Emulators are programs that emulate or mimic a system such as an older console, in order to play its games. Emulators require the ROM file of the game in order to read them and send input/output through the host’s system, which is usually a PC. Due to legality issues with downloading ROM files and owning consoles abroad in some countries (not saying Paraguay isn’t one of them), we will discuss this topic from a legal standpoint and not how to obtain these files.
REGULAR: Regular online games are hosted on servers, and players connect to them directly. The game data is stored on the server, not on your computer or console.
EMULATOR: Emulators host the game files on players’ computers or consoles – either as files (.iso/.gcm) or memory (.nds). Games can be possessed by anyone who downloads them because they don’t require an internet connection to play (unless you want multiplayer of course).
EMULATOR: Emulators allow users to download ROMs for copyrighted video games which is illegal in most countries unless permission is given by the copyright owner (typically the company that produced/released it).
REGULAR: Regular foreign online casino games are typically freemium (or a deposit), while many emulators require a paid membership to use. Regular online games are hosted by a company and follow their rules for hosting – the community only has a little control over what happens.
EMULATOR: Emulators without a membership can be used by anyone because they aren’t hosted by a company – anyone with an internet connection can host them from their computer/console, allowing it to be modified as much as you want. If multiplayer is enabled, multiple people could play on the same emulator at the same time from different computers or consoles. However, this does mean that if your console crashes or your computer dies, so do your saves w/ progress. Expect multiplayer gameplay to have noticeable input lag too due to long distances and slow internet speeds – this doesn’t apply to NDS games because the multiplayer speed is just as fast as single player.
EMULATOR: Emulators allow users to use cheats and chat freely, while regular online games have a mostly-policed chat system and require you to buy/earn currency before being allowed access to cheats. Cheating in emulators can often lead to hardware failure (due to using Action Replay codes), thus it’s important to make sure the emulator doesn’t allow the use of AR codes before attempting it; many emulators such as No$GBA block AR codes for this reason.
REGULAR: Regular online games typically lag because of poor server infrastructure or connection issues between players and servers; however emulation lags due to hardware limitations (CPU speed, RAM, VRAM for graphics, disc space for ISOs/GCMs).
REGULAR: Regular online games are typically easier to set up and use because you’re not required to know anything about computers; however emulation requires intimate knowledge of one’s computer.
EMULATOR: Emulation is an open-source community; developers accept suggestions from players and implement them into the emulator (or at least try to), allowing anyone with coding experience to help make an emulator better. However, creating a server or learning how to code games takes much more effort than simply playing on someone else’s server.
EMULATOR: Playing an emulator without membership won’t cost money nor help support Nintendo in any way like playing official games would; whereas playing regular online games costs nothing but helps fund the game company, and playing official games helps fund Nintendo (in Japan at least).
REGULAR: Regular online games are hosted on servers, meaning your progress won’t be lost if the owner of the server decides to shut it down; however emulators can be hosted by anyone with an internet connection so long as they have the ROM file. If you’re hosting an emulator yourself then you’ll need to make sure everything is backed up regularly in case something goes wrong.
Emulators are like the wild west of video game playing – anyone can play, host, and modify any ROM they want. Regular online games are tamer; there’s less freedom but it’s safer to use (and you’ll get better support if your issue isn’t router related).