The Sega Dreamcast is the last home console produced by Sega before the company exited the hardware business. It is an underrated console and featured plenty of innovative features that were ahead of its time.
Chip shortages and Sega promoting the Sega Saturn alongside the Dreamcast doomed the console to relative obscurity.
Despite the poor sales performance against the PlayStation 2, original Xbox, and the N64, there is a cult following behind the Dreamcast.
Several programmers have created Dreamcast emulators that re-create the experience of playing Sega Dreamcast games. Let’s take a look at some of the best Sega Dreamcast emulators available on Windows PC Computers.
Note: Most of the Dreamcast emulators on this list require access to the Dreamcast BIOS files to work. Redream is the only emulator on this list that does not require access to those files.
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NullDC is a popular Sega Dreamcast emulator developed by drk||Raziel and ZeZu. It is released under the MIT license and requires a PC with DirectX 9 and Visual C++ runtime libraries installed.
The emulator also requires a BIOS file from a Sega Dreamcast to run correctly. The last release for this project was in 2010, though the source code is available for anyone to continue it.
Reicast was the developer’s next project, which focuses on creating a Sega Dreamcast emulator for the Android mobile operating system.
Reicast utilizes the nullDC codebase and continues to this day. Reicast can be run on Windows PC, but the main development branch focuses on Android.
Not all Dreamcast games can be played on nullDC/Reicast, and some may experience glitches. The developers have enhanced several popular Dreamcast games to look better than they appeared on the original console.
DEmul is developed by several programmers including Wind, DreamZzz, MetalliC, ajax16384, and CaH4e3. It can run Dreamcast games that require Windows CE and can load ROMs in both GDI and CHD formats.
DEmul’s most recent update was in 2017, but the main website has been taken offline. It can still be accessed through this Web Archive link, however.
Redream is a relatively new Sega Dreamcast emulator that aims to allow gamers to experience Dreamcast games in high-definition.
It supports Windows, Mac, and Linux for platforms and is one of the best Dreamcast emulators on the market.
Redream requires no controller configuration or BIOS flash to run games. The developers say that 80% of the Dreamcast’s games library can be played from start to finish using Redream.
The last development update from the team was in 2019, showcasing active development.
One point of contention between Redream and the community is the developers recently took the platform closed source. Enthusiasm for the project flat-lined after this, but it is still the best option for HD Dreamcast emulation.
Chankast is a relic in the world of Dreamcast emulation, but it was the first Dreamcast emulator to run commercial games.
The emulator is designed to work on Windows XP and does not work well on modern systems. Still, if you have an old Windows XP system laying around you can play Dreamcast games on it using Chankast.
Like most other emulators on this list, you will need access to the Dreamcast BIOS files to use the emulator.
Makaron is a short-lived Dreamcast emulator project first started by dknute. The developer started the project in 2010 before abandoning it to work on GDEMU, an SD card reader for the Dreamcast. The emulator is nothing special compared to some of the other emulators available on this list.
DreamEMU is another Dreamcast emulator that was created in the early 2000s. There are much better Dreamcast emulators on this list, but DreamEMU was preferred among Dreamcast enthusiasts. The project released in a public alpha state before the developer ultimately abandoned work on it.
The last threads on the EmuTalk forums for DreamEmu appear to be from 2010. The DreamEmu community seems to have moved on to other Dreamcast emulators that don’t require BIOS files to function.
Emulators for Sega Dreamcast Hardware
While there are plenty of emulators designed to run Sega Dreamcast games, there are some emulators designed for Dreamcast hardware.
These emulators allow games from other systems such as the NES, SNES, PlayStation, and Atari to be played on Dreamcast hardware.
Dreamcast hardware is powerful enough to support original PlayStation games, making it an excellent choice for console emulation.
We’ve highlighted some of the best console emulators for Sega Dreamcast hardware. Many of these projects are old and abandoned, but still work in their currently released state.
While there are several different Dreamcast emulators available on PC, some people have also created emulators for the Dreamcast console.
Gens4All is a Sega Genesis emulator that is designed to allow Genesis games to be played using Dreamcast hardware.
Several hackers got together to create a number of these emulators for the Dreamcast. They include a NeoGeo, Atari ST, Amiga 500, Super Nintendo, and even a PlayStation emulator for the Dreamcast.
Nester DC is an original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) emulator for the Dreamcast system. It can run all NES games on the platform and offers support for saving and loading ROM states, something the original console did not have.
NesterDC is a port of the unofficial Nester ROM, which has been a popular NES emulator on PC for several years. Nester DC supports 4 people playing simultaneously in games like Gauntlet and includes support for a variety of NES peripherals and Dreamcast devices.
DreamSpec is a Spectrum emulator that was released for the Sega Dreamcast. The original project was abandoned in 2003, but the files are still available for download. The emulator supports RGB and VGA and allows for saving to the VMS.
The development of new Dreamcast emulators has slowed significantly. There isn’t much interest in the platform beyond the emulators that have already been created.
Redream and DEmul are the two best options for playing Dreamcast games on PC. It is unlikely that a new Dreamcast emulator will come along, but you never know.