Emulation "Arcade Box" advice

Good day to all.

Long story short, I’m looking to turn old PCs into arcade boxes for local retirements homes and kid centers. I happen to have multiple computers hanging around that are perhaps a bit on the old side, but could do mighty fine for emulation. I’m well versed on the hardware side (making the controllers etc, built one for myself) but was wondering if anyone would have somekind of baseline for what kind of cpu can run what games, or what is the minimal cpu i can use and expect stability (Thinking of building them with Lakka). Since the users won’t be people who know computers a lot, I’m looking for stability over performance or having the best framerate imagineable. I’m doing computer classes in retirement homes and people there have a surprisingly sharp desire to game ^^

If I’m double posting sorry in advance.

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I’m assuming you’re asking specifically with Citra in mind (wasn’t completely clear from your post). I’ll try to answer as best as I can.
Your question is a difficult one currently, as there are games that are extremely hard to emulate, like Luigi’s Mansion 2. And games that are extremely easy to emulate (most 2D games). In the case of LM2 for example, this has nothing to do with processing power, and everything to do with inaccuracies in Citra itself regarding what that game needs.

Still, the vast majority of the popular 3DS games run very well on Citra, even on old hardware. We can refer to Citra’s minimum requirements to see what type of hardware would be suitable:

  • A 64-bit OS

  • A(n) (i)GPU that supports at least OpenGL 3.3.0
    Avoid Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge iGPUs. These are known to have driver bugs on both Windows and Linux. Old dedicated radeon and NVIDIA GPUs might also require you to turn off Accurate Multiplication in order to run games at all. Which is a shame because some games, like OoT, require it for certain items to display properly. When I mean "old", I'm referring to GPUs released around 9 years ago, though not all fall into this catagory. It's best to simply try them out and see what works. If you can't figure it out yourself, feel free to ask for support here or on our discord server.

  • A CPU with a single thread performance rating of around 1800
    almost any will do, but avoid AMD's Bulldozer architecture CPUs (including the Piledriver architecture).

Although, for the last requirement, that was set when Citra was a lot less optimized than it is nowadays. So you can get away with single thread ratings of around 1000 as well on easier to emulate games. If you want to be on the safe side though, stick to the 1800 mark.

Another thing to keep in mind is the GPU’s OpenGL drivers. AMD is imfamous for having dreadful OpenGL drivers on Windows for example, which bottlenecks what the CPU can do to a crawl. Since you said you were thinking of using Lakka for this, which to my knowledge is a Linux based OS, you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much hopefully. AMD’s OpenGL drivers on Linux are a lot better than those on Windows (probably due to Linux having lots of OpenGL based stuff in the early days).

I suppose the last thing to keep in mind is that some 3DS games require motion controls to progress in certain areas of the game. In Citra, we can emulate this using CemuhookUDP and a compatible controller, or by holding down your right mouse button and dragging it around inside of the Citra window. The latter obviously wouldn’t be an option in your case, so you’ll have to figure out a workaround for those games.