Emulation on Windows XP in 2021

It’s been just over seven years since Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP.  Most people have moved on to Vista, 7, 8, and 10 since long before then.  Hell, crazy people like me have even moved over to Linux, and there are those Mac people too.  That’s not even to mention the amount of time and stuff done on phones and tablets now.

But there are still a lot of old Windows XP computers out there, and there are industrious people looking to sell them.  I bring this up because with the chip shortage going on right now, it may be a little hard to get the PC you want.

If you take a look at ebay, and search for something like “windows xp desktop computer”, you can see a decent offering of PCs to buy that will emulate every 8-bit and 16-bit console and computer you could want.  Some of these are even powerful enough to handle the 32-bit consoles and the 64-bit ones too.

I personally bought a used HP Z200 workstation a few years ago, and paid only a couple hundred bucks for it.  Those things sold for thousands of dollars new, and were pretty damn powerful office computers when they came out.  I popped an old graphics card in mine, and it’s currently the most powerful XP computer I’ve ever owned.

But even a basic Dell Optiplex with integrated graphics will run dozens of emulators.  I know because I’ve set a few up for friends after getting them used and discarded off a company I worked for.

So if you need a spare gaming PC and just want to play some SNES or Genesis, then you can pick a PC up cheap from a seller on ebay, or another online seller.  You can get a spare gaming PC for the kids too this way.

There are, however, some caveats.

First of these is finding a controller.  Searching for game controllers that still support Windows XP on Amazon lists plenty of results, but whether or not these controllers actually do support XP is another issue.  Moreover, the older emulators you will need to use support “DirectInput” and not “Xinput”.  Finding suitable controllers that use DirectInput is essential.

You can also buy used controllers, but that’s another crapshoot.  I personally have enough Logitech Dual Action controllers – which I recommend acquiring – but these are discontinued, and any you find online may not be in the best condition.

UPDATE: The Logitech F310 gamepads work with Windows XP right out of the box, as long as they are switched to Direct Input Mode.

UPDATE: I can now report that game controllers from 8BitDo that have a “Direct Input” mode will work perfectly in Windows XP.  They can thus be configured in any of these older emulators without a hitch.

The second concern is the display.  If you’re getting a laptop, then you’ll be using that display.  But if you’re getting a desktop PC, then you should try to seek out a monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio.  And making things more difficult is that there are 5:4 aspect ratio monitors being sold as 4:3 aspect ratio monitors.

The reason why it’s better to get the right monitor is that most of the older emulators from the Windows XP days don’t support maintaining that correct 4:3 aspect ratio.  If you try to play them on a widescreen monitor, they will look stretched out and incorrect.

And lastly, if you’re going to use old-ass emulators on an old-ass operating system, you shouldn’t expect every game to work properly, or even at all.  If you need to have a bug-free or up-to-date emulation experience, than this isn’t the way to do it.

But if you’re covered as far as controllers and a monitor are concerned, and you have an old Windows XP computer, then you can start loading that computer up with emulators.

Oh, and don’t connect that thing to the internet.  There’s no need.

For the links to these emulators, I’ll direct you to the indefatigable Zophar’s Domain and the Emulation General Wiki.  Check Zophar’s Domain first for older emulators.  If you can’t find it there, DuckDuckGo should do you right.  These are what still tend to work on Windows XP.  Version numbers listed here are what I run on my Windows XP machines.

Atari 2600

Z26, version 3.02


O2EM, with the O2EM launcher




ColEm, version 3.4

Arcadia 2001

WinArcadia, version 17.6


ParaJVE (requires Java)

Atari 5200

Altirra 32-bit version 2.70 (or Atari800Win PLus)

Sega SG-1000

TwoMbit version (or MEKA version .073)

Nintendo Entertainment System

Nestopia version 1.40

Sega Master System

TwoMbit version (or MEKA version .073)

Atari 7800

BupSystem version

TurboGrafx 16

MagicEngine or Turbo Engine

Sega Genesis

Kega Fusion

TurboGrafx CD

MagicEngine (requires virtual disc-mounting software) or Turbo Engine

Game Boy

BGB version 1.4.1

Atari Lynx


Neo Geo


Sega Game Gear

TwoMbit version (or MEKA version .073)

Super Nintendo

ZMZ (Snes9X 1.53 with the ZSNES interface lol) or Snes9X 1.53.

Sega CD

Kega Fusion or Gens

Atari Jaguar

Project Tempest

Sega 32X

Kega Fusion

Sega Saturn

SSF (requires virtual disc-mounting software)


NO$PSX, ePSXe, or pSX

Virtual Boy

VBjin (and a pair of anaglyph 3D glasses)

Nintendo 64

Project64 version 1.6

Game Boy Color

BGB version 1.4.1

Neo Geo Pocket

NeoPop or NeoGPC

Bandai WonderSwan


Game Boy Advance

NO$GBA version 2.7b

Game Cube

Dolphin up to around version 3.5-2263

Nintendo DS

DeSmuME version 0.9.11

Sony PSP

PPSSPP version 1.8.0

(Update to add old versions of Game Cube, Nintendo DS, and PSP emulators.)

That should theoretically keep you busy for the rest of your life, if you have the games and the interest to play them all.  And if you want to emulate some arcade games in Windows XP, then you can look for MAME version .078.  There are plenty of 8-bit and 16-bit computer emulators that work great on such an old OS as Windows XP too.  You can emulate the Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, Amiga, and others if you dig deep and do some searching.

So remember that 2nd “R” in the three “R”s – re-use.  Get that old Windows XP computer back up and running to play some classic video games.  Or get someone else’s old XP computer to do it!  Save it from the landfill today.