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Building a gaming PC specifically for emulators has become much more popular than you may think. Well, not you specifically – you’re the one searching that exact term. But in general, it’s something that has slipped under the radar when it comes to custom PC building.
Despite that being the case, there is still a tonne of individuals that look to create the best gaming PC for emulators in 2021. Well, look no further, the following build has been tailored for the best gaming experience for emulators. Whether you’re looking to emulate N64, PS1/2/3, XBOX360, Wii, or Switch, you name it, this thing will be capable of handling whatever emulations you throw at it.
Let’s be honest, we could have probably built a gaming PC for emulators at a slightly cheaper price point. However, it wouldn’t of showcased anywhere near as much ‘bang for your buck’ as this particular build.
That being said, we still tried to keep it as cheap as possible and consider $700 an excellent price for this particular usage.
From a performance standpoint, this PC will handle pretty much every emulator you can throw at it. Most emulations require good single-core performance, so most people opt for an Intel CPU. However, the CPU we’ve opted for still has more than enough power to handle the most demanding emulator scenarios.
Furthermore, as we’ll discuss shortly, we’ve opted for a standalone GPU for this build – even though it doesn’t really require one. That being said, having a standalone GPU allows you to play both emulations and PC games – something other PC builds for emulations can’t boast.
Check out this short video on how to build a gaming PC.
How We Choose
Our team has years of experience behind them building PCs for a range of needs and budgets. All this knowledge combined with hours of research, user feedback, and onsite benchmarking is what goes into choosing the best components for all of our builds.
We look for value for money, how the components perform together and focus on gamer’s needs to make sure our builds are the best your budget can buy.
We build all these PC’s ourselves, in house, so trust us when we say we want to make them as good as possible. We actually use all these builds ourselves day-to-day in the WePC offices.
How We Test
We build each of our selected PC’s from scratch to make sure all the parts we recommend work well together, fit into the selected case, and provide the best performance possible for the price range.
Once built, the PC’s are used in the office for everyday work as well as a range of games from light to heavy-duty. While we test, we also run benchmarking tests to see how well our builds perform, all while keeping an eye on the temperature of the components themselves.
We tested our AMD builds against their Intel counterparts and found that these CPU’s performed better across the board, and for a lower price. This is why we only recommend an AMD version.
NOTE: Due to the ongoing effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, some retailers are experiencing stock issues. WePC constantly updates our pages to reflect current availability, so if the PC or part you want shows as out of stock, check back later or check out these alternatives.
Our Recommended Custom Build Details
This performance-tailored gaming PC caters to gamers that want to get the best possible experience out of their emulations. That said, this PC also has all the performance power required to play lesser-intensive PC games and do some moderate multitasking too.
Our Best Custom PC Build for Emulations
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Our best custom built PC for emulation is a well-balanced mix of hardware tailored to handle the most demanding (said half ironically) emulated titles.
This PC is a well-balanced mix of gaming performance and affordability, all wrapped up in one of the best PC cases on the market.
Whilst this PC won’t be suitable for high-end PC gaming, it’ll definitely handle all the emulated titles you can throw at it – along with some lesser intensive AAA PC titles.
We’ve opted for the very capable Ryzen 5 2600 processor for this build as it showcases fantastic multi-core performance and pretty good single-core performance too.
With emulated games, your main focus should be on the single-core performance of your PC. That being said, the Ryzen 2600 showcases excellent value for money in this particular department, providing capable levels of gaming performance at a very affordable price point.
Despite the MSI B450 Gaming Plus being considered an entry-level motherboard, it still provides everything we need for this custom-built gaming PC for emulation.
The Gaming Plus motherboard has great featured geared towards gamers, including a strong VRM design, good RAM overclock support, and even supports the latest Ryzen 3000 series motherboard CPUs.
That means, if you do decide to take up PC gaming full time, you’ll easily be able to upgrade your CPU to something much more powerful – without having to go through the stress of purchasing a new motherboard.
Corsair’s Vengeance LPX 3000MHz DDR4 was the memory of choice for this build, and for good reason. As many will know, Ryzen CPUs operate more efficiently under quicker RAM. Whilst this isn’t the faster RAM in the world, it’ll still provide plenty of speed for your emulation requirements.
Furthermore, by choose 16GB over 8GB, you’ll also be able to run fairly substantial background tasks without losing out on any in-game smoothness.
Let’s be honest, most emulated game titles won’t physically require a GPU of this pedigree. However, as we’ve gone for a standalone CPU, a GPU is necessary for this build to work.
At this stage, we could have opted for the cheapest GPU we could find, but that seems a little wasteful when you can purchase this very capable GPU at a super affordable price point.
