Go Back in Time – Gaming from Yesterday with Mac Emulators

The good ol’ days of Atari, NES, SuperNintendo, and Genesis.. Ever want to go back in time and play videogames from your past? Perhaps there was that one game you couldn’t beat when you were younger. Or another that you couldn’t finish… Maybe its nostalgia for days gone by. Now, thanks to the magic of emulators and rom-images, you can re-live those days again!

What is an Emulator?
An emulator is a program which simulates another computer system. Think of it as a virtual machine, a computer running within your computer, operating like an Application. Examples of virtual machines would be Virtual PC, Parallels or VMWare. A screen will pop up and that will be the screen of the virtual system. The performance of a good emulator with a compatible ROM may even run better than you remember. After all, with the power, memory and speed of today’s PC, they can easily handle the demands of an older system.

What are ROM-Images
A ROM-image is a file which contains the information from the ROM chip in video game cartridges, computer firmware or an arcade game machine. Opening a ROM-Image in your emulator program would be the equivalent of putting a video game cartridge into the machine.

Much of the emulator/roms projects deal with the preservation of older, obsolete, abandoned and lost technology. There is an underground movement of video game fans dedicated to preserving older games as the ROM chips from circuit boards can become unreadable in as little as a decade. Also, these fans are dedicated to preserving older games from obsolete computer systems, which disappear over time. Think of them as curators for a virtual museum of computer and videogame software.

Before we get into any links, remember that this gets into the “grey areas” of legality. The emulators themselves are public domain, yet developed WITHOUT any support or blessing from the original manufacturers.

The games themselves, called roms or rom-images, depending on their status and the company who developed them may or may not be legal to download and run. Some are considered to be abandonware, in which the company has abandoned pursuit of their copyright. Others are public domain. Some countries take the stand that if you still own the cartridge, then you have fair use rights. Other countries have different views.

Lastly, with special respect to current and still commercially available roms, (Xbox360, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, Wii) they are property of their copyright holders, and they currently enforce them. To download them would be considered infringement.

Downloading the Games (Roms)
Due to this “grey area” which emulators and roms fall into, you are on your own whether or not you decide to download the games (roms) themselves and which ones you download. You will also have to search for them yourself. Wikipedia is a good place to start.

The Emulators
There’s tons of emulators out there for OS X. Some of them are more reliable than others. Since this is an emulation and not the actual system, some roms will work better than others. Here’s a list of some of the better emulators that I’ve come across:

    Stella – Atari 2600 Emulation
    Mugrat – Colecovision Emulation
    Frodo – Commodore 64 Emulation
    BSNES – Super NES Emulation
    SMS Plus – Sega Master System Emulation
    TGEmu – PC Engine / Turbo Grafix 16 Emulation
    KiGB – Gameboy Emulation

Console systems (Atart, Nintendo, Sega) aren’t the only emulators out there. There’s tons of emulators for older computer systems as well. You can really retro-out with some of these. Its amazing to think that twenty years ago, the Commodore 64 was a powerful system. Your cell phone would be a considered a super computer back in those days.

For links to tons of other emulators for various systems, visit:


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