As the Nintendo Switch becomes Nintendo’s best selling console of all time and slowly creeps towards becoming the best selling console of all time, the retro gaming community has set themselves the challenge of creating the best Nintendo Switch Emulator.
Everyone knows about Nintendo’s hybrid hero by now, the console that has replaced the Wii in many people’s hearts and the device that offers seamless transition of gameplay from handheld to the TV and vice versa.
But how about playing Nintendo titles on your laptop or gaming PC? What if you want to play a 4K/60FPS version of Tears of the Kingdom or to get your Animal Crossing fix on your phone?
I’m not speaking riddles or talking about magic here; all of these things are possible with a Nintendo Switch Emulator.
If you have a Switch but don’t want to pull it out in the office while you should be doing your spreadsheets, then we’ve got the answer for you right here. Get into Super Mario Odyssey, Breath of the Wild, and all the other Best Nintendo Switch games with ease!
** N.B Please refer to your own research on how to install ROMs to find out the legal implications of downloading copyrighted content. This article and all comments forthwith are intended only to inform the reader about the processes behind game emulation and their practical applications in the world of gaming.
Table of Contents
- Platform – Windows, Linux
Probably the most well known and best Nintendo Switch emulator is Yuzu. It’s on open-source GPLv2 licensed program that has been around since 2018. Recent tests have shown that the emulator can replicate some games at the exact same frame rate as the Switch itself!
Yuzu came onto the scene just eight months after the Switch launched (I told you the gaming community never rests). It runs on both Windows and Linux operating systems and runs via programming software C++. It’s made by the same people that made Citra, an emulator that plays all of the best Nintendo 3DS games!
While Yuzu started with homebrew games in the beginning, it’s gone on to replicate Switch titles that are currently available to purchase. This brings up a whole new branch of sub-topics delving into the morality and legality behind playing games that you can still buy, but we’d need another article to cover all of that.
What’s most impressive is that back in 2019, Yuzu managed to get Super Mario Odyssey running at the same frame rate as the Switch. That’s impressive for an emulator, and there were no signs of lag or missing parts of background scenery in sight.
The Yuzu website fills users with confidence right from the off. It’s professionally made and gives the user everything they need to know. A list of fully working games can be found on the site, there are regular updates to show what the team are working on, and a handy FAQs section gives users tonnes of troubleshooting advice if any error codes show up.
Visit the Yuzu website to learn more!
- Platform – Windows, MacOS, Linux
No, everyone’s favourite Street Fighter character hasn’t been learning jinxes with Harry Potter at the weekends.
Ryujinx is the next offering in our list of the best Nintendo Switch emulator programs on the internet. Like Yuzu, it’s available to download either from the source or from GitHub and falls under the MIT license open-source initiative.
From the off, Ryujinx lets potential users know that there are 1000 games available to download, half of which are currently considered playable. Honesty is the best policy, and at least they know they still have a ways to go before it’s perfect.
Gdkchan, the team behind the software, are continuously working to provide ‘excellent accuracy and performance, a user-friendly interface, and consistent builds’ to improve the overall experience.
I guess you can’t ask for any more than that!
Here’s some good news for Mac users; Ryujinx runs on Windows, Linux, and OSX. If like me, you’re a Apple fan through and through, then Ryujinx is going to be the best Nintendo Switch emulator for you (well, the only one for you, as it happens…).
This experimental Nintendo Switch emulator is named after a legendary Sea Dragon, and he NX at the end of the name pays homage to the codename for the Switch itself. We love little nest eggs like that!
The compatibility list is nicely set out too. Every game that can be played by this emulator has various tags that let users know if the game is playable if it crashes, and what the general status is.
You can find out more by visiting the Ryujinx website.
- Platform – Windows
Cemu might not be everyone’s first thought when it comes to picking the best Nintendo Switch emulator for their set up. Still, it was one of the first to consistently run Nintendo Switch games.
The problem is that it just doesn’t run many of them.
In all honesty, Cemu is primarily a Wii U emulator. The fact that two of the best Nintendo Switch games, Mario Kart 8 and Breath of the Wild also dropped on Wii U is, as Bob Ross would say, a happy little accident.
Still, Cemu is capable of running Switch and GameCube games as well as Wii U titles. You’ll get Switch titles such as Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros Ultimate running on here easily.
