumb: the older the system you are emulating, the better or faster it will run.

Atari 2600

The Atari 2600 was one of the very first home game machines you could buy, and it was pretty basic. The games are simple but playable and hugely enjoyable.

Stella emulator.

The emulator you will need to play 2600 games is Stella. One of the most interesting parts of this emulator is a spookily accurate simulation of fuzzy old TV sets for the full retro gaming experience. To turn this on, click the “Options -> Video Settings -> TV Effects” and choose “Bad Adjust.”

To set up the joystick, click “Options -> Input Settings -> Emul. Events” and scroll down to set the up, down, left, right and fire of your chosen stick.

Stella preferences.

Atari joysticks were spartan rubber affairs, but you can get an adapter and fit a real Atari joystick or rotary controller paddle, although both are quite rare now. A much cheaper option is to use the the occasionally available USB replica sticks like this one.

Sinclair Spectrum

The emulator for Mac which runs Spectrum games is called Fuse. You can configure your virtual Spectrum to be an original 48k one, 128k, and every other version in between including the Timex versions. The benefits of the later machines were good sound and faster processors.

To set up your chosen machine, choose “Preferences -> Machine” and click the Check button.

Fuse machine preferences.

To rig up your USB game controller, choose “Preferences -> Joystick -> setup” and configure the buttons and orientation of your stick.

Fuse real joystick setup.

For authenticity, try to find a Kempston joystick replica with USB. Speed link used to make one so keep an eye out for one of those on eBay. This is also a good stick for playing the Commodore 64.

Commodore 64

The current favourite Commodore emulator is VICE or Versatile Commodore Emulator featuring additional emulators for C64, Pet and VIC20. It’s quite easy to set up, but being a computer rather than a console, there are some technical things you need to know.

To load tapes, you have to type:


and you will be prompted with:


Commodore 64 screen.

Then you can use the tape controls on the interface. To load disk images, click the Load Disk Image button in the interface and locate an image to “put the disk in the drive.”

Commodore 64 control interface.

Then type:


and any “disk” in the “drive” will load.

If you have an old C64 which no longer works, you can hook the actual keyboard via USB to your Mac using this reasonably priced mod.

Nintendo NES and SNES

To emulate the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES, you need the Nestopia and SNES9x emulators. Get Nestopia here and get SNES9x here.

Nestopia screen.

Nestopia is another emulator which features great simulation of crappy TVs. Go to “Preferences -> Emulator” and check “Simulate NTSC video artifacts.” Then go to “Preferences -> Joysticks” to set all the buttons and pads of your joystick.

Nestopia preferences.

In SNES9x, you can configure the video look by going to “Preferences -> Graphics -> OpenGL TV Mode.” You can even warp the screen to imitate a CRT screen curvature.

SNES9x preferences.

The somewhat more complex SNES controllers can be configured by clicking the Config menu and going to Configure Controllers.

SNES9x configure controllers.

For the full Nintendo experience, you will need either one of these or one of these superb replica USB controllers.

Playstation One

PS1 (or PSX) is at the top end of what can be played smoothly on a Mac.

PS1 (or PSX) screen.

The best emulator to run on Yosemite is PCSXR. Unfortunately, to get things running, you will need a copy of the proprietary BIOS chips, the operating system of the console. You can get the files, called SCPH-7502 and so on, with a Google search for Playstation BIOS.

Either get a USB PS1/PS2 controller adapter like this one, or if you want to go wireless, you can actually hook up your PS3 controller to your Mac by Bluetooth:

  • Simply plug the PS3 controller into your Mac with a USB lead, go to the Bluetooth menu and “Open Bluetooth Preferences.” Press the centre PS button to wake up the controller. If charged, it should now be a discoverable device on the Mac. Pull the USB lead out and configure the controller in your emulator.

PS1 (or PSX) preferences.

Nintendo N64

Also at the top end of what’s possible on an average Mac, the emulator of choice for the N64 games for Yosemite is called Sixtyforce.

Sixtyforce N64 emulator.

To set up your USB stick, go to “Preferences -> controller preferences -> gamepad.” Of course, the N64 controller had an analogue stick and various additional buttons making it quite difficult to use a regular gamepad. You actually can’t play a few N64 games without a proper USB controller like this one, but that was half the fun of N64, quirky hard to learn controls.

N64 configure USB gamepad.

Finding Games

Whether the games were disc or cartridge or tape, the generic name for game images is ROM. To find game ROMs for all the above systems, do a Google search for “<insert console name here> ROMs” so for example “Atari 2600 ROMs” will send you in the right direction.

Watch yourself on these sites, though, because game ROM sites are fraught with browser malware and annoying pop-up advertising. Be careful what you click on. Also, looking at legal issues, downloading and playing games that you don’t own is illegal.

So what are you favourite retro game machines? Are you looking for a specific emulator not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below, and perhaps shortly we’ll compile them into a new feature.

Phil South
Phil South

Phil South has been writing about tech subjects for over 30 years. Starting out with Your Sinclair magazine in the 80s, and then MacUser and Computer Shopper. He's designed user interfaces for groundbreaking music software, been the technical editor on film making and visual effects books for Elsevier, and helped create the MTE YouTube Channel. He lives and works in South Wales, UK.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox