Emulating classic gaming consoles on Fedora Linux

Ancient Heroes

© Lead Image © Ekaterini Giannoutsou, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Ekaterini Giannoutsou, 123RF.com


Many computer games from the 1980s and 1990s enjoy cult status. Graphics and sound were not very advanced back then, which forced the producers to impress gamers with good ideas and a convincing level of design. Emulators let you run those classic games on a Linux PC.

If you wanted to play video games 25 years ago, you would typically attach a small box to the TV in the family living room. It was either a game console or a handy home computer, and you used a gamepad or joystick as a controller. With the right software, you can do all this and more in Fedora: Fans can even try those old DOS games again.

Play Time

Thirty years ago, PCs with the then-popular MS-DOS operating system did not really feel as if they were made for fun. However, resourceful games developers tweaked the limited graphical capabilities to the max, and over the years the current graphics cards increasingly displayed more colors. Millions of people spent many hours trying to save the world in the Commander Keen platform game, or they engaged in dangerous battles in Doom. Now, DOSbox lets Linux run DOS games.

You can install DOSbox by clicking on the graphical package manager in Fedora. Before starting, however, it makes sense to create a subfolder in your own home directory (e.g., mkdir ~/dosgames/), to which you then copy the desired games.

After running DOSbox, you can type


at the emulated DOS command line – this makes a fictional C: drive available to your DOS software collection. If you no longer have any old DOS games, you can buy them cheaply at flea markets or on gog.com [1]. Gog is a company that buys up old licenses and provides the corresponding classical software as a download for just a few dollars.

Fast Adventures

PC owners at that time really loved the point-and-click graphic adventure genre. Classics such as Monkey Island and King's Quest often told humorous stories in which the protagonist needed to solve puzzles. If you like this genre, you can also use the ScummVM emulator instead of DOSbox (Figure 1). This makes use of the fact that, at that time, game developers like LucasArts or Sierra did not program their products in a machine-level language but relied on internal interpreters. The interpreter came with the game.

Figure 1: ScummVM emulates adventure classics such as Sierra's Police Quest 3.

Open source programmers used reverse engineering to discover the structure of the coded interpreter files and developed their own player in the form of ScummVM. If you now want to use, for example, a retro MS-DOS adventure game, you don't have to emulate the complete DOS PC (which could be too slow in some places, especially with more complex games). Instead, you just copy the game files to the ScummVM subdirectory, which offers native and thus smooth and fast adventure playing.

ScummVM is also installed at the push of a button using the graphical package manager in Fedora. Some adventures, which cost serious amounts of money 20 to 30 years ago, have now been released by their former developers as downloadable freeware. This is true of classics such as Beneath a Steel Sky and Flight of the Amazon Queen [2]. Games from LucasArts and Sierra are also available as free downloads, at least as demo versions. However, the full versions will only cost you between US$  1 and US$  5 on gog.com or eBay.

More Platforms

Some installable game console emulators require you to set up the RPM Fusion repository on your system. To do this, enter the commands shown in Listing 1 in a terminal window.

Listing 1

Set Up RPM Fusion

su -c 'yum localinstall --nogpgcheck http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/\
       rpmfusion-free-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm \
       rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm'
su -c 'yum update'

Now you can install a variety of emulators. The most important one is set up with the following command line:

su -c 'yum install Nestopia.x86_64 zsnes.i686 \
  vice.x86_64 gens.i686 mame.x86_64'

You now have the most interesting retro consoles and home computer emulators on your own PC: Gene emulates not only the Sega Genesis but also its hardware extensions, Sega CD and Sega 32X, if needed. Purchasing them used to be an expensive proposition, but now any user can emulate all of this for free and see how game developers tweaked additional hardware power out of the system back then.

Games like Sonic the Hedgehog in particular are likely to remind many users of the days when Sega itself still made devices. Nestopia and ZSNES emulate the Nintendo consoles NES and SNES and are guaranteed to be a hit with Super Mario fans (Figure 2). MAME is a special case: This software emulates the hardware of various, partly complete different arcade gaming machines. You will likely be familiar with the most famous games: Asteroids and Galaga. VICE emulates the Commodore 64 home computer (Figure 3), which was made famous by entertainment classics like California Games.

Figure 2: An NES emulator in "Windowed" mode.
Figure 3: Emulators even bring home computers like the C64 back from the dead.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • ScummVM

    The SCUMM engine is the basis of almost all the classic

    adventure games by Lukasfilm Games/LukasArts.

    Now fans can launch these game on Linux thanks to


  • Virtualization Intro

    You’ll find a virtualization solution for every Linux environment – from the desktop to the enterprise server. In this month's cover story, we investigate some promising virtualization tools for Linux users.

comments powered by Disqus

Direct Download

Read full article as PDF:

Price $2.95