Don’t Judge Me for Loving Console Emulation
Collecting physical copies can be great, but here’s why I prefer emulation
I am deep into the retro gaming community, I follow the “influencers” and I love exploring the new crop of mini-console revisions. But, what I haven’t done yet in life is to start a full video game collection.
Video gaming was an instrumental part of our lives, at least if you grew up in the eighties or nineties. For me revisiting the classics of my childhood is a bit of nostalgia and a chance for me to experience some games that I couldn’t afford to get my hands on back then.
It also allows me to show my kids that there was a time when games weren’t 4K, or streamable at the touch of a button. There was a time when we had to play physical cartridges and CDs and sometimes went to Blockbuster on a Friday night to rent the games that we wanted.
I first discovered emulating consoles in 2005 with my brother, we experienced Project 64 for the first time. I was amazed that my lowly Compaq Presario could run N64 games at full speed. I got to play games that I could never afford as a kid such as Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Tooie.
I had the entire N64 library at my fingertips, then I discovered that you could emulate almost every other console as well. As the years have gone on I always had a soft spot for emulation, but only recently started to revisit it with my PlayStation Classic console and my emulation handhelds.
I don’t condone piracy, but I also don’t see the point in having thousands of hard copy games in your house. Don’t get me wrong, some of the game rooms that I see on Youtube are amazing. But I just can’t see investing that type of money into a full game collection, to eaches own.
Piracy is wrong, I get that. I don’t condone trying to emulate brand-spanking new games instead of buying them. I pay for all of my brand new Nintendo Switch games and I prefer the hard copies of those as opposed to digital downloads from the Nintendo store.
But, I am going to illustrate some of the reasons why I prefer console emulation as opposed to having a hard copy retro game collection.
Do you play mobile games in the dark with no backlit screen? Exactly, so why would you want to relive the pain of trying to play on a non-backlit Game Boy. The modern era of emulation handhelds is leaps and bounds ahead of what the old Game Boy console could do.
The same goes for that pain in the butt Sega Game Gear, sure the console was dazzling with a backlit screen. But, the battery life was horrible. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have packs of AA batteries laying around for another Sonic 2 session.
On my Pocket Go, I have every Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Advance, Game Gear, and Neo-Geo Pocket Color game ever released. Right in the palm of my hand and ready to go. Then on top of that, I’ve got NES, SNES, Genesis, and Master System as well. Don’t even get me started on the N64 and PlayStation, I’ve got those.
So as you can see, handheld gaming has taken a turn for the better for me. If you would have told me when I was twelve that I’d have every game in my pocket I’d never believe you. But, technology has changed and gaming is forever better because of it.
Gaming is Art
I think that video games are an art form, like writing, music, etc. Years from now you are going to find this article online, and the same goes for retro games. The vast majority of us are not running a museum, and the old cartridges and boxes take up a lot of space.
Emulation gaming gives you another opportunity to enjoy the art, with a seemingly realistic approach. I’ve got classic console USB controllers and the games look and play every bit like I remember. But, now I can let my kids experience the same things that I got to play.
Also, not every game is worth spending money on. I am not going to hunt down a Boogerman cartridge for my Genesis, but I’ll download a backup of it on my Genesis Mini console. A game like Sonic The Hedgehog or Outrun in original condition is a far different story.
Those are games that I have a physical copy of to this day, but my game collection was never extremely large. I played specific games that would pique my interest back in the day, and some of those games I’d play on for months trying to beat it in between school and life.
Emulation gaming also allows me to play some rarer Japanese games that I’d never been able to get my hands on. There are more than a few SNK titles that I wanted to try and got the opportunity to because of emulation gaming. You don’t need a great computer or phone setup either.
I don’t have to sink a lot of money into my setup, the PlayStation Classic runs almost anything quite well. For the rest, I just hook my laptop and some controllers to my TV and the fun awaits. I and my kids were getting far into the Nintendo 64 just the other night.