Furthermore, if you are the sort of person that likes to dabble in PC gaming, opting for a CPU/GPU combo over an APU is going to yield much better performance results.
The Phanteks Eclipse P300 is a hugely popular case here at WePC, mainly thanks to the superb value for money it displays in today’s market.
As you’ve probably recognized, there is a running theme with the hardware we’ve chosen for this custom build for emulators – value. That being said, this might be the best value for money product in the parts list.
It comes equipped with 1 x 120mm fan, plenty of internal room for large hardware, and the easy build process that comes with Phanteks cases. A fantastic addition to this excellent custom build.
EVGA’s BQ 500W 80+ bronze PSU gets the spot in this custom build and for good reason. This affordable PSU offers up excellent levels of power efficiency, meaning nothing is wasted from socket to PC. At 500W, you’ll have more than enough power to run the components used in this build. You’ll even have the power for some pretty hefty upgrades if you wish to do so sometime down the road.
Whilst this case isn’t the biggest in the world, you won’t have to worry about cable management either. With its semi-modular design, the EVGA BQ 500W PSU does half the work for you. Overall, a superb little PSU at a very good price point.
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Things To Consider
One of the main factors you must consider before going into a custom PC build is your budget. Your budget will dictate what components you can and can’t utilize. For this particular build, we didn’t enforce a budget at the start, we simply tried to find the hardware which showcased the maximum value for money.
As we stated at the start, you could piece this build together for slightly less. That being said, you’ll struggle to get the same level of value from far worse components.
For the most part, if you’re looking to price up a gaming PC for emulation, you’re probably going to be spending anywhere from $500-$1,000. Within that price range, the last thing slowing you down will be your hardware.
Whilst you might prioritize playing emulations over anything else right now, future-proofing your build is still one of the main things you must consider before purchasing a new PC build.
In this particular build, we didn’t opt for one of the latest CPUs on offer. Instead, we chose a perfectly capable 2nd generation CPU that showcased great value for money. That being said, the motherboard utilized here does offer 3rd gen Ryzen support. That means if you plan to upgrade sometime in the future, this PC will fully support a next-gen upgrade.
If you’re familiar with any of our PC case pages, you’ll probably be very familiar with the case we’ve chosen for this build. It’s the Phanteks Eclipse P300 and is one of our personal favorites here at WePC.
It not only provides superb aesthetics and a tempered glass viewing windows, it also provides plenty of cable management options and a very easy build process for your parts.
As many of you will probably be new to PC building, we’ve opted for this case because it makes your life a little bit easier.
The aesthetics of your gaming PC should definitely be something you consider when you’re choosing the hardware for your next custom build PC. Whilst they don’t play any major role in the overall performance of your build, having good aesthetics does give your next PC that feel-good factor.
For us, we’ve chosen a very attractive case and have paired it with some – not too flashy, yet still attractive – internal components. We’ve tried to keep RGB on the moderate side, equipping only a few key components with lighting.
What Games Can This PC Run?
With a Ryzen 5 2600 and RX 570 to play with, 1080p gaming is pretty much sorted. Modern AAA games like Control and Red Dead Redemption 2 see 30FPS at High settings, but lowering the settings or playing more optimized titles like Doom Eternal or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can easily see in excess of 60FPS. In terms of competitive gaming – Fortnite, PUBG, CS:GO – these are more than taken care of. 200FPS using competitive settings in Fortnite and CS:GO at 1080p, and an average of 120FPS in PUBG.
Emulation of older systems is at the point where even our $300 build would have no trouble running them. The Sega Master System, Saturn, Genesis, NES, SNES, Gamecube, Wii, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advnace, DS, 3DS, PS1, PS2, and PSP. All of these will run more-or-less flawlessly in addition to more temperamental systems like the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 – many games are playable but their emulation isn’t as refined. Further, any CPU from the last 10 or so years will have the supported instruction set required for emulating these systems.
There’s also various emulators and cores for each system . The PS1 has many to choose from; ePSXe, Mednafen, and PCSX-R-PGXP are just a few. It’s when we start talking about relatively more modern systems like the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and Switch. Xenia is currently the most popular and well-developed emulator for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console; RPCS3 for Sony’s PlayStation 3; CEMU for Nintendo’s Wii U and Yuzu or Ryujinx for the Switch.
Despite the systems themselves approaching 15-years in age, the emulators are all under active development and nowhere near the level of previous emulators in terms of compatibility and performance. As such, don’t expect a solid 30FPS or 60FPS in many titles, and even if you happen to hit that average framerate, don’t expect a consistent frametimes. Basically, you’ll experiencing the odd bit of hitching as you move into a new area.
