It is often believed (and spread) that:

  • Emulators of video game consoles are not illegal;
  • Downloading proprietary games for such consoles and/or running them on emulators is illegal, except
    • if one already has original copies (cadridges, nintendo game cards, etc) of all games one wishes to download and/or run on an emulator
      • in which case one doesn't even need to have the console on which the game was intended to run.


Many fan sites of Nintendo games ban discussion about emulators at all. I once asked a moderator of one of such sites why is this the case since running games of emulators is legal under the above conditions? I was told something interesting. According to that mod it is an urban legend that having an original copy of a game makes it legal to download it from the internet from any source and/or run it on an emulator. He said that running Nintendo games on emulators of Nintendo consoles was illegal no matter what.

What is the truth?

Does having an original copy of a Nintendo game make it legal to:

  • Download this game from the Internet from sources unauthorized by official distributors of the game?
  • Run this game on an emulator of the console on which the game was intended to run?

1 Answer 1


No, you are just taking an additional copy from the Internet without paying.

In the US, the only way for it to be 100% legal is if you take the original game you purchased and get a Retrode or Polymega console to dump the cartridge to make an archival copy. You are responsible for all of the copies you make and make sure you keep it for private use only. It’s like ripping your music cds to play on Your pc. If it were illegal, Nintendo would have gone after the Playmaji or Polymega at E3.

They can keep saying it’s all illegal but they’re not any higher than the law and they can’t do anything about it.

I’m not a lawyer but I know a lot about copyright. Not legal advice.






Library of congress:

(17)(i) Video games in the form of computer programs embodied in physical or downloaded formats that have been lawfully acquired as complete games, when the copyright owner or its authorized representative has ceased to provide access to an external computer server necessary to facilitate an authentication process to enable gameplay, solely for the purpose of:

(A) Permitting access to the video game to allow copying and modification of the computer program to restore access to the game for personal, local gameplay on a personal computer or video game console

  • I don't see any information about using some software. It is more about distributing copies. I don't think anybody can come after you for using something that you have a license for, no matter how it was obtained. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 9:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .