Building custom PCs for emulators is a highly underrated practice. But it is more popular than you may think. There are tonnes of individuals picking up on the practice looking to create the best emulation PCs.
Like a gaming PC, emulator PCs require specific features and performance to deliver seamless and fast performance. The exact specifications differ depending on the device you want to emulate. The N64, PS1/2/3, Xbox 360, Switch and Wii are among the most commonly emulated platforms among gamers.
Finding the best emulation PC gives you more flexibility because it can handle anything you throw at it.
Our Best PCs for Emulation Recommendations
If you have been thinking about emulation for a while, you probably know by now whether your current rig has the capacity and meets the requirements for emulation. Depending on your experience with gaming PCs, you should also know whether you can tackle a custom build.
With Fierce PC, handling a custom build shouldn't be much of an issue, especially because we have the Online PC Configurator, which makes the process straightforward.
CPU: i5 10600K
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB Graphics card
RAM: DDR4 2x8GB
Storage Space: 2TB SATA3 6 Gbps Hard drive
Our Recommended Custom Build Details
For the best gaming experience, you need a PC that caters to your specific needs. We recommend going for a PC that will handle both gaming and emulations. This PC has all the performance power you need to play less-intensive games and do some moderate multitasking also.
The best custom PC build for emulations
For what we consider to be our best custom build PC for emulations, we have a balance of high-performance hardware that will run the most demanding emulated titles. This PC is well-balanced, offering a mix of gaming performance and affordability.
However, this PC isn’t suited for high-end PC gaming. But it will handle all the emulated titles you will throw at it. It will also run some low-performance AAA PC titles.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3000 is one of our best custom built PC for emulation. It offers a well-balanced mix of hardware tailored to handle the most demanding emulated titles.
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600 processor
- Speed: 3.8 – 4.4GHz
- Core/threads: 6/12
- Socket: AM4
- TDP: 95W
The capable Ryzen 5 3600X process is perfect for emulation applications. It has fantastic multi-core performance and very good single-core performance.
When choosing a processor for emulated games, your focus should be on the single-core performance of your PC. The Ryzen 3600X has excellent value for money and provides capable levels of gaming while remaining very affordable.
Corsair Vengeance LPX
Frequency: DDR4 3200MHz
CAS Latency: 15
For this build, we opted for the Corsair Vengeance LPX for several reasons. The faster speeds of the RAM make the Ryzen CPU processors work more efficiently. Although this is not the fastest RAM on the market, it is capable of providing plenty of speed for emulation applications.
The 16GB capacity allows you to run more substantial background tasks without losing seamlessness in the game or experiencing freezing.
MSI Ventus RTX 2060
Intended build: Intermediary
Form factor: RTX
Overclocking Support: Yes
Most emulated gaming titles don’t require such a powerful graphics card. However, since we went for a standalone CPU, it makes sense for the GPU to be standalone for the build to work.
This is not the cheapest GPU on the market. It is also not the most expensive. It is a great option in case you get hooked on PC games along the way, or you tend to run other GPU intensive applications on the same PC like video editing. Having a GPU instead of an APU yields better performance results and allows you to run multiple applications with more ease.
WD Blue SN550
Capacity: 500GB also available in 1TB, 2TB.
We opted for the Western Digital hard drive for this build because of its superior load speeds. This makes the drive a reliable storage solution with ample space to store all your emulated games library but also ensures loading times are faster compared to what you would get from an HDD option. You might pay slightly more, but the uptick in price is definitely worth it in terms of experience.
GameMax Abyss Full Tower ARGB Gaming PC Case
Type: Full tower
Motherboard compatibility: Extended ATX
Dimensions HXWXD: 51.5 by 22.5 by 53.1 centimetres
Cooling: RGB fans (up to 5 fans)
The GameMax Abyss full tower ARGB is one of our favourite PC cases at Fierce PC. We love it because of its seamless compatibility with different motherboards, amazing airflow and it is cost-effective. The case comes with one 120mm fan, and there is plenty of room to add up to 4 more fans. The ample space inside the case eases the upgrade process allowing you to add more high-tech equipment before you need to overhaul the entire PC.
Game Max GP650
Certification: 80+ bronze
We chose the GameMax GP650 PSU because it is affordable and has excellent levels of power efficiency. At 650W, you have more than enough power to run all the components inside the PC build with enough room for some hefty upgrades down the road.
The PSU has a sizeable case with well-managed cabling that does most of the work for you. It is a little workhorse retailing at the perfect price.
What Games Can You Run on this Custom Build?
With the advanced Ryzen 5 3000 gaming rig, your 1080p gaming experience is sorted. You can also play most PC titles like Control and Red Dead Redemption 3. But for a favourable experience, you would need to lower the settings. Alternatively, you can try out optimised alternatives like Doom Eternal or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that can easily see in excess 60FPS. Competitive titles like Fortnite, PUBG and CS: GO will also work flawlessly on this custom-built rig.
The PC can emulate older games without any problems whatsoever. The Gameboy Colour, Gameboy Advance, Sega Master System, Saturn, Genesis, NES SNES, Gamecube, Wii, PS1 PS2 are some of the games you can emulate on this PC.
With advanced technology, the games will run flawlessly. You can also emulate the more temperamental systems like Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast. The games for these platforms are playable, but they're not as refined.
Keep in mind there are various emulators and cores for each system. For instance, PS1 has many options that include ePSXe, PCSX-R-PGXP and Mednafen. More modern systems like the PS3, Xbox 360, Switch, and Wii U have better-developed emulators. For instance, Xenia is the best emulator for the Xbox 360 console, RPCS3 works for Sony's PS3, CEMU for Wii U and Ryujinx for the Switch.
