The 5 Best PS1 Emulators on Earth Today

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The 5 Best PS1 Emulators on Earth Today

The Sony PlayStation, or PS1, will be turning 30 in the next year. If you’re like many out there, you might want to revisit the games of yesteryear. CD-based consoles are notoriously finicky to deal with, and decades of age haven’t been kind to them.

If you’re not savvy with a soldering iron, it is worth looking into emulation. Thankfully, PS1 emulators are relatively mature. Development of emulation of the PlayStation dates back to the early 2000s when it was still on store shelves.

For gamers wanting to experience the thrills of the original WipeOut trilogy, here are five of the best available today. The criteria for the five chosen were based on compatibility, performance, and overall usability across multiple platforms.

Some choices are only available for desktop PCs, while others are readily available for smartphones and tablets.

1. The All-in-One PS1 Emulator Solution: RetroArch

RetroArch is less a PS1 emulator and more of a one-stop shop for emulation needs. You’ll find multiple cores, or emulators, for the PlayStation in RetroArch. This also comes with dozens upon dozens of other retro consoles, arcade systems, and handhelds.

RetroArch fuses a familiar interface in XMB with an entirely modular approach to how you piece together your emulation experience. You can keep it completely devoted to the PlayStation or go off and pick every retro console your heart desires.

RetroArch also supports custom bindings and shaders, meaning you can tailor the experience to fit your needs.

What Makes it Great?

RetroArch is well-supported and thoroughly documented. It is one of the more mature emulation suites available and serves as the backbone of things like RetroPi.

RetroArch also happens to run on just about every platform you can think of. The team has devoted time to porting the emulation front ends to mobile devices, different desktop architectures, and even jailbroken console operating systems.

Simply put, if you’re wanting to cut your teeth on the world of emulation, RetroArch is a great solution. It does require a bit of setup, but compared to some of the other options in this list you get far more flexibility.

2. Plug and Play Special: PCSX Reloaded

PS1 emulator
The Sony PlayStation was launched in 1995 in North America.

PCSX Reloaded is one of the oldest emulators on this list and has the benefit of being very mature. Provided you have the requisite BIOS files, it is simple as pointing PCSX to your files and hitting play.

PCSX Reloaded is a great PS1 emulator for the simple fact that it takes very little setup to get up and running. It may not be the most accurate or the most compatible, but it plays common games with utter ease.

It is a great choice for just dabbling in emulation. If you’re not the type to get bogged down in the details of cycle accuracy, it is the best option.

What Makes it Great?

PCSX Reloaded is very simple to get up and running. Provided you have the BIOS files and game images, you’re ready to go.

It is built upon the legacy of PCSX, one of the first viable emulators for the PlayStation. As such, it has had plenty of time to receive refinements. It runs on plenty of platforms as well, meaning you can use it on macOS, Windows, and Linux.

It does have some mobile ports, but they aren’t quite as robust as the ones featured in RetroArch. That said, it gets bonus points for being so easy to use.

3. The Most Accurate PS1 Emulator: DuckStation

DuckStation is a relative newcomer in the world of PS1 emulators. It is one of the most accurate PS1 emulators around, meaning it can run even obscure titles with minimal fuss.

Emulation can use hackier solutions, where shortcuts and workarounds are taken. The inverse of this is unerring accuracy, meaning programmers build complete virtualized circuits and CPUs to run games.

DuckStation falls into the latter camp, being a cycle-accurate PS1 emulator. It takes far more resources to run, but you get the optimal experience.

What Makes it Great?

You won’t get a smoother experience playing PlayStation games than on DuckStation. With its focus on accuracy, it is as close as you’ll get without buying a hardware console to use.

It doesn’t run on every platform around sadly. The dev team has only ported the emulator over to Windows, Android, and macOS. It does support Windows for ARM64 devices, however, meaning you can run it on the newer generation of Windows tablets.

The core interface also closely resembles Dolphin’s, meaning it is a breeze to navigate once you get everything set up.

