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4 Best PS3 Emulators You Need to Try in 2024

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4 Best PS3 Emulators You Need to Try in 2024

Key Points

  • RPCS3 is one of the best PS3 emulators, with high compatibility rates and the ability to play popular titles at 4K resolution and 60FPS.
  • RetroArch is a versatile front-end for multiple emulators, including RPCS3 for PS3 games, and offers customization options like shaders and netplay.
  • Nucleus is a low-level emulator for PS3 games, but its development has ceased, leading to spotty compatibility and requiring physical hardware for setup.
  • PlayStation Plus on PC allows access to some PS3 games through streaming, but the limited selection and performance issues make it less ideal compared to other emulators.

What are the best PS3 emulators? The Sony PlayStation 3 may no longer be supported, but emulation opens doorways to try games with whole new features. Today’s emulators take a closer look at the classic Sony system, with one being a fantastic general choice for playing the lion’s share of PS3 games. Since PS3 emulation is still relatively new in the grander scheme of things, you won’t be able to play all games.

However, if you want to get started with emulation, there are some great places to start. There is one I recommend above all else, thanks to its superior overall compatibility. However, some options are interesting solely from an archival perspective. At any rate, you’ve got options when it comes to playing your favorite PS3 games on PC. You’ll just need the hardware to support it.

RPCS3

best ps3 emulators
RPCS3 is one of the best ways to play classic PS3 games on your PC.

If you’re looking for the best PS3 emulators, no list is complete without RPCS3. This is arguably one of the oldest on this list, and as such, has had plenty of time to reach astounding compatibility rates. You can play a slew of your favorite games on here, and in some cases bring them to a whole new level of fidelity with 4K resolution and 60fps support.

RPCS3 isn’t 100% with the entire PS3 library just yet but has plenty of popular titles playable. I used it recently to revisit FROM Software’s Demon’s Souls to great success. Other major titles like Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 run just fine on the software as well. RPCS3 is similar in concept to software like Dolphin and PCSX2. You’ve got a familiar and comfortable interface to use.

The remapping of controllers is a cinch, and you can even set older first-person shooters up to play with a keyboard and mouse if you want. The real selling point of RPCS3 is just how mature the software is at this point. You can run it on the likes of something like a ROG Ally or Steam Deck, with some settings tweaks of course.

As a whole, if you’re looking for a general-use PS3 emulator, this is going to be your best bet. More demanding games may struggle to run on it, but there are plenty of popular titles that run better than the native hardware. If you’re a WipEout fan like I am, it is one of the rare ways you can play the HD series on good hardware.

While there are other PS3 emulators in the wild, few are as robust or as ready for games as RPCS3. It is a demanding emulator to run, especially when compared to something like Dolphin or Ryujinx. However, if you have the hardware it is the best way to experience PS3 games on your PC.

RetroArch

best ps3 emulators
If you’re looking to get your emulators all in one place, RetroArch is a fantastic option.

RetroArch isn’t specifically a PS3 emulator. It is more of a front-end for a number of emulators. You’ve got a selection of a variety of different systems like the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 3, and others. Where RetroArch excels is in versatility and ease of use. You only need to download the emulation cores you want to play games from, rather than having some massive list.

This allows you to pick and choose as needed, so you can be more selective as a whole with your games of choice. RetroArch’s PS3 support comes in the form of RPCS3, which isn’t much of a surprise. Overall compatibility is much the same when using the PS3 core on RetroArch. There are some perks to using the software over the default RPCS3 installation, however.

RetroArch allows you to tailor the visual experience with the likes of shaders, as well as coming with support for netplay. You can also configure the system to handle things split-screen play provided you have enough controllers to go around.

RetroArch wouldn’t be my first pick as one of the best PS3 emulators you’ll find. However, it is a robust and wonderful piece of software if you want to consolidate your retro gaming experience in one central location.

Another added benefit of RetroArch is that it runs on just about everything. You’ll find builds for Android, iPhone, PCs, Macs, Linux, and a slew of game systems. Whether these platforms support PS3 emulation is another matter.

It might not be for everyone, but there are certainly benefits to using RetroArch. You also have access to the classic XMB interface, which brings home the feeling of playing on a PS3 in front of an old HDTV.

Nucleus

best ps3 emulators
Development on Nucleus isn’t ongoing, but it is an interesting take on emulation for the PS3.

Nucleus is an interesting development in emulation. The PS3 was a notoriously hard system to develop and optimize games for, which led to performance issues on titles like Dark Souls and Bayonetta. Nucleus is a low-level emulator, meaning it is getting close to the bare metal of the system itself.

Development has since long gone dormant, coming up on 8 years without any recent updates. That said, it still boots and plays games wonderfully. The configuration and setup are more complex and require some special files you’ll need a physical PS3 to obtain.

While this is one of the best PS3 emulators you’ll find, it isn’t one I’d recommend. The setup is extensive and requires physical hardware. Since development has ceased, compatibility is far spottier across the board.

Nucleus is an interesting footnote in the history of emulation. What it lacks in overall development, it certainly makes up for with ambition. As such, if you’ve got a weekend to waste, it is worth visiting. However, there are better ways of spending time, like actually playing your favorite PS3 games on an actively developed emulator.

If Nucleus had more time to develop, it might have been a top contender. Low-level emulation has allowed the likes of Mednafen and Higan to nail the experience of playing on a classic console. The developer seems to have abandoned the project, which is a shame given its potential.

PlayStation Plus on PC

best ps3 emulators
You don’t need a console to use PlayStation Plus to stream PS3 games.

Shockingly, one of the best PS3 emulators comes from Sony itself. PlayStation Plus is a paid subscription service for consoles that allows access to online games. You get a slew of extras like free games added to your account every month while the subscription is active. Now, ordinarily, this would mean you’ll need a console to use the service.

However, if you can run the PlayStation Plus app on your PC and gain access to some PS3 games. Emulation as a whole is rather spotty when looking at these titles, and the service streams them. This does have some benefits, as you don’t need to keep massive files on your computer to play your favorite titles. Streaming games can be a bit iffy, however, as we’ve seen over the years.

Some of my favorites aren’t on the platform, but big titles like Uncharted can be found. I don’t have personal experience with the service, but users have reported spotty performance. Some titles like the Ratchet and Clank games run like a top.

However, others like the PS3 Jak and Daxter game are rife with issues. The PC functionality for the service functions more as a curiosity and something to sweeten the pot. You aren’t going to get the best performance as you would with something like RPCS3.

While this is one of the best PS3 emulators, the limited selection and streaming hold it back from overall greatness. The service is fantastic for PS4 and PS5 owners, but you’ve got easier ways to play classic games on those platforms as it stands.

4 Best PS3 Emulators You Need to Try in 2024 Summary

RankEmulator
1RPCS3
2RetroArch
3Nucleus
4PlayStation Plus on PC

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the PS3 a difficult system to emulate?

Yes, the complex architecture has made getting good-quality emulation a bit of a chore.

What is the best overall PS3 emulator?

My first choice for playing PS3 games would be RPCS3.

Is PlayStation Plus on PC worth a purchase?

If you already have a PlayStation console, I think it is worth trying. Users with just a PC might want to look at a different option like RPCS3.

Is RetroArch an emulator?

Strictly speaking, no. However, RetroArch serves as a quick and intuitive front-end for gathering together multiple emulators in a convenient location.

Is PS4 emulation possible?

Sure, but development is going to be slow and likely is going to require beastly hardware to run well.

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