Play Original NES Nintendo Games on Mac with USB or iPhone Controller

by Matthew Rathbun on December 22, 2011


I Love Retro!

There is something that resonates in us when we’re able to remember a happy childhood memory.  I remember spending countless hours in front of that Nintendo Entertainment System.  I remember reading all of the Power magazines and talking stories and strategies at the lunch table with my friends at school.  So, when I found NES emulators a few years back, I couldn’t resist!  The best part of emulators is that you don’t need to blow into the cartridges, constantly reset the machine or buy games!  I love that I get to now share this with my daughters  and they seem to love the classics too!

Making It All Work

I have a USB Nintendo controller and I use my iPhone as a second controller.  Getting there was easy, once you know how.  There are a few things you’ll need.

The first is an emulator.   I’ve tried a bunch of them and my favorite is Nestopia.  There is a free and registered version.  Most people will only need the free version.  Nestopia is reliable, works on Macs and Windows machines.  Adding USB controllers and/or the iPhone was super-easy.

You’ll also need games once you’ve installed Nestopia.  Games are called “ROMS” and can be found on a myriad of sites.  www.FreeRoms.com is my favorite place to get game roms.  They have a nifty list of the most popular games and an easy navigation system.

USB Controllers

You can play the games using your keyboard, but I find it to be just a little sluggish.  I took a look around and bought a retro controller that I could connect via USB.  The device of choice for me is from Retrolinc.  You can find it on Amazon for about $10.

It’s just like using the original controller and is pretty solid.  You do need to download a free app to help called Emulator Enhancer.   The instructions to add the device onto a Mac is pretty easy, just do the following:

– Open your Hard Disk.
– Open the Library folder.
– Open the Application Support folder.
– Copy the Emulator Enhancer folder (included with this document) into that folder.
– If you double click on the Emulator Enhancer folder the only file within should be “Emulator Enhancer.bundle”.

Enter the iPhone Controller

After introducing my daughters to the NES emulator it became evident that finding my USB controller was a bit more challenging.  On a whim I decided that it would be cool if my iPhone was able to be a controller.  Here’s a surprise… There’s an app for that!

After a brief search in the app store I found JoyPad Elite. Joypad Elite is fantastic!  It’s currently $11.99 in the App Store, but well worth it.  It comes with some built in games and a ton of “skins”, which are graphic overlays that make the controller look like the original.  The controller can be setup to use with a variety of emulators, such as Super NES, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy.

You’ll need to connect your iPhone to the Mac via Bluetooth of Wifi and then install the (free) JoyPad Connect software.  It’s in the Desktop Client section of the JoyPad website.

Tid Bits

I’ve used them exclusively on my Macbook Pro, but I understand that this works on PC’s too.  I can attest that Nestopia and USB controller working on a Windows 7 machine, but I haven’t tried the rest.

If you have questions about the legality of using ROMS and emulators you should research the legality and stipulations of using them, on your own.

I hope you enjoy playing these games as much as I do!  The top of my list is Mike Tyson Punchout, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers and Metroid.

What are your favorite retro games?

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