Emulating & Playing Classic NES Games On Your Computer With Nestopia

Craig Snyder 04-05-2012

nes emulatorOh, the NES. As an ’89 baby, there wasn’t a larger part of my childhood than this gaming console. Before school, after school, and on weekends you would find me attached to this thing. With Crystalis, Metroid, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, Mega Man 1-6, Castlevania, Dragon Warrior, River City Ransom, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, Contra, The Legend of Zelda, and the entire Mario Bros. series, what is there not to love as a kid? The NES wasn’t the first console, but it was the one that really cracked open the world of gaming and brought it to the forefront of home entertainment.


In this article, you’re going to learn how to re-live and enjoy those amazing classic games on your computer using Nestopia.

Downloading Nestopia

Nestopa is no longer being actively developed. It doesn’t need to be either, it’s practically perfect as it stands!

nes emulator

There are versions of the software available for the Windows, Linux, and Mac platforms. Here are direct links to the latest version (1.40):

Nestopia is also open source! You can find the source code here. Nestopia is portable 100 Portable Apps for Your USB Stick for Windows and macOS Portable apps let you take your favorite software anywhere via a flash drive or cloud storage. Here are 100 of them to cover your every need, from games to image editors. Read More , so it can be thrown onto a service like Dropbox or a flash drive and go with you.


Configuring Nestopia

“Out of the box,” Nestopia doesn’t require too much advanced configuration. It’ll work just fine after unzipping the archive. However, I do recommend going into the Preferences… beneath the Options menu.

play classic nes games

Here, just go ahead and check the boxes beside each file association. It’ll make loading ROMs a lot easier for you in the future.

Other than that, you can familiarize yourself with the controls at the Input… screen, also under Options.


play classic nes games

The controls are pretty simple by default: directional keys for the directional pad, comma and period for A and B, and then Enter for the Start button.

Getting ROMs

While ROMs are freely available online, MakeUseOf can’t help you find them. Downloading ROMs for games that you don’t own is piracy, and doing so is your decision to make.



Extract your ROMs into the same folder. It’ll get messy and confusing otherwise. NES ROM files have the “.nes” extension.

Loading ROMs

Loading your games is as easy as can be. Simply go to File and then Open… and navigate to the location where your ROMs are stored.

classic nes games

If you made the file associations that I recommended before, you can alternatively just browse to the folder in Windows Explorer and double-click the file. It’ll automatically load and start in Nestopia.


Saving States

This sure does beat having to remember a 16-digit password or having to play through 10 minutes of gameplay just to reach a stopping point. Nestopia supports the saving of your states, which is basically instantly saving your game progress.

nes emulator

All you’ve got to do is go to File and then Save State…. Load State… will allow you to restore your progress.

Go now. You’ve got time to waste and an entire childhood to catch up on. Or if you’re one of our younger readers, how about you go enrich yourself in some real gaming with Nestopia!

If you’re a Super Nintendo fan, I did a very similar article on how to emulate SNES games using ZSNES Emulating & Playing Classic SNES Games On The PC With ZSNES In my opinion, the Super Nintendo was the greatest gaming console that ever existed. Boasting titles like Chrono Trigger, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, EarthBound, Final Fantasy III, Super... Read More . Go check it out and let’s talk some NES in the comments here!

Related topics: Emulation, Retro Gaming.

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    September 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm


  2. althonearth
    June 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Not at all.
    Under my Options tab is has:
    Defrost Game State
    Freeze Game State
    Save Screenshot
    Start Recording Audio
    Transfer Random Barcode

    Then under Edit:
    Game Genie
    Dip Switches

    Open Recent
    Page Setup
    Print Screen

    Under Preferences:

    Under Joysticks:
    Get Emulator Enhancer (which I've gotten)
    Configure Keyboard

    Under Emulator:
    Hardware Configuration
    - Simulate NYSC video artifacts
    - Enable Unlimited Sprites
    - Trim Border Area
    - Use Image Database (the only one that's ticked)

    Sound Channels:
    - Square 1
    - Square 2
    - Triangle
    - Noise
    - PCM (all ticked)

    And that is pretty much my entire Nestopia menu and prefs.

