The PS1 was a beloved console that started a trend that’s still going on today. However, with it being phased out for the better versions of the console, a lot of games that were in that era were left to languish, with people never even getting to play them. But through the power of emulation, we now can do so. Here are the 10 best PSX emulator programs for PC, Mac, and mobile devices.
What Are PSX (PS1) Emulators?
To know what PSX emulators are, we must first discuss what console they’re emulating: the PS1.
Made from a failed collaboration between media titans Nintendo and Sony, Sony’s PlayStation line has long since come out as the one of if not THE most dominant console gaming platform of its generation. The PlayStation series had a long and storied history and an enormous library of gaming classics. So much so that if you have a box of all the PS1 games out there and randomly take a game off it, chances are you get a game classic for your perusal. And even if no one’s making them anymore, it’s possible to experience some of those groundbreaking classics for yourself today through the help of emulators.
Now, depending on what platform or device you’re using, the emulators that you can use will vary. Some of them can only be used on PC, others on Mac, some on mobile, and very little can be played on all three consoles in question. However, we’re here to tell you which ones could be.
10 Best PSX Emulators for PC, Mac, and Mobile
Let’s start with an awesome all-in-one emulator program called RetroArch. RetroArch is an open-source multi-platform emulator that’s available not only on Windows, but also on Linux, and Android. RetroArch already comes equipped with its very own front-end GUI and gives users the ability to download a huge variety of emulation cores for various consoles and handhelds. (Do note though that the PSX cores are powered by Mednafen, which we’ll discuss later in this article.)
RetroArch isn’t just a single emulator but is instead a collection of emulators, which the program calls “cores,” that allows you to play a lot of classic games not only for the PS1 but also from dozens of other consoles all on one PC. RetroArch still needs to have a PlayStation BIOS file for emulation, so that might be a major hurdle for some new users. The PS1 core on this program is named Beetle PSX, and it’s pretty great compared to most standalone original PlayStation emulator programs.
RetroArch also includes some extra features that you might enjoy such as NetPlay support, support for custom shaders and resolutions, better refresh rates, and every filthy scrub’s wet dream: save states.
But as a fairly easy, one-stop emulator, it’s a great grab. And if you love old school video games, RetroArch is worth a look.
The PCSX-Reloaded is another emulator to consider. It’s a plugin-based PlayStation emulator that was created in mid-2009 and was based on PCSX-df 1.9. It also has, in its early times, support for OS like Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac OS X (at the time), in addition to many bug fixes and various improvements. The old PCSX-df branch is a fork in the road of the PCSX PlayStation emulator that’s specifically designed for the GNU/Linux and other systems that are like it. It has a completely reworked and modernized GTK2/Glade GUI, a boatload of integrated plugins, a new and improved system for the classic PSEmu plugins, better tools for configuration, translation support, easy installation capability, and lastly, support for AMD64.
If you’re looking for a standalone PS1 emulator, then you can’t get any more than the PCSX Reloaded. Even with all the patches that have been done to it over the years, it’s still a lot easier to configure compared to RetroArch, and it supports virtually every game for the classic console. PCSX Reloaded also supports any PC compatible gamepad, so attach your DualShock controller for an authentic experience.
Whether you’re trying to set a new world record on speedrunning your favorite game of all time, playing a game you adored in your childhood, or even just recording and/or streaming gameplay from old games, BizHawk allows you to take advantage of various save states and manipulation of frame-rates to capture your perfect playthrough. BizHawk is a plugin that runs atop of PS1 emulator Mednafen. Thus, you’ll need to download both applications if you want to make the most of it.
BizHawk comes equipped with a whole slew of Tool-Assisted Speedrun tools to help in recording runs and inputs. Things like RAM watching, save states, rewinds, and a whole lot more. Of course, you’re still going to need a PSX BIOS dump. BizHawk also has an installer’s worth of prerequisites before you can even start up the core program itself, but the program is worth it.
XEBRA is another simple PlayStation emulator that can be used for Windows and Android that prioritizes the authenticity of the games being played on it. This emulator doesn’t add any graphical enhancements or new and fancy UI elements that are true. However, it does hold the biggest distinction of being the only program out there that can successfully emulate and play PocketStation games.
This program started as a PSX emulator project created by Japanese developer Dr. Hell that aims for the most accurate, highest-fidelity emulation of the OG Playstation, with all the various humps and bumps of it all. XEBRA can be run without getting a BIOS file. However, you can also choose to load in a PSX BIOS file if you want to.
