Note that I can offer no BIOS or ROM files (nor links for them) for certain emulators to work, so you will need to acquire them by using your preferred search engine. Extracting them from your very own machines would be preferable, but I never understood how on earth could anyone get the inspiration for getting to know a machine by purchasing one for a small fortune, not even knowing for sure if it works, and then start working with it, very likely with no instructions or software. Emulation is the way to go, I'd say, so here we go...
ACORN COMPUTERS: ATOM, BBC MICRO, ELECTRON
I'll go about this in an alphabetical order, so I'll have to start with one of the names I'm the least familiar with - Acorn. Luckily, the first emulators I have come across have also worked well enough to my requirements, but if you know of any better emulators, I'm all ears.
For the most time, I'm using the BeebEm, which seems to be able to handle even some Electron games as well as BBC Micro and Master 128 games. Still, occasionally, I need to turn to the help only ElectrEm can provide. So far, I have had no need of an Atom emulator for the blog, but I tried out Atomulator once, which worked well enough.
AMSTRAD: CPC-series, GX4000
For most of your emulated Amstrad gaming needs, WinAPE and CPCE should be enough. WinAPE in particular, as it's the more modifiable one - at least, I couldn't find a way to run the GX4000 machine emulator with CPCE. However, a reader by the name of Paperinik suggested another quite nice CPC emulator called WinCPC, which is also very recommendable.
APPLE COMPUTERS: II-SERIES, MACINTOSH
For playing Apple II and IIe games, AppleWin is easily the best choice. The Apple II GS is a different beast, so it requires a different emulator, and so far, my choice has been KEGS.
For Macintosh gaming, it's not quite as easy. As you might remember, I still haven't been able to find a good Classic Mac emulator that could launch Winter Games properly. Most of the emulators I have encountered so far are obsolete, and need to be ran under Windows 98 at best - some require a pure DOS even. The E-Maculation website is a good source for setting up emulators for any system, but I have yet to find a Mac emulator I would have been entirely happy with.
The ones I have managed to get working to some level are Basilisk II (a long time ago on Win XP; not on Win7, though) and Mini vMac, but even those were difficult to work with.
So far, I have kept my arcade gaming strictly to different versions of MAME due to its easy to use user interface (and the VERY occasional actual arcade gaming experience), although I have tried to use other emulators couple of times without being all too happy with the results. Since MAME works well enough for my needs, it's currently my only arcade emulator.
Download the latest MAME release at the official site of the MAME development team:
For a more instantaneous arcade experience, you can check out the Internet Arcade section at Internet Archive, although the library is currently limited to "only" 637 titles, but it's a good start.
ATARI: 2600, 5200, 7800, 8-BIT COMPUTERS, ST, LYNX, JAGUAR
Emulating any of the Atari machines seems to often cause many different kinds of headaches, but if you can cope with having to keep more than one emulator per machine on your harddrive, here's a good list of alternatives.
A5200: Atari800, Altirra
A7800: EMU7800, ProSystem Emulator
8-bit computers: A8E, Atari800 Win PLus, Altirra
Atari ST/STe: Steem SSE (also here) + Pasti dll for supporting extended disk images
Jaguar: Virtual Jaguar
COLECO: ADAM + COLECOVISION
I haven't had much need for a Coleco Adam emulator as of yet, but the ADAMEm is a very good one at that. For my Colecovision comparisons, I have been using blueMSX, which can handle quite a few different MSX-type machines, as well as a few different setups of Colecovision and early Sega computers. Still, ColEm appears to be the preferred choice of many. Update, 5th of November, 2015: Very recently, I found out that there's this heavy-duty multi-platform emulator called Bee, which aims for accuracy in every possible way. Unfortunately, Bee's previous update was in 2011, so I'm not sure exactly how accurate it is, but at least it offers some special bits of functionality, that none of the other emulators do, such as steering wheel emulation.