4. The PS1 Emulator for Speedrunners: BizHawk

BizHawk is a bit of an odd PS1 emulator. It isn’t built to provide unerring accuracy. Nor is it built to be the fastest and simplest PS1 emulator around. Instead, Bizhawk is built for speedrunners.

BizHawk is a multi-console emulation suite that is meant to allow for tool-assisted speed runs, or TAS for short. This means it is open to debugging and other CPU trickery to tinker with the logic of a game.

It is absolutely overkill if you’re looking to just play Crash Bandicoot. If you’re looking to set some records, however, this is the only choice to make as far as emulators go.

What Makes it Great?

BizHawk is built around openness to tinkering. Using Mednafen as a backbone, it is built from the ground up to provide the means for speedrunners to do tool-assisted playthroughs.

However, if you aren’t intending to do speedrunning, it is a bit overkill. You would be better suited with any of the other PS1 emulators on this list. As it stands, BizHawk can certainly be used for just playing games in their natural state.

BizHawk runs on just about any desktop environment you can imagine. If you’re running Linux, Windows, or macOS, you can run BizHawk.

5. It’ll Run on Anything: Mednafen

Mednafen is similar to Retroarch in many regards. At its core, Mednafen is a multi-console emulation suite. It doesn’t feature the familiar and friendly XMB interface, however.

To use Mednafen you need to be comfortable with the command line. Barring that choice, you’ll need to make peace with finding a decent front end to run everything.

Mednafen is an absurdly flexible PS1 emulator, and much like BizHawk, it runs on just about every desktop environment available. If you’re running a 12-year-old Mac Pro tower, you can use Mednafen. The same applies if you’re using an ancient Linux laptop.

Whether you’ll run everything you want, that’s another story.

What Makes it Great?

Mednafen is a very techy solution to emulation. As such, it differs from other PS1 emulators in being fairly demanding to use.

It is super flexible at its core, however. You can run anything you want, or just stick to PS1 games. Mednafen is also fairly accurate, but not quite to the same levels as something like DuckStation.

If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty in the command line, it’s a great option. It also runs on just about everything. You can play on Linux, BSD, Windows, and macOS. Barring some obscure operating systems from the 90s, you’re well covered.

Why Choose a PS1 Emulator over Hardware?

ps1 emulator
Emulation is a cost-effective way of playing retro games.

The original PlayStation had numerous revisions. It does use optical media, which has been prone to degradation and damage over the last few decades. Emulation remains a way to play the games without further damaging the value of a collectible title.

Sony games aren’t quite as collectible as Nintendo, just yet at least. That said, there are some rather rare titles out in the wild. Old PlayStation hardware can be fairly temperamental as well, especially earlier revisions.

Things like the disc reading laser go out with alarming frequency. While replacement parts are readily available, you’ll want to be comfortable with a soldering iron. If you don’t want to risk damaging your investment, then emulation is the way to go.

If you’re not a collector, then why even consider the hardware in the first place? Sure, there is something to be said for playing things as intended. It can be a costly investment, especially for some of the rarer titles.

Summary Table

RankPS1 EmulatorHighlights
#1RetroArchAll-in-one solution, well-supported, runs on multiple platforms
#2PCSX ReloadedPlug and play, easy to use, runs on macOS, Windows, and Linux
#3DuckStationHighly accurate, smooth experience, runs on Windows, Android, and macOS
#4BizHawkDesigned for speedrunners, runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS
#5MednafenFlexible, command-line based, runs on Linux, BSD, Windows, and macOS

Frequently Asked Questions

Can RetroArch play anything?

Within reason, you’ll have to check which cores are compatible with more niche games.

Is DuckStation the best choice?

If you have a suitably powerful computer, then yes, it is a great choice for a PS1 emulator.

Should I use BizHawk if I don't speedrun games?

You could use it, but it might be wasted having that extra functionality to do tool-assisted speedruns.

Do you need to know how to use the command line to use Mednafen?

Not at all, there are numerous front ends available that make using it an easier task. How good they are in practice is going to differ, however.

Should I just buy a PlayStation?

If you don’t mind doing your own repairs or finding a reputable shop, hardware can be a great option. You get the added benefit of not having to worry about if your computer can run certain games.

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