The video game industry has made big strides, offering more realistic games that immerse you in the gameplay.
No matter how advanced the game you play on your high-end gaming PC, sometimes you long for the good old days.
Do you ever want to play retro Arcade or Nintendo games with an emulator?
If so, you may wonder which games are the best to emulate.
20 Best Games To Play On Emulators
1. Super Mario
Walking down memory lane should start with Super Mario games on the list.
Even if you’re not a fan of retro games, you must have heard of the Mario games, also known as Super Mario and Super Mario Bros.
Initially released by Nintendo, it has many versions published since 1985.
It has 2D and 3D versions, with the latest one being Browser’s Fury.
The good news is that you can play all Super Mario games on an emulator.
You can find numerous online and downloadable emulators that allow you to play this nostalgia game on your PC, smartphone, or tablet.
Mesen is a great NES emulator that allows you to play this game.
However, since the game is available on all major Nintendo consoles, you can play it on any emulator for a specific console.
Major emulators like Dolphin also allow you to play the game on the PC.
2. Super Smash Bros
Here’s another Nintendo game that doesn’t require a Nintendo Switch to play.
This 2D side-scrolling platformer is one of the best fighting series that differs from others in style and gameplay.
In this all-star game, you can see all your favorite characters, including Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and Samus.
The gameplay objective is also different from other fighter games in that you don’t try to reduce your opponent’s life bars.
Instead, you will use different strategies to kick them off the stage.
You don’t need an NES console if you want to experience the good-old Nintendo feel.
You can play the game on Yuzu and many online emulators.
Simply download the ROM from a legal source, load it on your PC, and play it on your emulator.
3. The Legend Of Zelda
If you’re a fan of Super Mario, you’ll enjoy The Legend of Zelda, not because they’re the same, but because they have the same developers.
Since it came out in 1986, we’ve seen several versions released by different publishers, including 2D and 3D.
The Legend of Zelda is great for those who love retro games and the fantasy world.
This adventure/action/RPG game combines elements of exploration, discovery, and fighting to ultimately save Princess Zelda.
The antagonist, Ganon, kidnaps Zelda and attacks the Triforce of Wisdom, which you can save by reassembling throughout the game.
You will encounter dungeons and save puzzles to win the prizes and collect items, ultimately defeating Ganon.
Yuzu, Dolphin, Mesen, and Cemo are the major emulators offering this game.
Even if you’ve never played Pokémon, you’ve definitely heard of the game and know what it’s about: finding and catching Pokémons.
Online emulators allow you to play all versions of the game, including Pokémon Crystal, Pokémon Red, Pokémon Yellow, and Pokémon Gaia.
Project 64 – N64, Dolphin, RetroArch, and DeSmuMe are downloadable emulators that allow you to play the game on Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux.
They offer HD graphics, cheat codes, and save states, with contributors constantly adding new features, like shaders, run-ahead, and net play, to the emulators.
However, not all of them offer all the Pokémon game versions.
For example, the Dolphin Emulator only offers the Puzzle League, Pokémon 2, Battle Revolution, and Rumble.
If you want a specific version, you can search for the specific game to find its emulator.
5. Alien Hominid
If you’re into retro shooter games, like Metal Slug, Alien Hominid is for you.
It has 16 levels involving aliens coming to Earth and blasting FBI agents with ray guns.
Alien Hominid is a console game developed by Behemoth, an independent developer based in California.
You can play this award-winning classic on Xbox One and Xbox Series X and S, PS2, Gizmondo, and GameCube, in addition to emulators.
This side-scrolling shooter game was first a Flash game released in 2002, but it became so popular that the developers created a console version of the game.
It has one-player and two-player versions, giving retro lovers added visual pleasure with its hand-drawn graphics that recreate a comical art style.
You can play this game on different emulators, including Dolphin, Game Boy Advance (GBA), and Ruffle (if you want to play the flash version).
6. Star Fox
This game has been around since 1993, playable on different consoles like Nintendo Switch, SNES, Wii, and GameCube.
As one of the first Nintendo ventures into 3D gaming, these game series start with the first game featuring Fox McCloud fighting in the Lylat system to overcome the evil and wrathful emperor Andross.
It’s a sci-fi rail shooter game that involves controlling a futuristic space army to counter-attack aliens.
You fight your way to the planet Venom to smash your enemies using laser canons, spaceships, and tanks.
You can play Star Fox on Project64, an open-source emulator offering save states, high-res textures, and easy-to-use controls.