COMMODORE: PET, VIC-20, 64, 128, DTV, 16, PLUS/4, AMIGA
For most cases, I could recommend you to get VICE - the Versatile Commodore Emulator. It can emulate most of the Commodore PET computers, the VIC-20 (or if you're German, the VC-20), all known variations of the C64 and the C128 (even the C64DTV) and there is also some support for the C16 and Plus/4 computers.
Some very good alternatives for the VICE can be found, though, and in certain actions, are even better, if the emulators are not entirely preferable otherwise. Mostly, I'm using Per Sundell's CCS64 for my immediate C64 emulation needs, because it's easier to use and I just happen to like the user interface a bit more. Also, for most of my C16 and Plus/4 needs, I have found YAPE to be more useful and more compatible than VICE.
As much as I have learned to love UAE, which is easily the best Amiga emulator out there, I have to admit it's not the easiest to work with. There is always Fellow as an option, but the last time I used it was before either of these emulators got a Windows-based release.
DRAGON 32/64 + TRS-80 CoCo-series
I lumped these together, because you can quite easily handle both with one emulator: Xroar. Well, not precisely, since you can only do CoCo 1 and 2 with Xroar. For CoCo 3, you're going to need another emulator. I'm using VCC for that one.
Best case scenario - use proper hardware for each type of DOS and old Windows gaming requirements. I have an MS-DOS 6.22 based machine and a Windows '98 machine for difficult cases, neither of which unfortunately aren't quite old enough, but at least you can check out some of the games that won't work with DOSbox, which is the only choice for those of you, who have no proper old equipment. To make things a bit easier regarding DOSbox, I cannot recommend enough to download D-Fend Reloaded for making things easier. This is particularly useful, if you have no previous experience with DOS gaming, but still requires some serious studying.
Only recently, I have come across another DOS-PC emulator called PCem, which looks to be a rather hardcore version of what DOSbox is aiming to be. I haven't tried it out yet, because I haven't found much use for it so far, but looks to be very interesting.
If you're not into dabbling with emulation software at all, you can always try out some of the online DOS game archives that utilise DOSbox. The first one I became aware of a month or two ago was the MS-DOS software library at the Internet Archive. Another one was pointed out to me by the creators of another similar website called RetroLayer, which, while still on its early days, looks to be a very promising new website, and to some extent, more accessible than the one at Internet Archive.
MAGNAVOX: ODYSSEY & ODYSSEY²
The best option for getting your Odyssey² fix is to download O2EM. If you feel like digging a bit further in history, the original Magnavox Odyssey has been completely emulated as OdyEmu, with all of its games integrated into the emulator.
MATTEL: AQUARIUS, INTELLIVISION
I haven't had a need for an Aquarius emulator so far, but the legendary Zophar's Domain has a couple of options on display, that's where I've originally found most of my emulators anyway. As for the Intellivision, it seems like Nostalgia is the most often recommended one, and I'm using it as well.
MILTON BRADLEY: MICROVISION, VECTREX
If you haven't come across MicroVision earlier, there's probably a good reason for it. It is the earliest handheld gaming device, which uses interchangeable game cartridges. There were only 12 games made for it, so there's not much reason for me to include it in any of my comparisons, nor are there any dedicated emulators made for it. There are, however, some sort of java applications made to simulate the MicroVision games, which you can find HERE. I'm only including this here to remind people that it exists, and hoping that this raises at least some more interest in the machine.
Vectrex is one of those consoles that I'd love to own, but I don't want to spend money on a machine that is shipped with its own customized screen, which is a requirement. Even though Vectrex is the most well known of the MB consoles, it still gets quite high bids on eBay, and I'm happy to stick with emulators. Currently, I'm only using a Wii emulator called Vectrex Wii (a port of Vecx), but apparently, the best one for computer users is a java-based ParaJVE. A download link for Vecx can be also found at the bottom of the ParaJVE link.
Most of the time, I'm using the aforementioned blueMSX, which is a marvellously effective and easy to use emulator. Occasionally, I do need to dig out the more accurate and compatible, but less user-friendly openMSX. For gamers with heavy duty MSX emulation needs, I can only recommend both emulators. Still, the grandaddy of all MSX emulators, the fMSX holds a special place in my heart for having started with one.
