PlayStation 3 emulators

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PlayStation 3
PlayStation 2006.png
PS3 2009.png
PS3 Original.png
PS3 slim.png
Playstation3 superslim.png
Top: Original (2006)
Middle: Slim (2009)
Bottom: Super Slim (2012)
Developer Sony
Type Home video game console
Generation Seventh generation
Release date 2006
Discontinued 2017
Predecessor PlayStation 2
Successor PlayStation 4
For other emulators that run on PS3 hardware, see Emulators on PS3.

The PlayStation 3 (known shorthand as PS3) is a seventh-generation console released by Sony in late 2006. The successor to the PlayStation 2, it began development in 2001 when Sony partnered with Toshiba and IBM to create the Cell Broadband Engine. The console was launched a year after the Xbox 360 and around the same time as the Wii. While it was debatably the most powerful console of the seventh generation, it was also difficult to program for, as its architecture was even more complex than its competitors. It retailed for $599.

The Cell Broadband Engine consists of a 3.2 GHz Power Processing Element (PPE) and seven Synergistic Processing Elements (SPE),[N 1] and the system contains 256 MBs of XDR DRAM main memory at 3.2 GHz and 256 MBs of GDDR3 video memory at 650 MHz for the Nvidia/SCEI RSX Reality Synthesizer GPU. The GPU ran at 500 MHz and has to communicate forth and back with both RAMs. The complexity of the SPEs bogged down the PlayStation 3 in multi-platform titles, as developers had to go through the process of learning the SPE architecture before they could use it. As a result, several developers decided against using the SPEs, and the consequence is that many multi-platform games ran with lower framerates or worse graphics compared to running those same games on the PS3's competitors.

The number of units sold worldwide was about the same as the Xbox 360. The PlayStation 3 initially included a feature called OtherOS,[N 2] but once it was removed shortly after the PS3 Slim model was released citing "security concerns", fail0verflow had a jailbreak detailed in 2010, giving way for modders to downgrade firmware on a specific version and install a custom firmware, something Sony would patch in newer updates until an exploit was released for 4.82. Emulation only started gaining traction in the late 2010s, as RPCS3 had made strides in improving its largely HLE-based emulation. It has since become the emulator of choice.


Name Platform(s) Latest Release Version System 357/3x9 System Link PSN FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
RPCS3 Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD Nightly
0.0.26 Alpha[N2 1]
~* * ~[N2 2]
Nucleus Windows Linux git
Short Waves Windows 0.0.2
PS3F Windows 0.1
  1. The developers are currently treating version increments as milestones, not as stables.
  2. Netplay in RPCS3 was introduced by GalCiv, who developed RPCN, an open-source server that emulates the P2P match-making done on the PlayStation 3. RPCN can also be used to communicate with private servers for games that require a dedicated server for multiplayer features. In this regard, games that require a custom server will not work unless a fan-made, private server is created. This is outside the scope of the emulator and will have to be developed by the community.
    Destination Home: a preservation team dedicated to restoring PlayStation Home's original online functionality & network services, but progress is heavily reliant on the development of RPCN - the emulated version of PSN used by RPCS3 - as key networking functionality is yet to be implemented.


RPCS3 (compatibility) (servers, servers#2, private servers)
An open-source emulator for 64-bit Windows, GNU/Linux, BSD and macOS. While it isn't anywhere near as compatible as Dolphin is for GameCube or Wii, it has still made immense progress compared to its early days, when development was slow and seemed like it wasn't really going anywhere. As of January 1 2023: 2329 titles (68.48%) can be completed with playable performance and no game breaking glitches; an additional 985 titles (28.96%) either can't be finished, have serious glitches or have insufficient performance; and the remaining 87 titles (2.56%) display image but don't make it past the menus. That being said, all known titles now load, initialize properly, and display image output, without crashing the emulator.[1] As of April 13, 2022, builds for macOS have started being officially distributed for Intel and ARM Macs. [2]
A one-person project that aimed at low-level emulation, some AOT emulation, and portability. Made by AlexAltea.
Short Waves
Made by InoriRus, who later became the developer of the PlayStation 4 and 5 emulator, Kyty, in 2021. It could run a few complex tests that RPCS3 couldn't at the time it was released, but it hasn't been updated since.
Made by Shima, the creator of SSF. More information can be found here.

Emulation issues[edit]

PlayStation consoles have always been notorious for system complexity. Sony's gamble of their technology being emulator-unfriendly makes them developer-unfriendly as well, and the system's weaker performance in cross-platform games proves it. Even if done properly, an LLE approach would be performance suicide, as some things just have to be abstracted enough to get high framerates in games. The situation is so bad that Sony seems to be incredibly hesitant to produce an official PS3 emulator for the newer PlayStations. Simply because they wouldn't be able to justify the extremely high potential development cost to investors.[3]

There are two major bottlenecks at play:

  • Cell Broadband Engine - consists of two architectures that developers have to program for; PowerPC, and... whatever the SPEs really are. Add to that the fact that there are 6 that could be in use by a game, and you have a great formula for high system requirements. The RPCS3 developers technically cheat by using ahead-of-time recompilation using LLVM, but because the emulator constantly improves, that can be easily excused;
  • RSX (Reality Synthesizer): The PlayStation 4 also went unemulated for a long time, simply because of how many components were just undocumented. The same thing applies here; the graphics card is Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX-based, which means it's not well-documented, and developers have to figure out how it displays graphics and graphical effects. Without access to Nvidia's resources, which would normally be included with an SDK, this would be very difficult.
Something of note is that this GPU was also managed by two different memory units with very disparate frequency speeds; 1) 256 MBs of GDDR3 RAM clocked at 650 MHz with an effective transmission rate of 1.4 GHz, and 2) up to 224 MBs of the 3.2 GHz XDR main memory via the CPU (480 MBs max).

PlayStation Move[edit]

The PlayStation Move is a controller similar to a Wiimote, shaped to be held into hand and play with motion detection. It is detected by the PSEye, the successor of the PS2's EyeToy. The PSEye is usable on PC as it benefits from unofficial drivers made by the community. It is not yet implemented in a PS3 emulator. RPCS3 had some first steps implemented for PSMove use, but the controllers aren't working yet.

The author of this preliminary implementation, velocityra, is a dedicated developer for RPCS3 and Vita3K. His own branch of the PSMove has advanced further, as the PSEye and PSMove controllers are already physically supported using the PSMoveAPI. A pretty old compatibility list can be found here. Some YouTube videos are also showing the work-in-progress functionality working.[4] The author unfortunately stopped working on this implementation years ago.


  1. You might see listings of eight SPEs, but that's because there are eight on the die; one of them is disabled to prevent the manufacturer from yielding too many bad units. Another SPE is reserved for the console's operating system.
  2. Which allowed the console to run many distributions of Linux and BSD in a separate partition as long as they supported PowerPC.