    • Craig Snyder
      June 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Just following up to let you know I've made an attempt to email the Nestopia team about this. I don't run a Mac myself so it's a little tough for me to diagnose this personally for you. In the meantime, you could ask this same question over at MakeUseOf Answers, where you may have a quicker reply from someone else who uses that same OS. If I come across an answer from Nestopia, I'll post there as well.

  3. Seppe
    May 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Playing the real thing on an old school TV and a real controller in your hand is a so much cooler expierence than emulation.

    • holyKow
      May 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      i agree its cooler to play the real thing, but the nostalgia wears off kinda quick when u dont have the convenience of save states, and switching from one game to the next on the fly. also i dont miss blowing on the cartridges to get them to finally work after 20 minutes of trying. and one less set of cables i have to plug into the tv, or power strip.
      only draw back after the cool nastalgia effect fades is that the original nes controller had pimp dpad. and was made like a brick.

    • Craig Snyder
      May 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      You can always buy a USB NES controller and use one of Nestopia's many video filters to create scanlines or fuzz to give a more authentic effect!

      • althonearth
        June 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

        Hi Craig,

        Thank you for your help here, this is far as I've managed to get on my own.
        The thing I'm battling with is getting my Nestopia to pick up my USB controller.

        Apparently it's a plug and play but it's not locating it?

        I'm using Mac OS X Ver. 10.7. and have tried everything imaginable.
        I'm hoping you have a set of fresh eyes on this and are able to help!

        Thank you!

        • Craig Snyder
          June 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

          What is your exact controller? Brand, model name, etc.

        • althonearth
          June 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

          Morning Craig,

          I bought 2, thinking the one didn't work.
          They are as follows:

          1. Nintendo Retrolink USB Super SNES Classic Controller for PC and Mac, plug and play.

          2. Tomee NES UBS Controller for PC/Mac, plug and play.

          Neither of the above work, if I can get both to, that would be brilliant.

          Along with Nestopia I downloaded Emulator Enhancer.bundle and USB Overdrive which I uninstalled as it needed me to buy it and I wasn't wanting to.

          Thank you for your response, I look forward to hearing back from you.

        • Craig Snyder
          June 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm

          You're going into the Input options menu, correct? When you plug in each controller, are you prompted to install any drivers (as it does on Windows, I am assuming the process is similar on a Mac)?

          Under Input Options, to the right and under Joysticks, when your controller is plugged in, does it say the name of either controller?

        • althonearth
          June 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

          The input options menu in System Preferences?
          I am, yes, however, it's only giving me various languages and see nothing with regards to the controllers.

          In Nestopia preferences there is no input option as such.

        • althonearth
          June 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

          The input options menu in System Preferences?
          I am, yes, however, it's only giving me various languages and see nothing with regards to the controllers.

          In Nestopia preferences there is no input option as such.

          Is there any way we can email instead, this link isn't too reliable?

  4. holyKow
    May 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    can i hook up my xbox360 controller to my pc and use it to play these NES games??

    inquiring minds would like to know.

    • Craig Snyder
      May 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Yes you can. Mostly every emulator (or at least the ones I cover) will allow you to configure your input device. If you've got the drivers and your gamepad/controller is working on your PC, you can configure it to work on Nestopia. Look into the input configuration.

  5. Austin
    May 4, 2012 at 1:11 am

    No need for this now, I just found a NES at Goodwill for $10. Throw in two controllers, the AC adapter, SMB/Duck Hunt, and Excitebike and the total cost: $28! Then on to Ebay for MegaMan 2 and Super Mario Bros 3 for $20 more, I think I'm set! Even though all these games came out before I was born, they're still just so awesome. What I want even more is a Super Nintendo, that's what I grew up with, and stupidly sold for a very low price to afford a GameCube, I regret selling that...oh well.

    But yeah NES games are great, and if you can't play on an original system or Wii VC, then emulation isn't bad, especially if you have a decent gamepad to use. I recommend trying out some of these classics if you haven't :)