The gaming community never rests; that much has been proven by the constant work going into creating the best Nintendo Switch emulator. The Nintendo Switch is the hybrid handheld of the moment, bringing gaming fans new and old into the Nintendo fold.
But what happens if you want to play Ninty games on your PC or phone? Is it possible? Would it even work?
Well, the good news is that there are a few programs currently competing for the title of best Nintendo Switch emulator. They allow people who might not have been able to bag a Switch or those who want to pretend they are working in the office to play incredible games such as Let’s Go Pikachu, Link’s Awakening, Mario Kart, and more!
** 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.
I know a lot of you will be thinking ‘as if that’s going to work!’, but there are some promising examples vying for the accolade of best Nintendo Switch emulator that have caught our attention that really do work.
When many of us think of game emulators, we think of dropped frame-rates, dodgy sound recreation, lost save files, and glitches that would tear your hair out. Sadly, the games that do work flawlessly get overshadowed by the ones that don’t, and for many, it can be a bitter love/hate relationship.
Let’s check out the best Nintendo Switch emulator models below and get to grips with how they work and run.
- 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
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. Android Nintendo Switch Emulator
The fourth and final program on our list of the best Nintendo Switch Emulators is a bit of a strange one, and I’m using strange in the negative sense. It is surrounded by shady concerns and doesn’t exactly have the greatest backstory.
Let’s start with the positives. This emulator works on Android phones, adding to the vast number of programs that you can download to play your favourite games on the go. It’s shown great success with games such as Pokemon Sword and Shield and has even had success with the Links Awakening reboot and Super Mario Odyssey.
The emulator really needs to be run on devices equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855/855+/865/865+ flagship SoCs. If your Android smartphone is old, then the chances are you’re not going to get the best performance. The emulator itself, which shall remain unnamed for reasons we’re about to come onto, boasts 81 playable titles.
Sadly, 73 of those crash while playing or only make it to the in-game main menu.
Now for the negatives. This software violates the MIT open-software license. A source in the Android-modding world has found code that has been ripped straight from the Yuzu software and thumbed into this new Android friendly emulator. You have to create an account to use it (which sounds like data mining to me) and the American team that claims to have been working on it have a website that is mainly written in Chinese.
It all sounds a bit dodgy to me, and it gets worse.
The emulator will only work when paired with a pair of Nintendo Switch-style remotes that clip onto either side of your Android phone. While they look cool, they also cost $99.00. That kind of defeats the object in downloading a free emulator, right? (Scientifically speaking, of course).
Considering that for an extra $100.00 you can get a Nintendo Switch lite that is portable and plays games perfectly, I think we’d pass on this one. Still, if you’re looking for an emulator for your Android device, this looks like the most promising (even if it does cross a lot of moral lines).
Why Are There So Many Problems With Old Games?
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.
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.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission. Thank you for your support.
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 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.