Give new life to your old PC components by creating a retro gaming machine

Emulators for playing classic retro games have been around for a long time, but the scene has evolved over the last decade to the point where it’s now easy to build your own retro gaming PC. From handheld consoles that can emulate almost any retro game you can think of, to one-click installs that add the best of emulation to your rig, retro gaming is in a sweet spot. The best part is that if you want to build a retro gaming PC, you don’t need the best CPU and can get away with a cheap graphics card. This means you can get into retro gaming by assembling almost any old PC component you have, making it a cheap way to enjoy thousands of classic games.

You don’t need powerful hardware to play retro gaming

Seriously, if it lights up, it’ll probably be fine.

A Gigabyte Aorus ACW300 case with a Ryzen 5 1600 processor and a GTX 1080 inside

If you’re not a fan of buying a handheld gaming console for retro gaming, you still have plenty of options. Since retro games and their emulators have modest hardware requirements, you can probably cobble together a powerful retro gaming PC from any old PC you already own. Emulators like Batocera work on almost anything, and even the recommended system requirements are just 2GB of RAM, a supported GTX/RX/HD graphics card, a display with at least the resolution of the desired emulated console, and a 64-bit x86_64 processor. With the release of the first GTX cards by Nvidia in 2005, nearly two decades of graphics cards can be used to build your retro gaming console. And now, old Macs can get in on the retro gaming fun, as Apple has relaxed the rules of the App Store, allowing emulators for the first time.


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Or, if you don’t like having a big PC case next to your TV, you can use a mini PC to create a retro console. You can also use an SBC since the Raspberry Pi is powerful enough. The only thing to remember is that the newer the console you want to emulate, the more powerful the hardware you’ll need. This makes perfect sense, since emulators have to recreate the hardware of these retro consoles while playing games. And you’ll need a controller (or two) to complete your retro gaming PC. Xbox controllers are probably the easiest to set up on PC hardware, but we’re also big fans of 8BitDo and their retro style.

In addition, the software is free.

Get the retro gaming experience in just a few clicks

Of course, building a modestly powered PC for retro gaming is only half the equation. You still need software (and games) to run it, and our favorite emulator package is EmuDeck. It’s powerful, has a good user interface, and is easy to use. It’s also very easy to install, as you just download the Windows installer from the website, and it will do everything for you. The only time you need to intervene is after installation, when you use the Steam ROM Manager to add all your emulators and games to your Steam library. This makes it easy to launch your games from Steam, instead of searching for individual ROM files on your PC.


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It’s free to use, with some features locked behind a Patreon paywall, but nothing that reduces the core functionality. EmuDeck was designed for handheld gaming consoles, but now runs on any powerful enough Windows or Android device. After Nintendo’s lawsuit, EmuDeck no longer has Citra or Yuzu (the Nintendo Switch emulators), but it does have pretty much every other console from before the Switch came out. It eliminates most of the headaches of working with emulators and is the easiest way to play the massive catalog of older consoles.

The only thing you need is the ROM files. You can get various discontinued titles from My Abandonware For starters, from consoles like the Neo Geo, Sega 32X, or Lynx. If you have physical games for many retro consoles, you can rip the games to ROM files, like Section 117 of the Copyright Act allows you to make “archivable” copies of computer programs. The methods for doing this can vary depending on the console: for example, cartridge-based consoles will likely need a cartridge interface for your PC, and disc-based consoles will need either a program that runs on the console or a compatible PC DVD drive to read the discs and copy the data into a ROM file.

EmuDeck Product Label


EmuDeck is ideal for transforming your old PC components into a retro gaming paradise.

There’s never been a better time to get into retro gaming

The emulation scene has progressed to the point where it’s trivial to set up a retro gaming PC or handheld console that can play almost anything from the past. Some mods even allow you to play games like Ocarina of Time with friends, which is something no one anticipated when the game first came out. This will only get better as emulator developers get better at reverse engineering old consoles. Right now, the retro gaming experience is just as smooth and painless as modern console or PC gaming.


Retro gaming has never looked better and it can only get better from here.

Give your classics the 21st century attention they deserve.

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