If you would rather be playing Metal Gear Solid than waiting for a Zoom call with the office to start, then you need some of the best PlayStation emulators in your daily routine.
Covering all Playstation home and handheld consoles from the PS1 to the PS Vita, this article is the ultimate go-to guide for the best emulators to recreate your classic retro games.
That’s five consoles for the price of one, if you think about it!
The arrival of the best PS5 games has everyone talking about Sony and their immense gaming back catalogue once again. From the epic PS2 games on the world’s best-selling home console to the portable powerhouse that is the PSP, there are some truly spectacular games for these systems.
But which are the best PlayStation emulators? How do gamers play games in the supermarket queue or on a plane? What is a ROM, and why do people get so angry about them.
Find out all the answers to these questions and more right here!
**PLEASE NOTE – This article is purely for educational, scientific, and knowledge-enhancing**
purposes only and should be treated in the same way as a highly exciting thesis, dissertation, or legendary scroll. Retro Dodo does not condone illegal downloading or any other shady activities that might get anyone (namely us) into trouble. Please check the legality of ROM downloading in your area and always follow government guidelines on internet safety and copyright laws.
Checking Out The Best PlayStation Emulators
What Are Emulators?
Emulators are downloadable programs that users install onto computers or smart devices in order to play retro games.
In essence, they make your computer or smartphone believe that they are, in fact, a games console, creating an illusion of the hardware that you might find inside a Dreamcast or a PS2.
To make emulators work, users must first download ROMs. These are digital images of the bits that make your favourite games work
You can have a read of our 100% scientific article on how to install ROMs if you want to learn a bit more. Though like young Voldermort asking Professor Slughorn about Horcruxes, this is purely for theoretical use… understand?
It’s no secret that ROM downloading angers many companies. People argue over whether the file ripping, sharing, and distribution of games that are no longer in production is really a crime, especially if one owns the physical copy somewhere in the attic.
Nintendo has a zero-tolerance policy on emulation, which makes the best Nintendo Switch emulator programs on the internet something of a bugbear for them. With services like the Virtual Console and Sony’s Playstation Now offering access to retro games, however, it’s not hard to see why.
What Are The Benefits Of Using The Best PlayStation Emulators?
PlayStation emulators let you play the best PS1 games and many other titles from your favourite consoles anytime, anywhere.
Play Crash on the bus or Final Fantasy in the office; with the best PlayStation emulators, the possibilities are endless.
Plus, one of the emulators below offers users a chance to play PocketStation games, opening up titles that many players have never seen or heard of before.
Are There Downsides To Emulating Games?
Aside from Nintendo or Sony knocking on your door with a lawsuit, some emulators do have annoying features that make gamers angrier than Smaug at a Hobbit-finding competition.
A lot of the battle is finding a program that will work well on your machine, and also how well games have been ripped in the first place. I… I mean my friend loves Donkey Kong 64, but I… he can’t find a copy without a dodgy camera angle ruining the experience!
Computers and Smartphones work a lot differently to PlayStations or Sega Megadrives, and there are a lot of rubbish programs out there that don’t do your favourite consoles justice.
Fear not though, dear reader! Retro Dodo has searched the plains of the internet, collating the ultimate list of the best PlayStation emulators for multiple devices and operating systems.
How Do I Download The Best PlayStation Emulators?
12 of the best PlayStation emulators are waiting for you below.
We can’t tell our readers how to download these emulators or the best places to find ROMs for obvious reasons. Still, if you can work any search engine, then you should be able to figure it out.
1. ePSXe – PS1
- Closed Source
- Windows, Linux, Android
First up on our list of the best PlayStation emulators is ePSXe. ePSXe is widely considered to be the best PS1 emulator on the internet with many critics and Retro Dodo readers alike praising the program.
ePSXe doesn’t just play ROMs from a computer hard drive; it also reads discs too. The program uses plugins to recreate the inner workings of a PS1, providing CD-Rom drive functions as well as emulating GPU, music, and sound effects.
Back in 2000, ePSXe was a revolutionary piece of kit, and with patches and upgrades, it’s still the frontrunner for many leisure users. Available on Windows, Linux, and Android devices, the program plays all of the top PS1 games flawlessly without any hiccups.
2. Retro Arch – Multiple Consoles
- Open Source
- Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, FreeBSD
Many readers may have come across RetroArch in our list of the best N64 emulators. The truth is that it’s an incredible program that can emulate pretty much every major console on every operating system.
It does this by housing dozens of ‘cores’ that give users access to thousands of games, instead of focusing on one particular set of plugins to emulate a singe console.
In this instance, the PS1 Core is Beetle PSX. With the power of RetroArch behind it, Beetle PSX is a force to be reckoned with. It emulates all of your favourite old school games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Croc, Final Fantasy, and many more games besides with ease.
RetroArch also has a work-in-progress PS2 core named ‘Play!’Still, if you’re looking for PS2 emulation, then there’s only one program you need…
3. PCSX2 – PS2
- Open Source
- Windows, Linux, MacOS
PCSX2 takes the third spot in our list of the best PlayStation emulators, providing gamers across the globe with updated and upscaled versions of their favourite games.
PCSX2 boasts a number of additional improvements to the PS2 including anti-aliasing, texture filtering, and user-specified resolutions of up to 8192×8192. These features make your favourite games look polished and cleaner, and the built-in HD video recorder means you can relive your favourite gaming moments again and again!
4. PPSSPP – PSP
- Open Source
- Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android
If you came to this list of the best PlayStation emulators to find the supreme leader in PSP, emulation, then this next program is for you.
PPSSPP rules the PSP emulation roost. We’d go as far as to say, on record, that it’s the best PSP emulator of all time. It’s simple to use, and first time emulator users won’t have a hard time setting it up either.
