Is Emulating Video Games Wrong?



Wesley Wood

I am pretty firm on my stance about emulating. Do you own the game and system it is for already? Then go ahead and emulate. If you do not, then you are stealing. A lot of companies provide a way to pay for their games, whether at retail stores or digitally. Heck, I know for a fact that Nintendo and Sony both have an online store that allows you to legally acquire their older titles for pretty cheap. Earthbound for only ten bucks? Sign me up!
Why is it stealing? Just like with torrenting music and movies you didn’t pay for… well… you didn’t pay for the game. It would be like you’ve been working for a couple of years, went to collect your pay check, and the boss tells you that he isn’t paying you. He felt like your labor should have been free.
The same applies to games. These companies and people have spent countless hours to develop a game for you to enjoy and due to being cheap, you decide it isn’t worth spending a dime on. I would feel like crap if I worked on a film or game for years and then saw it being torrented online. Just wow.
Where I believe emulation is okay is when you do already own the game and system it is on, but also if the game is no longer available to be purchased from anyone. For example, Home Improvement on the SNES. Terrible game, I know, but where are you going to be able to legally acquire that besides at a used game store? You can’t.
Also, there are a ton of custom ROMs and hacks that people have created. Feel free to play those to your heart’s content.
For example: Emulating International Cricket for NES is okay. Emulating Earthbound on SNES is not okay.
One game is available to be purchased legally from the publisher and the other is not.

 Maurice Pogue

Once upon a 2011 ago, a group of modders who called themselves Bombergamers unleashed upon the world its labor of love called the Streets of Rage Remake (v5.0). It was an amalgamation of the entire SoR trilogy into one game, complete with music remixes, more playable characters, more modes, and enhanced graphics.
Not too long after the official release, Sega sent the Bombergamers a cease and desist letter, drawing the attention of gaming news outlets everywhere. The odd fact about this story, however, is that Bombergamers had already contacted Sega via formal to let them know what they were doing during the eight years it took for them to release the final version of the game. Sega simply ignored them. Only after the release of the game and overwhelming praise of it did Sega care.
If anyone wonders why Sega continues to suffer from atrophy to the point where the company is cutting 300 jobs and regressing to PC and Mobile exclusivity, its decision to ignore and subsequently smack down its most dedicated fans is an incriminating allegory (it also doesn’t help that they allowed Sonic Boom to happen). What if Sega had actually done what good gaming companies do—such as Valve with IceFrog (DotA 2) or Bioware with Stefan Gange—when they discover modders who invest their personal time and attention to create a polished product from which they profit not one cent, and hired Bombergamers to create SoRemake for the NDS, or make it a fully-fledged product on Steam? Well, they failed to do so, claiming to protect a dead franchise in a dead genre (beat-em-up) and SoRemake was pulled from the internet.
But it didn’t die.
Nay, SoRemake current thrives on the hard drives of many-a-SoR fan, such as yours truly. I was all over it like white on rice, unphased, unmoved by Sega’s hissy fit. They are the ones who lost, because they were willing to let a franchise die despite the persistence of its many fans. For the creation of SoRemake, and its continued existence in cyberspace, we have emulation culture to thank.

Fret not, Bombergamers! Your eight years of labor was not in vain. We fans remember your work, your sacrifice.

Granted, Sega is still making money from the Streets of Rage franchise, supposedly between Xbox Live, Wii Virtual Console, iOs, and whatever other digital distribution method that Sega’s milking. Personally, I happen to own Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PS3, which includes SoR 1-3. I also still own the Genesis originals in their carts. Yet even if I had sold all my copies of SoR, I would still have downloaded SoRemake, because it’s the ultimate version of the game, and the first time anyone has seriously touched the franchise since 1994.
I would’ve paid money for it.
If one really wants to take emulation to task, I’d ask them how do they think a game released on one console becomes compatible with another? The Wii U’s backwards compatibility is a great example of this because the OS of the Wii is installed on the console, which has to “reset” itself just to run.
In other words, companies like Sega, Konami, Capcom, etc., and even Nintendo are emulating their old games and selling them for profit. Ironically, this is the argument against emulation: game companies own the rights to their intellectual properties and maintain the right to (not) emulate their games to be resold on new platforms to new generations of consumers. Namco is particularly infamous for this with Pac-Man. I consider the practice of penalizing gamers for emulation more toxic to the video game industry, more toxic than DLC . At least DLC is new. 
Mario Collection

Oh look, it’s Super Mario Bros…and the second game…and the third…and Super Mario World… Uh, are these from Super Mario All-Stars? Or is that Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition? (I could have just as easily replaced this image with a Genesis-era Sonic game and listed the umpteen collections that it is on.)

