History of emulation

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This page contains information of emulation history.

Emulation in general gained popularity around 1995-1997, mostly due to increased CPU speed, increased usage of Internet, and increased number of decent emulators.



The early history of NES emulation is vague, but there are some early emulators known to public.

  • Family Computer Emulator V0.35 for FM Towns, by "Haruhisa Udagawa", with file timestamps of December 12, 1990. It could run some simple NES games such as Donkey Kong.[1]
  • Pasofami for the FM Towns, with a release date of May 1, 1993 in its info file. It had very prelimilary sound emulation.[2] Windows version was released on 1995.
  • LandyNES by Alex Krasivsky, which seems became the base of iNES emulator. At least one beta version was released to the public, but discontinued after the release of NESticle. No release date known but likely mid to late 1990s.
  • Marat Fayzullin's iNES (also known as interNES in early versions) is the first (or at least one of the first) emulator to use NES header format (also known as iNES format). The release date of first version is 1996 according to its site.
  • NESA (Nintendo Entertainment System in Assembler) by British programmer Paul Robson was one of the first free NES emulator with source code available. metropal.com has an interview with the author.
  • NESticle (first version known as v0.2) was released on April 3, 1997. It was one of the first freeware NES emulators.

External Links[edit]

Game Boy[edit]

Not much is known about GB emulation before 1995.

  • Virtual GameBoy (VGB) was first known GB emulator that could run commercial games. First released in 1995 for some unknown platform then ported to PC sometime in 1995 or 1996.
  • No$GMB was released for DOS in 1997. GameBoy Color support was added in 1998.


Genesis emulation dates as early as 1994.

  • An emulator simply called Megadrive released in 1994 could run Sonic the Hedgehog very slowly with no sound and many glitches. Quickly discontinued because the author lost its source code from a hard drive crash. It is currently the earliest known Genesis emulator.
  • GenEm, first released in 1996, is the second Genesis emulator released. The DOS Version of it was the first emulator to feature (prelimilary) sound emulation.
  • Genecyst, first released in 1997 was one of the first widely used Genesis emulator.
  • KGen was earlist predecessor of Kega Fusion, released around 1997-1998.


Just like NES, the SNES emulation history is quite fuzzy, but there are evidences that SNES emulators existed as early as 1994.

  • VSMC was released in 1994 and could run select few Homebrew roms. Apparently it was updated a few times after its initial release, and later versions could run some commercial games including Final Fantasy 2.[3] (Video of one early version. Please note the music is inserted by video editing, not from the emulator.)
  • Super Pasofami or SPW (Super Pasofami for Windows?), developed by the author of Pasofami, was released sometime in 1996. Very little information is available about this emulator aside of the reports that version 1.4a deleted some people's Windows directories.[4]
  • ESNES was one of the first SNES emulator that could emulate sound. It later merged with NLKSNES to become NLKE.
  • NLKSNES was one of the fastest SNES emulators, though it lacked sound emulation. It later merged with ESNES to become NLKE.
  • NLKE is successor of ESNES and NLKSNES and contained both speed and sound.
  • Snes9x was a merged effort of Snes96 and Snes97, both released sometime in 1996-1997.
  • ZSNES was first released on October 14, 1997.

External Links[edit]


Earliest known attempt at PlayStation emulation is 1998. PlayStation emulation is notable for two controversial commercial emulators, both of which Sony sued.

  • PSEmu/PSEmu Pro, first released in early 1998, was one of the earliest PS emulator that could run commercial games. It also created the plugin standard that is still used by ePSXe.
  • Psyke, released around 1998-1999, was the first PS emulator that used Dynamic Recompilation to speed up the emulation. It could run a few games such as Metal Slug and Tekken 3. An interview with the author on September 13, 1998 is available on this site.
  • Bleem!, first released in March 1999 for Windows, was a commercial software that could run several commercial games in full speed with enhanced resolution and texture filtering. There were also three separate Dreamcast versions that could run Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid and Tekken 3.
  • Virtual Game Station, another commercial emulator, was released in 1999 but for Macintosh. Windows version was released later and allegedly had better compatibility than Bleem!, albeit without enhanced graphics.