However, it’s only available for Windows.
If you want to emulate the game on Android or macOS, you can use Mupen64Plus or RetroArch, which offers net play, blind accessibility, and rewinding.
7. Halo: Combat Evolved
If you’re into AI and sci-fi, you must have played Halo: Combat Evolved on your Xbox One.
For those who haven’t, this shooter game was released in 2001 and has become one of the best video games ever.
The game story happens in the 26th century with humans colonizing outer space thanks to their slip-space, faster-than-light vehicles.
Master Chief is the main character of the game.
He’s a soldier who fights Covenant alien species to save his fellow fighters.
The game has a winning combination of graphics, challenge, and storytelling with a great FPS action game.
Although it has new versions for Windows and Mac, you can also play the Xbox version on an emulator.
You can play this game on your PC using various emulators, including x360ce, XEMU, and the CXBX emulator.
8. Donkey Kong
No retro gaming is complete without this Nintendo classic, praised as much as humongous hits like Super Mario and Pokémon.
The antagonist, who you can also see in Mario Kart, is Donkey Kong.
He kidnaps a princess, and Mario, the Jumpman, has to go through different stages in a construction site to reach Donkey Kong and save the princess.
This classic arcade game has had several entries in the franchise.
Still, the original game came out in 1981 and had different re-releases for other consoles like the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System), GameCube, and Wii.
In later versions and sequels, Donkey Kong becomes the protagonist, and Mario becomes the villain, capturing King Kong, whose son must save him.
You can play Donkey Kong on every NES emulator, such as Mesen and RetroArch.
You may know Castlevania as a TV show spanning a wide range of genres, including horror, adventure, and drama.
This TV show was inspired by the famous video game franchise of the same name, first released in 1986.
Both have been huge successes, getting high ratings from players and viewers.
In fact, Castlevania is on every list of the best video games ever, inspiring many later platformers.
Castlevania is the name of the antagonist’s castle.
Count Dracula fights the protagonist, Simon Belmont, belonging to a group of vampire hunters, the Belmont clan.
The game is full of horror-movie elements and characters, like zombies, werewolves, and monsters.
If you’re a horror movie fan, you should definitely try it.
The best NES emulators to play Castlevania on are Mesen, Nestopia, and PuNES, which give you the rewinding feature and offer the most accurate emulation.
10. God Of War
If you’re an avid gamer, you must have played the latest God of War version, God of War Ragnarök, released in 2022.
However, the first release of this franchise was in 2005 by Sony on PS2.
The game has an ancient history theme, featuring Kratos, who later becomes the God of War, as the protagonist fighting a war with other Gods.
It also has platforming elements and puzzle-solving stages.
The former God of War, Ares, tricks Kratos into killing his own family, but a new war breaks out when he tries to take revenge.
God of War is part of a successful trilogy consisting of God of War II and God of War III, shaping the history and identity of PlayStation.
Although later installments are playable on Windows and PS5, you can play the classic trilogy on an emulator.
PCSX2 is the best emulator for playing classic PS games, including GOW.
11. Wario Land 4
If you can’t get enough of platformer games, why not try this classic Nintendo game?
It involves the main character, Wario, beginning his quest in search of legendary treasure hidden inside the Golden Pyramid.
But he finds himself fighting the bosses to save Princess Shokora from the pyramid’s evil ruler, Golden Diva.
You must complete the game by going through several passages and levels to see the inner pyramid in the last level and defeat the Golden Diva.
Wario has eight hearts that he can use during the game, but he can also collect more hearts when he opens a full Health Item Box.
You need a Game Boy Advance emulator to play Wario Land 4 on your PC.
You can use DeSmuMe, KiGB, and VisualBoyAdvance for Windows and Mac devices.
12. Metal Gear Solid
And now a classic game popular among stealth game lovers.
You hide, disguise, or sneak to avoid and overcome your enemies in Metal Gear Solid, a game originally released in 1997.
Thanks to its complex storyline and immersive gameplay, it became an instant hit, making stealth games popular.
During the game, you act as a soldier, Solid Snake, who goes into a nuclear weapon facility to fight terrorists.
The terrorists have taken people as hostages and plan to launch a nuclear strike.
During his infiltration into the facility, you hide from the terrorists in “alert mode” and get out of hiding to fight the enemies in “evasion mode.”
You will encounter bosses in different levels, discover their vulnerabilities, and defeat them.
You can play Metal Gear Solid on emulators like RPCS3 and PSX.
