How are the next-gen emulators doing?

It’s been a while since I posted my introduction to game emulators. At the time, I said that there are no emulators available for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, or Wii U. There was a good reason for this – there are a lot of scams online where people disguise malware as emulators. Instead of emulating games, they install intrusive software on your computer. The real emulators were still in early development, and weren’t very usable. But development has gone quickly since then, and that isn’t as true as it was last year. There have been some major improvements, and it’s time for an update.


Wii U – Cemu

Cemu has a very dedicated development team, and they have been working fast. The Cemu community has been very active since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In less than two weeks since it’s release, it has gone from crashing the emulator to being very playable. Monthly donations on their Patreon went from $2,000 to $20,000 in just a couple of weeks, and are now at over $40,000 a month.

The official compatibility list shows 4% of games as “Perfect”, and 16% as “Playable” – a number that goes up with every monthly release. People are already creating high resolution texture packs for games, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This emulator is well on its way to being a viable alternative to buying a Wii U, and could provide a better experience than the original console when it’s completed.



Playstation 3 – RPCS3

Playstation 3 had a lot of cherished and amazing exclusives, and people are eager to play them on PC. This is particularly true since Playstation 3 consoles are not known to have very long life spans. RPCS3 has seen some amazing progress in the last few months. Updates were recently made adding support for the newest AMD Ryzen and Intel Skylake processors, and major improvements were made to performance.

The compatibility list shows 6.65% of games as playable, a number that continues to riseDemon’s Souls is running well, and Catherine is now running at full speed. Even Persona 5, a new release, is already playable on RPCS3, just a couple of weeks after its release. Their Patreon is at over $1,200 a month in donations.



Xbox 360 – Xenia

The Xenia project aims to emulate the Xbox 360. It’s not as far long as the other next-gen emulators, but it’s Github page shows that it’s still under active development. According to the compatibility list, several games are playable, but so far, they are mostly smaller titles. Larger titles like Halo 3 are sometimes able to boot into the menu, but often times simply crash the emulator. Most of these titles have not had their compatibility updated in a year or more, so it’s possible that they are performing better now.

At this stage, the emulator is aimed at developers, and not players, so it doesn’t have the public visibility some of the other emulators have. Testing the emulator requires building it from source, and the developers say that unless you are comfortable debugging code, you should not try to use it yet. Xenia still making progress, though, and has quite a few people contributing, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Update: Users on Reddit have noted that I did not mention Decaf, an emulator for Wii U. I wasn’t very familiar with that emulator when I wrote this, but after seeing how far along it’s come, I’m very excited to check it out. If you want to take a look, you can see their Github or Subreddit.


Michael Day is a web engineer, javascript junkie, video game enthusiast, and blogger. Hating how the big console makers were taking advantage of gamers, he made the switch to PC and set it upon himself to make a machine that did everything the more popular consoles wouldn't.