NEC: PC-8801, PC-ENGINE
For some reason, my only experience with the NEC PC-8801 emulation has so far been the outdated PC88 Win, which works quite nicely regardless of all that. Apparently, it even plays some games that the most used one - M88 - doesn't, but the M88 supports CD emulation, and is open source. Both emulators can be downloaded HERE.
PC-Engine, also known as TurboGrafx-16, can be emulated well enough with Ootake, but for a really good PC-Engine experience in emulation, you should check out MagicEngine. The only thing is, you can only get a restricted demo version for free, and you need to purchase the full version if your requirements are that high.
I haven't found a need for a PC-98 emulator yet, but I'll update it here once this issue gets fixed.
NINTENDO: NES, SNES, GAMEBOY SERIES, N64, DS
This is a bit more difficult one again, since this is the area of emulation, in which there have been so many great emulators in the past, and continue to be in the future. Of course, this is due to Nintendo's popularity all over the world, and not just Europe or Asia or even the United States. Everyone has their own stab at the systems.
My emulation days started with Nesticle (NES), SNES9x (SNES) and No$GB (Gameboy), but currently, I've been happily stuck with RockNES, ZSNES and Visual Boy Advance, respectively. Other emulators for NES that I still find recommendable are RockNES X (nice frontend), NESterJ, uberNES and FCEUX. Edit: Here's one from the comments, Ewen Kirk's suggestion - Jnes. Looks pretty interesting.
As for the newer Nintendo consoles, there aren't too many that I'm actually happy with. For the N64 games, I've been using Project 64, which isn't perfect, but works surprisingly well. For any newer consoles, get yourself a Wii and modify it. =P For emulating the DS handheld, your best bet is DeSmuME.
The infamous CD-i system, as originated by Philips, is one of those consoles that have remained in the gamers' collective consciousness mainly due to its ridiculous amount of hype back in the day, while the games themselves were mostly rather unplayable. Still, it's a nice curiosity to test out, if you ever get the chance. Emulation is naturally the cheapest way to go, so you can get yourself the CD-i Emulator, but I wouldn't be so sure as to the compatibility of all titles on it. Still, purchasing a real CD-i machine is not very recommended, unless you can get one for really cheap.
SEGA: SG-1000, MASTER SYSTEM, GAME GEAR, GENESIS/MEGADRIVE
I was never a big Sega fan because I didn't have one, so for a long time, I went on with outdated emulators such as Genecyst, but once I started working on the blog, I came across this wonderful all-in-one emulator beast called Fusion (formerly known as Kega II and Kega Fusion), which I cannot recommend enough. If you're a Sega fan without an emulator, get this one. It should also be mentioned that SG-1000, SC-3000 and SF-7000 can be emulated on blueMSX. Edit: Here's another Ewen Kirk suggestion, which I also have used, but forgot about it earlier: Gens.
Again, I'm a newbie in this case, and so far, my only emulator has been X Millennium, which has proven to work well enough so far. It also emulates the X-1 Turbo, if you have need for it.
SINCLAIR COMPUTERS: ZX80, ZX81, ZX SPECTRUM + variants
Everyone has their own preferences for emulating the Sinclair machines, so I'd suggest you head on to the World of Spectrum forums for proper guidance, and browse through the WoS emulators page while at it.
My Spectrum emulators through time have been Warajevo, RealSpectrum, Spectaculator, ZX Spin and Fuse, as well as UnrealSpeccy Portable for my Speccy gaming needs during touring. I'm currently stuck with Spectaculator and a real 128k +2 (and a broken 48k).
Only once during my time doing this blog, I have had the inclination of trying out an emulator for the Enterprise 128, which very few of you know about, and few really need to. I used EP128emu for that one, which worked well enough, but it's a minor curiosity and I wouldn't recommend anyone to try it out if you're looking out for any new gaming experiences. You'll do just fine with a proper 128k Spectrum for 99% of time.
