Remember trying to beat Bowser for the first time? Break a sweat trying to defeat Gannon? Get blisters from spending too much time as white mage?

If you’re like me, your Nintendo doesn’t work anymore, even when you blow on the cartridges, and modern computer games just don’t do it for you.

Fear not, for there is a solution ? and it’s only slightly illegal.

Computer programmers, being both some of the nerdiest and coolest people around, decided that nothing would be better than playing any variety of old video games on your computer.

They created programs called emulators that work like tons of different systems ? Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega, Game Boy, Atari and even Nintendo 64.

What is an Emulator?

An emulator is a program that allows your computer to imitate just about any other type of electronics. This part is perfectly legal, but just having an emulator is like owning a Nintendo with no cartridges.

Herein lies the illegal part. Mind you, when I call it illegal, it is roughly as illegal as jaywalking or, say, downloading mp3s.

ROMs are what make emulators so exciting. A ROM is a file for your computer that represents all the data on the game cartridge.

So if you want to play Super Mario Bros., you need to have the Super Mario Bros. ROM. The Internet is flooded with different Web sites that claim to have ROMs for you to download. Since ROM downloads are not exactly on the up and up, some care must be taken when attempting to download them.

Be careful when downloading ROMs. Most of the time, the site will say the game is there, but it isn’t. Sometimes, instead of just giving you an error message you get a special surprise ? it links to barnyard porn. Regardless, before you start cruising the Web for ROMs, it’s usually a good idea to get some sort of pop-up killer for your browser.

Another solution is for you to use a file sharing program and search for the specific game you want. Regardless, given enough time and effort, you can get just about any game you want.

So what?

Well, first off, this is much cheaper than renting or buying all your obscure favorites. In addition, it doesn’t require you to have a television, or a state-of-the-art computer.

Secondly, it is much more convenient.


While emulators are fine, ROMs are illegal. You are not legally allowed to download most ROMs, because companies still own the rights to their sales.

It’s a lot like mp3s, except that with old Nintendo or Sega games, the companies don’t really care enough to make a big deal about it. They don’t prosecute or care about it for the most part, but that still doesn’t make it legal.


There are some big problems with playing video games on your computer, the most important of which is the lack of a controller. Keyboards aren’t designed for the types of button mashing that video games require.

For a relatively cheap price ? anywhere from $10 and up ? you can get a USB gamepad, which can be configured to run just like any other controller.

This is just one more way to avoid that stack of homework you’re trying very hard not to do, and save some princesses while you’re at it

Powell can be reached at

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