If you want to replay some of your childhood Nintendo 64 (N64) games on a Mac, these are your best options. I spent hours researching N64 emulators for Mac and I want to share them with you below.
Bear in mind, you will need to source your own N64 ROMS for these emulators.
Best N64 Emulators for Mac
Best Feature: Runs natively on Apple Silicon chips (M1 and M2)
RetroArch is the best free N64 emulator for Mac. As of March 2023, it runs natively on Apple Silicon. It’s available as a standalone as well as on Steam. I recommend using the standalone version.
Much like OpenEMU, RetroArch supports many different systems that use individual “Cores” for emulation. Some of these Cores are not fully compatible with Apple Silicon, but the N64 Core seems to work without any problems.
RetroArch’s user interface is a little complex. It takes some time to configure all the necessary settings.
To run N64 games, open RetroArch and head to Core Downloader. Browse through the list until you find the Nintendo 64 Core, which uses Mupen64Plus-Next or ParaLLEI.
Next, head back to the Main Menu, select Import Content, and select the folder on your hard drive that contains your ROMS.
RetroArch will automatically populate the list of games with your ROMS and you can go ahead and start gaming.
Best Feature: Easy-to-navigate user interface and library.
OpenEMU is the next best free N64 emulator for Mac. It runs on Apple Silicon but not natively and some cores are not compatible.
The software supports hundreds of consoles, including Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, and Nintendo DS. Support for additional consoles can be added by installing “Cores”.
Installing OpenEMU on a Mac is relatively straightforward. You might need to press CTRL + RIGHT-CLICK to force-open OpenEMU because MacOS doesn’t recognize the developer.
Next, drag and drop an N64 ROM into OpenEMU, and the app will automatically download the game’s cover art and assign it to the correct console.
Before you launch the game, open Preferences, and configure your controls. From there all you have to do is double-click the cover art and the game should launch.
Best Feature: Great for older Intel Macs.
SixtyForce is a Mac N64 emulator developed by a one-man team. To cut to the chase, SixtyForce currently is not compatible with Apple Silicon, it only works on Intel Macs.
The user interface is very simple, it looks like a media player. To use SixtyForce, simply open a ROM and it will launch the game. You can select High-Resolution Rendering and enable fullscreen to improve the graphics.
There are two downsides to SixtyForce. For one, updates are rarely released. The last version was released in October 2020.
Secondly, to save games you need to register the software with a license (buy it). Many people found that out too late, after spending hours playing their favorite game.
Using Standalone N64 Cores for Mac
If you only want to play N64 games on Mac, you don’t necessarily need to use an emulator that bundles together hundreds of systems.
At the moment, there are two N64 cores that most emulators use: Mupen64Plus and ParaLLEl N64. RetroArch and OpenEMU use these cores as well.
To save space, you can install one or both of these specific cores. Sometimes the performance is a bit better running the standalone cores.
There’s an open-source app launcher called Parallels Launcher that will launch both of these cores for you, and you can switch between them. It’s compatible with Mac and Apple Silicon.
You will need to play around with some settings and graphics plugins to find what works best for you. Generally, ParaLLEl is the best for newer machines and it supports upscaling.
Best Settings for Image Quality on N64 Mac Emulators
While these apps let you run N64 games, the games will run at their native resolution, which will look very pixelated on modern screens.
It will take some time to configure the settings for the sweet spot between image quality and performance. To point you in the right direction, I’ll share my settings with you.
First, you want to use RetroArch and download the N64 ParaLLEl N64 Core from within the app. Before you launch a game, set the Core Association to use ParaLLEl N64. Now launch the game.
When in-game, press F1 to open settings. Head down to options, select ParaLLEl-RDP Upscaling Factor, and set it to the highest setting (8x). Then, change the resolution to your monitor’s resolution.
Restart RetroArch to apply the settings. Now your games will look much crispier. The only downside is some 2D games can’t be upscaled.
Alternative N64 Emulation Devices
If getting N64 games to run on your Mac without issues is too frustrating you can try acquiring one of these devices:
- Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Switch Online supports a huge library of N64 games that run perfectly and look great on Nintendo Switch.
- Steam Deck – The Steam Deck is a great handheld emulation machine. RetroArch is available on the Steam Deck via the Steam platform.
To summarize, emulating games on a Mac is not as complicated as it once was. If you have a M1 or M2 MacBook, you should be able to run N64 games using Retro Arch or Open EMU without any major issues.
The only issue you may run into is the image quality won’t look great, especially since you’re used to the high-resolution screens the MacBooks are known for.
Upscaling the resolution improves the graphics on 3D N64 games but it won’t work on 2D games.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which N64 emulators run on Apple Silicon?
RetroArch and OpenEMU both run on Apple Silicon but RetroArch offers native Apple Silicon support.
Why is my N64 emulator on Mac not working?
If you’re using RetroArch, make sure the N64 Core is selected and updated. You may be running an old version that is not compatible with your system.
Can I use any controller with N64 emulators?
Most emulators support all popular controllers such as Xbox and PlayStation. Even third-party USB controllers should work.
What is the best N64 Emulator for Mac?
In my opinion, the best N64 emulator for Mac is Retro Arch because it offers native support for Apple Silicon.