13. Xenoblade Chronicles
Produced and released by Nintendo, Xenoblade Chronicles is a role-playing action game that was playable on Wii and released in 2010.
Still, it had a later 3D release for Nintendo Switch under Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.
The game was originally released in Japan, but it was so popular that fans requested its release in North America.
It involves the protagonist, Shulk, and his friends set out to get revenge for the attacks by Mechon on their home.
The game has 17 chapters in addition to a prologue and epilogue.
It has several other installments with different characters featured in other games.
For example, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 appears as a DLC side quest in the latest installment of the Legend of Zelda, subtitled Breath of the Wild.
The recommended emulator for playing Xenoblade Chronicles is Dolphin.
14. Spyro The Dragon
As the name suggests, Spyro is a dragon that goes on a quest to free his friends from crystal prisons in different parts of their world.
To do so, Spyro has to fight the main villain, Gnasty Gnorc, to finish each level.
Initially released in 1998 for PlayStation, it’s had several installments released by different publishers for several platforms, including PS2, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Xbox One, PS4, and Windows.
Later versions have new characters but similar worlds, including Summer Forest, Autumn Plains, and Winter Tundra.
To play the first version of Spyro the Dragon, you need a PlayStation emulator like the PSX.
However, since it’s a multiplatform game, you need to look for a different emulator for the specific installment you want to play.
15. GoldenEye 007
Movies and video games go hand in hand in the entertainment world.
You can see movies turning into video games or vice versa.
GoldenEye 007 is an example of the first, featuring Agent 007, James Bond, in the 1995 movie GoldenEye.
It’s a first-person shooter game with single-player and multi-player modes originally released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64.
It was highly praised for its complexity requiring high levels of intelligence and stealth.
You can play it on Nintendo 64 emulators like Project64 for Windows and MegaN64 for Android.
Metroid is another retro game released by the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986.
The main character is Samus Aran, a bounty hunter that must save the galaxy from the threat of Space Pirates and prevent them from using the power of Metroid creatures for their evil purposes.
One of the biggest influences of Metroid in gaming is that it was one of the first games to present a female main character.
It’s a mix of horror, adventure, action, and platform gaming with nonlinear gameplay.
The game has been released for different platforms, including Famicom Disk System, Game Boy, GameCube, Nintendo Switch, and SNES Classic Edition.
You can play it on a wide range of emulators, including Yuzu and Ryujinx.
17. Kirby Super Star Ultra
As a remake of the original Kirby Super Star, the Kirby Super Star Ultra takes the game to a higher level by offering revamped content like enhanced graphics, an updated storyline, and more games.
It’s a side-scrolling platform game developed for Nintendo DS involving the main character, Kirby, walking, jumping, running, swimming, and sliding to overcome his enemies.
It’s been criticized for being too easy, but you don’t play retro games for the challenge, do you?
You can play Kirby Super Star Ultra on Nintendo DS emulators, such as DeSmuME.
18. Phoenix Wright: Ice Age Attorney
This game is perfect for adventure lovers who like solving puzzles.
You play the role of an attorney, Phoenix Wright, who has to prove his clients are innocent in five different cases.
It’s a visual novel that involves the narrative in the form of text, giving the entire play a true retro feel.
You will talk to the police, suspects, and witnesses to gather information and evidence to solve the murder mystery.
You can also visually inspect the murder scene and other locations in the investigation process.
It was originally released on Game Boy Advance, but you can find it on Nintendo DS, Wii, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.
19. Dragon Quest
Here’s another true classic that changed the landscape of role-playing games.
Initially released in 1986 as Dragon Warrior, Dragon Quest is the first RPG in console gaming.
In this game, you will fight monsters outside your city.
To do so, you and the other players get weapons and armor and go to the dungeon to find the dragons.
It also has an interesting way to save the game on different levels.
Depending on the platform, you may need to talk to the king or nuns in the church or simply enter a password.
The game has numerous installments released from 1986 to 2017 on different platforms, including NES, Super NES, Game Boy Color, PS2, Xbox One, and many more.
This nostalgic arcade game takes you back in time to the 80s.
It’s a fixed shooter game that involves the player using a starfighter to fight the Galaga forces and prevent them from destroying the Earth.
The aliens fly all over the black screen and try to capture your ship and defeat you.
Since its introduction on Arcade, it has been released on many other platforms, including SG-1000, NES, Atari 7800, and many more.
You can play the game on Arcade emulators like MAME.
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