A certain man from my Alma Mater recently won a case against Nerf for denying him royalties for a certain invention that you may have heard of: the Super Soaker. If I created or owned some sort of intellectual property, I know I would want to get paid. But I, and Mr. Lonnie Johnson, are individuals, not million or billion-dollar companies. Click here to see how to start an invention patenting.
Sega isn’t losing money because of a few hundred or even thousands of gamers may or may not be emulating SoR(remake)SonicShinobi, or Golden Axe games; Sega is losing money because of its long history of preposterously foolish business choices and practices, dating back to the 32X and “SURPRISE!!!” launch of the Saturn.
Capcom has yet to release a Mega Man game in HD, alienating Keiji Inafune to the point where he has to leave the company to create Mighty (No. 9); Konami (and practically everyone) seems to be done with 2D—I’m talking Castlevania. Companies like Hudson Soft and Acclaim have been cannibalized by other companies and they ain’t coming back, so if you ever want to get your Bonk’s AdventuresNBA JamSmash TV, or Bomberman on, emulation is the most viable solution. Wanna play arcade beat-em-ups like TMNT, Alien vs Predator, X-Men, and The Simpsons? You can either ebay an arcade board for a minimum of $1,000 on Ebay or emulate them. 
Speaking of vendors like Ebay and, game companies abhor similar businesses such as GameStop, EBGames, and your local mom & pop game store more than you can possibly fathom, because they earn zero dollars from resales. Zero. This very fact curb-stomps the idea that companies are losing money to emulation, and this will remain an impenetrable fact until the companies that own the property rights to every game ever has offered a digital solution. Wanna play Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Xbox Live? Fat chance, you’ll have to settle for Microsoft’s sequel…or emulate it. 
Emulate! Emulate away, I say, because in the end, emulation actually makes companies more money despite what they might think. I never owned a N64, yet I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on an emulator in college, and I am now a Zelda fan, owning (but having yet to play) every Zelda game but Link’s Awakening. I have purchased OOT on the Wii’s virtual console, and Wind Waker twice (GCN and Wii U), all because of my memorable experience that I would have never had if it were not for emulation. The same can be said for Neo Geo games like Metal Slug, Samurai Showdown, and The King of Fighters, which I now own in their entireties on the Wii and PS2. The same could be said of the Mega Man X games on SNES. I own that collection as well. Emulation encourages and perpetuates gamer interest in ways that money cannot buy. 
Speaking of which, I didn’t own a GameBoy, and I very much look forward to the completion of the Metroid 2 remake since it is the only game in the series that I have not played. I say Nintendo had better pay that man now, or drink a nice cup of shut up when it releases. 

You know you want it.

What do you geeks think? Let us know in the comments.

Wesley Wood

Wesley Wood is an aspiring film director. He would love to make GOOD films to help spread God's word and help Christians grow.


  1. Sturm on February 20, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    This wouldn’t be such an issue if copyright law wasn’t a bloated, contradictory mess. It’s even more frustrating because while there’s not any real legal repercussions for the average emulating fan, as Christians we have to be clear on whether or not what we’re doing constitutes theft.

    I’m of the opinion that as long as you can and do own a legally obtained version of the game (whether it be the physical release or a digital copy) then you have free reign to do what you please with it. If it’s not commercially available, then I don’t see how downloading a copy is bad either. It’s no different than downloading a book that’s no longer being published.

    I also think that previous versions of the game ought to be free game if a dev later edits their game and the previous version cannot be legitimately obtained anymore. You could argue that it’s stealing from the dev, but imagine being told that one of your older books is no longer allowed to be used and you had to burn it up and receive an updated copy. Nobody would call that justified.

