Best PC build for emulation in May 2022

With a Ryzen 5 2600 and RX 570 to play with, 1080p gaming is pretty much sorted. Modern AAA games like Control and Red Dead Redemption 2 see 30FPS at High settings, but lowering the settings or playing more optimized titles like Doom Eternal or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can easily see in excess of 60FPS. In terms of competitive gaming – Fortnite, PUBG, CS:GO – these are more than taken care of. 200FPS using competitive settings in Fortnite and CS:GO at 1080p, and an average of 120FPS in PUBG.

Emulation of older systems is at the point where even our $300 build would have no trouble running them. The Sega Master  System, Saturn, Genesis, NES, SNES, Gamecube, Wii, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advnace, DS, 3DS, PS1, PS2, and PSP. All of these will run more-or-less flawlessly in addition to more temperamental systems like the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 – many games are playable but their emulation isn’t as refined. Further, any CPU from the last 10 or so years will have the supported instruction set required for emulating these systems.

There’s also various emulators and cores for each system . The PS1 has many to choose from; ePSXe, Mednafen, and PCSX-R-PGXP are just a few. It’s when we start talking about relatively more modern systems like the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and Switch. Xenia is currently the most popular and well-developed emulator for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console; RPCS3 for Sony’s PlayStation 3; CEMU for Nintendo’s Wii U and Yuzu or Ryujinx for the Switch.

Despite the systems themselves approaching 15-years in age, the emulators are all under active development and nowhere near the level of previous emulators in terms of compatibility and performance. As such, don’t expect a solid 30FPS or 60FPS in many titles, and even if you happen to hit that average framerate, don’t expect a consistent frametimes. Basically, you’ll experiencing the odd bit of hitching as you move into a new area.

Sony PlayStation 3

Now, in terms of the performance you can expect from these emulators it will vary by game. With RPCS3 you can expect a fairly solid 30FPS in both Demon’s Souls and Persona 5. Using mods to raise the frame cap to 60FPS will see a less stable experience with framerates anywhere between 50 and 60FPS. Areas with lots of physics-heavy objects like in the opening  area in Demon’s Souls (Boletaria) will be subject to a fair bit of stutter and frame drops,. especially if they experience any collision – the player breaking or walking through them. Similarly, Persona 5 runs well, but the framerate can dip in heavily-populated areas like the cities and subway, but the overall experience is great.

Other popular titles like The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption are far less impressive with an average framerate of about 10 and 15FPS respectively.  Another hugely popular PS3 exclusive, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sees middling performance with a 25FPS average. Rajkosto’s build can get this approaching 30FPS but it just isn’t quite there.

Microsoft Xbox 360

With Microsoft having a vested interest in PC gaming, many of the Xbox 360 exclusive titles like those form the Halo series have made there way to PC in the form of the Master Chief Collection. Gears of War saw a PC release back in 2007, removing the necessity for emulation. However, Gears of War 2 and 3 were 360 exclusive (likely due to poor sales and/or piracy on PC). Those of you with a copy of Gears of War 2 will be happy to know that performance is exceptional with current builds of Xenia seeing a near-solid 30FPS.

Red Dead Redemption is another console exclusive and it sees better performance through Xenia than emulation via RPCS3. With a 20FPS average, it isn’t exactly what we’d call playable but it’s quickly approaching the desired 30FPS target.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo’s Switch has two contenders for emulation: Yuzu and Ryujinx. Looking at the former and the overall experience is great – this is probably in part to the Switch being a simpler and less powerful console than the PS3 or Xbox 360. Mario Odyssey is a title that targets 60FPS, and whilst the 2600 will get you there most of the time, there are many instances where it can drop to 50 or even 40FPS. It remains playable though.

Another hugely popular title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, runs exceptionally with a solid 30FPS experience. Removing the framecap can see an average of about 50FPS in the more demanding areas so it’s more than playable even at resolutions higher than the Switch is capable of. Lastly, Pokémon Sword and Shield. These titles are turn-based RPGs so any stutter or slowdown won’t be as impactful in gameplay. With that said though, 30FPS is a common sight and only when traversing the world do you see dips to 20FPS.

Overall then, older systems are no issue even if you want to run them at far higher resolutions than the original consoles. Relatively newer systems are hit and miss when it comes to performance, but as we’ve discussed, it all comes down to the individual game. The ability to uncap framerates beyond what was intended certainly offers a welcome and more fluid way of experiencing these console exclusives.

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