5 Best Emulators For Mac Gamers, Ranked (2023)

Retro gaming on a Mac!

Milan Zagorac
Milan Zagorac
8 Min Read

Gaming on Macs isn’t what many people do, but it still happens occasionally. Support for macOS is limited at best and most titles simply do not work. However, older titles might, because there are many emulators for Mac that should work just fine.

macOS might not be at the forefront of the developers’ focus when they build the emulators, but macOS still gets support. Popular multi-system and dedicated emulators get daily Mac builds. The following five emulators are the ones you should consider if you want to game on Macs.



The default MAME interface is often very clunky for most users. GUI versions make that easier.

Emulating: Multiple systems
Platform: Multiple platforms
Download MAME

Arcade cabinets are still interesting from a retro-gaming perspective, though, in their original state, they are far from practical, and that doesn’t include the size of the actual cabinet. The hardware inside is dated, to say the least. The Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator aims to fix that, by successfully emulating hundreds of systems, enabling you to play anything from cabinet titles to consoles.

MAME on its own is a bit rugged and might not be up to everyone’s standards. GUI versions are far more tolerable and easier to interact with. MAME covers most of your retro gaming needs, emulating even consoles like the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, and Sony PlayStation 1, and 2.

However, you might not want to play games using MAME if they are from a recent console. Dedicated emulators are a better choice in this case.

For all your arcade needs, MAME is a solid game emulator for Mac.



Ares is a great multi-system emulator that also works on Macs.

Emulating: Multiple systems
Platform: Windows, Linux, and macOS
Download Ares

Ares is a multi-system emulator that is also able to run on multiple platforms, just like MAME. It deals with more complex systems, instead of arcade cabinet emulation. Ares can run anything from the Nintendo 64, the PlayStation, Sega Genesis, to systems like the Atari 2600, and portables like the Nintendo GBA.

Ares is an open-source project, now developed by multiple people. It was a continuation of higan, another multi-system emulator, developed by Near. After Near’s passing in 2021, the project was picked up by the community.

It is one of the best multi-system emulators, that has a modern interface and features. It has support for peripherals and has upscaling, so you might breathe new life into older titles.



Dolphin is a Nintendo GameCube and Wii emulator that also works on Macs.

Emulating: Nintendo GameCube and Wii
Platform: Windows, Linux, and macOS
Download Dolphin

Dolphin was the subject of some controversy after Nintendo pulled the plug on their Steam release, but is still the best GameCube and Wii emulator out there. It is an open-source project aimed at emulating two of Nintendo’s many consoles.

Dolphin’s development was long and arduous, but GameCube games run as well as you can expect them to. Wii games run into issues here and there, which is why constant development is a blessing. The emulator is relatively simple to use. In most cases, you simply have to load the dumped game file and you are good to go.

Dolphin can run on multiple platforms, including macOS. Your performance may vary depending on the architecture of your CPU, as well as the power of the machine. The minimal requirements are relatively low, though you always want to have a bit extra for more headroom.

For Macs, performance will vary based on the type of chip, whether x86 or ARM.



DuckStation is a Sony PS1 emulator that runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Emulating: Sony PlayStation 1
Platform: Windows, Linux, and macOS
Download DuckStation

The Sony PlayStation 1 was one of the most popular consoles of the time. Many games released for the PS1 are still played or coveted by gamers. Some don’t have the patience to purchase the original console and hope that everything works fine. PS1 development was always a focus in the community.

DuckStation is currently the best PS1 emulator and thus, one of the best emulators for Mac. The PS1 library is huge and DuckStation can support most of it, with only a few games running into glitches. Using the emulator is not a challenge, as it should be, and it covers the basics very well. 

It has all the features you want an emulator to have, but most importantly for casual gamers, an easy-to-understand interface, as well as the ability to run PS1 games.



RetroArch running the Sega Genesis version of the Saturday Night Slam Masters.

Emulating: Multiple systems
Platform: Multiple platforms
Download RetroArch and on Steam

RetroArch is everywhere, including on macOS. It is also available on iOS if you are a mobile gamer. RetroArch is actually a frontend that runs libretro cores. It can thus run anything and everything from arcade cabinets to PlayStation 1 games, including popular Nintendo consoles, such as the GameCube, GBA, and Nintendo 64.

RetroArch is modern in every sense of the word. Setting up the controls might be a bit more challenging, because of all the different systems that it emulates. Once you set it up, you can use this single emulator to run all the retro games you want.

Performance or compatibility might be better with dedicated emulators, the ones the cores belong to.

Performance on Macs

Macs will have varying performance, even more so than computers running Windows or Linux. Mac hardware is mostly set in stone, so you are stuck with what you have. That being said, x86 systems should perform better than the ARM versions. Newer ARM versions are no slouches, so they should go above and beyond for most consoles.

DuckStation lists the CPU requirements as anything faster than a potato, in which case most computers should get the job done, including Macs. The graphics card and drivers might present more of an issue than the CPU. Driver support is an issue for all platforms, however, and not just when emulating.

Running a Game

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, the Nintendo 64 version, running on Ares.

Using these emulators on Mac is the same as using them on any other platform. Some will require a firmware or BIOS file, while others can emulate without it. Depending on the emulator, though the process is similar, you just need to open the archive/ISO/game file and you can play.


Mac and gaming aren’t what you would normally associate. Retro gaming is different, because of emulation. The best emulators for Mac make it easy to play older titles, console, or arcade. The emulators on the list are pretty good, though more specialized emulators exist if you find the multi-system ones lacking.

The process is the same as on any other platform, you load a BIOS if needed, you load a game, and you have fun.

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With over 1650 hours of Apex Legends, and 2100 of League of Legends, Milan is an avid gamer. When he's not indoors, he climbs mountains or does urban acrobatics. Add a passion for writing to the mix and you get a hopefully interesting broth.
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