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The 4 Best Nintendo Switch Emulators I’m Using in 2024

free nintendo switch games

The 4 Best Nintendo Switch Emulators I’m Using in 2024

Key Points

  • The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s best-selling console of all time.
  • Yuzu is the best overall Switch emulator for PC, while Ryujinx is the best for macOS users.
  • NS Emu is the best Switch emulator for customization, allowing users to modify the operating system.
  • EGG NS is the best mobile Switch emulator for Android users, but it is currently on hiatus.

The Switch is Nintendo’s best-selling console of all time. However, many people prefer to play Switch games on a PC, using the superior hardware to bolster their game experience. While using some gaming software has tenuous legality, there are ways to emulate your games legally, allowing you to play them on your preferred platform. Let’s examine your options for the best Nintendo Switch emulator. Here are our top picks:

  • Best Overall: Yuzu
  • Best for macOS: Ryujinx
  • Best with Customization: NS Emu
  • Best Mobile: EGG NS

Best Overall Switch Emulator: Yuzu

Best Switch emulators
Yuzu is the best overall Switch emulator but it requires Microsoft’s Visual C++ distribution.

Our choice for the best overall Switch emulator for PC is the Yuzu emulator. This emulator is an experimental open-source project written in C++ and designed for the same lightweight portability that the native console enjoys. Yuzu is available for Windows, Linux, or Android. However, there isn’t a version of Yuzu for macOS users. So, if you have a macOS machine, check out our choice for the best macOS Switch emulator.

Yuzu is the go-to emulator for Switch titles; so, we’ve chosen it as our best overall choice. The development team is working actively on the emulator and fine-tuning the project to give it stability and functionality. Yuzu users will see a significant update with a comprehensive report on the changes and where the developers plan to take the project each month.

Since Yuzu’s team built it using C++, it requires Microsoft’s Visual C++ distribution. Most modern computers will keep that updated, but you should check your Switch’s version before downloading to ensure a smooth process. They also recommend using Vulkan GPU drivers for the best experience. If you like Yuzu, you can consider pledging to their Patreon for early access to new features. 

ProsCons
The emulator is available for Windows, Linux, and Android.There is no macOS version.
The developers update the project once a month.
You can pledge to their Patreon to test out features in development.

Best macOS Switch Emulator: Ryujinx

Nintendo Switch Emulators
Ryujinx is compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Ryujinx is our choice for the best Switch emulator for macOS users. They can’t use Yuzu since their team doesn’t develop for the operating system. However, they’re not entirely without Switch emulators since Ryujinx’s team develops their emulator in C#, a modern programming language maintained by Microsoft. Ryujinx has versions for Windows 10/11, macOS, and Linux. Android users won’t be able to use Ryujinx on their systems.

The Ryujinx emulator has undergone deep compatibility testing and maintains a compatibility information guide. The team has tested Ryujinx for use with over 4,000 titles, of which around 3,400 were considered playable. Ryujinx requires you to dump necessary firmware and software files to play games; they won’t help you download them illegally from the internet. So, ensure you have an up-to-date Switch to get the necessary game files.

The developers provide all the information you need to get Ryujinx working and dump the files from your Switch. So, you don’t have to worry about being left out in the cold without a clue. All the information you need to get started is available on their GitHub, which users can access from their website.

ProsCons
Ryujinx is cross-platform for Windows, macOS, and Linux.There is no Android version of Ryujinx.
The emulator has undergone compatibility testing on over 4,000 games.
The team’s documentation is rich and deep.

Best Switch Emulator with Customizability: NS Emu

Nintendo Switch emulators
NS Emu supports NS homebrew .nso file format.

To customize your Switch emulation experience, you can use NS Emu, which supports the NS homebrew .nso file. You can use .nso files to change and improve your Switch operating system experience. Other Switch emulators provide a shell operating system that allows you to run your games and have a Switch-like experience. However, you can’t modify the experience using files users often use to “hack” your Switch experience on a physical machine.

NS Emu provides you with the shell operating system but allows you to modify the operating system to change your experience to be as you want it. However, it’s important to remember that NS Emu is more of a barebones project than Ryujinx or Yuzu.

This emulator is only available for Windows. Users of other operating systems cannot install it. There are no mobile versions of this emulator. However, it is the only Switch emulator that allows you to customize the operating system. So, if that’s important to you, this is the best option for you.

ProsCons
NS Emu supports .nso files for operating system customization.It is only available for Windows.
The emulator is lightweight and easy to use.

Best Mobile Switch Emulator: EGG NS

Nintendo Switch emulators
The Egg NS emulator provides a way to play Switch games on Android.

If you’re a mobile user looking to play Switch games on your mobile phone, EGG NS is your best bet. Unlike other Android builds, which often feel like afterthoughts compared to the desktop versions, EGG NS’s team develops this emulator specifically for the Android operating system and machines that run it. Its controls and operating system clone are specially designed to feel fluid and native to Android users. There won’t be clunky controls or bugs from a lack of concerted development effort.

EGG NS is going through a hiatus. However, the blog continues to post regularly. The last significant update to EGG NS was in March 2023. So, it’s unclear if this project will continue to receive maintenance updates and quality-of-life patches.