Sony PlayStation 3
Now, in terms of the performance you can expect from these emulators it will vary by game. With RPCS3 you can expect a fairly solid 30FPS in both Demon’s Souls and Persona 5. Using mods to raise the frame cap to 60FPS will see a less stable experience with framerates anywhere between 50 and 60FPS. Areas with lots of physics-heavy objects like in the opening area in Demon’s Souls (Boletaria) will be subject to a fair bit of stutter and frame drops,. especially if they experience any collision – the player breaking or walking through them. Similarly, Persona 5 runs well, but the framerate can dip in heavily-populated areas like the cities and subway, but the overall experience is great.
Other popular titles like The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption are far less impressive with an average framerate of about 10 and 15FPS respectively. Another hugely popular PS3 exclusive, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sees middling performance with a 25FPS average. Rajkosto’s build can get this approaching 30FPS but it just isn’t quite there.
Microsoft Xbox 360
With Microsoft having a vested interest in PC gaming, many of the Xbox 360 exclusive titles like those form the Halo series have made there way to PC in the form of the Master Chief Collection. Gears of War saw a PC release back in 2007, removing the necessity for emulation. However, Gears of War 2 and 3 were 360 exclusive (likely due to poor sales and/or piracy on PC). Those of you with a copy of Gears of War 2 will be happy to know that performance is exceptional with current builds of Xenia seeing a near-solid 30FPS.
Red Dead Redemption is another console exclusive and it sees better performance through Xenia than emulation via RPCS3. With a 20FPS average, it isn’t exactly what we’d call playable but it’s quickly approaching the desired 30FPS target.
Nintendo’s Switch has two contenders for emulation: Yuzu and Ryujinx. Looking at the former and the overall experience is great – this is probably in part to the Switch being a simpler and less powerful console than the PS3 or Xbox 360. Mario Odyssey is a title that targets 60FPS, and whilst the 2600 will get you there most of the time, there are many instances where it can drop to 50 or even 40FPS. It remains playable though.
Another hugely popular title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, runs exceptionally with a solid 30FPS experience. Removing the framecap can see an average of about 50FPS in the more demanding areas so it’s more than playable even at resolutions higher than the Switch is capable of. Lastly, Pokémon Sword and Shield. These titles are turn-based RPGs so any stutter or slowdown won’t be as impactful in gameplay. With that said though, 30FPS is a common sight and only when traversing the world do you see dips to 20FPS.
Overall then, older systems are no issue even if you want to run them at far higher resolutions than the original consoles. Relatively newer systems are hit and miss when it comes to performance, but as we’ve discussed, it all comes down to the individual game. The ability to uncap framerates beyond what was intended certainly offers a welcome and more fluid way of experiencing these console exclusives.
Natively this games runs at 30FPS and our system is well capable of achieving that. Uncap the framerate though and 60FPS is a common sight.
With the intended 30FPS cap you can expect smooth gameplay in this title. Raising the cap and 60FPS is reached most of the time with only the odd drops in physics-heavy areas.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Using the popular Yuzu emulator, a constant 30FPS experience is guaranteed. Unlocking to 60FPS - beyond what the Switch is capable of - and the framerate does vary, averaging around 50FPS.
Super Mario Odyssey
Framerate can fluctuate between 40 and 60FPS making it fall short of the intended 60FPS target, Super Mario Odyssey is fully playable despite that though.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
Whilst the majority of this new Pokémon title is at 30FPS, traversing the world sees 20FPS so the experience won't be as good as on the Switch with a near-constant 30FPS.
Gears of War 2
Microsoft never brought this game over to PC so seeing it run at a consistent 30FPS with minimal issues is a more than welcome surprise.
Metal Gear Solid 4
This title isn't far off the target framerate and stutters aren't too prevalent so Metal Gear Solid 4 is certainly playable, but the overall feel may be choppy.
Red Dead Redemption
Using Xenia for Xbox 360 emulation and Red Dead Redemption sees greater performance than using RPCS3 for PS3 emulation. It's still shy of the 30FPS target, but certainly playable.
The Last of Us
At 10FPS this isn't a pleasant experience but RPCS3 is still under development and we're seeing rapid progress so a console-like experience in a year or two wouldn't be too far-fetched.
Our Best Prebuilt PC Recommendations
By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of whether or not this build suits your needs and requirements. You will also have decided whether or not you feel you can tackle a custom build PC as well.
For many, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue – especially if they follow one of our handy build guides. However, for some, the job of building their own PC is probably a little too daunting.
