May 28, 2013

Is emulating old console games you find online illegal?

I would really like to play some of my old games from the 16 bit era but my consoles seem to have succumbed to old age. Some of these titles, like Zelda: A Link to the Past, are available for purchase on the Wii but I'd rather not pay the fee to download a straight port of a game I already own.So upon searching the internet for games, I have come across several sites for game emulation. I have some skepticism because certain sources state that it is illegal while others claim that there are stipulations such as a "24 hour rule" that allows you to download the game, yet you must delete it after said time period if you don't own it. Others state it is completely illegal while some say that only certain portions of the process are illegal. I'd really like to download some games to play when I have downtime, but I'd rather not get in trouble for doing so.I would really like some clarification on the matter, if possible. Thanks!


I'm fairly certain that it is illegal to download the ROMs for emulators, but I'm not a lawyer so don't quote me on that.

If you really want to get back into 16 bit gaming, check out the older videogame consoles on Amazon. You can get older videogame consoles and games there. That's probably your best bet if you want to skip the emulation thing. Run it on classic hardware. It's legal and you won't get into trouble.  


It is very confusing to those who actually concern themselves with the law. For the most, it is illegal to download games (ROMs) yet downloading most emulators is completely legal (at least from the 16 bit era.)

Though you said that you have copies of these games, downloading the game is actually illegal. You are supposed to make your own back-up from your own game, even though the data you download from the internet is the exact same data you would obtain from doing the back-up yourself. However, even though downloading and using these games is technically illegal, you are very unlikely to actually get in trouble if you decide to emulate these games.


Maybe this will help:



Not illigal when used for personal use - this is certain. In general, however, I am not sure.


I think that you have to actually own a physical copy of the game for it to be legal to use an emulated version. If you already own a copy, play on, player. If you don’t, then you are using an illegal copy of something that you don’t own. Perhaps someone else has greater insight, but I think that is the basic rule.

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