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A field-programmable gate array (FPGA) is a type of microchip that can reconfigure itself after it has been manufactured, hence "field-programmable". The technology has found use in alternative to software emulation as it can reimplement the hardware without having to resort to any kind of binary translation to a computer platform's native code. Instead of adhering to an instruction set or a programming language, FPGA chips are instead programmed using a hardware descriptor language (HDL) that describes the components and logic needed to run the software. This programming isn't permanent; corrections and other changes can be made afterwards so that it isn't limited to one application like an ASIC. In summary, FPGA-based solutions like MiSTer achieve remarkable success in replicating hardware behavior, they transcend the traditional definition of emulation. Their approach, essentially reconstructing the original hardware circuitry within the FPGA fabric, aligns more closely with concepts like hardware cloning, hardware recreation, or hardware re-implementation. But keep in mind that while FPGA solutions prioritize hardware recreation, offering impressive accuracy, it doesn't always outperform highly-accurate software emulators.

See Emulation Accuracy page for more information about terms like "hypervisors", "simulators", "compatibility layers", "wrappers", "FPGA-based hardware cloning" and "software emulators".

Despite what one may think, FPGAs are not a new technology; they've been around for as long as Macintoshes have been, with manufacturer Altera being the first to introduce an FPGA to the market in 1984. While they already had use in aftermarket cartridges (like setting up mappers for ROMs like the SD2SNES does), using them in place of entire consoles was considered esoteric until commercial devices using FPGAs were released in the mid to late 2010s.

List of aftermarket reimplementations[edit]

Product Manufacturer Reimplements MSRP Notes
AVS retroUSB Nintendo Entertainment System $185
MegaSG Analogue Sega Genesis $189
Nt Mini Analogue Nintendo Entertainment System $449/$499
Pocket Analogue Multi-system $199
Super Nt Analogue Super Nintendo Entertainment System $189
3D Analogue Nintendo 64 TBA Yet to be released
Duo Analogue PC-Engine/TurboGrafx 16/SuperGrafx $199 Yet to be released
Ultimate-64-Elite Gideon's Logic Commodore 64 €248.95 (tax incl.) Pre-order
MiSTer MiSTer-devel
(Base hardware: Terasic DE10-Nano)
8-bit & 16-bit consoles, computers & some arcade games, etc (See Git llnk) $220 min
(Separate items)
Fully packaged forms can be found for much cheaper via sellers. Start guide.


There are a number of alternative DIY FPGA units with a bit less power than the MiSTer FPGA. These are really only good for running cores of 8-bit and 16-bit systems. They are:

- neptUNO
- Multi-Core
- Multi-Core 2+

See also[edit]

  • Emulation Boxes - Devices that make use of microprocessors and software emulators instead of programmable chips.