Difference between revisions of "Emulation Boxes"

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|Official Sony product designed to only emulate the PS1. Includes 20 games.

Revision as of 22:09, 13 September 2019

An emulation box is an unofficial term for a device built with the specific purpose of running emulators. They generally consist of overpriced and locked-down ARM microcomputers and some are more so just "collector's items". They should be avoided as your computer will generally provide better performance overall.

Cartridge based

These emulation boxes uses orginal game cartridges or CDs and cannot (without hacking) load ROMs directly.

First Party Boxes

Product Manufacturer Reimplements MSRP Emulator used Notes
NES Classic Edition / Famicom Classic Mini Nintendo Nintendo Entertainment System $59.99 Kachikachi Official Nintendo product designed to only emulate the NES. Includes 30 games.
SNES Classic Edition / Super Famicom Mini Nintendo Nintendo SNES $79.99 Canoe Official Nintendo product designed to only emulate the SNES. Includes 21 games. Uses the exact same hardware (motherboard, SOC and all) as the NES Classic, but with a different firmware.
Sega Genesis Mini Sega Sega Genesis $79.99 ? Official SEGA product designed to only emulate the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Includes 42 games and is scheduled to launch September 19th, 2019. Unlike the other "minis", this one may offer useless add-ons that are purely for aesthetics and provide no additional features.
PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 Mini Konami PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 TBA ? Official Konami product. The Japanese market will get the original white PC Engine, while Europe will get the Core Grafx revision. In the US, players will get the TurboGrafx-16 case design. Price, release date and full games list to be revealed.
PlayStation Classic Sony Sony PlayStation $99.99 $20 PCSX-ReARMed Official Sony product designed to only emulate the PS1. Includes 20 games.
NEOGEO Mini SNK Neo Geo ~$110 $89.99 modified version of NJEMU Offical SNK product designed to only emulate the NEOGEO. Includes 40 games.
CAPCOM Home Arcade Capcom CPS1 & CPS2 ~$254 FinalBurn Alpha Offical CAPCOM product designed to emulate CPS1 and CPS2 arcade games. Includes 16 games. Scheduled to launch October 25th, 2019.

Third Party Boxes

Product Manufacturer Reimplements MSRP Emulator(s) used Notes
Polymega Playmaji Multi-system $499.99 (Deluxe bundle) Mednafen, Mesen, Kega Fusion, and MAME Modular system. First emulation box with CD support. Emulates PS1, Saturn, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, TG-16/CD, Neo Geo CD, NES, SNES.
Retron5 Hyperkin Multi-system $159.99 RetroArch, Snes9x, and Genesis Plus GX Emulates NES/GBC/GBA/Genesis/SNES and includes cart readers for those systems.
Sega Genesis Flashback AtGames Sega Genesis $79.99 ? Produced under license from Sega. Emulates the Master System and the Sega Genesis. It also has a cartridge port that can load original cartridges to some degree. Very disappointing and the ensuing outcry has led Sega to drop their planned further partnership with AtGames for their actual Sega Genesis Mini.


Some of those products have attracted the ire of parts of the emulator community over issues not necessarily related to the product's quality, but ones related to open source emulators. In some cases, it's because negotiations with open source emulator and/or frontend developers fell through and the company used a "lesser" option as a replacement. In others, an arrangement was reached, contracts and money were exchanged only for the project maintainers to turn out not to have gathered the complete consent of all contributors, some parts are licensed as a strictly non-commercial license, and similar issues. Sometimes, it might have to do with an incomplete source code release from companies that have to abide by GPLv3 obligations. And of course, the company might be acting malicious towards emulator developers.

Since the problem with these is primarily a meta problem that doesn't have much to do with the product's actual quality, and is a controversial subject even within emulator developer circles (some well-known developers such as byuu did eventually agree to work with the likes of Hyperkin, after all) this section is about listing some of those cases.

  • Capcom Home Arcade: Capcom has licensed (with compensation) FinalBurnAlpha from the project's maintainer, however this has lead to some controversy and outrage by fellow FBA developers (who didn't agree with this move, and eventually made their own fork) and MAME developers (where some of FBA's code comes from), as FB Alpha's license isn't cleared to allow for commercial use and many of those developers think the FBA's license is an ugly mess of contradicting licenses that should not exist.
  • Retron5 (Hyperkin): Is using RetroArch, Snes9x, Nestopia, VBA-M and Genesis Plus GX. While they did release their source code, the latter four have a non-commercial license. Retroarch's source code used was partial, and had DRM going against GPLv3 obligations.

Outside of the emulation community, people have complained that some of these products are lacking or disappointing. This is mainly due to the selection of games determined to be "worthy" of being preloaded to the system. The issue of not having certain games have caused many to modify their systems just to be able to play the games they want.

DIY Solutions

If you still want some kind of "emulation box", but don't want to be limited by any consumer product, you can make one yourself! These other SoCs are relatively cheaper and offers more than first-party boxes:

  • Nvidia Shield TV (Android TV box fast enough for 2D & 3D emulation of many consoles)
  • LattaPanda (Windows 10 computer with integrated Arduino. Fast enough for Saturn emulation.)
  • ODROID (Decent speeds for Saturn emulation)
  • Raspberry Pi (Eg. Lakka. It recommended to use the Raspberry Pi 3 for decent performance.)

It is best if you use some kind of frontend to run the emulators as it will provide more convenience.

See also

  • FPGA - Devices that make use of programmable chips instead of ARM processors.

External Links