With all these hardware consoles you get a sense that there could be an easier solution. This answer would be in this case one single personal computer connected to the 4K telly with a single HDMI cord. It would take only one HDMI port. This isn’t a hallucination. There already are several computers available for this task. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the power that one modern PC today holds can handle almost any gaming console emulator from NES to PS4.
You would need one PC. This would cost something from 300 euros to several thousands of euros. You would also need a controller. I prefer Xbox Series S/X controller when it comes to emulator gaming. If you would like to change a controller between systems you would need to assign keys over and over again. You could be able to make a profile for every controller of every system. However it would be easier to play all systems with only one controller.
The first thing you need with this kind of setup is a reliable Linux operating system dedicated to emulation. At first it seems I would choose Lakka OS. It is a nice emulator that allows you to run several different emulators of different gaming systems. After setting up you don’t need to actually unplug your controller or get to your keyboard at all. So, I prefer Lakka OS. There are other operating systems available, like Retropie, Recalbox and Batocera. The last mentioned can be run from inserted USB stick without any other kind of installation.
If you want to play emulated games on systems like GameCube, PS2, original Xbox and Sega Dreamcast, you will need a powerful computer. I would say that you need more than a Raspberry Pi 4 can provide. I am not going to give you detailed specifications here. We can of course check what are the recommended requirements for an emulator like PCSX2. We can get to a conclusion that you would need at least 8 GB of RAM and a GPU with something like 4 GB of VRAM and capability to run DirectX 11 or OpenGL 4.5. Well, what about the processor? The processor would need to support AVX2, have a rating of 2600 and have four cores with or without hyper threading.
This kind of an emulation station could be your solution to this very interesting question. As prices of games are ricing this would make your wallet heavier at least for a while and enable you to play lots of retro game content. There is of course also the question about breaking every copyright law that exists. This is a difficult matter. Let’s just say that it is not legal to load hundreds of games from internet for free. While this is illegal there seems to be very few choices. You can pay hundreds of euros of games that cannot or are very hard to rip to ROM file and play with your emulator. Some emulators need also the BIOS of the system they are emulating.
Nintendo has been busy bringing its retro content available for those that have an online Nintendo account. You can probably figure how popular retro games currently are. It must be stated that it would be nice, for us game hobbyists, to be able to somehow get our hands to this content for a reasonable price. Playing original games on original hardware is becoming more and more expensive. And it must be said that game consoles don’t last for several decades and must be at some point at least repaired.