PS4 emulators on PC don't work yet, so don't get scammed by a fake

I'd love to play Bloodborne or Persona 5 on my PC, and that is actually possible, sort of: Bloodborne is available in Sony's PlayStation Now streaming service, which lets you play games from the cloud on a PS4 or PC. But what about a PS4 emulator that runs the games I own on real PC hardware? Are PCs powerful enough to run a PS4 emulator? Is PCSX4 a real emulator, or a fake?

Here's what you need to know about PCSX4, Orbital, and PS4 emulation on PC.

Is there a PS4 emulator for PC that can play games?

No. As of early 2019, real PlayStation 4 emulation on PC is impossible. If you're familiar with hardware emulation, this may not come as a big surprise. Creating an emulator requires reverse-engineering what a piece of hardware is doing when it runs games, then rewriting that functionality for an entirely different platform, like a Windows PC. This process takes years, and also typically requires far more powerful hardware than the original machine. Dolphin, an emulator for the GameCube and Wii, has been in development for more than a decade, and is still improving. The same goes for PCSX2, a great, popular PS2 emulator.

There is a PlayStation 3 emulator, called RPCS3, that can run more than 1000 PS3 games in a playable state. But that's only about a third of the library. Many others work, but have too many glitches or performance issues to run well.

There are also emulator for the Xbox 360 and Wii U that can run some games, but will require years more work to make most of their libraries playable. And those are much weaker consoles than the PS4.

If you follow console tech at all, you may be thinking "Sure, but the PS4's hardware is actually way more similar to a PC. Wouldn't that make it easier to emulate?" Yes and no. The PS4 does use an x86 architecture, just like a PC. But its GPU is a whole different beast, and its software and kernel are naturally more complex than previous gen hardware. This doesn't mean PS4 emulation is impossible—it's just going to take time, and it's not here yet.

So what's the story with those PS4 emulator videos you can find on YouTube?

Don't believe this screenshot.

PCSX4 is a fake PS4 emulator 

PCSX2 is a real PS2 emulator. It's great. PCSX4 is a scam that tries to look legitimate with a similar name. PCSX4's website is an impressive-looking fake, with embedded Youtube videos, an FAQ, and even a Github page where the code for this "semi open source" project is supposedly held. But there are some telltale signs it's a fake. Its Github repository has no activity and no people attached to it. The FAQ looks convincing, even going so far as to list errors, but its hardware requirements raise a big red flag. A PS4 emulator would be far more demanding than what PCSX4 lists. According to a reddit thread documenting the scam, PCSX4's previous YouTube channel was shut down for its fake videos.

Here's the real giveaway that PCSX4 is a scam: When you click the download link, it asks you to fill out a survey first. No legitimate emulator project is going to make you fill out a survey to download anything.

You may have run into these kinds of surveys before. They say you may be able to win a new iPhone or some other prize, but after a few minutes of clicking you end up redirected to yet another survey. Someone makes money off your time, and you don't get the thing you were promised. Don't bother. PCSX4 is just a scam, and there's actually a real PS4 emulator you should check out, instead.

Orbital is a real PS4 emulator in early development 

Don't get your hopes up—this PS4 emulator can't run God of War or Spider-Man on your PC. As of early 2019, it's not advanced enough to run games at all. Orbital's developer is in the process of reverse-engineering the PS4's code and gettings its low-level processes to run on a PC. Developer Alex Altea has written in more detail about the emulator's progress in this Reddit thread.

Unfortunately, even if development continues, it'll be years before Orbital can run games. It's also possible that other PS4 emulators will appear with different approaches or faster development. But for right now, Orbital's the only game in town.

If you really want to play PS4 games on your PC, Sony's PlayStation Now is your only option.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).