Nintendo 64[edit]

Earliest known attempt at N64 emulation is 1998.

  • Project Unreality, released in May 1998, was the first Nintendo 64 emulator that could run several homebrew ROMs and could show N64 logo screen of Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Wave Race 64. It was discontinued after the two main developers decided to join a game development company to create commercial N64 games.[5]
  • UltraHLE, released in January 26, 1999, was so good that angered Nintendo.
  • Nemu64, probably released in 2000, was one of the first N64 emulator that used plugin system that is still used by Project64 and was used in early versions of Mupen64Plus. It is also known for its extensive debug features which any of newer emulators do not have.

PlayStation 2[edit]

  • PCSX2 started sometime in mid 2001,[6] with its first release on March 23, 2002.[7] It was the first PS2 emulator boot games Dec 19, 2002 with release v0.1.[8]
  • PS2Emu started development sometime in 2001, but its first and only release wasn't until May 6, 2004.[9]
  • NeutrinoSX (nSX2) first released on Aug 23, 2002.[10] It could boot its first commercial game on March 10, 2003.[11]
  • Play! started development June 14, 2006.[12]

Game Boy Advance[edit]

Unlike other consoles, GBA emulation and Homebrew scene was started as early as 2000, a year before GBA's release.

  • GBAEmu, released in September 2000, was the first known GBA emulator. It could run some Homebrew ROMs as well as Nintendo's "Yoshi's Story" tech demo.
  • Virtual GameBoy Advance (VGBA), done by same author of iNES and VGB, was first released in 2000 according to its official site. In versions released in 2001, it could run a few commercial games.
  • iGBA, which was available as early as February 2001 and last updated on March 25, 2001, could run a few commercial games with some graphical glitches and with no sound.
  • Several GBA emulators with more accuracy were released in 2001, for example Boycott Advance, DreamGBA, No$GBA, and VisualBoy Advance.


  • Gekko was started in April 2006.

Nintendo DS[edit]

Initial attempt to emulate Nintendo DS was made in 2004. With so many emulators like iDeaS, and the leaked EnSata, it only got decent enough by 2007.

  • DSEmu, first released in 2004, was the first "attempt" to emulate Nintendo DS, although it only emulated GBA hardware.
  • iDeaS, first released in 2004 or 2005, was the first DS emulator that could run commercial games. It also had some plugin system that was not widely used.
  • Ensata: An NDS emulator made by Nintendo (and Intelligent Systems?) that was leaked to emulation community in unknown year. It could run select few commercial games, though compatibility was very low.
  • DeSmuME: Developed by YopYop156 around 2005, first as "YopYop DS". Discontinued at version 0.3.3 in April 2006, citing a change of laws regarding emulation in France. Source code was then released. Many devs tried on their own to made their own follow-up (one such emulator includes NDesMume, of which only one version was ever released), before teaming up and merging their work, resulting in build 0.5.0 as the starting point for the new emulator.
With partial Wi-Fi emulation enabling online MP (but not local MP) in 2010, Nintendo supposedly threatened the devs with legal action (though this is unconfirmed). This resulted in the online Wi-Fi functionality being removed from the main trunk, yet it still had its own active branch which didn't face any legal action whatsoever.
The main trunk devs decided to drop all development of the Wi-Fi feature or anything related (online, local, download play, Wii/DS connectivity, DSiWare). This had the unfortunate side-effect of stalling efforts to preserve online content near the closure of Nintendo's DS servers in 2014 as other parties were scrambling to get the emulation enough to preserve packets from online play.
Similarly, the high-resolution DS rendering feature appeared first in shikaver's port (X432R), which was also more optimized for speed and kept getting updated with features from the trunk. Then in the closed-source commercial emulator DraStic‎, before making it to Desmume.
  • NO$GBA: originally a GBA emulator, it received e-Reader and NDS emulation by its 2.4 version by 2006. It was for a long time THE emulator for DS games. It also had partial implementation for local multiplayer that went nowhere, and a very useful debugger for modding DS/GBA games. Development stalled for a long time with version 2.6a published in April 2008. While it's not nearly up-to-par with the more recent games due to graphical problems, the apparent crashes on boot could be solved with a separate tool to decrypt DS images.
Came back after a long hiatus in 2014 with version 2.7 and is now more or less under development - 2.8a notably is the first emulator to include DSiWare emulation.

