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Do you ever sit at home thinking about the good ole days of gaming? Imagine a warm summer night in 1998, and you and your friend have pizza and Starfox 64 ready to occupy your night. What would you give to get back to those days? Luckily you can turn back time by finding the best games to emulate.
The easiest games to emulate are from Nintendo because of the open-source code. So, here are the 21 best games to emulate, divided by console.
Best Games to Emulate on FCEUX
Let’s start with three games from FCEUX, a popular emulator for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the most iconic video games ever made, occupying hours and hours for video game lovers everywhere in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Take control of Mario and defeat Bowser if you didn’t beat the game as a kid. Super Mario Bros. 3 sold 17.2 million copies — good enough for third on the all-time NES list.
Tecmo Bowl is a classic for sports fans because it was our first NFL game. It didn’t get an NFL license, so the teams weren’t real, but Tecmo Super Bowl in 1991 had all 28 teams and players to let us live our Super Bowl fantasies. Emulate the game to see if you can take down the Cowboys and give the Bills their first Super Bowl.
Metroid is a legendary franchise, and Samus got her start on the NES in 1987. The first Metroid was unique because you had to build Samus as she conquered the space pirates on each map. As you progress, you strengthen her power beam and armor to become a straight-up boss.
Best Games to Emulate on Snes9x
The NES was a commercial success in the 1980s, leading to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1990. Many gamers use the Snes9x emulator for SNES games, such as these popular titles.
Super Mario Kart
This game started it all. Super Mario Kart debuted in the late summer of 1992 and instantly became a classic for the Mario franchise. The game is simultaneously famous and infamous for Rainbow Road — the track in the sky with no rails anywhere. Good luck conquering this track even in 2023.
The ‘90s were arguably the peak decade for the NBA. Stars like Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and David Robinson dominated, and you can relive this era in NBA Jam. Unfortunately, Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal aren’t in the game, but you can still play with the other legends of yesteryear. The best part of NBA Jam is the exaggerated dunks and lack of officiating. If you’ve always wanted to knock Reggie Miller to the floor, here’s your chance.
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy is a tremendous franchise, and the fourth installment was one to remember for SNES players. It revolutionized the video game world by expanding what we thought we knew about role-playing games (RPGs).
In Final Fantasy IV, you get great stories, music and characters to establish a legendary game. If you’ve never played, try Final Fantasy IV on the Snes9x because it’s one of the best games to emulate.
Best Games to Emulate on Project 64
After six incredible years with the SNES, we got the Nintendo 64. Many millennials got the Nintendo 64 as their first gaming console, so emulating these three games will provide nostalgia like no other.
Do you know how to do a barrel roll? Starfox 64 is one of the Nintendo 64’s most iconic games, featuring Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Slippy Toad and other lovable characters. The game is memorable for its witty dialogue and 3D graphics. Most games before this were 2D, so 3D was a nice change of pace.
WWF No Mercy
Hear us out on this one. WWF No Mercy might not be on your list of the most iconic N64 games. However, imagine you’re hosting a bachelor party with your boys and want to get some throwbacks. WWF No Mercy is an excellent way to have fun and get competitive video game time.
WWF No Mercy throws back to the Attitude Era, letting you take control of The Rock, Triple H, Edge, Stone Cold Steve Austin and the other legends of the day. The gameplay was solid, so fire up Project 64 to win the WWF championship.
Mario Party 3
If you don’t mind losing these friends, load Mario Party 3 on your N64 emulator. Mario Party brings out the best and worst of us when we play the mini-games. They’re easy (in theory), but boy, they get competitive. Who’s your Mario Party main? This game lets you play as Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi and Donkey Kong.
Best Games to Emulate on Dolphin
The best games to emulate are on Dolphin, a popular and user-friendly emulator for GameCube and Wii games. These three games stand out to us on Dolphin.
Remember when everyone wanted to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the pandemic? The game that started it all debuted in 2001 for the GameCube and Nintendo 64.
