Nintendo 64 Emulators

Nintendo 64

As one of the most modern game consoles that can also be easily emulated on most systems, the Nintendo 64 strikes the emulator sweet spot. You can play Nintendo 64 games on Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, Android, or even the PSP. The same can’t be said for newer consoles like the PlayStation 2, GameCube, or Xbox — none of which can be emulated well on Android.

But the N64 also has substantially better graphics (and many would argue, games) than older consoles like the SNES, NES, Sega Saturn, or PlayStation. The N64 was a huge turning point in the popularity of the game console market and spawned incredibly well-known series like Super Smash Bros., Golden Eye, and The Legend of Zelda.

And that’s not to mention the fact that this game console is what millions of people around the world grew up with. In fact, Nintendo sold nearly 33 million units by the time it ceased production in 2003. It’s no wonder that so many people choose to keep the N64 alive in their smartphones or on their computers so long after it has been considered obsolete.

One of the first multi-platform emulators that hit the scene came out while Nintendo 64s were still being sold, way back in 2001. Mupen64 was a multi-platform emulator that was a real feat for its time. The N64 was a complex, technical powerhouse. Developers still haven’t been able to reverse engineer everything about it perfectly, but Mupen64 managed to make a usable emulator in spite of that.

The developer of Mupen64 eventually left the project, and it was later turned into Mupen64Plus. This is the emulator that so many people still use today — if not one of its forks. Actually, all of the best N64 emulators on Android come from Mupen64Plus in some form or another. It lives on in its purest form as Mupen64 AE, which stands for Android Edition, but N64oid, MegaN64, and CoolN64 are all derivatives of Mupen64Plus.

On Android, N64 emulators rely on virtual buttons. If you’re in landscape, those buttons will be overtop of the game screen, which is why many emulators opt for more transparent keys with just a thin white outline — though some choose to stay true to the grey thumb stick, yellow C-buttons, and blue and green A and B buttons. Playing in portrait allows the controls to be accessible underneath the screen, but it gives you a much smaller window into your game.

The only tricky part about using one of these emulators can be hitting the R, L, or Z buttons. For example, trying to run, crouch, and jump in Super Mario 64 requires quite a bit of finger manipulation to hold the thumb stick forward with your left thumb, press Z with your left index finger, and press A with your right index finger. It’s doable, though, and in most emulators you can adjust the controls to find the easiest method for you.

Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users will have a bit of an easier time emulating the N64. The extra processing power present in desktops and laptops blows Android smartphones and tablets out of the water. With all that extra power, most N64 games have no problem running smoothly.

If you’re on Windows, you could consider Project64 or 1964. As one of the oldest N64 emulators out there, 1964 is a favorite among many. It came out in 1999, a solid two years before Mupen64. That being said, it is a Windows-only project. If you’re not a fan of Mupen64 or 1964, though, you may want to check out Project64, which uses a system of third-party plugins to enable different components within the games.

Mac OS X users could also look to SixtyForce for their emulation needs, but Linux users should stick with Mupen64Plus. If you’re using a PSP, you can in fact emulate the N64, though things might be a little buggy. Check out Daedalus X to give that a try.

No matter which emulator you end up going with, you’re bound to have a good time. The N64 is an amazing console, and since it’s able to be emulated well on so many systems, it might just be the pinnacle of emulation gaming.