There are also some significant security risks to using EGG NS’s website, as they provide downloads for ROMs, which are of tenuous legality. These ROMs could potentially introduce security flaws to your system, and we recommend dumping files legally rather than downloading ROMs. As with any program or file downloaded from the internet, there may be consequences for using it, especially ROMs. While console emulation is legally protected, the distribution of ROM files is not. This distribution platform could also impact EGG NS’s development since its website hosts the files. 

ProsCons
It is a dedicated Android-optimized Nintendo Switch emulator.It hasn’t received a recent update.
The controls are optimized to feel fluid and natural on Android devices.There are security risks to using EGG NS’s website.
It works well with many AAA games.

How to Pick the Best Nintendo Switch Emulator: Step by Step

If you want to emulate your Switch games, there are a few things you should consider when choosing an emulator. You should consider which platforms you want to play on, whether or not you want to play multiplayer games with friends, control schemes, stability, and software compatibility. There aren’t many emulators available for the Nintendo Switch. You won’t be inundated with too many choices, but consider these factors:

  • Platform availability
  • Multiplayer compatibility
  • Control schemes
  • Stability
  • Software compatibility

Let’s examine the most crucial features of a Nintendo Switch Emulator.

Platform Availability

nintendo switch emulator
Nintendo Switch emulators allow users to play their games at higher resolutions than the console is capable of.

The most important feature for most people to consider is the platform availability. After all, if an emulator isn’t available for your preferred platform, there is no way to use it! You could always run a virtual machine with a different operating system and use that to run your emulator. However, you’d be expending an extremely high amount of computing resources for an already-intensive task. You’d definitely sacrifice game stability and processing power, which could impact your experience with your emulator.

You can use Ryujinx on all desktop operating systems. Conversely, you can use Yuzu on most desktop operating systems and Android. However, we recommend EGG NS if you want an Android experience that feels more like a mobile app. Finally, there’s NS Emu, which is available for Windows only.

Multiplayer Compatibility

Yuzu and Ryujinx both support multiplayer games. However, some anecdotal user reports indicate that Ryujinx is easier to use in some multiplayer situations. If multiplayer is crucial for your experience, consider using Ryujinx over Yuzu. EGG NS and NS Emu don’t have much documentation regarding multiplayer games.

Control Schemes

This issue arises when someone wants to play a Switch game on a control scheme it’s not designed for, like mobile. In these situations, users are typically encouraged to connect a wireless controller to their Switch. However, mobile users may want to play the game entirely with the touchscreen, using zoning and gestures to mimic controller inputs.

In this case, EGG NS is an ideal product. The control scheme was purposefully designed to feel like a native Android app rather than a desktop one ported to a smaller screen. You can use gestures and tap zones to determine your inputs rather than connecting a controller, which can be ideal for people who want an emulator to play on their phones.

Stability

Stability is also a massive component of any program you want to use. However, when emulating games, stability is king. An unstable emulator is going to crash and delete your progress. Concerning stability, emulators are a naturally resource-intensive program. Even the most stable emulators will experience severe stability decreases when run on low-power systems. If you want to emulate games, especially new-generation consoles, you’ll need an appropriately powerful host system. Check the emulator’s system requirements before downloading and installing it.

Software Compatibility

You’ll also want to check your emulator’s compatibility with the games you want to play. Different games have different hardware and software needs that must be met to have a good experience with the game. Thus, you can’t emulate every game stably in a way that meets the players’ expectations regarding the experience.

Ryujinx has the most in-depth testing process and has been deeply tested with over 4,000 titles. The developers keep a log of all the player and developer testing with titles and have a compatibility list of every game the emulator has been tested with. Check user anecdotes for compatibility with your emulator to ensure you can play the games you want to play on your emulator.

What to Know Before Downloading a Nintendo Switch Emulator

nintendo switch emulator
You need a Nintendo Switch console to get the most out of your emulator.

Emulating software is a programming exercise without a one-size-fits-all answer. Every emulator will work differently on each machine, and just because everyone else can use it doesn’t mean you can. You can follow the developers’ best practices guides to improve your experience. However, that doesn’t ensure that you’ll get smooth, high-resolution gameplay with every game.

Using a Nintendo Switch Emulator: What It’s Like

In the right environment, a Nintendo Switch emulator can bolster your game’s performance, allowing you to play games in higher resolutions and with better performance. However, these factors depend entirely on the environment in which you run the emulator. Emulation is a resource-heavy task. So, make sure your expectations are aligned with the system you have available. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and you’ll have the best experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is software emulation?

Software emulation is when a development team creates a clone of an existing, typically proprietary, operating system. It typically requires the operating system to be reverse-engineered to run the additional software associated with the operating system.

What are the limitations of emulation?

The most limiting factor of emulation is that most operating systems are designed for specific hardware, especially game consoles and proprietary computer software. The emulator has to digitally replicate the hardware before it can run the software, which is highly resource-intensive and can impact the emulator’s performance.

Are there Nintendo Switch emulators?

Yes, there are four Nintendo Switch emulators on the market.

Are game console emulators legal?

Emulating a game console is legal. However, distributing ROMs of games is not. To get the ROMs of games for your emulator, you need to retrieve them from a console.

Why would I emulate my games if I own the console?

Emulating games can improve the resolution and performance of a game by allowing you to play it with hardware that is stronger than the native console.

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