For more game compatibility, however, Yuzu should be your go-to program
- Platform – Windows
One thing I like about Cemu is that it’s stable. The developers have been working on it consistently for 8 years, making sure that performance issues have been dealt with in good time and constantly improving the user experience.
Most of the games play at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second with ease. There have been examples of BotW running at 4K and Mario Kart 8 running at 8K too.
That’s some sharp Bokoblins and Yoshi’s right there!
Modding can be carried out right from the game launch screen too, with other settings such as shading, anti-aliasing, and resolution available to tinker with to your hearts content.
You can find out more by visiting the Cemu website.
4. EGG NS
- Platform – Android
Next up on our best Nintendo Switch emulator list is the EGG NS Emulator, an Android emulator that you definitely shouldn’t feel chicken about using.
See what I did there… ahem, moving on.
Instead of this being an afterthought phone emulator that has just been thrown together, this program has purposely been built for Android users.
It’s recommended that users are packing SnapDragon 855 or better and around 6GB of RAM. You’ll also need Android 11 or better in order to run games with the best results.
And, as the company have made big waves by solely focusing on Android, that definitely means you’re going to get a stellar performance while playing.
The disappointing part is that the website hasn’t been updated since 2020, so it’s unsure whether anyone is working on any of the bugs or dealing with any gameplay problems at the time of writing.
The EGG NS website has a full set of instructions for you to follow too, giving you a step by step guide on how to get up and running!
The last entry on our best Nintendo Switch Emulator list is NSEmu, an emulator that is slowly being chipped away at over time to make it better and more playable.
It’s definitely one for the technically minded amongst our readers, and while it is still being worked on, it does offer an incredible amount of customisation options that make it much easier to play some of the higher-end games.
To say that it’s not currently finished, the sound and graphics on offer are very impressive. Sure, it’s not as reliable as Yuzu, but one day it might be with help from the community testing it out and offering their thoughts.
And, as it’s an OpenSource project, anyone can help out the official GitHub page and help to get this emulator out quicker!
All of the shots we’ve seen thus far are just of loading screens, which is promising news! Loading games is sometimes half the battle, and we’re expecting big things from NSEmu over the next couple of years.
Why Are There So Many Problems Playing Old Games On Emulators?
The issue lies in the processing power that is needed to successfully mimic old consoles. Your PC or Mac runs on a completely different operating system to a SNES or an N64. They are different devices entirely, after all.
Virtually recreating the different chips and graphics processors from old consoles might sound easy, but all of these processes running at the same time can often cause mind-numbing levels of lag and a significantly reduced number of titles that can be played successfully. I am still to find an emulator that can play Donkey Kong 64 without that migraine-inducing jerky camera angle.
This is why companies like Analogue, the creators of the highly anticipated Analogue Pocket, have got it right. They make clone consoles with real hardware that behaves exactly like the GameBoys of old, giving you a flawless playing experience that looks, sounds, and feels exactly like the real thing. Emulation consoles like the Hyperkin Ultra Retron are still trying to perfect the formula.
How Does A Nintendo Switch Emulator Differ?
Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s easier to recreate. In fact, newer consoles are easier to get better results from as more and more devices are using the same technology behind the scenes. The components are faster and may often be the same; just about everything seems to have an intel chip in it these days!
Without going into too much boring detail, you can get pretty impressive Nintendo Switch gameplay on your home computer or phone that, in some cases, is only a few steps off being as good as the real thing.
Are Nintendo Switch Emulators Legal?
We’ve covered this topic in detail already here at Retro Dodo, and both the downloading and using of Emulators is perfectly legal. It’s the downloading and sharing ROMs of games in copyright that is not legal, however.
Imagine downloading Spotify or any other program; downloading an emulator is no different. It’s how you use it that can get you into hot water.
So, if you use files from your own games and not downloaded ROMs of games you don’t own, then there’s no chance that Doug Bowser can come a’knocking and cart you off a Mushroom Kingdom prison.
What Is The Best Nintendo Switch Emulator?
After testing many different Nintendo Switch Emulators, the emulator with the best quality is one called Yuzu. It’s an open source emulator being updated and maintained by many talented community members frequently.
This makes it the go to for those wanting to emulate Nintendo Switch games reliably.
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.