For those individuals, we’ll be recommending some prebuilt gaming PCs which take the stress of building your own PC away. Whilst they might not offer the same value for money as our custom build, they’ll certainly run emulations at a very good standard.
Upgrade Path for Custom Build
For those that really like the look of this build but some areas just aren’t powerful enough to run some of the tasks they require, we’ve decided to include an upgrade list that will give you an additional power boost without spending a great deal of cash.
As versatility is one of the priorities of this build, you’ll be able to simply swap out each individual part without having to worry about accompanying hardware.
Remember, the upgrades will increase the base price of your custom build.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, the most important part of the best gaming PC for emulations is the CPU. Unlike other gaming formats that rely more heavily on the GPU, emulators act differently and require more processing power to ensure everything is running smoothly.
With that in mind, we figured the best upgrade you could give to your PC if emulation is the main priority is a new CPU. Whilst the Ryzen 5 2600 is perfectly capable of handling all emulated games, it never hurts to have that bit of extra processing power.
Due to the lack of intake fans with the case, we highly recommend you buy at least one of the Noctua NF-F12’s for more advanced internal cooling. Good airflow will ensure optimal performance and longevity for your components.
Noctua’s NF-F12 fans may be on the expensive side, but they’re also whisper-quiet and great performers in their own right. That’s why we recommend them here. MORE: Best Case Fans
This Seagate Barracuda drive is a fantastic way to bolster your storage capacity without breaking the bank too much. The 500GB SSD that currently sits in this build is ideal for your O/S and most of your emulations.
However, sooner or later, you are going to struggle to accommodate your ever-growing library. For that reason, this additional 2TB HDD from Seagate is the perfect backup storage solution for those who need it.
For an easier building process, buying this semi-modular PSU should save you some cable management stress. While this isn’t a strictly necessary part of building and will cost you extra, it’s much easier than dealing with a fixed, bulky set of cables that come with non-modular PSUs.
Related Custom PC Builds
Operating System & Peripherals
Note: These will raise the price of your build!
When it comes to operating systems and gaming builds, there’s only one way to go, and that’s down the Windows route. Windows offer the most stable and user-friendly experience and is much more than a gaming platform.
Remember, your new custom build needs an operating system to work efficiently, and we recommend Windows 10 as the prime contender.
For the best gaming performance and general compatibility, Windows 10 is your best option. If you already have a retail-bought Windows license on another PC, you should be able to transfer over your installation with little-to-no issues. If you don’t, however, you’re probably going to have to fork out for the cost of a brand new Windows 10 installation. If that is the case we recommend using the Windows 10 USB Flash Drive. It allows you to install Windows directly from a Flash Drive, rather than needing a DVD drive. If you are looking to protect your system you may want to include an antivirus program too.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about the custom build and the hardware it comes with. One thing we haven’t really discussed, however, is the physical building of this PC. If you’re new to the PC building game, then I would recommend checking out our 12 Mistakes that Every Newbie PC Builder Makes article. Furthermore, our 15 Common Questions About Building a PC should answer the most frequently asked questions first-time builds have.
Below are some of our best building tips for new and old builders alike.
First, grab a 4GB USB stick.
Then, if you’re going to use Windows 10 (which we recommend for compatibility if nothing else), use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool and follow the in-program instructions to create a Windows installer that can fit in your pocket.
If you’re wanting to go against the flow, then you might want to look into Ubuntu or Linux Mint. If that sounds like your style, then use UNetbootin or Rufus instead. This will also walk you through the process, but keep in mind that Linux and Ubuntu do not support many of the games and software you’re accustomed to using.
Buy an anti-static wristband if you don’t want to risk zapping and ruining your shiny new GPU with static discharge (Also, avoid rubbing balloons on your head, trust me.). The peace of mind is more than worth the extra few dollars (ditto for the balloons thing).
If you’re not sure how to actually use the thing, then it might also be worth checking out our How to Use An Antistatic Wrist Strap guide.
An anti-static mat can also help by giving you a nice, safe place to rest your components when you aren’t holding them.
While there are many– and we mean many— computer building guides on Youtube (and the internet at large), Shaun from our very own WePC has a fantastic guide on building a budget gaming PC.
And, as mentioned in the video, you’ll also want to be sure that you consult the manuals that come with your hardware during the building process.
Here on our very own website, we have detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build a PC. This includes everything from deciding a budget, maintaining your computer long-term.
Between these three resources, you shouldn’t have a problem putting together your first PC!
How To Build A PC
Never built a PC before? Let us guide you through everything you need to build your first PC, even if you’re a complete beginner!