In Animal Crossing, you move into a new town with animals as neighbors. You fish, collect fossils and do errands for neighbors to earn money and pay off your debts to Tom Nook. It’s a relaxing and easy game, so load it up on the emulator if you haven’t played.
Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine is our pick for the best GameCube game — and that’s saying something considering the competition. In the game, Mario and Peach fly to a tropical island only for Bowser to kidnap the princess and steal sunshine from Isle Delfino. You’ll need to restore the sun and find Bowser to rescue Princess Peach for the umpteenth time.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The Legend of Zelda dates back to the NES, but its most popular game could be The Wind Waker, released in 2003. The game was a step up from past editions with its cel-shaded art style and huge universe. Open-world games are popular with gamers because you can stray from the story and do anything you want.
Best Games to Emulate on DeSmuMe
In the mid-2000s, we got the Nintendo DS. This console was a big step up for handheld consoles and produced numerous awesome games. These three games are the best to emulate on DeSmuMe.
New Super Mario Bros.
Mario has made numerous appearances on the list, and he’s not done yet. The New Super Mario Bros. follows a similar formula to past editions of the series but introduces new elements like the star coins and touchscreen interaction. You could also play with other players if they also have a DS.
The Nintendo DS was huge for the Pokémon series as it allowed players to take the game on the go and play with their friends. There were many DS Pokémon games, so pick your favorite to emulate. Our favorite from the franchise was Black & White because you could play rotation battles and triple battles for the first time.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Once again, hear us out. Grand Theft Auto is best on the consoles because of the gameplay and graphics. An even bigger step up is the PC because its GTA mods provide endless fun for gamers.
Nonetheless, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is an excellent game. The story is good, which isn’t surprising for a Rockstar game. Plus, the gameplay, graphics and side quests are all high quality for a handheld console. If you haven’t played, now is the time.
Best Games to Emulate on Citra
In the early 2010s, we got the Nintendo 3DS. The upgraded graphics allowed for awesome gameplay, and you can have fun with 3DS games on emulators like Citra.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Here’s a hot take — Fire Emblem: Awakening is the best game on the list. This game has a terrific story with Chrom in a classic good vs. evil battle with numerous twists along the way to keep you on your toes. The graphics are great, and the gameplay is hard enough to frustrate you in a good way. Give this game a try, and let us know what you think.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
We tried to avoid having any repeats on the list, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf is too good to pass up. Play 15 minutes of the GameCube version and then 15 minutes of New Leaf to see how far the game came along. In New Leaf, you become the mayor of the town and control community projects. You can also ruthlessly kick out mean neighbors if you try hard enough.
Kirby: Planet Robobot
We can’t have the best Nintendo games to emulate list without Kirby. Kirby: Planet Robobot is a solid game that’s good if you’re looking for a straightforward campaign. The 3D graphics are excellent, and Kirby becomes a boss with his powerful suit.
Best Games to Emulate on Yuzu
We know the Switch is Nintendo’s newest console, but emulators like Yuzu let you play these popular Switch games.
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is another game that was popular upon release but exploded during the pandemic. The concept is similar to Super Mario Sunshine but has unbelievable graphics. You’ll make a new friend, Cappy, and save the world again from Bowser. Will he ever stop trying to kidnap Peach? Her theme song may as well be “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
If you want your best friend’s bachelor party to turn into a brawl, pop in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Switch. The objective of Smash Bros is easy: kill your opponent three times and win the game.
However, the game is top-rated because it’s a crossover of numerous popular titles. In Smash, you get Mario, Zelda, Sonic, the Wii Fit trainer, Samus, Fox and many other popular characters.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Last but certainly not least on the list is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Wind Waker may be the most popular edition, but Breath of the Wild holds its own. The graphics are beautiful, with excellent gameplay. It took Nintendo five years to make the game, and you can tell they worked their tails off.
Finding the Best Games to Emulate From the Nintendo Library
The seven consoles we discussed produced thousands upon thousands of amazing games. Picking only 21 was no easy feat, so let us know what games we should have included instead. Check the required specs for each emulator and see if your PC can handle the load. Emulators are a terrific way to remember the past and have fun.