Today we’re gonna talk about emulation on MacOS in other words how to play NES, SNES, Game Gear, N64 games on your Mac. But first we need to make clear some vocabulary so here is some explanation for the people who don’t know what is emulation:

Emulator: Software that runs games of another game platform and reproduces its functions. Basically, it’s your game console.

ROM: In the 80’s and 90’s and early 00’s games were sold in cartridges and not in CD or DVD. In order to play them now with you emulator, you need to get a file that contains your games. People over the internet have found ways to dump those cartridges to play them on your computer and now even on your smartphone.

BIOS: It’s a little file that reproduces the internal software of the game console it came of. It’s like the BIOS of the computer to make it easy to understand.

SaveState: Don’t be confused with the term savegame. The savegame is a backup of you progress that the game or you do when you pass a checkpoint or most of the time when you finish a level and it’s stored in the cartridge -with emulators in a separate file that the game can get access to. A SaveState is basically like you’re taking a picture of where you are in the game and you’ll be able to charge it if you die or if you turn the emulator off. It won’t make a forced savegame but by doing a SaveStates you can charge it later for X, Y or Z reason. It’s a more convenient save than the savegame.

What the laws say:

One thing to keep in mind before we talk about the game emulation is that video games are protected by copyright laws and intellectual property law in the USA and in Europe -at least in France. So that means it’s forbidden to copy, upload or download any video games without the authorisation of the developers or the editors. It also means that normally you’re not allowed to stream or upload on video platform game session because the content of the video is made of copyrighted material. But the devs and studios had never taken any actions against it, besides Rockstar who sometimes takes down some video of GTA V but it’s not emulation.

Retro-gaming emulation is a bit different because most of the time emulation means playing old games which are no more distributed and the editors don’t really care since they don’t make money outta it anymore. That kind of software is also called “abandonware”.

Also, the urban legend that says you can keep the ROM for 24h is totally bogus. Why? Because you downloaded a copy that is distributed over the internet without the authorisation of the authors. In laws, it’s considered as receiving stolen goods. Also because of this statement, it’s also illegal to download a ROM even if you have the original cartridge or if you already bought it.

But if you did the dump yourself and don’t distribute it, it’s legal.

As far as I know there is no law that forbidden to create emulators since what devs are doing is basically just reverse engineering how the hardware is working and make a software that can reproduce how the hardware is working and the game console itself is not copyrighted. But it could become illegal if they dump the BIOS of the console because the BIOS is a software and the software might be copyrighted

But in the fact heard of or read that actions were taken against ROMs and emulators distributors. And it creates a lack of legal precedent and makes the use of emulator and ROMs very unclear and fuzzy. In other words most of the time it’s bad to do emulation but nobody cares.

So for the rest of this article, we’re gonna state that you did yourself the dump of the game you’re playing and didn’t google “where to find ROMs and BIOS files”.

OpenEmu the Home of All Emulators:

OpenEmu Library ViewThe easiest and more convenient way to play retro games on your Mac without downloading and having tons of different emulators is to use OpenEmu.

It’s an all-in-one video game emulator. It looks like iTunes it gathers all your ROMs and sorts them almost automatically by systems, you can create collections (like playlists in iTunes), rate the games, OpenEmu can also get the cover art of the games to make it more visual.

You can set different controllers I tried Xbox360 USB controller, Xbox One S wireless controller, and also many USB controllers. For the instance it’s compatible with MacOS it’s gonna work. It also supposed to work with new PlayStation controllers.  To can custom map your controller with different layout schemes for each console you’re playing.OpenEmu Controller settingsOpenEmu is capable of emulating a lot of different systems here is the supported systems list at the moment I’m writing these lines:

Atari 2600
Atari 5200
Atari 7800
Atari Lynx
Famicom Disk System
Game Boy / Color
Game Boy Advance
Game Gear
Neo Geo Pocket / Color
Nintendo 64
Nintendo Entertainment System
Nintendo DS
Mega CD/Sega CD
Mega Drive/Genesis
Master System
PlayStation Portable
Super NES
TurboGrafx-16 / SuperGrafx
Virtual Boy

As you can see almost all the consoles you were playing as a kid are here. When I was browsing the OpenEmu Reddit and forum I found that the devs are working to add support for Wii/GameCube and Dreamcast but the related topics are pretty old and I don’t know if the devs are still working on it. For Wii and GameCube they were working on the port Dolphin -another famous emulator but for Wii and GC, in OpenEmu. And for Dreamcast, I think they were working on the port of Reicast in OpenEmu.

OpenEmu website (Free)
OpenEmu GitHub
OpenEmu Twitter