PlayStation Portable[edit]

  • PSP Player was the first PSP emulator, starting development on July 4, 2006.[13] It was the first PSP emulator to boot and run a game on Mar 6, 2008.[14]
  • JPCSP started development July 17, 2008.[15] It booted its first game Oct 14, 2008[16]
  • PPSSPP first released and went open source on Nov 1, 2012.[17]

Xbox 360[edit]

  • Xenia started development Jan 11, 2013 .[18] It was the first emulator to run a commercial Xbox 360 game on Mar 24, 2014.[19]

PlayStation 3[edit]

  • RPCS3 started development May 23, 2011.[20] It booted its first commercial game March 6, 2014.[21]
  • Short Waves first released Dec 30, 2013.[22] It was faster and could run more complicated tests than RPCS3 at the time of its release, but development stopped before running any commercial games.
  • Nucleus started development Aug 26, 2014.[23]


Nintendo 3DS[edit]

  • Citra was the first released 3DS emulator. Its first commit was on Aug 29, 2013.[24] It was able to boot its first game, Ocarina of Time 3D, on Dec 13, 2014.[25]
  • 3dmoo was started shortly after Citra, on Mar 19, 2014.[26]
  • TronDS's first version was released May 11, 2014.[27]

Wii U[edit]

  • decaf was the first released Wii U emulator. Its first commit was on May 18, 2015.[28] However, it didn't run any games until Oct 28, 2015,[29] a couple weeks after Cemu had released.
  • Cemu was first released Oct 13, 2015.[30] It was the first Wii U emulator that could run games. The developer has stated that work began on it around the end of 2013.[31]


  1. MyaMyaMya's post in "First Famicom/NES emulator?" - "I've tested both in an FM Towns emulator, and both do work with simple games like Donkey Kong, so they're not fakes."
  2. MyaMyaMya's post in "First Famicom/NES emulator?" - "Pasofami even has sound...awful ear-killing sound."
  3. EMULATION Issue #2 - 23/07/96 - VSMC's new Brain: "Whilst previous versions of VSMC were fast, some programs like Final Fantasy 2 were hideously slow."
  4. EMULATION Issue #4 - 28/08/96 - Revenge of Super Pasofami? (Windows 95): "SPW 1.4a has been released, and reportedly deleted some people's Windows directories. Whether this is a revenge plot by the author, or just some dodgy programming, remains to be seen. For this reason, most webpages do not carry 1.4a."
  5. Project Unreality in limbo (Slashdot)
  6. The History of PCSX2
  7. PCSX2 v0.026 Download
  8. PCSX2 v0.1 Download
  9. PS2Emu site on archive.org
  10. nSX2 Downloads
  11. nSX2 site archive
  12. Play!'s initial Github commit.
  13. PSP Player's initial commit.
  14. PSP Player emulating Puzzle Bobble on YouTube
  15. JPCSP's initial commit.
  16. JPCSP news archive
  17. PPSSPP's initial commit.
  18. Xenia's initial Github commit.
  19. Xenia Xbox 360 Emulator: Frogger 2 first run on YouTube
  20. RPCS3's initial commit on Google Code
  21. Youtube video of RPCS3 running Arkedo Series - 02 Swap!
  22. Short Waves 0.0.1 release info
  23. Nucleus's initial Github commit.
  24. Citra's initial Github commit.
  25. Citra 3DS emu boots first commercial game - reddit thread
  26. 3dmoo's initial Github commit.
  27. TronDS changelog.
  28. decaf's initial Github commit.
  29. Decaf-emu runs a game now! reddit thread.
  30. Cemu changelog
  31. gbatemp disscuion on Cemu.

External Links[edit]