Emulators are applications which reproduce another, different computer system in software allowing the software from one machine to be run on another. Emulators are used for a wide range of purposes. For example, OS X provides emulation on x86 computers to allow old PowerPC binaries to be run. Microsoft provide an ARM PDA emulator for testing applications without having to repeatedly copy things onto a device.
One of the most popular uses for emulators however is to play video games from older (or in some exceptional circumstances, current) systems on modern hardware (generally PCs but the GP2X, GP32 and PSP are also popular platforms for running emulators). Nintendo sells a number of official emulators through its Virtual Console service for the Wii.
GP2X and emulators
One of the most popular uses for the GP2X is to run emulators of old video games systems (though some old home computers and calculators are also emulated). The GP2X is suited to this task because it has a fairly standard control layout similar (or almost identical to) the layouts of the input devices of the systems it emulates. Furthermore, it has a 320x240 resolution LCD which is large enough to accommodate most older systems without any downscaling. Of course, it is also portable meaning you can play these games whenever and wherever you want without having to carry a TV, machine and collection of cartridges.
What is needed to run emulators
In most cases, emulators can simply load software and run however some require a dump of the BIOS ROM stored within the system itself. These dumps cannot be distributed legally without the permission of the company/individual who created them due to them being copyrighted. In some cases (such as the GBA) it may be feasible to extract a dump of the BIOS yourself if you own a GBA and the necessary equipment but for others (like the PlayStation) the only way most people can optain a BIOS dump is to illegally download it. Each system has a unique BIOS, though many older ones don't have a BIOS at all, or it is emulated along with the hardware. You should check the individual pages for each emulator to see if they need a BIOS dump to run.
An emulator is no use without software to run on it. These normally come in the form of ROM dumps (since they are extracted from the ROM chips that used to be used to distribute software) generally known as just "ROMs". In general, these are illegal under copyright law unless you dump them yourself (and even then you are only allowed to make use of them under very specific circumstances). ROMs for one system will not work on another system's emulator, just as you can't plug Super Nintendo cartridges into a PlayStation and run them. As such, you need ROMs for each system and an emulator for each system (though some special cases exist such as MAME which will run ROMs from multiple arcade systems).
What can the GP2X emulate
The GP2X, despite its apparent low clock speed when compared to those of modern desktop PCs (the GP2X uses an ARM processor, while most desktop computers now will use x86 and ARM is more efficient and so will get more done per cycle), is a powerful system. Although there is very little hardware for accelerating graphics functions, the CPU is fast enough to emulate many systems purely in software. Also, the GP2X has 64MB of RAM which means large ROMs from systems such as the Neo Geo can be loaded using some special tricks unique to the emulator in question (again, refer to the individual emulator pages for information on this).
It is possible that most video game machines from the 16-bit era (i.e. SNES, Mega Drive) could be emulated on the GP2X and some 32-bit consoles can be emulated with varying degrees of success (there is a full speed GBA emulator for example, but the PlayStation emulator runs very few games at the same speed as the original hardware). In general however, the 16-bit era is the cut off for what the GP2X can achieve. That does not mean that everything before this point will be emulated as there are hundreds of machines, some of which are virtually unknown and others which have unusual hardware which is difficult or impossible to emulate. Systems such as the N64, Sony PSP or Nintendo DS will never be emulated at playable speeds on the GP2X (if at all).
This means that there are literally tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of games which can be played on the GP2X if you are able to obtain the software.
Where to download emulators
Most software (including emulators) for the GP2X can be obtained from the gp2x File Archive. You will find the emulator section here.
This wiki, along with the Checklist website hosts compatibility and performance lists for various emulators. You can find these on the Emulator Compatibility page. Please do add to these lists as you test more games so that others may benefit from settings you may have discovered (for some users a particular game running well on the GP2X is enough to justify the purchase) but do read the rules for adding content before. In general, content should not be modified unless it is totally wrong.
On most emulator pages you will find compatibility lists, but these are being removed so avoid adding new information to these lists as it may be lost in future revisions. Use the new compatibility list instead.
Here is a list of systems for which emulators are available on the GP2X (it may not be complete as new software is being released for the GP2X daily). This doesn't take into account how complete the emulators are, merely that they exist. For performance data, look at the compatibility database.
- 130XE | Atari 800,GP2X-Atari
- 800/800XL | Atari 800, GP2X-Atari
- 2600 | GP2X-2600, Stella
- 5200 | Atari 800,GP2X-Atari
- 7800 | GP2X-7800, Gp2xMESS
- Jaguar | T2K, Virtual Jaguar x2
- Lynx | GP2XHandy, Handy2x
- ST | DCaSTaway, OutcaST
- Amiga | UAE2x, UAE4all
- Plus/4 | GP2X-Yape, VICE2X
- C64 | Frodo2x, VICE2X
- C128 | VICE2X
- CBM-II | VICE2X
- PET | VICE2X
- VIC-20 | VICE2X
- GP32 | Spot
- Vectrex | Gex2x
- SAM Coupé | GP2X-SIM
- GameBoy (and GameBoy Color) | GNUBoy
- GameBoy Advance | Gp2xVBA, GpSP, vba2x-r
- NES | FCE-Ultra GP2X, FishyNES, GPFCE, InfoNES2x, NES2x, Phamicom
- SNES | PocketSNES, SnesGP2X, SquidgeSNES
- Game Gear | Alexkidd2x, DrMDx
- Master System | Alexkidd2x, DrMDx, Osmose, SMSPlus2X
- Mega CD | Picodrive
- Mega Drive | DrMDx, Picodrive
- Color Computer (aka. Radio Shack TRS-80) | Gp2xMESS
- TO7-70 | GP2X-THOM
- Supervision | Potator2x