    My main problem is whether it’s okay to download a copy of a game when you already have a legal copy, either in a physical cartridge or a different format (like different releases of Ocarina of Time, for instance). You’re technically still using an illegal copy, but is it still theft? I can’t identify what’s being stolen so I don’t know.

  2. Brandon Walker on February 10, 2021 at 9:17 am

    I personally am conflicted on this front. I used to have almost no problem doing it before starting to build my faith. I don’t like feeling like I’m stealing at all, but at the same time I don’t appreciate a large multi-billion dollar company who I’ve supported for almost my entire life calling me a thief because I want to download and play some of my favorite games that they currently don’t sell themselves on any of their active platforms. A large portion of Gamecube games are locked to that platform and I don’t see how me giving 100s of dollars to an ebay seller for one game helps Nintendo or any other company in the long run. Especially during hard times where you want to save as much as your money as possible(looking at you Covid), it’s really hard to justify over-paying for a game when none of that money is going to go to the developer/publisher. I really don’t see that as stealing because if Nintendo did offer these titles on the Switch/3DS/Wii U, I would pay for them.

    Also, it used to be legal in the US to download games when they were no longer in print nor being sold by the original IP holder. So it’s hard to look at the current law and say that that’s what people should follow just because the old law “ran out”. Especially when we the people have the power to affect and change the law in our favor by petitioning/protesting/writing to law makers. That coupled with the fact that a lot of these big greedy companies try to get the law changed in their favor all of the time, it gets harder not to turn toward emulation. We definitely aren’t entitled to anything, but just looking at the push by these companies towards cloud gaming shows that they can get so greedy that they don’t want you even owning the products that you actually buy, but forever paying what is essentially a tax on them just to have the right to play them(a right which they can take away at any moment for any reason whatsoever or no reason given at all). There’s often a giant disconnect between the actual developers and the people that make money off of their talent and works.

    I know others on here have talked about preservation, but there’s another big positive to emulation. Inspiration. A lot of independent developers have admitted that they wouldn’t have started making games had they not downloaded their favorite games and tinkered with the coding and art to create mods. This type of experience has lead to big and small devs alike going on to making their own games. Apparently the Battlefield franchise started as a mod, Counter Strike started as a Half Life mod, Day Z started as an Arma 2 mod, etc. I’m just glad there are still some devs around that support their communities and experimention/creativity of their tools and creations. I don’t think the gaming industry as a whole would be as big as it is without emulation.

    If I made a game and eventually it became unavailable for purchase by the rights holder, I would want people to download it for free and play it. I would feel humbled that people still took an interest in my works enough that they would even want to experience it at all. That sentiment is lost on corporate types because they often times don’t understand the markets they’re in. They just know how to make a profit and often times aren’t above employing shady monetization schemes and practices to do so, in turn disrespecting not only the average consumer, but the most dedicated of fans.

    Anyway, sorry for the long rant/vent. I’m still conflicted at the end of the day. This is an industry I care deeply about which is why I get so passionate when I talk about it, but I know that at the end of the day, I’m entitled to nothing and I can live without it. I just wish it wasn’t so gray of an area. Perhaps one day I’ll do my research and start a petition to make downloading roms legal as long as they aren’t available for purchase through official channels. God bless if you took the time to actually read all of my words.

