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PS4 Emulator for Linux Now Plays Hundreds of Games

A PS4 with a Linux Logo Superimposed over the Playstation logo
(Image credit: Sony)

Nothing says that a new console generation is here quite like the old console gen getting working emulators. And despite the PS5 still being hard to come by, the PS4’s emulation day has come. Spine, a closed source PS4 emulator for Linux that’s been privately in the works since 2019 just made its first full public release earlier this month, complete with a new compatibility list featuring hundreds of games.

There are a few caveats, though. PS4 emulation is still in its early days, and the games that currently work with emulation reflect that. While Spinedev’s pushed far beyond what they had working in Spine’s 2019 demo, most of what the current compatibility list labels as working "ingame" (one word) are smaller 2D titles that already have their own proper PC releases. In other words, don’t expect to be playing God of War or Spider-Man: Miles Morales on your PC any time soon. And just because a game technically runs doesn’t mean it works flawlessly. For instance, you can play Sonic Mania in Spine, but the color palette looks trippy even for Sega’s blue blur. 

Spine’s also limited to Linux for now, there’s no GUI to speak of and you’ll have to acquire your own firmware and game files. That last part’s especially tricky, since you’ll probably need to mod your own PS4 to get your hands on the data you need. (Which, of course, comes with the usual legal gray areas.)

But even in this nascent state, Spine’s far ahead of other PS4 emulator projects like Orbital and isn’t a likely scam like PCSX4. Watch out for that last one, by the way, since it’s the first google result when you search for “PS4 Emulator.” It’s named after a popular emulator for PS1 and PS2, but the site in its current state just exists to serve ads and get you to fill out surveys.

In truth, Spine right now is mostly just be a curio, but it's a promising one. Unless you want to play 2D games like Dead Cells, which you should probably just buy the proper PC ports for, you won’t get much practical use out of it. But it’s a positive sign of things to come. Emulation might be a tricky topic, but given the current state of digital stores and rights management, there’s an argument to be made that it’s vital to game preservation. Nobody's really selling Wonderswan games new anymore, you know? Just don’t expect to skirt around shelling out the money for AAA Sony exclusives quite yet.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt (Staff Writer) likes taking computers apart to see how they tick, from hardware to code. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • gamerk316
    That last part’s especially tricky, since you’ll probably need to mod your own PS4 to get your hands on the data you need. (Which, of course, comes with the usual legal gray areas.)

    This is actually not a legal gray area. The BLEEM case explicitly made backing up BIOS/Firmware files legal, as does the DMCA (so long as you don't need to break any encryption to do so).
    Reply
  • maik80
    gamerk316 said:
    This is actually not a legal gray area. The BLEEM case explicitly made backing up BIOS/Firmware files legal, as does the DMCA (so long as you don't need to break any encryption to do so).
    But you have to break console BIOS/Firmware files legal encryption to make work
    Reply
  • gamerk316
    maik80 said:
    But you have to break console BIOS/Firmware files legal encryption to make work

    Your assuming they are encrypted, which I'm pretty sure aren't. .
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    gamerk316 said:
    This is actually not a legal gray area. The BLEEM case explicitly made backing up BIOS/Firmware files legal, as does the DMCA (so long as you don't need to break any encryption to do so).

    I think Michelle is referring to the game files. You can't get those without breaking DRM.
    Reply