TANGERINE: ORIC-1, ATMOS
This little obscure family of computers was pretty much sold only in the UK and France, so it's not much of a surprise that most people have no idea they even exist. Even so, some fairly known games got released on the Oric-1 and its follower, the Atmos. For some reason, I've been educating myself into these machines with an outdated DOS version of an emulator called Euphoric, which works well enough, but is a bit difficult for a beginner. There are versions for Windows, Mac and Linux available for you who want to take the easy way out. =P Another Oric emulator that has been often seen mentioned is Oriculator - which I'll be having a go at the next time I need to use an Oric emulator.
TEXAS INSTRUMENTS TI-99/4a
Now, a word of warning about the TI-99 emulators. If you have no previous experience with these machines, you'll be in for a bumpy ride. For most emulators, you're going to need some Extended Basic cartridge image files, very likely some extra programs to get any of the disk images you'll find on the internet "installed" into the emulators, as well as a couple of different emulators and tons of coffee.
My least problematic experience in TI-99 emulation has been with Win994a Simulator, which can still cause quite a bit of headache, because you will need to get proper kinds of disk images in a certain folder (or directory, as we old folks say), as well as all the aforementioned XB image file, the disk manager and coffee. Also, loading instructions are often required as well, if the games don't boot up automatically. That reminds me, I should probably update my Loading Instructions entry at some point... Anyway, another TI-99 emulator that I might recommend with caution is Classic99, but at least it has some in-built games that aren't too difficult to start up. Should get you started.
Ha! Thought I wouldn't include this one, did you? Well, I admit it came as an afterthought, so I just stuck it at the other end. So, here's another similar case to the CD-i, but at least 3DO had some properly good games. There are two rather good emulators available for the 3DO: 4DO and 3DOplay, but I haven't gotten around to test either of them too much yet. Check them out.
OTHER OBSCURE MACHINES
Finally, I'll briefly mention a few machines I found by somewhat of an accident. These are the sorts of computers that were probably only ever available in one country, so you would have to have been very lucky to have ever seen one of these if you're not a native.
First, there's this thing called Videoton TVC (TV Computer), a Hungarian machine based on the Enterprise computer, which itself is a Z80 computer, much like the Sinclair and Amstrad computers. I have only had to mention this machine once so far, for my recent update of the Commando comparison. Not too many programs were ever produced for the machine, but it has its own small fan community on the internet, and every now and then, something new appears to come from the sheds.
YAPE creator Attila "Gaia" Grosz has also created the only TVC emulator I'm aware of, the WinTVC, which works well enough, for all I know.
Then we have a Taiwanese obscurity called the Tatung Einstein, which was a computer aimed primarily for small businesses. Being yet another Z80 based computer, it was also able to emulate the 48k Spectrum with the "Speculator" add-on. This one is so obscure, that no dedicated emulator has been produced for it, so your only option is to download MESS and go to the Tatung Einstein Reborn website to get yourself started on setting it up.
UPDATE! - 31st of January, 2016:
The only Windows-based emulator for Thomson's 8-bit computers that I have managed to get working on my 64-bit Windows 7 is DCMOTO, which is French by default, but can be switched to English, if you can find the switch. Happily, it is able to emulate ALL the 8-bit Thomson computers, so it's not only usable, but versatile, and apparently quite accurate as well. I only took notice of the Thomson machines while doing some heavy browsing of the PlanetEmu website, and found some game versions that I'm going to have to write some update on some time later this year. But yeah, DCMOTO is your best option currently, if you're using a Windows PC.
I will add more obscure stuff to this section when I happen to come across something interesting.
As some of these emulators are already fairly old, and might not ever be updated anymore, there is a good chance they will someday get lost without a trace. If this happens, please inform me and I will update the information accordingly. Also, if you feel like I've missed out on some emulators that are both easy to set up and easy to use, as well as accurate, throw a comment below - suggestions and comments are always welcome!