Can computers play
Nintendo games? Yes, but that's not all! They can also play
Sega Genesis games,
Nintendo 64 games,
arcade games, and the list goes on. Of course you can't
just plug your game cartridge into the computer. Game files, which are often called images or ROM's, are
used instead, but that's not all you need. You also need what is called an "emulator" that performs
the duties of the game console.
Emulators are programs that are designed to "emulate" a game console. These programs are carefully
programmed to do everything the actual game console does. This proves to be quite a difficult task. Most
emulators are not 100% perfect, although some are much better than others.
For most game consoles, there are several different emulators to choose from. Some are fairly difficult
to get set up and can be quite cumbersome to play. Others are as easy to play as surfing the Internet. Most
emulators won't play every ROM either. Some may play a ROM that another won't and vice versa.
A fairly popular and free
Super Nintendo emulator is the
ZSNES. The ZSNES has an easy "Windows" type menu and is one of the
more compatible emulators available. If you prefer the Sega Genesis,
Genecyst is a great choice for emulating the
Genesis ROM's. It is also free and has an easy to use "Windows" type menu.
Once you have an emulator, next you will need a ROM in order to play a game. Here is the bad part. It may be
illegal to have a ROM file of a game or even an emulator! To the best of my knowledge it seems nobody knows for sure.
Bleem, a once popular
PlayStation emulator, was legally marketed and
sold for a long time. They won most of their court battles against Sony, but Sony, a much wealthier company,
was able to keep things tied up in court until Bleem finally ran out of money and was unable to continue
the fight. Bleem, financially broke after all the lawsuits, was forced to discontinue selling their product.
It seemed to be more of who had the most money than what was legal.
Many argue that
it should be legal
to own a ROM if you are the owner of the actual game itself. Their reasoning is that people are allowed to have
back-up copies of software they own.
Nintendo disagrees and thinks it is
illegal no matter what! (Keep in mind though that it is definitely a
to possess copies of copyrighted software that you do not own.)
As far as I can tell there have been no "official" court rulings to strongly support either case. If you're
going to collect ROMs please keep all of this in mind. I wouldn't want you to end up behind bars! :-) When I
find out for sure about these legal issues, (not Nintendo's or an emulation site's "opinions"), I will let you know.
There is an exception to all this "red tape." If the ROM is NOT a copy of an original video game, then it
should be legal to download. The same would apply to emulators. An emulator that "replicates" the
Nintendo game console may be illegal, but for another emulator the question of legality would depend on what it
was emulating and how it went about it. Emulators can be designed to emulate anything from
older model computers to
From what research I have done so far, it seems that the main legal issue is whether sites are allowed to
provide ROM's for download. From what I can understand, it should be legal unless it is a ROM of something
copyrighted or it is provided without the owner's permission. Some sites seem to be distributing ROM's illegally.
Inevitably, whether these sites infringe on
copyright laws or not is a matter
for the courts to decide.
The easiest way to use an emulator and a ROM is to place them both in the same folder. The rest
depends on how the emulator is designed to load and play the ROM. Most emulators will come
with a "ReadMe" file that explains how to get started.
Now that you have a better understanding of game emulation, all that's left is to download an emulator
and a ROM to play. Again, remember the legal issues I mentioned before. Below are sites pertaining to emulation.
If you find ROM's at these sites, please be certain they are legal to download! Make SURE you always
scan everything you download before opening or running it!