The Commodore 64 is officially old! At the time of writing, Released in 1982, it is now almost 40 years old (unbelievable, I know!), but it remains in the hearts of those who experienced it the first time around. C64 emulators have been around for almost 30 years with a very early example being The 64 Emulator by ReadySoft. But what is the best C64 Emulator to use today on your PC, Mac or Android device?
To make this as easy as possible for you, we’re not going to list out every single emulator available, we’re going to cut straight to the chase and give you our best Commodore 64 emulator recommendations.
Best C64 Emulator For PC – VICE
VICE (VersatIle Commodore Emulator) is not just one of the most popular C64 Emulators, it is also one of the oldest, with development first taking place in 1993. Not only will VICE serve you well in terms of C64 emulation, but it also provides emulation for the C128, VIC20, PET, PLUS4 and CBM-II, so you are well catered for in terms of Commodore emulation here. Out of all the best emulators for PC to emulator the C64, VICE is the best.
VICE also has some really nice built in CRT simulation tools which are easily adjustable to recreate that old playing experience. VICE is pretty much considered the standard in C64 Emulation.
TIP – Note that upon downloading VICE, you will find the emulator files hidden away in the ‘bin’ folder of the download. For example, load the ‘x64sc’ application file to access the Commodore 64 emulator.
VICE Features Include:
- VICE emulates multiple Commodore systems – VICE is not only to emulate the Commodore 64, it also has C64DTV, C128, PET, PLUS4, SCPU64 and CBM-II emulators.
- Excellent SID sound chip emulation – Includes the ‘reSID’ engine which is a lot more accurate than the standard engine.
- Full Tape, Disk & Cartridge functionality – VICE can handle tape, disk & cartridge files with ease. Simply select your file and load.
- Cycle Accurate CIA (Complex Interface Adapter) & VIA (Versatile Interface Adapter) emulation
- Recreate CRT displays with fully configurable CRT emulation controls – Adjust settings such as brightness, saturation, gamma, scanline shade, tint & blur to recreate that classic CRT screen look.
- Snapshot Images (Save States) – Save the current state of your C64 for later use, instantly recall where you left off with snapshot images.
Easiest C64 Emulator to Set Up – C64 Forever
C64 Forever is definitely the package for you if you want easy access to C64 games on your PC. Made by Cloanto, the same team behind the Amiga Forever package. C64 Forever gives you an easy setup experience, easy to use interface, accurate C64 emulation and a wealth of additional features.
If you want ease of access, versatility as well as robust emulation, then C64 Forever could well be your best bet.
There are paid versions of C64 Forever which offer unrestricted access including a full screen option, but there is a free package available to allow you to get a feel for it before maybe jumping in with the full product.
C64 Forever Features Include:
- Based on the Excellent VICE Emulator – C64 Forever gives you the benefits of using the excellent VICE emulation engine, but with a simpler front end
- Easy to Set Up – No expertise required, just click and install
- Simple User Interface – No messing around with terminology and tricky menu systems
- Customisable Controls Per Game – Save your own custom control mappings at a system of game level
- RetroPlatfrom Library Database Integration
- RP9 Format Compatible – Makes managing your software library easier with one click access
Best C64 Emulator for Android – Mobile C64
The C64 emulators currently on Android are a mixed bag, many get pretty good reviews, but reviews suggest, and indeed my own tests that there are inconsistencies with compatibility in terms of what Android device you are using. Here are a couple Android Commodore 64 Emulators that I had some success with:
Mobile C64 by Joerg Jahnke is a free Commodore 64 Emulator for Android. It is also one which has received more recent updates and maintenance. There are several older apps on the Play Store still which have not received updates for years, but Mobile C64 is a more recent addition and one that is currently updated.
The next option is a paid app, but again is a more recently updated app which seems to still be supported. C64.emu is by Robert Broglia who also has developed a number of other emulation apps on Android. This app does have a good number of positive reviews, but perhaps take a look at the reviews first before fully committing to a purchase to ensure full compatibility
Best C64 Emulator Online
If you would rather not mess around installing emulators, then check out what The Internet Archive (archive.org) has to offer. They have a huge library of C64 games ready to play in your browser. You will need to use a laptop or desktop computer to play them effectively, You can easily map your controls to your keyboard or controller within the emulator on archive.org, but be warned, you will lose your settings if you change games.
In summary, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to emulating the Commodore 64 and quite deservedly so too!
But what about the other 8-bit micros of the era? The ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC were the other two big players that the Commodore 64 was up against. With many games converted for all 3 computers, it was fun to compete with friends and argue in the playground over who’s version of Chase H.Q. was the best!
Settle these old scores by trying out all three systems with the best ZX Spectrum emulator and the best Amstrad CPC emulator. Or, maybe you are just here browsing C64 emulators and are more of a console retro gamer, either way, we have plenty of recommendations in our comprehensive emulator guide.
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of experience in the field, so producing retro orientated content for How To Retro comes is second nature to him. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).