Unlike some of the best Dreamcast emulators, PPSSPP receives regular updates and, like Mupen64, is the open source program that most other developers use as a base for their own programs.
Like PCSX2 above, PPSSPP makes all of the best PSP games look slicker, upscaling old classics and making them appear better than they did on the handheld itself!
Users may pay $4.99 to remove ads, or you can put up with them for free. PPSSPP also allows game data transfers from PSP handhelds via an SD card.
5. RPCS3 – PS3
- Open Source
- Windows, Linux, FreeBSD
Next up on our list of the best PlayStation emulators is the best PS3 emulator on the internet; RPCS3.
This open-source program available for Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD users might well still be in development, but it’s the most promising emulator available and can cope with many of the best PS3 games released for the console.
In fact, a recent study has shown that RPCS3 can play 1068 PS3 games. That’s roughly a third of the available catalogue, which is good going for a program that’s still in development, if you ask me!
Many thought that the PS3 simply couldn’t be emulated, which made RPCS3 a bit of a celebrity on the emulation scene, especially when the Persona 5 footage leaked.
The program requires 4GB Ram and an X86-64 CPU to run, along with a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or later. Up to date Linux and FreeBSD operating systems are required for other users too.
6. Vita3K – PS Vita
- Open Source
- Windows, MacOS, Linux
The PS Vita often gets overlooked when it comes to PlayStation consoles, but the Vita3K team are trying to change this.
Before anyone says ‘but this doesn’t work!’, I want to point out that this is an experimental emulator. Currently only 1.2% of the console’s available games work from start to finish, which comes out at about 4 games.
Many titles reach the in-game stage, however, though glitches render games unplayable from thereon out.
While the developer update blog might not be up to date, users are still tapping into the resources on the Vita3K GitHub page in a bid to bring this console emulator fully to life.
It’s certainly worth a mention as it remains the only PS Vita emulator to date!
7. Mednafen – Multiple Consoles
- OpenGL Free Software
- Windows, Linux, OpenBSD
Mednafen is up next on our list best PlayStation emulators of all time.
Instead of making up a catchy nickname for this emulator, the developer went with ‘My Emulator Doesn’t Need A Frickin’ Excellent Name’, which works pretty nicely, don’t you think?
Like RetroArch, Mednafen holds cores rather than emulating a single console. It supports all of the ‘retro wonders’ from the Atari Lynx to the WonderSwan and handles PS1 games very well.
Many users claim that the best-emulated consoles are the ones that use original cores, which puts the PS1, Sega Saturn, and Apple II Plus at the top of the Mednafen leaderboard.
This program does require uses to download and save their own BIOS data files, so it’s not exactly first-time-user friendly, but a nice alternative to RetroArch for those that speak code as a second language.
8. FPSE – PS1
- Paid App
FPSE is an Android PlayStation emulator with more customisable options than a full Need for Speed garage.
It’s a great choice for people who just want to crank on some of their favourite PS1 games without any fussing, with third-party controller compatibility, save states, and all of the other necessary features we look for in the best retro handhelds.
If, however, gamers are searching for a more advanced emulator, then FPSE provides the ultimate PS1 tuning service. Pretty much every PS1 game will work perfectly on this program, though users can tinker with graphics and gameplay settings at will if they choose.
FPSE allows users to customise every single game, though you will need a BIOS file to open up the first time the app launches.
9. Xebra- PS1
- Closed Source
- Windows, Android
Often hailed as the most compatible PS1 emulator, Xebra remains one of the best PlayStation emulators for Windows and Android users.
For those searching for a simple emulator that doesn’t have any bells or whistles and just plays games, then XEBRA makes an excellent choice. It can’t upscale your games or add any shiny textures, but it does hold the best record for the number of playable PlayStation games.
XEBRA is also the only program in our list of the best PlayStation emulators capable of emulating PocketStation games.
Chocobo World, anyone?
10. Rapid PSP Emulator – PS1
- Free App
Like many people in the world, you may be rocking a device that isn’t the newest on the market. If it has less impressive stats than the new Galaxy Folding 89G 1TB Smartphone, then Rapid PSP Emulator might be the best PS emulation app for you.
This program is essentially a reskin of PPSSPP, just as OpenEmu uses Mupen64 as its core.
Far from being a direct copy, however, Rapid PSP Emulator is designed for simpler, less customised devices. It provides great results on smartphones and doesn’t require as much messing about as some of the emulators in this list.
Rapid PSP Emulator is a free app, which makes it a great choice for anyone who is feeling the pinch or saving their pennies. It has all of the usual features including game save states and support for external controllers, and it’s a nice option to try if you are an Android user!
11. PlayStation Now – Multiple Consoles
- Subscription Service
- PlayStation Consoles
PlayStation Now might not be a free to download emulator, but it is one of the best PlayStation emulators for playing all of your favourite PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4 games perfectly with no lag or glitches.
Sony’s gaming subscription service provides access to tonnes of popular titles, and gamers can either sign up per month or for longer packages at discounted rates.
If you don’t want to mess around with downloading BIOS or searching for ROMs and just want to play games on your home console, then this could be the best road to go down.
12. PCSX-Reloaded – PS1
Our last, but by no means the least impressive program on our list of the best PlayStation emulators, is PCSX-Reloaded.
This program is one of the easiest to use on our list and currently supports every PS1 game that you might have played in your youth. From Crash Team Racing to Star Wars: Episode 1, the games appear flawlessly without any messing around on your part.
PCSX-Reloaded works brilliantly with DualShock controllers too, so hook one up and relive the glory days with one of the best PS1 accessories of all time!