However, before going further it is imperative to identify what ROMs and emulators actually are. The software that is used to mimic the consoles is referred to as an emulator. For an example, a link to the past rom download Dolphin Emulator is a GameCube and Wii emulator. All this software does is pretend to be an actual console; it attempts to simulate, say, a GameCube, so that games for the console will think they’re running on an actual console, rather than software on a PC.

The illegalities around obtaining ROMs are frustrating given physical copies of retro games are incredibly hard to find or are ridiculously expensive. This is compounded by the fact that working consoles that can play these games are also difficult to find. Unlike other arguments which discuss the legality of emulator games, this one talks about the ethics of it and whether downloading ROMS should be illegal in the first place.

It would be easy to say that Nintendo and other game developers should just calm down about emulators since they give people access to old games that they love. It’s not like the people creating emulators are really making all that much money, and are often doing it because they and others are huge fans of the nostalgic games.

There is a lot of grey area in this issue because no copyright infringement case for downloading ROMs has ever been brought to court that we know of. Still, it pays to know whether emulating downloaded ROMs is safe and legal, and what has game developers said about the issue. Not all emulation is of a questionable nature – consoles have legally used the technology to allow the playing of previous generation games. However, unlike films or music or even modern games, emulation has always been seen as an enthusiast’s playground, rather than outright piracy. In most cases, older consoles and software simply aren’t making money for their original creators anymore.

Gba Emulator For Android

Unfortunately, though, the law allows for a nice big loophole out of that argument. These devices allow for the uploading and downloading of Nintendo game data or so called Read Only Memory to and from the Internet. Now for those specific roms, if you purchase in on Steam and obtain it, you legally owned the ROMS and can do anything with it because that is what you purchased. But it is probably only legal if you play the ROM through the emulator on steam, if you were to take the ROM and use it somewhere else with other emulator, it is probably illegal. Something the article doesn’t mention is the concept of “abadonware” – that is, the belief that since the original creators are no longer selling it or promoting it , that it’s okay to obtain a copy such as a ROM.

That technology, known as emulation, already exists. Your Android phone can store and run pretty much any console or arcade game from the ’90s and earlier. However, if a game or console is still being sold or is in commercial use, then any sort of emulator that plays that game or acts as the console should be illegal.


  • You’re bypassing their right to distribution, but playing it on an emulator may allow you a better experience than in the intended format.
  • It has the same end result as manually ripping the game yourself.
  • Dolphin for instance uses it’s own custom BIOS while pcsx/pcsx2 require a dumped BIOS.
  • (On the other hand, if you are not in the U.S you aren’t subject to the DMCA so maybe it’s fair game outside the U.S).
  • I don’t know why really, heck they even have a big nasty page on their website intended to try and scare people not to use emulators.

Computer software has at least a 75 year copyright life on it, so even the very first commercial video games ever made still fall under this and will do so for at least another 30 years or so yet. It’s true that some software creators decide to release their game to public domain – in which case you’re completely free to download and distribute them. But most don’t, so beware of anyone trying to pull the abadonware argument on you.

In fact, Nintendo has previously filed a lawsuit in 2018 for millions against and, two of the largest emulator websites that carried thousands of copyrighted ROMs for download. This move was unprecedented for Nintendo, but understandable for a game developer that has suffered millions in losses due to emulators. However, emulators are practically useless without game files that you can install and play. When using your emulator to run a ROM that was ripped and downloaded from the internet, that is when the debate of its legality comes in. It’s easy to say that downloading ROMs goes against the copyright of video games, but the reality is actually more complicated than that.