Top 5 Linux Gaming Emulators

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The history of Linux in gaming is quite poor, but this year so many changes happened in this area that we might be able to review top commercial video games very soon. By commercial I mean those created by most significant gaming companies like Ubisoft or Bethesda, and not indie video games. Even though real gaming in Linux based operating systems got a boost this year, emulators were everywhere to be found, for most known video game consoles.

Strangely enough they were one part of Linux you can compare with other OS s mainly because of their vast quantity. Most emulators started as projects, long time ago, and stopped whether they were incomplete or “ready for action”.


FCEUX is a Nintendo Entertaining System emulator still being developed to this day. NES was the one gaming console which played such an important role in gaming history, so that many of its elements are still used in modern video game consoles. For example, NES introduced the world to the standard A, B, Start, Select and cross-like movement, controller. FCEUX is one of the best NES emulators in Linux. You can download the code from here and compile it for all systems, but in Ubuntu, all the latest releases, have it on the package manager under the name “fceux”. Just type “sudo apt-get install fceux”. For OpenSuse 12.2 and other distros you can check this site here and download the package you want.


Super Nes or SNES emulator I definitely recommend BSNES. Now I know there might be some controversy here because ZSNES was considered to be the best emulator for the SNES console. I have tried them both and they are equally strong, but ZSNES has a bit weirder User Interface than BSNES. They work great on all distros and with all games. You can download the package for ZSNES here and for BSNES here.

3. Project64

Project64 is definitely the best emulator there is for Nintendo 64 in Windows. Most people might be confused by now, but the reason I am writing about Project64 is because it’s the best on Linux too. How? But of course Wine is the solution here. I’ve installed many emulators on my system, such as the not-so-user-friendly Mupen64plus of which the installation process was literally a pain in the ass. Although it ran perfectly it still had many issues with most games. So I installed Project64 through Wine and all the games ran perfectly. The installation didn’t require anything special, except of course, the latest version of Wine installed to your system. Just open the executable for Windows, that you will find on the site of Project64 and simply follow the instructions. After that open the program from your main Wine directory and you’re done.

4. ePSXe

PSX also gets its share on the emulator market with ePSXe, which is by far the best emulator in all platforms. For Linux, there is the version 1.6.0 which has packages for Mandriva and OpenSuse, precompiled, as you can see here. Of course Wine can be used to install the latest 1.8.0. version on any Linux system. Also another notable Playstation emulator is PCSX-Reloaded which has packages for all big distributions ready to download from this site. However after some test I did, there isn’t great game compatibility with the latter. BIOS files are necessary to run the emulator and games, but Google is your friend on this one.

5. PCSX2

PCSX2 is, without a doubt, the best Playstation 2 emulator that ever existed. It’s cross-platform. There is the option to compile the emulator from this site, after installing the dependencies. Mandriva and OpenSuse packages here just as ePSXe, in form of RPM packages. For Ubuntu-based distributions (such as Linux Mint) there is a ppa ready which makes it easier to install and update the emulator through the package manager. Just copy-paste the following line to the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gregory-hainaut/pcsx2.official.ppa -y && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install pcsx2 -y

There are of course emulators for many other consoles. In this article you can find the best emulators for the most popular video game consoles. For others, such as Sega Genesis there is the Gens emulator for which you can find Ubuntu packages here, or for Nintendo DS there is DeSmuME for native integration but I personally prefer the NO$GBA emulator through Wine. Also there is the infamous MAME for arcade games which you can find packages here and the SDL port here.

Written by George, re-posted from

Swapnil Bhartiya
A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005. You can follow him on LinkedIn , Google+, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Darshak Parikh

    I am surprised to not find VBA mentioned here. I mean, the GameBoy Advance games (read: Pokémon games) are played far more widely than (S)NES. There is a huge community of hackers around it, and they all use VBA.

    That being said, this is a good compilation of emulators, and quite frankly, P64 indeed is the best.

  • Zaxth Ragnos

    Higan is the sucessor of bsnes and it’s better. Snes9x is faster however but it uses hacks to run emulation fast, same way that zsnes does and so when looking for something to replace zsnes you should look at snes9x. But Higan produces more accurate results.
    Did you try pcsx2? it’s 3d performance is atrocious on Linux, not to mention the opengl implementation is nowhere near complete at this stage.

  • Michael DeGuzis

    This is a poor set of emulators, not to mention that a “top 5″ can’t cut it for the breadth of popular retro consoles. Also “I’ve installed many emulators on my system, such as the not-so-user-friendly Mupen64plus of which the installation process was literally a pain in the ass” is highly inaccurate. I use mupen64plus for my retro gaming git project (, and it is very good. If you bothered to research properly, you’d see there is a python GUI front-end “m64py” which is highly “n00b friendly.” Mednafen is very good, as well as many others. All of this is tested on low end VMs and physical machines on a variety of hardware. It highly depends on if you want more of an “all in one” like Mednafen, or a singular emulator, like ZSNES.