ePSXe is an emulator for the Sony PlayStation. It's full name is Enhanced PlayStation* Emulator. It is currently regarded as the best freeware PlayStation emulator.
The emulator is available for both Win32 and Linux. Like many other PlayStation emulators and many Nintendo 64 emulators also, the emulator simply emulates the main core functions of the playstation. To get any of the more useful functions (such as graphcs and sound) out of the program, you have to use plugins which are specially coded. The distribution of ePSXe comes with some plugins but not with others, so a little research into the best is required. Some programmers produce versions of all the plugins needed.. particularly the individual known as "Pete" who produces many different graphics, sound and CD plugins.
The emulator has support for all the usual emulator extras, such as save states, as many "memory cards" as you want (the program simply creates a new file for each one you need), and support for joypads. I highly recommend using an official Sony Dual Shock analogue pad through some kind of adaptor.
The problem with ePSXe is that like all emulators for newer systems, games often require individual settings to work. Whereas in things like Zsnes or Gens you can pretty much have your favourite settings and use them for everything, ePSXe may require a bit of tinkering for different games.. for example, Chrono Cross only draws the top quarter of the screen when in windowed mode, but switch to full screen and the game plays normally. Also, Metal Gear Solid's text is occasionally off the bottom of the screen. There are also a number of issues such as crashing at specific points in games, although sometimes hacks can be developed to work around these situations. Make no mistake though, PlayStation emulation is not as stress free and simple as older systems. However, due to the often necessary configuration switching, frontends have been developed, the most popular of which is ePSXecutor. This allows you to create "profiles" for individual games, and simply double clicking on a profile will launch ePSXe hassle free.
Since the project has been going for quite a while (as of this writing, the current version is 1.6.0) a good number of games are supported. I haven't had chance to try many of them out, because since I never owned a PlayStation I have had to go second hand games hunting, and a lot of what I want to try is hard to find. However, the following games are known to work at a playable level, at least, and these are just the most popular games: (list taken from the readme file)
- Chrono Cross
- Colin McRae Rally 1 and 2
- Crash Bandicoot 1, 2 and 3
- Driver 1 and 2
- Fifa 99/2000
- Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX
- Iss98, Isspro evolution
- Knockout Kings 99, 2000
- Legend of Mana
- Metal Gear Solid
- NBA Live 2000, and 2001
- Need For Speed III, IV, V
- Ridge Racer
- Ridge Racer type 4
- Soulblade / Soul Edge
- Syphon Filter 1, 2
- Tekken 1, 2 and 3
- Tiger Woods 99, 2000
- Tomb Raider 1, 2, 3 and 4
- Vagrant Story
PlayStation emulation is, as far as minimum system needed, somewhere between things like the 32X and much more advanced systems like the Nintendo 64. I can play some PlayStation games at 50 FPS (which is the PAL limit) on a Celeron 500 with 64 MB RAM but some games, and some parts of games (like the start of the battle sequence in Chrono Cross), slow down to a crawl. However, if you have enough RAM and a decent enough graphics card, then you can enjoy hardware graphics plugins (mostly using Glide, Direct3D or OpenGL) which make the graphics much crisper in games.
Although I haven't had much chance to test out other emulators, judging by the rave reviews I've seen this is the PSX emulator of choice. It plays both proper games (from your PC's CD ROM drive), ISOs of the games made with programs like CloneCD, a "PS-EXE" which I presume is an executable file you've written yourself, and you can even run a BIOS file by itself should you choose to.
Overall, if you have fond memories of Sony's grey box but yours has packed in (as so many did, especially the laser) then this is probably your new best friend. If, like me, you never even owned a PSX, then it's definitely the time to buy up some second hand games on the cheap and catch up with what you missed. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to Metal Gear Solid.
The ePSXe team:
* - Because PSX is short for PlayStation. Durrrr.
** - _Demo_ is also very well known for his work on Zsnes with pagefault and zsKnight.
Sources: Playing MGS (far too much), LoM and CC on ePSXe 1.6.0 with a bunch of Pete's plugins.