You could relive this kind of entertainment by scouring the internet for the hard copies of the games, or you can just install and play. Scalpers are driving the prices of retro games and hardware through the roof. I mean come on $249 for a dirty SNES console? Give me a break, no one is going to pay that.
Even the prices for my personal favorite the Dreamcast have gone through the roof. Mind you back when I was young the game retailers were clearing all of his old retro stuff left and right. Now all of a sudden it’s chic to be into classic gaming once again and now it’s considered a “luxury” item.
Speaking of Scalpers
If you haven’t noticed the retro gaming community has been on fire. YouTube channels are buzzing, heck even my retro-inspired Medium articles are doing great. But, the cost of classic gaming has become astronomical. I’m not rich, and a lot of gamers in my generation aren’t either.
I’m not going to pay $300 for a “boxed” N64 game when I can just turn on my emulation station and play the same thing. I know what you’re saying, I’m not an authentic gamer. Screw that, I’m a frugal gamer who wants to experience every classic game under the sun. But, paying outrageous prices is a no-no.
Scalpers are ruining the retro gaming movement in my opinion, some of the prices for used games have become absurd. Heck, the other day on craigslist there was a scratched-up GBA console for $150!!! I mean give me a break, these things aren’t made of gold.
The SNES Classic is already a $150 console, and the NES Classic is going for absurdly high prices as well. Mind you these are only revisionist consoles, both of which came out in the past couple of years. I managed to snag up a few PlayStation Classic mini-consoles when they were $25 bucks, now back up to $100.
I just don’t see the point in paying those kinds of prices for what is essentially obsolete hardware. I can see if you are getting a nicely refurbished product, but for just your run of the mill, basement finds I’m not going to do it. Maybe in the future but for right now the prices are far too high.
You can get yourself a fairly cheap emulation setup, either using a Nintendo Switch wired controller on your PC or with a mobile gaming controller. I’ve been using the Ipega-PG-9083S controller for my Android and it’s been an amazing setup. (Retrospective of Donkey Kong 64 coming shortly)
You’ll still get to play the classics, but you’ll be able to save some of that hard-earned money for the new game releases that you want. I purchased the remake of ToeJam & Earl and Shaq Fu for the Switch. Both of which are awesome and well worth the money, by the way.
Emulation Revitalizes Retro Gaming
Look, for the few and far between who can plunk down the money for the ultimate game room and memorabilia. I’m happy for you. For the rest of us who want to relive the games of our childhood, running an emulator is by far the next best option.
Computing has come full circle and you can get so much power in such a small package. Just seeing what I’ve been able to do with my PlayStation Classic console has been an amazing voyage. I love having every game in a library on one little stick and ready to go.
Sometimes when I have a few hours late at night I can turn on my system and play Crash Bandicoot or Yo Noid! with ease. I don’t have to dig around, I don’t have to go buy the cartridge. It’s just right there waiting for me, and if you enjoy replaying older games then this is a great option.
To be able to play these games on a modern TV has completely changed how I view some of the old classics. Earthworm Jim in particular is a game that looks amazing in 1080p resolution. Likewise, the original Outrun on the Genesis looks amazing as well.
I’ll even go out on a limb and say that a lot of the early N64 games look better being replayed on a modern setup. V-Rally, Glover, and even WaveRace have impressed me quite a bit. Super Mario 64, not so much but this was the first 3D platformer.
The Nintendo Gamecube looks downright beautiful on a modern TV, I don’t think that we appreciated what the console could do when it was new. Super Mario Sunshine, Pikman, and even Wario World look better than I could have ever imagined.
Yes, I agree that nothing feels as good as the actual console. But, the world is going down the toilet right now and I don’t want to be carrying a room full of games around on my back. Emulation gaming is clean, simple, and for the most part fairly easy to get going.
You don’t have to be a genius to get these emulators going, and although I can’t say where to find the games it’s not difficult. I love to collect old video games and consoles, but with the rise in scalpers, it has been off the hook the last couple of years.
Therefore, emulation gaming is a better way for me to go. It might not be right for all of your diehard collectors out there. But for the rest of us who love and appreciate the classics, emulation is just as good.