The Dream Of A Reliable Emulator For The PS3 Is Getting Closer

One of the saddest parts of the transition from the last generation of consoles to the current generation was the realisation that so many games would simply fall through the cracks. Most of the major titles were always destined to receive HD remasters, or re-releases, but plenty of others are liable to be ignored or forgotten entirely.

In those instances, the best solution is a good emulator. But emulating the PS3 is far from a simple pursuit.

Coders have been trying to craft a quality emulator for the PS3 for many, many years. The problem? The platform's unique architecture makes emulation exceptionally hard, and the PC you need to even get relatively lightweight games working at their original frame rates is exceptionally steep.

However, progress is being made. The video below is footage of someone playing After Burner Climax, a 2006 SEGA classic, on an i7-6700K with 16GB RAM, a NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB GPU on Windows 10.

It's pretty smooth — but not perfect, and certainly not at a solid 60fps.

The frame rate in the menus only hovers just over 50, and the initial lag in the first in-game cutscene is pretty evident of how taxing things are. But the inclusion of a DirectX 12 backend, implemented late last year, has allowed some 3D games to be playable at roughly 30fps.

It's exceptional that things have come this far with PS3 emulation, considering many thought the complex nature of the PS3's hardware would have rendered it impossible. That's clearly not the case any more, even if there is still plenty of room for improvement. But that's leagues ahead of the status quo a year ago: many games refused to load past the titles, and plenty more crashed once you reached the intro.

It's unlikely that RPCS3, the open-source emulator being used above, will be in a Dolphin-esque state within the next year. But for archivists, people without access to PlayStation Now or simply without the means to get their old console working again, RPCS3's continued development will be warmly welcomed. Personally, I'd just like to get some matches of Buzz! going; that'd be a nice way to kick off a gaming party, I think.


    So instead of paying $1000 to play PS3 games ten years ago, you get to pay $1000 (at least) to play PS3 games today? Sign me up!

    My brain must operate on a completely different wavelength to this sort of thinking, I _own_ the machines that have the original games with them, and that's how I play them. We all want a Netflix/Steam/games as a service ecosystem but without knowing exactly how that works (and as we are rapidly finding out, region locking will never go away).

    While I am pretty fed up the stars haven't aligned enough that I can easily find a copy of OG Silent Hill 2 to play for the first time, I understand why it's next to impossible. Short of linking the ROM itself, articles like this are just too coy for my liking every damn time.

      Orrr... you already own a powerful enough PC (as most of us likely do) and have the maturity and patience to relive some bygone games (which you've either bought before or are happy to pay now and rip an ISO of) without them running in a perfect fashion.

      Article is hardly being coy, pointing out the bleeding obvious - emulation is hard, but they're making strides on the PS3 type and it's probably worthwhile giving it a shot now!

        Im guessing that the After Burner Climax game used in the demo above is a pirated DRM free ROM, right? Unless the emulators allows you to connect to the PSN store to purchase and download the (now delisted) game?

          ROM isn't the right word because that's not how the PS3 works, but you're on the right track.

            Not exactly. ISOs are a read only file system, so by definition they are a type of ROM. They're distinct from game ROMs in that they weren't dumped from a cartridge, but it's not a useful distinction, really.

              Well ISOs are what I would have gone with, but yeah when you say ROM my mind immediately goes towards cartridges. It's not that it matters in the long run, but anyway.

        Wouldn't buying a second hand ps3 also be mature? I'm cool with emulation, just steuggling with a few assumptions made here. Like, how would most people have a powerful PC? Why would you need to be "mature" to run a game imperfectly when there is an objectively more stable and potentialy cheaper alternative readily available?

          Well I personally like JRPG's and the high-quality ones were mainly only released on consoles so using an emulator would allow me to play those. Regarding buying a console that is an option as well but that then limits you to the fact that it is hard to find the games you want of a defunct generation particularly when you live in a techno backwater area(Australia) so there are pros and cons really.

          lol, well we're on a gaming site and a large number of people play 3D games and with Steam reporting the most common card now being a GTX970 I would call it an educated assumption (you're right though, still an assumption).

          You don't need to be mature to run games imperfectly; the maturity is in not whining about it. Buying a PS3 might be a mature thing to do, but also an inconvenient one.

          Also, I'd love to play PS3 games with my shiny new Elite Xbone controller :P

          Last edited 03/02/16 11:36 am

        its not the computer its the software 99% of games you cant play bc they are buggy or dont even open.

      I've been cleaned out (twice) by robbers who eyed off PlayStation's and Xbox's first-and-foremost on their jaunt around my place, and after the second time, I wasn't willing to replace last-gen consoles just for shits-and-giggles. Insurance never replaces everything.

      This is perhaps the one saving grace for Xbox, in that they've let me play some of the titles that I've never gotten around to on the one console. There are still 'core' games that I haven't gotten around to like Mass Effect which I now have a chance to play.

      I'll admit, a decent PC setup with cloud saves is probably the ultimate solution, but I'm always going to opt for (a) plug-and-play rather than (b) plug--attempt to play-crash-update drivers-tweak settings-adjust controls-crash-reinstall-refresh cache-play.

      [Edit: My point being that, despite cost, back-compat emulation is a step in the right direction]

      Last edited 02/02/16 11:21 am

        I envy you for not having played Mass Effect yet. I personally preferred the console version over the PC one because of the lack of controller support on PC. So, happy that ME1 is playable on XBO.

      I'm going to take your first 2 paragraphs as a comment and reply to the 3rd because it's the most interesting. :)

      I think there's an unspoken truth amongst gamers and the industry - once a game is no longer published (that is, no one is making money off it), it belongs to all of us and it's our job to stop it being forgotten. PS3's may not be functional in 20 years, but if we create emulators and create backups (and distribute them), the games won't be forgotten.

      To be clear I'm not trying to justify piracy, but until the industry cares about making their old games available (and it's getting better), someone else has to do it.

        Just a heads up, the way the comments format make it a bit wonky to tell who's actually responding, so if I don't post I'm sorry. Getting burgled absolutely sucks, though, no argument there.

          I was responding to your initial post. :)

    Maybe this way I'll be able to play Tales of Vesperia without resorting to learning Japanese, or buying a PS3 of Firmware 3.61 or earlier

    I think it's time someone made a PC Emulator for my PS1.

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