While we typically focus on playing original games on dedicated hardware, we do like to dive into the occasional emulation project to offer us flexibility in our gaming lifestyle. Sony’s Playstaton Portable (PSP) was an interesting portable platform that had some titles that appealed to both retro and modern gamers.
PPSSPP is an excellent PSP emulator that broke out 5 years ago with impressive game compatibility and the ability to make games look even more beautiful. Over the years, PPSSPP has also shown itself to be a very portable piece of software with support for a wide range of software platforms such as Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and others. This all becomes less of a surprise when you learn than PPSSPP was created by one of the co-founders of Dolphin, the acclaimed Gamecube and Wii emulator that has become a shining example of console emulation.
It is also worth nothing that unlike most emulators for modern consoles, PPSSPP doesn’t require any BIOS, additional plugins, or image mounting. You simply download the emulator, unzip it, then point it to your directory of (ripped, following the instructions listed on the PPSSPP FAQ page) PSP games, and you should see them available in-emulator with a nice presentation.
All the settings to get game looking good are more straightforward that you might thing, but we will run through the settings and options below. PSP emulation has never been easier than it is now, and by the end of this guide you’ll know all you need to know to get started on your favorite PSP titles, re-imagined with better texture filtering, resolution and more.
Quick Links for the PPSSPP Project:
- Official Site
- Official Forums
- PPSSPP FAQ
- Compatibility List
- OSX Unofficial Builds
- Linux Unofficial Builds
What You Need
Before you dive right into installing and using PPSSPP, here’s what you’ll need to make the most of it. (Note that this primarily a PC-oriented guide, but should be useable for other platforms as well as well. If you fall into the Android category, check out the additional section below.)
- A recent Windows 7+ PC.
- An OpenGL 2.0-capable GPU or better. (Any graphics card or integrated graphics chipset released in the past few years will meet this requirement.)
- Any decently modern x86 CPU. (If it came out within the past five years, it’s probably good.)
- An XInput/DirectInput controller. We highly recommend an Xbox 360/One Controller for PC gaming in general, but a properly-configured PS3/PS4 pad will do the job, too.
- PPSSPP, the leading PSP emulator. Click here to download for Windows, or here to grab it from the Play Store.
What About Android Devices?
PPSSPP is also available on Android. Mobile devices aren’t as obscenely powerful as desktop machines, however, so you’ll need to play on the higher end to have a good experience with an Android device.
In terms of hardware power, any flagship phone newer than the Galaxy S3 or Nexus 5 should do the job just fine. A few lower-end devices, like the Xperia Play, may also work with some settings adjustments.
With controls, any Android-compatible gamepad will do, but MOGA’s line of Android controllers are the most well-supported and should provide the best experience overall.
It’s, also possible to have on-screen controls. Having overlapping controls on the screen can work ok for some types of games, but you could also opt to a smaller game screen to leave room for controls on games like shmups.
The instructions following this section should all be easily followable on your Android device as well.
To start with some basic setup, open PPSSPP and select Settings. If you’re using a compatible XInput/DirectInput controller and it’s turned on, you should be able to do this with your D-pad.
Regardless of whether or not your controller is working, you’re going to want to dive into Controls and then Control mapping.
Scrolling down these options, you should see something that looks a lot like this if you have a properly-configured XInput controller. If all you see are bindings for letter keys, click the “+” to left of each option to set a new binding. You can also try to use the “Auto configure” option here if you need to.
Scrolling down through the list of bindings, you may realize that you actually have much more available to you than what you could do on the PSP. We recommend setting a bind for Pause, ideally your home button. If that doesn’t work, leave the ESC key option intact.
Having this available will allow you to open up PPSSPP’s pause menu at any time, which you can use to save different game states, set game-specific settings and enable cheats. The screen should look something like this.
Now, if you’re going to be playing games with PPSSPP you’ll want to make sure the app knows where your games are stored. Head over the Games tab in the top-left, then select Browse… to set a default folder.
Find the folder where your games are stored and click OK.
After you launch a game from its folder, it’ll always show up in “Recent” so you don’t have to dive into your filesystem every time you want to open it.
Those are the basics: let’s dive into the real meat of things.
Back to Settings and into graphics, you’ll see a wide range of options. We’ll just go ahead and list the most important ones and what to do with them. We’ll be skipping over options that either aren’t important or aren’t recommended for beginners to touch at all.
Rendering mode options
- Backend – OpenGL is most-recommended. Other backends may perform worse or be unstable.
- Mode – Skip buffer effects is fastest, buffered rendering is the most accurate. Using either of the Read to memory options is unrecommended.
Framerate control options
- Frameskipping – Enable if you experience slowdowns.
- Alternative speed – Leave alone. If you set to unlimited, your device will render scenes as fast as possible, often at multiple times the speed of the game. This is useful for getting past unskippable cutscenes, but you’ll need to set a bind for it.
- Postprocessing shader – Various postprocessing options that tweak colors or enhance visual fidelity. Experiment with as you please.
- Rendering Resolution (PERFORMANCE INTENSIVE) – Auto will render to the resolution of your display or your window. 1x PSP will provide native PSP resolution (480 x 272- pretty much 240p!). Modern PCs should be able to push 5x (1080p) and higher quite easily. Flagship phones should start at 5x and turn down as necessary for performance.
- VSync (PERFORMANCE INTENSIVE) – Prevents screen tearing. Recommend unless you experience performance issues.
- Hardware transform/software skinning/vertex cache – Leave enabled.
- Lazy texture caching – Enable for better, but less accurate performance.
Texture scaling options
- Upscale level – 4x as a baseline. Adjust upward or downward according to performance.
- Upscale type – xBRZ or Hybrid is recommended. If this causes performance issues, simply disable upscaling entirely.
- Deposterize (PERFORMANCE INTENSIVE) – Enable if playing at high resolutions with high upscaling. Disable or tweak other settings if this causes performance issues.
Texture Filtering Options
- Anisotropic filtering – Set at 16x on PC and lower as necessary. Typically this option is very light on performance, though, and offers great visual quality in return. Start at 4x as a baseline on mobile/low-end devices.
- Show FPS counter – Set to Both while you’re just starting to use PPSSPP. You want to have at or around 100% game speed at all times- if you find you’re frequently dropping frames, head back to settings and start turning things down.
While we don’t dive TOO deep into this one, there’s a few more things you can do with PPSSPP. By enabling Cheats, you can use codes like the ones in this thread to play titles like Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep at 60 FPS. Many PSP titles run at 30 FPS or below due to the low power of the hardware, and this can be a lot more noticeable on a big screen or to a trained eye. Titles like Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops run at a native 20 FPS!
Overall, we at The Great Setup hope this guide helped you dive into PSP emulation. Feel free to comment below if you need any assistance, and if you’re interested in building an emulation-capable gaming PC, check out this $500 gaming PC for budget PC builds.
Additional Emulation Guides:
- Introduction to MAME w/ MAME32/MAMEUI
- SSF: Near Perfect Sega Saturn Emulator
- Enhance N64 Graphics with Emulation Plug-Ins & Texture Packs
- Enhance PS1 Graphics with the Best ePSXe Plugin Settings