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Funky Fun Emulator Games to Brighten Quarantine

Are you getting bored with the games you’ve spent a lot of time with during quarantine? Maybe you don’t have a superpower PC that can play modern games and you’re sick of Angry Birds and Zynga Poker? My suggestion: try an emulator and discover some forgotten classics. These are some games that stand the test of time with fun and engaging gameplay and can be played with a USB controller or with your keyboard. Most emulator games only take up a couple MB of space on your computer, so you can download a lot and explore what you like. This list is a couple of my favorites, all of which I rediscovered in quarantine. 

Chrono Trigger

Screenshot courtesy of Square

Chrono Trigger was developed by SquareSoft for the SNES in 1995. Although it has been ported and remade on many systems over the years, many consider the original SNES/emulator the best version. Diehard fans consider the original translation, music, and animations to be perfect. Final Fantasy fans will get a kick out of Chrono Trigger’s real time turn-based battle system. Characters in your party still take turns attacking or casting spells, but there is a real-time aspect to the battles that keeps you on your toes and allows for much more dynamic and challenging gameplay. The beautiful, well-written story deals with time travel and allows you to traverse the open world in different time periods. The puzzles aren’t clear-cut and actually make you think about where you have to go and what you have to do. I had a lot of fun grinding levels in an area I didn’t need to be in for an hour before realizing I wasn’t even in the right time period to complete the next part of the story. 

Golden Axe II

Screenshot courtesy of Sega

Golden Axe II for the Sega Genesis emulator is a side scrolling fighter game that allows you to walk up and down the screen as well as side to side. You choose one of three characters that each have a special magic spell and weapon. Expect a lot of button mashing and slashing at enemies while screaming at the screen. I typically don’t enjoy ‘beat em up’ games like this but I was addicted to clearing through these levels. Even with years of gaming under your belt, this simple fighting game makes for a nice challenge.


Screenshots courtesy of Koei

Gemfire is a strange and ridiculous strategy game where you command different territories of an island and attempt to take over the entire island through making alliances or conquering your neighbors. You choose between one of four ‘scenarios’ where the various alliances and territories of the island are occupied for different levels of difficulty. There’s a ‘command’ mode where you can fortify your fortress, make or break alliances, give food to your citizens, train armies, and more. Once you are attacked or attack another territory the game switches to a turn-based battle mode. I have logged over 24 hours in this game since I downloaded it and have only been able to beat two of the four scenarios. To be honest, I don’t know what draws me to this game, but I can say with certainty that if you choose to give it a whirl, you’ll be transfixed.

The more challenging scenarios of the game are almost Flappy Bird levels of difficulty, and I am not sure if it’s possible to win without hours of strategic planning and battles. Still, I keep trying.

The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

Screenshot courtesy of Sculptured Software

The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare. Wow. All I can say is, wow. This is a side-scrolling puzzle game that had me scratching my head. Bart has failed a test and is staying up all night to study when he falls asleep and a strange wind comes into his room and takes him to dreamland. Once you are in the dreamland, you have to walk around collect different items by blowing bubblegum bubbles, spitting watermelon seeds, and dodging flying mailboxes. You can get turned into a frog by Lisa and have to ‘catch a kiss’ from an old lady (something that would normally hurt you) to turn back into Bart. This game is worth it even just to play for ten minutes and give up. It helps to read a manual or walkthrough to understand part of the game because otherwise you’ll be wandering around the dreamland like me wondering if you’re too old to play games anymore. 

I typically get my emulators and ROMs from where you can download all the titles mentioned here and other preserved classics from all sorts of systems. Whether you download a ROM, a ROM hack, or Angry Birds 2, my only hope is that these games brighten your quarantine experience just a little more.

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