Sure, some folks buy laptops because they want to be able to get work done while on the go. But others have less serious goals in mind. After all, why should you be chained to your desktop when you want to play Call of Duty?

It turns out that most modern netbooks with Intel Atom CPUs are more than capable of running games, even games that require some 3D acceleration. No, you’re not going be able to play a bleeding edge game like Crysis without dropping a few frames. But plenty of games will run just fine. And in general, the older, the better.

With that in mind, the folks at Wired’s Gadget Lab decided to throw a Super Nintendo emulator on an MSI Wind netbook, plug in a USB joystick, and play some Mario Kart and Street Fighter II. The results? Pretty awesome. Basically it’s like having an SNES to go in a box that’s smaller than the original SNES game system. Check out the video for yourself after the break.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that you can run an SNES emulator on a device with a 1.6GHz CPU. After all, there are a couple of decent SNES emulators that run well on PDAs with 400MHz or slower processors.

But there’s one thing no PDA that I’m aware of can handle: a PS2 emulator. Sascha at Eee PC dug up a video of one user playing Final Fantasy X on an Eee PC using a PS2 emulator. I have to say, playback isn’t nearly as smooth as with the SNES emulator. It looks like the game is running at half speed, at best. But it’s still pretty.

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12 replies on “Netbook gaming: As long as you’re old school, you’re good to go”

  1. Best N64 emualtor is Project 64.
    My netbook is a Dual Atom 1.8 with ION 2 graphics and 12″ screen,
    and i can emulate some Wii games decently (dolphin emu).
    Never tryed PS2 emulator since i know the best one (pcsx2) isnt
    still good enouth.
    Dual Atom sure blend the net/laptop market cause i just feel im using
    a small computer, not a sluguish “kid device”.
    The 1366*768 12″ screen really adds a to it.

  2. I could not agree more! I just purchased an Acer One Aspire and it is emulating
    Atari 2600,7800 Vectrex,NES,SNES,Sega MD/32x/cd/game gear and SMS, Gameboy Advances, Commodore 64/Amiga, Pc Engine PSX and MAME.
    I have a mini arcade Joystick and one that resembles a PS3 controller. Now I can play any of 5k games anywhere, and with my 8 hour battery I am good to GO!
    retro forever!!

  3. I like the idea. And I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that if a netbook can handle a PS2 emulator, it would do well with a PSX emulator.

    I still have my PSX game discs, and I can rip them with my USB DVD drive or use the games themselves.

    Good idea folks. I’m gonna try it later.

  4. I just got a Toshiba Netbook NB205 and was curious myself to see what games would work on it.

    Emulators are great on it. At least old school system ones. I too wouldn’t recommend trying to make a PS2, DS or N64 emulator out of the netbook. The Atom processor is just limited in what it can do. It’s very good for what it is but I wouldn’t over do it as it just wasn’t meant to be a gaming system. But as far as NES, SNES, gameboy emulators.. I think its been great. Even tried Mame on it and that too seemed to be good to go.

    I also tried playing an old copy of Civilization 2 I had. And that game worked well except that none of the AVI elements would work. No wonder movies or council members or load up movie screens. But besides that the game played and sounded great. So as long as you are ok with no AVI’s showing up during the game its another one that will keep you busy on those long plane or road trips. I’m sure most games like Civ 1 and Starcraft and Warcraft and even Diablo 1/2 will work just fine on a netbook as well. Any old school game from the 90’s should be just fine.

    My recommendation is get a usb number pad (especially for Civ games and Diablo games) , a usb mouse and usb game controller to make all these games and emulators more user friendly. Sure you can play any of these games as is with the use of function key options on the keyboard but it won’t be the smoothest of play and these attachments aren’t too much more. $10 or $15 for each piece.

    Netbooks are great and I’m happy with mine. Just realize it isn’t a laptop (duh) and results will vary from netbook to netbook on how much it can handle and do even when it comes to old games and non graphically intense programs.

    But old school fans like me will be happy that this little NB205 can more than make the most nostalgic of person happy with the things it can do. Netbooks will and should be mostly for surfing the web and word processing and simple things like that. But no reason why you can’t get a little extra millage out of one if you set it up right.

    Good luck all and happy gaming on those netbooks you just got.

  5. Well I don’t know about old school but there are some pretty good small modern games that work well on netbooks. I have been playing Help! Aliens! ( It is a new game but works well on my netbook. I think more companies should design games so that they work on midrange netbooks and laptops myself =(

  6. You know what someone should put on a netbook, on the unused space at the sides of the touchpad? A D-Pad, some buttons and, why not, some analog joysticks. Althrough this type of devices are not powerful enough it would be useful for use the games you mentioned. Although this would make more sense to UMPCs, it would be a nice addon for both.

      1. That would work… Until you discover it’s an ARM machine, which means no windows XP, Vista or whatever. And it has a smaller screen with less resolution and a thumb-style keyboard, which means it’ll be nasty to use chat programs or whatever with it. But beside that, it does pretty much of what a netbook does in pocket size.

  7. While netbooks don’t have enough juice to run PS2 emulator (actually only really decent PCs have it…that, and PS2 emulation still isn’t fully satisfactionary), typical hardware in them is more than enough to run PS1 emulators perfectly.

    Also, when it comes to SNES – the other great emulator worth checking is Zsnes (which I personally prefer over Snes9x which was used in the video)

    PS. And it also should be possible to emulate N64 perfectly on the Atom…I did it on 300MHz cpu (+voodoo3) after all, so probably (I wasn’t playing with N64 emu for a looong time/I’m not familiar with SixtyForce) they used “wrong” emulator, one that sacrifices speed for accuracy. Might be worth checking some latest offshot of UltraHLE for example, together with Glide wrapper/etc.

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