The original PlayStation (PS1, PlayStation One) is Sony’s introduction to the video game world as a console maker. It is the home of Final Fantasy Tactics, a game that is yet to be dethroned as the greatest tactical RPG; the first Metal Gear Solid, where it had a legendary run across multiple PlayStation hardware; mascot 3D-platformers like Spyro and Crash; and other unique and quirky games.
If you would like to relive some of these old classics, take a look below for our top 10 best PlayStation PS1 Emulators,
Duckstation is the undisputed best PlayStation One (PS1) emulator across all platforms. It is free, fully featured, and supports a multitude of settings. This is developed and maintained primarily by stenzek, the same developer of the iconic PlayStation 2 emulator, PCSX2. This emulator aims to be accurate while being compatible with several hardware configurations.
Duckstation runs amazingly in both x86 hardware and ARM devices like Android and, just recently, even on Apple Silicone. This PS1 emulator employs the Vulkan API, which theoretically allows boosted gaming performance, and in practice provides such. Along with other common graphical settings like resolution upscaling, texture filtering, and widescreen hacks, there is also an option to utilize Precision Geometry Transform Pipeline (PGXP).
The PGXP mod removes the warping, or the wobbling effects endemic in PS1 games. Applying this mod may affect the atmosphere of the games, especially for those who grew up playing PS1 games. It is certainly weird to experience the original Silent Hill without the wobbling. Silent Hill exploited similar technological limitations for horror effects like drowning the environment with fog to cover the short draw distance.
Duckstation runs great on Android, even those at the lower end, but ePSXe has the advantage of supporting older hardware. Nevertheless, Duckstation is just a better emulator across the board especially when you have modern hardware with reasonable specs.
There are many quality-of-life enhancements in Duckstation too. This is expected of any emulators. However, one particular feature set that Duckstation has is its automatic save state upon exiting the game.
- Nice GUI
- Upscaling up to 8K resolution
- Does not rely on plugins
- Needs BIOS
Retroarch is not an emulator per se. It is a front-end program to run emulators. It uses “cores” of emulator programs to run emulated games. The reason for using frontend programs as opposed to standalone emulators like Duckstation is the convenience to swap in and out of different platforms. This comes with the price of being a bit complicated to set up as compared to standalone emulators.
It is recommended to use the Beetle core when running Retroarch as the Swanstation core, formerly (and in actuality) Duckstation, will not be updated. There was a falling-out drama between the developers, an occurrence that is pretty common in the emulation scene. Still, the Swanstation core is great with the Duckstation feature set like 4K upscaling, widescreen hacks, overclocking, and even the PGXP correction.
Retroarch shines with its settings and configurations. Whether you play on a small screen like a smartphone or a gigantic TV, the UI can be adjusted to suit the type of screen. It might be exhausting to look for those settings, but they are there.
The amazing feature of Retroarch is how it reduces input lag. This is important with fighters and even JRPGs like the Legend of Dragoon since timely button presses are essential to these types of games. Depending on the game, you can tinker with the VSync settings, the Hard GPU sync, or the Runahead settings. You have to read about it in message boards and experiment with these settings to get what you want. There is a degree of work in setting these up, but at least the granular setup is there for the adventurous.
Another good aspect of Retroarch is the achievements through Retroachievements. It allows players to earn achievements by playing emulated games. Remember, it is only in the PlayStation 3 era that achievements were introduced. This fundamental part of modern gaming is now, pun intended, achievable in old-school games.
- Highly configurable
- Miraculous input lag reduction
- Available in a surprisingly broad range of gaming hardware including the PSP and the 3DS
- Not beginner friendly
- Menu digging
Mednafen is not just a PS1 emulator. It emulates the Apple II/II+ systems, the Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, WonderSwan, GameBoy Color, and Gameboy Advance, the NES and SNES, Virtual Boy, PC Engine / TurboGrafx 16 (CD), SuperGrafx, PC-FX, Sega systems before Dreamcast—Game Gear, Genesis / Megadrive, Master System, and Saturn, and of course, the reason for this very list and lest we forget, the PlayStation One. Among all these systems, the PC Engine, Sega Saturn, and the PlayStation One are revered for their accuracy and compatibility.
In fact, as a testament to its quality, the Beetle core in Retroarch is a fork of Mednafen’s PS1 emulator. There are even other Mednafen cores that RetroArch uses like the Atari Lynx, and Neo-Geo Pocket, so it might be better to use Retroarch instead in this use case because even if Retroarch is a pain to set up, Mednafen is worse.
Even with playing PS1 games on Retroarch essentially using Mednafen, the latter is still worth using as it has the highest accuracy without the extraneous features. Mednafen is significantly more lightweight than Duckstation. This makes the former the PS1 emulator of choice for ancient PCs, weak Linux-based hardware, the Wii, and the PlayStation 3.
- Not beginner friendly at all
- Separate BIOS for every region
Speaking of lightweight emulators, XEBRA is lighter than Mednafen. If you use weaker or older hardware where Mednafen has trouble playing PS1 games 100%, then this might be the emulator for you. XEBRA without further qualifications, along with Mednafen, is the accepted PS1 emulator in the speedrunning community.
Why does the speedrunning community like XEBRA? Simply because it is closest to the performance of the original hardware without the enhancements. The “purity” of its performance is required in this community, including the slowdowns and glitches. Otherwise, the implementations of the “fixes” introduced in more advanced emulators give unfair advantages to the players. The full display of screens inherent with XEBRA prevents cheating from participating speedrunners. Certain versions of Duckstation and Bizhawk are also accepted in speedrunning.