Although these systems are more than a decade old, they are all under active development. They are in a class of their own in terms of compatibility and performance. The performance might not be as smooth, and even in cases where you can hit about 30 FPS, don't expect consistency. There might be some slight hitching as you move into a new area.
The expected performance from PS3 emulators varies depending on the game; The RPCS3 delivers a fairly solid 30FPS in some PS3 games like Persona 5. Even when using mods to raise the cap results in a less stable experience. The frame rate will drop or stutter in physics-heavy areas.
Other popular titles like Red Dead Redemption are less impressive, with an average of about 20-15FPS. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of Patriots has a more commendable performance with an average of 25FPS.
Microsoft Xbox 360
Microsoft has an interest in PC gaming. Some of the Xbox 360 exclusive titles, like the Halo series, have made their way to the PC gaming world as the Master Chief Collection. For games that have not already made their mark in the PC gaming world, they work very world on current builds of Xenia with up to 30FPS consistently.
Red Dead Redemption is one of the console exclusives that has an amazing performance through Xenia. It actually does better on Xenia than on RPCS3, with an average of 20FPS.
There are two emulators that work perfectly with the Nintendo Switch: Yuzu and Ryujinx. Yuzu has a great overall experience, maybe because Switch is a simpler and less powerful console than the PS3 or the Xbox 360.
The Mario Odyssey title targets about 60FPS while 2600 will often drop to 40FPS but still remains playable. Most of the other favourites like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild run at a solid 30FPS, while others can dip to around 20FPS.
With older resolutions, you can run them at higher resolutions than their original console variations. Newer systems are not as predictable in terms of performance. But it all boils down to the individual game.
Choosing the right emulation PC and software becomes much easier if you have a specific game you intend to run.
Things to Consider When Buying an Emulation PC
Choosing an emulation PC isn't just about picking the first PC you find or picking the most affordable or even the most expensive option. There are various factors you should consider for the best experience.
The main factor you should consider when thinking of a custom build for emulation is your budget. It will dictate the components you can and can’t add to the PC. For our particular build, we were not keen on the budget. However, we did want to put together a rig that was cost-effective and offered above-average performance.
While considering a gaming PC for emulation, it is important to have a practical budget that ensures you get a decent PC with excellent features.
Upgradability and Future-proofing
Although the priority, in this case, is playing emulation, you never know what the future hold and what you might gravitate towards. Building a future-proof rig should be a priority while you're in the market for a new PC.
You don't have to go for the latest components and the best on the market parts. But you should consider building a rig that is easy to upgrade and compatible with a wide range of components and parts. Above all, avoid purchasing builds with nearly obsolete components like motherboards.
Ease of Building
At Fierce PC, we have made the process of custom building quite easy and straightforward. But, there is more to it than what we have to offer. Choosing the right PC case, for instance, is a good place to start. The GameMax Abyss full tower ARGB PC case we selected for our build was because of its space real estate, the ease of cooling and how easy it is to add other components or upgrade when needed. It will generally make your life and that of your components much easier.
Aesthetics are a big thing in the gaming world. It is definitely something you want to consider when choosing the right hardware for your custom build emulator PC. Although appearances won't play a major role in the overall performance of your build, having good aesthetics will give the PC that feel-good factor. A good and attractive case is an excellent place to start.
Value for Money
The first thing you want to prioritise when building an emulation PC is value for money. You don’t want to go for the cheapest option in the market. Instead, you want something that gives the most bang for your buck without being too costly.
Our range of emulation PCs is cost-effective and high-performance, giving you the perfect balance between cost and performance.
Speaking of performance, what should you expect from an emulator PC? All good emulator PCs require good single-core performance. Although most gamers will go for an Intel CPU, AMD has made significant ground over the past few years and has some amazing options as well that will do an equally amazing job, if not better.
Regardless of the CPU you choose, you just have to ensure it has more than enough power to handle even the most demanding emulator scenarios.
The build will also require a GPU to take some of the processing load away from the CPU. You can go for a built-in or standalone option. However, the standalone GPU is a better choice because it allows the PC to handle emulations, and you can also enjoy some PC games if you want. It is something that most emulation PCs don't have.
How We Choose
Finding the right emulation PC requires assessing various needs and maintaining a delicate balance. We have years of experience in the video game industry. Our knowledge, training, research, user feedback, and hours of research make it possible to identify the best emulation PCs in the market.
We also understand what constitutes sound components for a great performance according to the needs of the gamer. With us, you’re assured of getting the best emulation PC build for your budget.
What's more, we build all the PCs ourselves. Even for custom builds, the assembly of the PC is in-house, ensuring the performance of the build meets our rigorous standards, and we ensure you get the best build.
How We Test
Testing is a critical aspect of our build process. After selecting the components, you want for your PC. We start the assembly from scratch. We ensure the components are compatible to provide the best possible performance and fit into the selected case.
Once the PC builds are complete, we take them through a series of rigorous tests focusing on performance, compatibility, cooling and durability. We also run benchmarking tests to see how well the builds perform while keeping a close eye on the temperature of the components.
All our emulator PCs go through the same tests. The PC is only shipped out when it meets our standards and passes all the tests.
The Bottom Line
Emulator PCs give you an opportunity to enjoy the games you can’t find on PCs. But building the right PC requires finesse and knowledge. In this guide, we have covered everything you need to know to build your own PC. If you want to save yourself the hassle, you can also pick one of the custom builds we have already put together and recommended inside the guide for a guaranteed pleasant experience.