A simulator is a software program that uses optimised code to recreate an arcade experience. A simulator generally uses some of the real arcade data such as graphics and sound. The major difference between a simulator and an emulator is that an emulator is software that mimics the arcade hardware in order to execute the real arcade game code. A simulator does not try to recreate the hardware but recreate the game itself. Therefore an emulator provides an accurate recreation of a game and a simulator a near accurate rendition. A simulator on the other hand is often used when the arcade hardware is too powerful to emulate on today's PC.
An example where a simulator can be used is in games that use 3D graphics. An emulated version would also emulate the 3D hardware while a simulator would use the PC's modern video card's 3D features. The result is a playable game but the graphics might look slightly different. An example of a simulator is the early Nintendo 64 emulator UltraHLE. The software emulated most of the Nintendo 64 hardware but simulated the graphics output in order to get decent and playable framerates. The modern 3D cards have better shading and reflections than the Nintendo 64 had, so the end result was more shiny than the real thing.
A another reason to simulate a game rather than emulate it, is that the original game did not use a central processing unit and software as such. The original PONG, for instance, is not a program that tells a CPU to do things, but rather a hard-wired circuit board that will do nothing but play PONG. A simulation of the game can be programmed to work with any number of CPUs, but there are no ROMs or software to emulate, just the hardware. Several of the first generation of video games are only available via an original machine or a simulation.
List of game simulators:
- Pinball - A lits of pinball simulators
- StepMania - A Dance Dance Revolution simulator
- Game and Watch - old Nintendo handheld simulators