What the 4K Wii U Emulator Says about the Future of Console Gaming

4K Mario might spell the beginning of the end for console gaming.

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For a whole generation of gamers, the discovery of emulators came during that sweet spot when we ran out of Ruby and Sapphire to play and were faced with a choice: throw yourselves into Bionicles or find more Pokemon content ASAP (or like... play rec baseball).

So obviously we chose the Pokemon and found ourselves staring down the barrel of a thousand hours of free-to-play content. I usually found myself questioning the legitimacy of the stuff because of bootleg versions like Pokemon Ashgray, but I powered through for golden oldies like the Red and Yellow versions. But back in '03 these weren't alternatives to game consoles and how could they have been? These were things that we made happen by cheating, forcing gaming onto our janky word processors and AIM terminals. Game consoles were still mysteriously powerful machines that we probably hadn't even thought of as computers back then.

But now, the first generation to grow up with touch screens in their hands is widely equipped with computers than can be counted on to outperform their console counterparts. The often obnoxious "PC master race" is starting to have a point: When are we gonna stop bothering with consoles? Gaming-equipped PCs can play almost every game the consoles can, unless companies get a deal to spitefully system-lock their title. And they can do so in every fashion the consoles can and almost always for cheaper. Controllers? Check. VR? Check. Mods? Check. Check. Check. Some of the most popular console titles (i.e. Skyrim, The Witcher, GTA V) have some of their best content locked exclusively to PCs via mods.

But I also see the other side of the debate. It's the same reason I'll always opt for an iPhone over an Android. It's just convenient. I like having the blue messages. Even if it isn't in reality, it feels easier to coordinate with friends when we're all hopping into an XB Live party instead of TeamSpeak. It seems simple, reliable, and self-contained in a way that a multi-purpose machine like a PC never could be. And somehow, it feels more official. As if playing an official title on the computer, even a beastly tricked out one, is just another form of Pokemon AshGray bootleggery.

It's undeniable that personal computing tech moves faster than console tech does and that gaming PCs are easier to update piece by piece versus a console. But will people ever care enough about graphics and performance to commit fully to PCs and drop consoles altogether? Console sales are still strong, so maybe not.

But then you see something like this. This is CEMU. It's the only current-gen console emulator on the market. And now it can run Wii U titles in native 4K resolution. That's a quality superior to the Wii U's rendering. Check out this video of Super Mario World 3D in 4K. You need to install graphics packs and mods to achieve this, but it does force the question: Is this the beginning of the end?

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