- Speedrunning Community approved
- In Japanese
BizHawk is another multi-system emulator like Mednafen. BizHawk is the emulator of choice for Tool Assisted Speedruns (TAS). So, what is TAS? Tool Assisted Speedruns (TAS) is a recent category of speedrunning. A TAS allows a player to use any tool supplied by emulators. This will cover, among other things, slowing, rewinding, saving, and loading states. This is deemed sacrilege by purists, but the speedrunning community is known for pushing the envelope, and TAS is no exception. TAS focuses on the best way to complete the game rather than on execution.
Any modern features like rewind, are acceptable in speedrunning, which are also available on BizHawk. Other features implemented in BizHawk are full-screen support, auto controls, rerecording in all its flavors, frame/lag/rerecording counters, TAStudio, and Lua Scripting.
- Speedrunning Community (TAS) approved
6. PCSX-Reloaded / PCSX-ReARMed
It may seem that the inclusion of the PlayStation Classic in the pros and cons is out of the left field, but what emulator is running in it is what made it to be a part of this list. The PlayStation Classic runs a fork of PCSX-Reloaded, PCSX-ReARMed. This fork has optimizations to run better on ARM architecture, which the PlayStation Classic has.
Unfortunately, in its unaltered state, the PlayStation Classic is a terrible product. Notwithstanding the anemic game selection, the hardware is not that great including its first-gen PS1 controllers. Plus, Sony used an open-source emulator instead of coding-to-the-metal their own emulator for this product unlike what Nintendo did with its incredible SNES Classic. The PlayStation Classic is cute though, solely by its looks.
If you purchase the PlayStation Classic, this is the emulator that runs it. It is not the best, as there are better options on this list. You could try to run other emulators on the hardware but that requires further tinkering. You can use PCSX-Reloaded on other hardware, but this emulator is not in active development, and the rest of the emulators on this list had exceeded all its features and compatibilities.
PCSX-ReARMed, on the other hand, is thriving on ARM-based hardware, but then again, so does everything else on this list. Interestingly, the PCSX-ReARMed Retroarch core works best on the 3DS of all hardware.
What really makes PCSX-Reloaded valuable is the PGXP fork, the PCSX-PGXP, which adds a perspective correction to reduce polygon jitter. This particular feature is now adapted by modern emulators like Retroarch’s Beetle PSX core and integrated into Duckstation.
- Used in PlayStation Classic
- Appears as a core in Retroarch
- Used in PlayStation Classic
7. PlayStation One Portable Station (POPS)
- Model Number CFI-2000
- Includes DualSense Wireless Controller, 1TB SSD, Disc Drive, 2 Horizontal Stand Feet, HDMI Cable, AC power cord, USB cable, printed materials, ASTRO’s PLAYROOM (Pre-installed game)
- (Playback Language)
POPS is the internally developed PlayStation One emulator for PlayStation hardware. Previous generation PlayStations are usually partially emulated, for example, the early PlayStation 2 version has some PS1 hardware so that it can play PS1 games with some parts being emulated. The same goes for PlayStation Portable (PSP) with its compatibility with PlayStation One. Both the PSP and the PS1 share the same CPU architecture so it is sort of hybrid.
Nevertheless, POPS are included in certain firmware versions of PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation Vita. It does so accurately emulate the PS1, to a fault, as they are barely any enhancements and all the quirks are included.
When it comes to recent generation PlayStation hardware like the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 5, these consoles can still play PS1 games. However, these are only select titles with the emulator being part of the game package. Every PS1 game bought from the PlayStation Network comes with it as an emulator for the game specifically.
- Comes with select PlayStation hardware
- Accurate to a fault
Bleem! is the iconic emulator that won the hearts of gamers by winning the emulation battle although they got obliterated in the courts. The developers of Bleem! lost not because of merit but because Sony just had deep pockets. Hence this emulator is part of this list just because it highlighted the fact that emulation is absolutely legal.
- Legally Iconic
Unlike most of the active and recommended emulators on this list, ePSXe is close-sourced. Prior to the 2010s, ePSXe is the only reliable way in playing PS1 games outside Sony hardware. It was able to run even the most complex games by using “hacks” and plugins.
As of today, ePSXe is made compatible with Android and available on Google Play for a fee. It has all the features you expect for modern hardware like save-states, controller support, and enhanced graphics.
The PC version of ePSXe seldom receives updates but is still good enough to use. ePSXe deserves much respect and should be rewarded for its valiant efforts in the 2000s. The meager price of $3.75 for its Android version should be paid by those who had enjoyed PS1 games for countless hours on their Pentium 4 PCs.
- Great for older hardware
- Does not require BIOS to run
- Plugin based
- Not entirely free
- Not accurate
In the early days of emulation on Android devices, only FPSE and ePSXe were competent. Now, there are better options. FPSE, by itself, is a great emulator with modern feature sets like multiplayer, high resolutions, and shader support. However, it is limited to Android. Although, paying for emulators is not the end of the world, the free options are just better emulators. For those who already paid for FPSE, there is no reason to drop it unless there is a specific feature that you want that is still not integrated into FPSE. This emulator is still in active development and for the foreseeable future may continue to be.
- Compatible with older Android versions
- Not free