The PlayStation 1 did many things right on its debut. Like having a large, high-quality library of games featuring a vast number of genres. Sony also nailed the controller profile on their first try, adding analogs later on to create a basic design that is still used today with minor variations.
Game franchises that debuted with the PS1 are still going strong to this day. Like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc. The PS1 wasn’t just a commercial success, but a landmark achievement in the transition from 2D to 3D gaming for the masses.
A lot of people want to enjoy their old PS1 library, but Sony doesn’t put much focus on backward compatibility with their new PlayStations. This is why I have created a list of the 10 best PS1 emulators for the best experience. Now, some of these work on PC while others work on Android- so you can enjoy your PS1 games no matter where you go.
This is the single most popular retro gaming frontend right now, and for good reason. RetroArch is a program that lets you play any old console you want, with full controller support and customizable graphics settings. It even integrates with your Steam and GOG library, so you can use this front end as a launcher for all your games.
On top of having a clean-looking GUI and tons of customization options, RetroArch automatically downloads relevant updates or additional content needed to run retro games. It also has features like favorites, ratings for individual games, metadata, user-customizable game library thumbnails, etc.
Ok, technically, this isn’t an emulator. RetroArch is a front end, which means it’s a convenience layer that runs on top of the emulator core. Its primary job is to make your life easier by helping you manage your emulator cores and game library.
However, you can access just about any emulator core you want from within RetroArch’s browser. In addition to PS1 cores, it has N64, NES, Neo Geo, Xbox, Game Gear, Dream Cast, and dozens more. This is why RetroArch is all a gamer needs to construct a retro gaming PC (assuming you have a PC).
You might have heard of the PCSX series of emulators. Even to this day, PCSX2 is the most popular PS2 emulator out there. Well, here is its smaller cousin PCSX- designed to emulate PS1 games.
PCSX Reloaded is based on PCSX-df 1.9, a fork of the original PCSX that was released for Linux in 2000. PCSX Reloaded carries some much-needed updates to improve performance in 3D PS1 games. If you primarily want to play 3D PS1 titles like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Crash Bandicoot, etc. use this emulator.
It is also one of the most user-friendly PS1 emulators on the internet. Configuration is very simple and takes mere minutes. Setting up controllers and ROMs is also super easy, with plenty of documentation/ tutorial videos available for those who aren’t familiar with this sort of stuff.
Much like RetroArch, PCSX has built-in controller support. It doesn’t matter if you have a DualShock, Xbox controller, or Logitech gamepad- if it works via USB, PCSX will recognize it. You can even set up local 2-person multiplayer (with full input remapping within PCSX).
Here is a PS1 emulator that runs on every major platform- Windows PC, Linux, and Android. It has nearly flawless support for every major PS1 title, with a couple of exceptions that suffer from minor glitches during certain sections of the game. As long as you have the right BIOS file and video plugins, you shouldn’t run into any game-breaking issues.
Audio and video quality are excellent, with countless customization options to get the right look based on your preferences. Within the settings, you can tweak stuff like resolution, color depth, memory usage, texture quality, etc. Framerate limits can be set to improve game stability and provided a consistent experience.
The official website contains a step-by-step illustrated guide on how to set up ePSXe for any game. There are some video and audio plugins that you may or may not need depending on your particular PC (as well as the games you’re emulating). Trial and error is the best way to get a feel for these things.
Much like RetroArch and PCSX Reloaded, ePSXe features full controller support on PC. The emulator also has an advanced save system that lets you pause, rewind, and resume games from any point. If you want to enjoy some split-screen gaming with your friends, ePSXe can do that as well.
XEBRA is the PS1 emulator you get when you want maximum compatibility. It supports every PS1 game out-of-the-box, with minimal configuration required. You don’t have to spend hours tinkering with video settings, plugins, and BIOS files to play some Final Fantasy or Gran Turismo.
The downside is that XEBRA doesn’t include the plethora of customization options you get on some of the more feature-packed PS1 emulators. But this is also the only PS1 emulator that can emulate PocketStation games. Allowing you to play games like Chocobo World that require the PocketStation accessory (some of these are Japan-exclusive).
If you download XEBRA, understand that it only works with disk images that have all the relevant game files in one .iso or .bin package. If you have Cue images, you must first convert them to a single .iso file before loading the ROM into XEBRA. Don’t worry, the emulator has a tool called CUE2CCD that will convert .cue dumps into clone CDs.
If you want a lightweight emulator with support for multiple consoles, check out Mednafen. It can reliably emulate PS1, Neo Geo Pocket, WonderSwan, Atari Lynx, SNES, and many other systems. Mednafen is open-source software and utilizes OpenGL + SDL.