The XEBRA emulator boasts pretty high compatibility, though it doesn’t have the various user interfaces that other emulators currently have. Though it might not be a user-friendly first choice, XEBRA is a nice backup to have in your PC or to even use as the main PSX emulator if you wish to get down and right dirty into the weeds of the technical details of emulation.
We have yet another contender in the PS1 emulator race. The ePSXe is quite possibly one of the best PlayStation emulators that you’ll find out there. It’s also the one that tends to be a bit easier for many people to use and is also a very stable emulator program. ePSXe also supports split-screen mode, save and load states for the speedrunners and those who want to go straight back into the game, customizable controls so that you can do whatever you want, hardware controller support, allowing you to attach your controllers to play using them, and lastly, OpenGL enhanced graphics. Some plugins can add several additional features and tidbits.
An emulator that traces its conception and development from the old PSemu app, ePSXe is an emulator that in addition to the other features mentioned, also has a plugin system directly taken from its ancestor, giving users the ability to pick and choose between different types of GPU, sound, and CD-ROM emulation so that its optimized for your hardware. The emulator’s options give you excellent compatibility with a myriad of games available after just a little tweaking.
ePSXe like the other emulators on this list needs Playstation BIOS to function, which is something that you might want to consider if you don’t have any means to dump one. And while it’s true that the ePSXe emulator is a bit of a hassle to set up and start, it’s a great app for those that do know how to set it up.
We have now come to the very emulator the previous emulators on this list have been hyping upon. When you’re talking about multi-purpose emulators that can also do PSX emulation, you can’t get any better than Mednafen, an all-in-one emulation program that has emulation for a variety of gaming systems.
Mednafen (also known as Nintencer) has turned into a great all-around emulator after the first stable release. It supports and plays not only PSX emulation but also Game Boy Advance, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and many more. PSX is currently the most “advanced” platform that Mednafen supports, and it handles the huge library of emulation that it has very well.
Do note though that there are a few things you should know and do before you begin using Mednafen for all your retro emulation needs. Firstly, you’re gonna need to download and store your own BIOS data files to make it run properly. It also runs through your CPU’s command line by default. Don’t worry, though, if you’re like me and don’t know their way around a PC code, you can also download MedGUI Reborn and MetroMed to create a new layout that’s a bit more approachable.
While it’s true that it’s a versatile emulator to have, Mednafen has some caveats. For PSX emulation, you’re gonna need to rip your very own PSX BIOS files. Also, Mednafen, at the core, is just a command-line program, so you’ll probably also want to get your hands on a good GUI front end, such as MedGUI Reloaded, for a more user-friendly experience.
ClassicBoy is yet another PSX emulator that bills itself as an all-in-one, all-you-need program if you’re looking for emulation. It can support a variety of consoles, which includes PSX, all three Game Boy systems, the Nintendo 64, Super NES, NeoGeo, and SEGA. There is also a slew of features available to you. These include hardware controller support, the ability to customize touch screen controls, some audio settings, and of course, the now praised save and load states.
It’s a good choice for users looking for multiple emulators under a single roof. Do note though, that dedicated PlayStation emulators typically have a lot more customization and configuration features. The only issue that you might have with ClassicBoy is its age, as the developer hasn’t updated the app ever since 2014.
Here’s one of the newer PlayStation emulators on this list. Emubox is yet another all-in-one emulator app. It includes consoles like the SNES, NES, Nintendo DS, and of course, PlayStation. The stability is decent and you won’t find that much lag. It also includes save and load states, cheat code support, a fast forward mode, and also hardware controller support. While it’s true that this is the best of the basics, it’s not as configurable and adjustable as something like FPse. However, it functions well enough. And it’s free of advertising. What more could you ask for?
Yet another big emulator on this list, FPse is a PlayStation emulator that’s based on Android. This one is a very customizable emulator. It features all the basic stuff and necessities of emulators like save and load states, customizable and adjustable controls, very high compatibility, and lastly, hardware controller support. In addition to these, however, it also has a wide range of advanced plugins, options, and extras that can help you make the games you’re using this emulator play just right. You can go for better graphics on the games or better gameplay or even both depending on your device of choice.
