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Best CPU for Emulation in 2024 – CPUs for retro gaming

What's the best CPU out there for Emulation?

Updated: Jan 3, 2024 11:47 am
Best CPU for Emulation in 2024 – CPUs for retro gaming

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Looking for the best CPU for emulation? We’ve got you covered. Retro gaming and emulation have been on the rise for the past few years. This is because many people are tired of Triple-A games repeating the same formula over and over again. It is easy for gamers to be jaded and cynical about the gaming industry in its current state, so many people are turning towards retro gaming to enjoy the games of the past. But what is the best CPU for emulation?

Here at WePC we strive to make sure that our buying guides are kept up to date on a monthly basis, so all these picks are the best that money can buy for this purpose. We’ve listed our top 3 picks below if you’re short on time, otherwise read on for more info. If you’re looking for the best CPU for gaming more generally, click the link and take a look at our guide.

Of course, the debate between “the good old days” and the current state of gaming is a bit controversial. That’s a story for another day entirely. Meanwhile, if you want to get into retro games and are turning towards emulation, you might be wondering if your rig can handle it. Most gaming PCs built in the past decade can easily handle emulators for most consoles. Even a Core i3 9100F will be able to handle PS2, Gamecube, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast emulation with ease. The trouble begins when you want to emulate consoles such as the PS3 and the original Xbox/Xbox 360. For that, you will need a bit more horsepower. Emulators are usually more CPU intensive, so that’s what you’ll want to focus on. If you’re building a new gaming PC, here are the best CPUs for emulation.

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Best CPU For Emulation 2024: reviews

Here we will list our picked CPUs and give a little breakdown as to why they’re a great choice.

Best Overall pick


AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 1


3.7GHz/ 4.6GHz

Core (Threads)






  • Set to out-perform the 10600K
  • Great value for money
  • Unlocked overclocking
  • Slightly more expensive than what we’re used to from AMDs midrange offering
  • Requires CPU cooler

In our opinion, the Ryzen 5 5600X is the best CPU for emulation. This is not because it’s the most powerful processor out there, but it is certainly highly capable. We have to take factors such as motherboard availability and price into account as well.

The 5600X features 6 cores and 12 threads. Its relative performance in modern games is highly commendable, and it achieves that with a low TDP of 65W. For emulators, you’ll be getting superb performance without the insane power draw of something like a Core i9 13900K.

You can expect excellent performance in most emulators. This includes Yuzu and Ryujin (Switch Emulators) plus RPCS3 and Xenia. Pair it with a decent graphics card and you will be good to go. The 5600X will give you impressive performance, and it is a chip that will stay highly efficient for years to come. 

However, there is the factor that Intel processors like the 13600K and 12600K can outclass it. With that said, you can usually find a 5600X and B550 combo for cheaper, so it’s ultimately a win for AMD.

Premium Pick

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X

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Base Speed


Boost Speed






  • Monstrous performance
  • PCIe Gen 5 support
  • Impressive results in RPCS3
  • DDR5 support
  • Extremely expensive
  • Motherboard availability/pricing issues

The Ryzen 9 7950X might be the most impressive processor for emulation. If money is no object, and you want the best performance possible, then the 7950X might be the best CPU for emulation. Of course, the high cost and availability of X670 motherboards are not lost on us. 

The main reason we’re including the 7950X on this list is that it tops the chart when it comes to performance in RPCS3. This is because RPCS3 is a PS3 emulator that now supports AVX-512 support. AMD’s latest Ryzen processors feature full support for AVX-512 instructions.

So, AVX-512 brings a performance improvement of 30% for RPCS3. This is why the Ryzen 9 7950X blows any and all competition out of the water. Other than that, this is a monstrous CPU that can handle any modern title and professional application that you can throw at it.

In conclusion, the 7950X is not a practical choice for most people, but it is certainly highly impressive. If you need the 7950X for professional workloads, you’ll be happy to know that you are getting the best emulation performance possible as a bonus.

Best Value pick


Intel Core i5-13600K

19 118 416 V01





Base speed

P-cores 3.5 GHz / E-cores 2.6 GHz

Boost speed

P-cores 5.1 GHz / E-cores 3.9 GHz




125 W / 181 W boost.

  • High core count for an entry level CPU
  • High base and boost speeds
  • Efficient
  • backwards compatible with 12th gen motherboards
  • Runs very warm

The Intel Core i5 13600K might just be the best value gaming processor out right now. It features 14 cores, 20 threads, and a boost clock of 5.1GHz under full load. It features more cores than the Ryzen 7 7600X and matches it in nearly every game. The 13600K even manages to beat the Ryzen CPU in some titles.

An interesting aspect of the 13600K is that it supports both DDR5 and DDR4 memory. Motherboard availability is better as well, as you can find plenty of B660 boards under $200. Other than that, the relative performance in nearly every emulator will leave you quite impressed.

This is because the 14 cores and high boost clock of the 13600K are more than capable to handle nearly every game out there, new, old, or retro. Other than that, since the 13600K is so powerful, CPU usage will be low as well for most emulators, making this chip highly efficient.

If you are looking for the best value gaming processor out right now, this is the one to get.

Things to consider when looking for the best CPU for emulation

Game emulation can be a complicated world – with a number of different emulators for different consoles of old. Here’s something that you need to think about.

Do I need a good GPU for emulation?

Depending on the capabilities of the type of emulator you want to use, the GPU may or may not matter. For rendering geometry in emulators such as RPCS3 (PS3 Emulator) and Xenia (Xbox 360 emulator), you will need a strong GPU.

However, if you just want to play some old-school Nintendo games from consoles like the Gameboy, NES, SNES, or Gamecube, then you don’t need the latest and greatest GPU. Most cheap android phones can handle emulating these consoles as well, so there’s no need for a high-end GPU.

Even something like an entry-level GTX 1650 Super will be more than enough for most retro games. Of course, this also depends on what type of game you’re playing and what settings you want to play it. Even then, you can play PS2 games at 4K with high settings with cheaper GPUs, so it’s all relative to the emulator and game.

Final word

We hope that this guide has helped you decide the best CPU for Emulation as befitting your needs. No matter what CPU you pick, you’ll be in good hands with these CPUs, you can go “over the top” with the 7950X or go for a value-orientated CPU with the 13600K. Either way, if you choose a CPU from this list, we’re sure you’ll get what you need.

Jack is a Tech and News Writer who has a vast and proficient knowledge of CPUs, Motherboards, and Computer technology.

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