Sony's 32-bit PlayStation is the console that began decades of dominance in the world of games for the Japanese tech giant and is home to some of the most famous franchises in interactive entertainment. Gran Turismo, Ridge Racer, Tomb Raider, WipEout, Final Fantasy, FIFA, Tekken and many more beloved titles all found their home on the PlayStation, helping it sell a staggering 102.49 million units worldwide – almost twice the combined sales of Nintendo's NES and SNES systems.
It's understandable, then, that so many people are interested in investigating the history of the console via software emulation on their PC, tablet or smartphone. Emulators are programs which replicate the performance of classic systems entirely in software, and allow you to run original games with added benefits – such as the ability to rewind gameplay, save your progress at any point or even play online.
We've listed some of the best PlayStation emulators below. All are perfectly legal to use, but downloading games is considered to be a breach of copyright – you do so at your own risk if you're not prepared to purchase the original game for use with your emulator.
Some emulators also require you to have the appropriate PlayStation BIOS, and, again, it is illegal to download or distribute these files as they are subject to copyright.
If you're moderately clued-up in the world of retro game emulation, then there's a good chance you've heard of RetroArch already.
RetroArch is a cross-platform frontend for emulators, game engines, video games, media players and other applications. It delivers a uniform UI experience and allows you to download emulation 'cores' for a staggering selection of different vintage gaming platforms.
Several PlayStation cores are available in RetroArch's library – including Mednafen, PCSX ReARMed
and DuckStation – so it's a great one-stop solution for all of your emulation needs.
However, if you want to dig deep into the more unique features of these emulators, you might want to download them individually.
PCSX ReARMed is a fork of PCSX Reloaded, another popular PlayStation emulator you'll almost certainly have heard of in the past. Development of PCSX Reloaded ceased on September 17th, 2003.
PCSX ReARMed boasts a higher level of optimisation for ARM-based platforms, and can be downloaded as part of RetroArch.
DuckStation has become one of the most popular PlayStation emulators in recent years thanks to its rapid development and rich list of features.
Developed primarily by stenzek, it boasts upscaling, texture filtering, achievements, overclocking, rollback net code and cheat code support – and it's all wrapped up in a good-looking user interface.
To cap it all off, compatibility is excellent, and the quality of the emulation is accurate and fast. DuckStation has been designed with speed in mind, and that makes it one of your best options when it comes to emulating PlayStation on a wide range of systems.
Mednafen – which stands for "My Emulator Doesn't Need A Frickin' Excellent Name" – doesn't just emulate PlayStation, but covers a whole host of retro systems. Some of its cores are ports, but many have been coded from scratch and are famed for their compatibility and accuracy.
While it's lacking in features when compared to its rivals and only runs at native resolution, Mednafen's PlayStation core boasts a very high level of accuracy and game compatibility.
If you're looking to get into PlayStation emulation purely for speedrunning purposes, then BizHawk is your best bet. Like Mednafen, it's an open-source multi-system emulator, but it has a focus on Tool Assisted Speedruns (TAS).
BizHawk is designed around core accuracy and giving the power users the tools they need, but it's still accessible enough for casual emulation.
Once upon a time, ePSXe was considered by many to be the gold standard when it came to PlayStation emulation, especially in the early days of Android. It's still a solid choice, but it has been overtaken by some of its rivals. Indeed, when compared to some of the more advanced emulators, it's not as accurate.
One of the big bonuses of ePSXe is that it can run without an official PS1 BIOS via HLE, but you should expect lower software compatibility.
However, the Android version isn't free to download, which is a shame.
XEBRA has had something of a troubled development history but is finally at a point where its issues are being fixed. It's a closed-source emulator developed by a Japanese team, and its main focus is providing a high level of emulation accuracy.
Like Mednafen it only outputs in native resolution, but it also boasts compatibility with Sony's Japan-only PocketStation memory card, which gives it an edge over other PlayStation emulators.