Talking tech since 2003

With the release of every new video game console like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we’re another generation further from the classic games and systems most of us were raised on. The NES, the Super Nintendo, the PlayStation, the Turbografx, Sega Saturn, the list goes on.

And as we get farther from these 8 and 16-bit years, the older the technology that used to make it possible gets. And the older it gets, the harder it is to keep usable, and worse, remanufacture and repair. Emulation of video games has come a long way (in both good ways and bad) in keeping old classics as playable as possible, and as close to their original form as when we first put our hands on them.

But there’s fragmentation in the emulation space – there’s dozens of emulators, the applications coded to play these game files, and hundreds of different ways to play them – there’s hardly a sense of uniformity to enjoying these classics. Not only that, there’s oft-debated legal issues surrounding the download and spread of these classic, largely-no-longer-for-sale titles.

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But one application for Mac, called OpenEmu, is looking to change all of that. It combines a wide swath of emulators that have gained online popularity in recent years, and combines them into an easy-to-use program for playing all of the old classics you own, and for systems that simply might not work any more.

And provided you still actually own the games you plan to download and emulate, we encourage you check it out for a number of its great features.

OpenEmu combines a large chunk of the internet’s most favored game emulators, from Visual Boy Advance to NeoPop, and makes them available in a very elegant way. OpenEmu not only aggregates this software though, it actually all runs in the same program, no need to jump out to independent emulators to run games from different systems. For example, you can start by playing Super Mario Bros on the NES, pause, and then swap to playing Sonic and Tails 2 on the Game Gear in seconds, all right within OpenEmu.

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There’s also a bevy of really simple-to-edit control options for every system you have enabled, and even allows you to setup use with common PC controllers and, if you have Bluetooth in your Macbook, a Wii remote.

You can create iTunes-playlist-eque collections of your favorite games, and you can set a number of useful interface options like ensuring all games open in a new window and in fullscreen, or have it automatically pause the gameplay when the window is placed in the background.

Right now, openEmu has out-of-the-digital-box support for Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Gear, NeoGeo Pocket, NES, Nintendo DS, Sega 32X, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, SNES, TurboGrafx16, and even the Virtual Boy.

And as law states, if you have ownership of these games, and this is where it gets legally slippery, you have the right to own a digital version (in this case a ROM) of said games. In the same way that I own a copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES, I should be allowed to play it on OpenEmu on my Macbook Pro.

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If you’d like to check out OpenEmu, it’s available for Mac computers running OSX 10.7 and above, and has a free starter pack of game demos to try out. There’s no word yet on a Windows version, but all the emulators found in OpenEmu have Windows versions for those looking to emulate.


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