If you‘re a Pokémon fan wondering how you can enjoy classic Pokémon games on your PC legally, I‘ve got you covered! In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to play Pokémon ROMs on emulators without breaking any laws.
The key is using your own game backups and avoiding any pirated ROMs. While emulators themselves are 100% legal, downloading ROM files for games you don‘t physically own is unfortunately considered copyright infringement.
However, you can legally play Pokémon games you own by "dumping" your own ROMs from physical cartridges. I‘ll explain the best emulators to use, where to find legal ROMs, how to dump your own library, and tips for staying on the right side of the law. Let‘s dive in!
Are Emulators Legal to Use?
The good news is emulators themselves are perfectly legal to download and use! Emulators simply mimic the functions of game consoles, allowing you to play console games on your PC.
As long as the emulator isn‘t using any pirated code and is built from the ground up, it falls under fair use provisions in copyright law. Leading sites like EmulatorZone avoid using any copyrighted materials when developing their emulators.
So you don‘t have to worry about any legal issues just by downloading and running emulators on your computer. Phew! The emulator itself is just a tool.
Did you know video game emulators have been around since the early 1980s? Some of the first emulators included Epoch Cassette Vision, Apple II, and Atari 800 emulators. The 90s saw a boom in emulator development, like nesticle for NES emulation.
Are ROM Files Legal to Download and Use?
ROM files contain the actual gameplay data for games. They allow emulators to run the games.
Here‘s where some gray area comes in – it‘s illegal to download ROM files for games you don‘t own. Game publishers own the copyrights and distribution rights to their titles.
According to statistics from the Entertainment Software Association, video game piracy results in losses of over $41 billion each year. So game companies understandably crack down hard on illegal distribution of their games.
The Safe and Legal Way to Obtain ROMs
While downloading ROMs randomly off the internet is risky, there are a few legal ways to get your hands on ROM files:
- Dump your own ROMs – Using a ROM dumping device, you can legally create ROM files from your own physical game cartridges and CDs. As long as you own the game, you‘re in the clear!
- Download legally free ROMs – Some classic games are in the public domain, so their ROMs can be shared freely. These are 100% legal to download.
- Get permission – On rare occasions, some ROM sites claim to have special permissions to distribute certain games. However, be very cautious of such claims, as legal permissions are extremely rare.
The bottom line – the only way to ensure legality is to use your own game backups or confirmed public domain ROMs. I‘ll go over how to safely dump your own ROMs a bit later in this guide.
The Best Emulators for Playing Pokémon Games
Now let‘s get to the fun part – which emulators provide the very best experience for each Pokémon game series! I‘ve handpicked the top options:
Game Boy Advance (GBA) – Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed, LeafGreen
- Visual Boy Advance (VBA-M) – The gold standard GBA emulator, VBA has stellar accuracy and game compatibility.
- mGBA – A newer emulator quickly gaining popularity. May run certain games better than VBA-M.
Nintendo DS – Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, SoulSilver, Black, White
- DeSmuME – Considered the most accurate Nintendo DS emulator, DeSmuME smoothly runs 3D graphics and complex games.
- melonDS – A promising newer DS emulator with high performance. Still in development but becoming very usable.
Nintendo 3DS – X, Y, Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire, Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, Ultra Moon
- Citra – The only playable 3DS emulator so far. Citra is making rapid progress and can run many games at full speed.
- Cemu – Although primarily for Wii U emulation, Cemu recently added experimental 3DS emulation as well, but it is still in very early stages.
I suggest going with the recommended main emulators for each system to ensure the highest compatibility and accuracy. Avoid any emulators from questionable sources and stick to well-known reputable projects.
How to Set Up Emulators and Run ROMs
Running your backed up Pokémon ROM files on emulators takes just a few easy steps:
- Download the emulator for your desired game‘s system from the official website, such as VBA-M.org or Citra-Emulator.org. Follow their installation instructions carefully.
- Add your legal ROM files into the emulator. There will be an "open ROM" or "load ROM" option in the emulator menus.
- Tweak any graphics settings you want to improve visuals. Many emulators offer graphics filters and enhancers.
- Enjoy your trip back to the Pokémon game worlds! Save states make playing on PC super convenient.
Check the emulator documentation for optimal configuration settings tailored to the game you want to play. This can enhance performance and compatibility.
Dumping Your Own Pokémon ROMs from Cartridges
Dumping your own ROMs from physical game carts is perfectly legal and lets you play your own games on emulators with total peace of mind.
Here are some options for ROM dumping hardware and software:
- Retrode 2 – $70 dumper that plugs into your PC and accepts original cartridges. Easy to use.
- INL-ROM Monitor – Around $60 cartridge dumper that connects via parallel port and has good compatibility.
- Bung Game Cart Dumper – More expensive at $140 but very fast dumping speeds.
- Game Save Extractors – Software that can pull ROM files from inserted game carts and memory cards.
Follow the setup process for your chosen dumper carefully. It will walk you through inserting your cart, connecting to your PC, and saving the extracted ROM file to use in your emulator.
Tip for GBA Games
For dumping GBA games specifically, Joey Joebags is one of the best dedicated cartridge dumpers out there and is quick and reliable. You can pick one up for around $35.
Legal Considerations for Emulation
Let‘s recap some key tips for staying on the right side of the law when it comes to emulators and ROMs:
- Only use ROMs for games you physically own. Never download or distribute pirated ROMs online.
- Dump your own ROMs when possible to avoid any risks. This is 100% legal.
- Make sure to download emulators from official sources like the developer‘s site, not torrents.
- Avoid websites offering libraries of downloadable ROMs, as they are likely illegally distributing pirated games.
As long as you‘re thoughtful about where you get your games and emulators from, you can enjoy revisiting Pokémon‘s epic worlds on your desktop computer or laptop without any legal worries!
Just follow this guide and soon you‘ll be reliving your journeys through Kanto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos, Alola, Galar, and the many other beloved Pokémon regions. Game on!