How to play JRPGs on Mac in 2023? Is it easy? Difficult? Are there any choice?
In 2014, I switched to a Mac, more specifically a MacBook Pro, and I’m never going back. Of course at first, I didn’t use it to play older a more recent games, it was a workstation before anything else. And I was glad. It was faster, more robust and more intuitive than my PC which was acting up.
Anyway, a few years later, in 2019 actually, I’ve decided to buy a bigger one, namely a 2017-iMac to have a bigger screen and gradually replace my laptop which already broke down once. A short while after I received my new toy, I’ve decided to look for some games.
As a fellow retrogamer, I didn’t look for newer games. I know better, and I have my PS5, Xbox Series X for that. No, instead I simply looked for some emulators for MacOS and I wondered how to play JRPGs on Mac. I thought that in 2019 as the technology progressed, I could find some decent programs but I feared the installation process nonetheless.
Executables are easy to use on a PC, and from what I remembered, not so much on a Mac. Boy, was I wrong! And happy to be, for once. Let me show you how it works and the beautiful job done by the community. I need to share my experience and show how easy it is to play some old school games and especially JRPGs on your Mac.
How to play JRPGs on Mac with Openemu, the Open-Source wonder for Mac
If, like me, you wondered how to play JRPGs on Mac, let me tell you about Openemu, a multi-machines open-source emulator that I use daily now, and, I must admit, sacrificing my productivity in the process. It was launched in 2013 and is now running a stable 2.0.8 version from December 2018. It’s a magical application doing for consoles what MAME did for the arcade.
So far you have access to 30 systems with more planned to be supported in the future and others already available albeit in an experimental build. From the Atari 2600 to the PlayStation and the SEGA Saturn or more obscure consoles like the PC-FX (released only in Japan in 1994 and successor of the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16). Handhelds are also included like Game Boy Advance, Game Gear and even the Neo Geo Pocket and the WonderSwan!
Openemu is very slick looking with various options. The games appear either in a grid-based view with a cover for each entry (usually automatically downloaded from an online database) or as an alphabetically sorted list.
Controls can be customized for each individual system and so far it’s been working amazingly fine with my wireless PS4 controller that connects flawlessly to my computer.
There’s a special procedure for CD-based systems like PlayStation, SEGA Saturn, or GameCube and another one for multi-CD games but nothing impossible. And it’s all very well explained on their website.
Also, every useful option is directly available like save states, screenshots, recording and what not. It’s all there.
Which brings me to my favorite part: the SEGA Saturn works wonderfully! Don’t even try, I won’t tell you where to find games, simply that you can use your own, wink. In my gaming career, the SEGA Saturn eluded me for so long. As far as I can remember, it was impossible to correctly emulate the system on PC or Mac. Not anymore! And I couldn’t be happier! I can now play some wonderful titles such as Panzer Dragoon Saga, Princess Crown or Radiant Silvergun. It’s amazing.
As a side note, of all the systems available in the emulator, only one of them doesn’t work, the Odyssey2. Or maybe it works but I couldn’t successfully import a game for some reason. But if you own a Mac and like old school games, which you do otherwise you wouldn’t read this, do yourself a favor and download Openemu, you won’t regret it.
Dolphin, the GameCube/Wii emulator is available for MacOS which is not the case of CEMU, to play Wii U games. Dolphin works perfectly, except with some games that are still not compatible. All of that is referenced on their very comprehensive website. I recently played through Luigi’s Mansion (fantastic) and The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker (horrible) using it.
The last emulator I used was Redream to play Dreamcast games. It’s still a work in progress, although only a few games didn’t work like Puzzle Bobble 4. I also had missing text-boxes in SGGG (Segagaga, a sim game taking place at SEGA in the future).
Also, it’s not possible (or I didn’t find any way to do it) to edit the content of the VMU (Visual Memory Unit, the Memory Card) . So no tampering with the save files and no import with all characters unlocked in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for example. And there’s no save state option yet but the developers are working on it.
Swing and a miss for the PS2 on Mac until 2020!
At the time of the original article in 2018, there’s was no stable PS2 emulator either because the last uploaded version of PCSX2 for MacOS is from 2012 and only works on Lion which brings us way back. We had no info on whether it will be updated soon but we keep our finger crossed. Because it would be wonderful. There was always the possibility of installing Windows through Boot Camp for example but I hadn’t tried and didn’t even know if it would work.
Now everything is different and I also learned a lot more. Between then and now, PCSX2 got a MacOS version and the Android AetherSX2 also got a native MacOS port before stopping abruptly (the last version still works great though). So you can enjoy the vast library of PS2’s JRPGs directly on your Silicon Mac. Because that’s also what came about since the original publication of the article which makes it easy and compelling for developers.
Nintendo Switch emulator on Mac? Sure!
Thanks to Apple switching to its own silicon, we now have a native version for Ryujinx, the famous Nintendo Switch emulator. It might not be perfect but it works well enough to enjoy most of the extensive JRPG library.
Finally I tried to launch an Atari Jaguar emulator through Negatron and NegaMAME but wasn’t successful in my attempt.
There you have it. Let us know in the comments if you know some others that we missed! Don’t bother contacting us for ROM files, as we still navigate in uncharted territories with those. Also, I didn’t explore previous Mac operating systems like II or the original Mac but I’m aware those were home of video games that pioneered some genres. Maybe next time!