Apple Mac computers are thousands of times more powerful than the classic consoles and computers of the past. With emulation software, OS X can emulate classic games consoles like the Atari 2600, NES, Sega MegaDrive and Super Nintendo (SNES).

All you need is the right emulator software, and compatible ROMs (these are small digital copies of the original game cartridge). Get a working emulator and a working ROM and you are good to go.

Video game emulation software tends to be developed by enthusiasts, and has--in the past--been somewhat scattergun in its compatibility. Multiple emulators were available for the same consoles, and they would run a different selection of ROMs. The great news is that a new OS X app called OpenEmu has taken over and made the whole process much easier. OpenEmu isn't an emulator itself, but an interface for all the different emulators. It handles installation of emulation devices letting you get on with finding ROMs for your favourite games.

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Where can I get arcade ROMs from: and are they legal?

A classic console game running inside Mac OS X

We should talk about ROMs and issue a disclaimer. It is generally illegal to download a ROM of a given arcade machine (although the minutiae of copyright law could be discussed for years.) In reality, it's a grey area and you are unlikely to get into any trouble with the law for possessing a ROM of your favourite console. It won't take long for you to find the ROM you are looking for, just type "rom" into Google. You download ROMs as zip files from the site.

How to setup OpenEmu on a Mac

Using OpenEmu in Mac OS X

OpenEmu is a great way to go about retro gaming. Here is how to set up OpenEmu on a Mac:

  1. Open System Preferences > Security. Check that "Allow apps downloaded from" is set to Anywhere. If not click the Lock icon and enter your OS X admin password and change the setting to Anywhere.
  2. Visit and click Download Now.
  3. Move the OpenEmu app from Downloads to your Applications folder.
  4. Open the OpenEmu app.
  5. The Check For Updates Automatically window may appear. We suggest you click Check Automatically so the app can check for the latest updates.
  6. Click Next.
  7. Select the emulators you want to install from the list. All are ticked by default and we suggest keeping them all. Click Next and Go.
  8. Get a ROM of your favourite game. Unzip the ROM.
  9. Drag the folder containing the ROM files to the main window of the OpenEmu app.
  10. Select the console that runs the game from the OpenEmu sidebar.
  11. Double-click the video game artwork to play the game

The game will play in the main window. Play it using the arrow keys and "A" and "S" for the buttons. More controls for each console can be found in Preferences > Controls. Hover the mouse over the window to reveal an on-screen display with controls to pause and quit the game.

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