It supports full key remapping on both controller and keyboard, along with multiplayer gaming and split screen. Saving your game is super easy. You can even pause and rewind a game as if it were a movie.
While PCSX Reloaded is an excellent emulator for playing 3D PS1 games, Mednafen’s lightweight core is optimized for 2D games. Sure, it will play 3D PS1 games and supports the vast majority of them. But you won’t get the quality-of-life features and video customization options that PCSX Reloaded has.
So if you’re primarily interested in platformers and 2D fighting games, give Mednafen a try. It is also an alternative to RetroArch since the Mednafen core supports a wide range of consoles. If you don’t want to do everything with commands, grab a GUI front end for Mednafen.
This is the PS1 emulator of choice for tool-assisted speed runs. If you’re a speedrunner and wish to create some PS1 content for your audience, give BizHawk a try. Its stability and powerful toolset make it one of the best PS1 emulators out there.
Written in C#, BizHawk’s core has been created by combining elements from various emulators like MAME and Mednafen. BizHawk supports frame counters, Lua scripting, rewinding, video recording, rapid-fire, auto-hold, and many other things used in speed runs.
You can remap the controller and joystick inputs. BizHawk also lets you tune the controller to minimize dead zones and increase sensitivity. In addition to PS1, BizHawk also supports Neo Geo Pocket, Genesis, SNES, ZX Spectrum, and many other game consoles.
The first Android emulator on my list, FPse is a paid app. If you’re okay with sparing a couple of dollars to enjoy hundreds of PS1 games on your smartphone, give it a try. It has full save state management, physical controller support, resolution scaling, and can accept compressed ROMs.
Being able to run compressed ROMs is quite important since you don’t want game files taking up all the storage space on your phone. FPse is a very stable emulator with excellent performance on even low-end Android devices. And since it’s a paid app, it gets regular updates from the developer.
FPse can improve upon the original game graphics by running it at the native screen resolution of your phone. There is a newer version of this emulator called FPse64 which fixes some compatibility issues and further improves performance (especially in 3D games). Both versions of FPse have high ratings on the Google Play Store, which indicates that a majority of its users are satisfied.
EmuBox is a rival to FPse but is free. It can play PS1, GBA, NES, and many more consoles. The downside to being free is that it doesn’t get updated as regularly as FPse, and has fewer customization options.
There are no advertisements in EmuBox, which means you get a pure emulation experience on your phone without any distractions. And basic features like cheat codes, physical controller support, save states, etc. are integrated into the software. It works well in both portrait and landscape mode, so you can switch between the two depending on the game you’re playing.
What some of you might be thinking is- “wait, isn’t that a PS2 emulator?”. And you’d be correct. Because this is the most popular PS2 emulator.
But it can also emulate PS1 games, using a PS1 mode that was added a few years ago. You see, the original PS2 had an entire PS1 built into its motherboard. This would allow gamers to play their old PS1 CDs using hardware emulation.
And since PCSX2 copies every bit of the PS2, it also copied the PS1 emulation. Support isn’t perfect, and you’ll get a few visual glitches here and there. Like missing textures, broken lighting, and audio desync.
But these aren’t game-breaking and don’t detract from the otherwise excellent experience. PCSX2 also has a built-in video recorder, texture filtering, and anti-aliasing. Combined with the amazing resolution support, it makes PS1 games look better than the original on a modern display.
One of the best free PS1 emulators, DuckStation is currently available on both Windows and Android devices. It supports widescreen resolutions, anti-aliasing, and emulated CPU overclocking. You can use ISO, MDS, CHD, and PBP game files.
DuckStation has a fullscreen GUI frontend integrated, which helps you manage your PS1 game library and save files. Unlike some other emulator cores on this list, DuckStation is not a multi-platform project. It is focused solely on PS1 emulation, with long-term sustainability and speed being its focal points.
If you use hardware rendering (D3D11, Vulkan, etc.), you can get 24-bit color along with upscaling and texture filtering. DuckStation can also emulate the Multitap accessory and supports up to eight controllers. It also tracks achievements (with the help of RetroAchievements) and can autoload PPF patches.
PS1 emulation has been well studied at this point, and technology has advanced far enough for us to emulate this old console on our phones. Think of how amazing that is. Because back in 1994 when the PS1 was released, it was cutting-edge console tech.
Now, any guy with a $150 Android can emulate Tekken and Tomb Raider. Frontends like RetroArch are also a godsend because they allow you to play every major console from that era with just one program. So download the emulator of your choice, and start reliving the excellence that is PS1.