Like the ePSXe, however, this one doesn’t have a free version. And it’s one that has a steeper learning curve because of the immense amounts of options. FPse is made to emulate PS1 games. And all games that this console has will work perfectly without any issues on compatibility. The emulator allows gamers to change the game’s resolution according to their own needs and also the chance to customize each one accordingly. The game library is present every time as the app’s UI cover and allows you to access all the games near-instantly and load the one you wish to play. As per usual, a BIOS file must be chosen after you first launch the app due to the fact it is a mandatory part of the emulation process.
And finally, Avocado. No, not the fruit. It is a modern PlayStation emulator that’s made for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android. It focuses on supporting relatively modern hardware from 2010 and onwards as well as non-legacy OSes.
The emulator is currently single-threaded. That is, if you have a multicore CPU and PC, you won’t be benefiting from this program. Single thread performance is where this program shines. Currently, Avocado needs OpenGL 3.2 on your device of choice. In the future, however, this limitation is planned to be lifted for software rendering.
How to Download PSX Emulator Games
There are currently a few websites that you can go to download games for PSX Emulator programs. And getting to these sites is a pretty easy affair. Here’s a list of a few sites that you might keep in mind:
Gamulator is one of the best and biggest ROM collection website that’s currently available on the internet today. You’ll find all manners and types of game files here like MAME, GBA, SNES, and PlayStation ROMs. If you also need to download emulators for playing the ROMs in question, you can also go here to download them.
Like Gamulator, romsdownload.net offers all types of games for all major platforms, with all the latest games and for past consoles listed on its homepage. You can also directly download or search from their homepage as well, which is useful.
Pros and Cons of PSX Emulators
Given that we’re talking about PSX emulator programs, there are, of course, pros and cons to these things. Here are the most prevalent of them:
The most important is that you can use save states. This gives you the ability to save at any moment of your playthrough and continue from exactly that point. Plus, most emulators allow you to have multiple save states. So you could save at a point where there are multiple choices and decisions. This will let you try out various ideas, positions, and possibilities.
As for their disadvantages, here are the four most prevalent ones:
- Graphics sometimes look worse compared to their console counterparts.
- You might experience frame drops and stutters even with a good GPU.
- There might be artifacts/glitches in the visuals and textures due to the emulator being unable to handle it as smoothly as the game’s original console.
- The controls might be wonky if you’re playing on a keyboard.
If you want to learn more, you can read our guides on how to download games. We have articles that can help you download Skidrow games, download IGG Games, and download Flash games on PC. Lastly, if you prefer playing the real thing, why not ditch the PSX emulator and check out the PlayStation 1 on Amazon.
Recommended PSX Games
Now that you’ve gone and chosen your emulator, and know where to go to download games, It’s time to take a look at the games to download. If you’re undecided on which games to download for your PSX Emulator, here are some recommended games that you might wish to try.
Twisted Metal 3
The moment cars were invented, we people dreamed of adding machine guns and all manner of weaponry on them. Then, we would be wreaking havoc on other vehicles, violently, destructively, and without judgment. The first of the Twisted Metal series gave us exactly that premise. Then Twisted Metal 2 gave us more of it. Then, Twisted Metal 3 gave us even more. It wrapped it up in five straitjackets, poured gasoline and other accelerants on it, and then set it on fire. Absurd as all hell and proud of it.
In short, Twisted Metal 3 is the best of all the series and it’s an absolute joy to play. If you’re emulating, you need to get this game. Get this game now and play it on your favorite PSX emulator.
Metal Gear Solid
The Metal Gear Solid series demanded quite a lot from its player base, especially the PlayStation game that started its meteoric rise into the spotlight. For one, you need to learn to stop button-mashing on your controller. When you finally have control, there was more careful sneaking and quiet killing compared to action-packed sequences. If you go in guns blazing thinking you can kick ass and take names, well, you’re screwed. No ifs and buts about it. So the question is, why did people put up with it?
Well, it isn’t just because Metal Gear Solid delivered a heart-pumping interactive experience back in the day. It was also the next step in gaming evolution: the movie-like cutscenes and the meticulously designed levels that are centered around stealth mechanics. Simply making your way around was evidence of a production value that wasn’t normally seen in gaming at that time.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
When it comes to the Castlevania name and series, many gamers’ thoughts will immediately go to Symphony of the Night. And they should, as the game was amazing. If that high praise seems a little too much or vague for you, that probably means you haven’t played this game yet. And you really, seriously should play this classic.
This game was the penultimate game in its genre. From the expansive map, crisp gameplay, a story that draws you in, and Easter eggs aplenty, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a magnum opus for the Metroidvania Genre. And it takes a special place in many gamer’s hearts even to this day.