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Just recently, I put out an article outlining some of my favorite RPGs for the SNES and showed MUO readers how they can experience those games through a web interface. Not everyone has the time or privilege to be able to install a dedicated emulator, and there’s no reason to because writing that article made me realize just how many online emulation stations there really are.
I’ve harped on about how great the SNES is as a console, but let’s not forget the 8-bit legacy that the original NES has left behind. The NES offered some of the most challenging, frustraiting, and fulfilling titles ever. You’ll be happy to know that, if you missed the boat, practically every NES game ever released is literally just a few clicks and keys away. Let’s look at four websites where you can begin playing the NES today.
NESbox.com takes in-browser emulation and does it as perfectly as you could ever imagine.
Not only does NESbox.com offer an incredibly stable Flash client that runs each and every ROM smoothly and effectively, but it offers more than 1800 total NES games, and really works hard to engage a community within the website.
Selecting a game will immediately load a public chat room beneath the Flash embed where you can talk with others who are playing the game or even organize multiplayer sessions for two-player (or more) games. NESbox.com supports state saving, control and gamepad customization, and a fullscreen mode. This website is pretty much my gold standard for NES emulation through the web.
VirtualNES.com offers a Java client and an interesting selection of games that many other alternative websites fail to include.
As shown above, VirtualNES.com offers homebrew games, translated games, and unreleased games. These are some of the more rare titles that you aren’t going to be able to find on other sites, and the games in these categories that I’ve checked out all seem pretty interesting.
You can also see that there is a list of the 25 most popular NES titles for the website in the left-hand menu. Clicking any of these will immediately take you directly to that ROM.
If you’re searching for a specific ROM, just use the alphabetical menu beneath the main menu icons in the header. Click on a letter and you’ll see all of the games that start with the letter you’ve chosen. From there, click a game, grant Java permission to run, and enjoy.
NESCafe Play is a very quality and straightforward solution to playing NES games through your browser.
Like VirtualNES.com, NESCafe Play is all Java. Their selection is pretty limited, currently only featuring less than 200 games, but the games that they do support run extremely smoothly.
Another perk of NESCafe is that they allow users to download a standalone Java applet to act as an emulator. This applet can be hosted on your own website and functions exactly the same as the one featured on NESCafe Play does. It’s a really selfless gesture and it makes this website worth mentioning.
8bbit breaks games up by featured titles, alphabetical lists, and by their gameplay genre (as you can see to the left). If there’s a specific game that you’ve gone to 8bbit looking for, it shouldn’t be hard at all to find.
Each game takes about 10 seconds to load. Unlike NESbox.com, you can’t save your state through 8bbit so that’s a little frustrating. It makes it a lot truer to the NES experience though. There were no memory cards back then, and there surely wasn’t a way to just save the state of your game exactly where you’re at.
8bbit offers more games than many other in-browser emulation sites, but the player itself comes with a lot less features. There are others in this last that I’d consider to be better, but the website is still worth mentioning and anyone or anything that makes an effort to preserve classic gaming deserves some appreciation.
Years ago, you’d need to hoard ROMs off of sketchy sites and run a standalone emulator just to get to play through these games again. Browser-based emulation is a really cool and new technology that I’d like more people to become aware of. All of these NES titles are completely playable and you don’t have to download and save a single thing to get started (other than Flash and/or Java).
What do you think about these four websites? Do you have any favorite in this list or know of another that you’d like to share? What NES games can you still not pull yourself away from? Let us know in the comments!