While the video game industry is always moving forward to bigger and “better” things, there’s no denying the audience for revisiting or experiencing classics for the first time. Nintendo has tapped into nostalgia and created a new audience for classic games with the excellent NES Classic and SNES Classic. What about Nintendo 64 games? Nintendo currently doesn’t have any plans to create an N64 Classic, so unless you own a working N64, it’s hard to play games from the dawn of Nintendo’s 3D days. Sure, the Wii U has a selection of N64 games, but the Wii U has been dead for years.
The best N64 emulators
Acquiring a working N64 isn’t too hard, but finding the cartridges for reasonable prices? Not always so easy. Often the easiest method for playing N64 games is through emulators. Here are the best N64 emulators for PC and Android.
One of the most popular and easy-to-use N64 emulators, Project 64 also has the benefit of being open source. The dedicated community of Project64 enthusiasts consistently merge changes to GitHub, fixing bugs both small and large. Newer versions of Project64 have cleaned up the need for installing additional video or audio plugins for certain games. For instance, you no longer have to download the Glide64 video plugin separately when games fail to run smoothly with Project64’s legacy Jabo Direct3D plugin. Project 64 lets you play with USB controllers, features save states, and even lets you play with high-resolution textures. The main downside of Project 64 comes with audio, which can sometimes be inconsistent.
Development for non-Windows based versions of Project64 has picked up over the years. Project64 was even available on Google Play at one point, but it has since been removed. For now, if you’re on Windows and looking for an emulator with a clean interface that plays a large percentage of N64 games no problem, Project64 is a good option.
Mupen64Plus (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
Mupen64Plus isn’t as easy to use as Project64, but it does deliver a better audio experience. If you’re having trouble with certain games on Project64, we suggest giving Mupen64Plus a try. By default, Mupen64Plus doesn’t have a user interface. Instead, you boot up ROMs through the command line. That said, you can add a front-end user interface by downloading an additional plug-in such as M64Py, which is specifically designed for Mupen64Plus.
Mupen64Plus has the added benefit of being compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. This makes it the best option for Mac and Linux users and alternative option for PC users if Project64 isn’t performing as expected.
Mupen64Plus FZ (Android)
Though Mupen64Plus is available on Android, we wanted to call out Mupen64Plus FZ as well. This version of the emulator was specifically designed for mobile devices. It’s still somewhat of a hassle to setup, but once everything is ready to go, it offers the best N64 emulation on Android, no question. All of the plugins you could want to install are included and the front-end GUI comes with the download.
MegaN64, a tweaked version of Mupen64+, is by far the most popular emulator on Android, with more than 900,000 user reviews and an average user rating of 4.6. That’s mighty impressive. What you get with MegaN64 is a good, sometimes great, N64 emulator without the hassle. Games must be installed onto a microSD card to play them. Games load almost instantly and most of them run without a hitch.
It’s not as feature heavy as Mupen64Plus, but it will get the job done for those just looking to pick up and play some old classics. The major annoyance with MegaN64 are the ads, which pop up quite frequently in the menu. It’s hard to say for sure, but development appears to have ceased a few years back. Without support, MegaN64 may eventually become a mess. For now, though, it’s still a solid, easy option for N64 emulation on Android.
RetroArch is a front-end GUI, not technically an emulator. However, you can download emulator cores to play games across a wide-range of platforms on a wide-range of platforms (PC, mobile, consoles). For N64 emulation, RetroArch uses a libretro core modeled after Mupen64Plus. However, RetroArch has a number of distinct differences such as overclocking and more customization features. In some respects, RetroArch’s N64 cores are like if Project64 and Mupen64Plus had a baby. RetroArch also has a really neat “paraLLEl” core that refines visuals whether they are being rendered in high-resolution or as they were on N64. If you use a ton of different emulators for multiple classic platforms, you may want to simplify things and try RetroArch. If you need help setting it up (it’s not super easy), there are a great number of YouTube videos and written guides available through a quick Google search.
Disclaimer: While downloading and sharing emulators is perfectly legal, downloading ROMs BIOS files is illegal, even if you own a physical copy of the game. This list is meant to be used as a reference. We do not advocate illegally downloading games.