  3. Matt Martinez on January 18, 2018 at 5:38 am

    I want to chime in and say that I’ve been close to many people online who have been involved in raising funds to dump (copy) one-of-a-kind games that would be lost over time if something hadn’t been done to back them up. There’s been internal evidence from employees and other research showing that companies like Nintendo, Sega, and others have relied on third party ROM websites to acquire copies of their cartridge games which no longer exist in their digital form at their archives. Storage back in the day was hardly what it was now. Despite the companies like Nintendo condemning piracy sites, people have found, by examining the data of Virtual Console software, among others, that they contain information written into the files by copiers as seen in the same ROMs on the internet and these tools are very specific, likely not to have come from Nintendo’s actual archives. Sega has had games like Panzer Dragoon Saga lost in limbo because the creators have said that the assets and source code was wiped long ago, which is why there has been no re-release, despite demand for it, as second-hand copies of the physical disc sell for up to $500 on eBay. Games like that (which was on Sega Saturn) are also notoriously difficult to reverse engineer, which is the only option for games that have no source code to rewrite. They have to work with a retail copy and it is quite a difficult task to do. The team behind Kingdom Hearts says they had to do this on the Kingdom Hearts remasters for PS3 because the source code was lost not long after the game came out, and they had to salvage existing parts and rewrite others from scratch. Unreleased games, for which only a few copies remain in existence on sample or development cartridges and discs, have become highly sought after and there are still many that remain to be discovered and saved, despite being documented and photographed in some game magazines. My most wanted, for instance, is Dragon Hopper for Virtual Boy, which was completed but cancelled because the system flopped. But is was basically going to be an action-adventure game like Zelda. I agree with the guy who says it’s not necessarily bad that emulation exists or else we’d have to argue that MP3 players shouldn’t exist because people use them to play music they should’ve and could’ve very well payed for. But we shouldn’t expect everything for free. Believe me, producing any kind of creative work is tough and we shouldn’t take what they’ve done for granted,

    • Zero Tolerance on January 18, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      Yep. Lack of source code prevents remasters. Homeworld: Cataclysm is one of gaming’s biggest fatalities.

  4. Alexander Truong on April 11, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Look at it this way: If you have means to purchase the game / hardware and support the developers, you are stealing. Just because games could be copied without harming the original has no bearing on this. As well, since this is a site with a Christian audience, many times it’s a heart issue (if not every time). Christ taught us that pretty clearly in Matthew.

    If a game is available on the current market as in downloadable on PSN, eShop, XBL, Steam, Desura, GOG, Publisher based shops, or more, it is stealing to download a backup. There is money that isn’t going to those that made the works and you are consuming entertainment. Entertainment is value, it is not free or expected or entitled to anyone. For the cases that you cannot get the game at all through the current market, it’s at your own discretion. If the game comes out like Suikoden 2 did on PSN, buy it or stop playing it.

    Let’s talk about personal use of backups and such. In my heart, I believe that it is alright as long as both copies are never in use at the same time. Sure it doesn’t harm any one in that situation… Does it? Players are expected to buy multiple copies if friends want to play it too. When you lend a game to a friend, you cannot play it yourself because the disc is with them. Same way with this. It will be hard to do “the right thing”. But isn’t that the story of the Christian life? Our flesh desires things God does not. We must put away ourselves and offer ourselves up as living sacrifices to Him.

    • Wesley Wood on April 11, 2015 at 1:30 am

      Bingo! How many people would like it if they worked years on something, attempted to sell that product, and then people just “stole” it?

  5. Daniel Le Coz on April 9, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    I can’t wait for Citra (3ds emulator) to be functional, I’m looking forward to playing my 3ds games 1080p (plan on emulating only games me or my brother owns). Also what do you think of emulating games that are ridiculously expensive to buy used, but don’t have any re-release?

  6. Maddie on April 9, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    I’m sure some of you have heard of MOTHER 3. It was never released outside of Japan. There is a MOTHER fansite called, and one of the people made a fan translation for it. The person who made it did say that if Nintendo ever did localize MOTHER 3 to go buy that instead of using the translation. I have high doubts that it will never be localized. So, is it wrong to emulate a game that wasn’t released in your country?

    • Wesley Wood on April 9, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      If it isn’t available to you via the publisher then might as well emulate.

    • Andrew on April 10, 2015 at 7:44 pm

      There might be a chance it releases locally still, or at least I hope so. Nintendo releasing Earthbound on WiiU virtual console was a huge step forward, they even poked some fun at last year’s E3 at the fans begging for Mother 3, and Lucas is being released as a fighter on Smash 4 this summer.

      I don’t see anything wrong with downloading the fan-translated ROM of Mother 3. They did an amazing job and it’s a great game. Just be sure to buy the game for real if it ever gets published here. 🙂

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