Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (2024)

Nintendo Switch emulator options have improved significantly over the years. These days, you have multiple options if you’re looking for a free Switch emulator. Do keep in mind that as a general rule of thumb, Switch games that have been out for a while are likely to perform the best on Nintendo Switch emulators. This is because the longer a game has been out, the more time the community has had to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.

Some of the popular emulators will have a list of Switch games and how they perform. We’ll go into more detail when we break down each Switch emulator and include any additional information you might need.

There is a Switch emulator available for just about any setup you have – whether you’re looking to play Switch games on your Windows PC, you need an option for Mac, your Steam deck, your Android device, a handheld gaming PC like a Aya Neo 2 or OnexPlayer Mini Pro, or you’re on Linux, we’ve got you covered. This article will cover every Nintendo Switch emulator currently available for every platform.

Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (1)

Contents hide

1. Is Nintendo Switch Emulation legal?

2. What Are The Best Nintendo Switch Emulators?

2.1. 1. Yuzu

2.1.1. Which games work on the Yuzu emulator?

2.2. 2. Ryujinx

2.2.1. Which games work on Ryujinx?

2.3. 3. Cemu

2.4. 4. Skyline

2.5. 5. NSEmu

3. Our Top Emulator Pick for Playing Nintendo Switch Games

Is Nintendo Switch Emulation legal?

If you’re wondering if emulation is legal, yes Nintendo Switch emulators are legal. The act of downloading and using a Nintendo Switch emulator is entirely legal, but sharing and downloading ROMs however is not. We’re not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, but just know that downloading Switch games ROMs illegally is a bit of a gray area and not something we condone doing.

That being said, Nintendo Switch emulation often does come with its fair share of technical issues to work through. Because the Switch isn’t easy to emulate, aside from needing the actual emulator, you’ll also need to make sure your setup can handle Switch emulation. This is because when you’re using a Nintendo Switch emulator to play games, you’re essentially emulating the console BIOS and mirroring gameplay (at a decent FPS framerate).

If you’re on a Windows PC, before you download an emulator, I’d recommend making sure your computer at a minimum is at least a 6th gen Intel Core i3 processor or Ryzen 3 with 8GB RAM. 16GB of RAM is ideal, but you should be able to squeak by with just 8GB. For your graphics card, I’d recommend you have at least an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 580.

What Are The Best Nintendo Switch Emulators?

Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (2)

1. Yuzu

Yuzu is the original Switch emulator that first released back in January of 2018 and is by far the best Nintendo Switch emulator for PC available. The developers are Team Yuzu and is an experimental open source emulator written in C++.

The team behind the Yuzu emulator are the folks that also developed Citra, one of the most popular Nintendo 3DS emulators available. Clearly they know what they’re doing. Yuzu is an entirely free emulator and doesn’t cost anything to download and use.

Which games work on the Yuzu emulator?

The Yuzu experimental Nintendo Switch emulator has a game compatibility list on their website which includes all of the Switch popular games that have been tested and has information on how playable they are.

Many games also support cheat codes so be sure to check out our Yuzu cheats guide for help on setting them up.

Some playable games listed that perform well on Yuzu are Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Maker 2, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Animal Crossing New Horizons, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and many more. Each game is ranked on a scale of:

  • Perfect – Game functions flawlessly without any audio or graphical issues. All tested features work as intended without any workarounds needed. Excellent performance here.
  • Great – Game functions with some minor graphical or audio issues, but can be played from start to finish. The game may require some minor workarounds.
  • Okay – Game functions with some pretty major graphical or audio issues but can be played from start to finish with some workarounds. Game is considered playable.
  • Bad – Game functions, but has some serious graphical or audio issues. Can’t progress in certain areas due to issues regardless of workarounds.
  • Intro/Menu – Game is entirely unplayable due to serious graphical or audio issues and doesn’t progress past the game’s intro/menu boot screen.
  • Won’t Boot – Game crashes and fails to start.
  • Not Tested – Game has not yet been tested.

Not all games perform well on Yuzu, but the developers seem to consistently pushing out updates that improve performance for Switch games. There can be a bit of a ramp up time for newcomers who first install the Yuzu emulator, but with practice and plenty of googling you’ll get the hang of it.

The Yuzu emulator is available for Windows PC and Linux devices. For those with a Steam deck, you’re in luck because Yuzu works well. Yuzu supports up to 4k resolution so if you have a high end device that’s capable, your Nintendo Switch games will never have looked better. The emulator also supports online play, so be sure to check out our Yuzu online multiplayer guide to see how to set this up.

The Yuzu emulator also has a handy program that you can download for it called the Yuzu Mod Downloader which lets you automatically install mods for your game ROMs.

You can learn more about Yuzu and download it on the emulator’s official website here.

Be sure to check out our comprehensive Yuzu emulator guide for PC and Linux and also our Yuzu Steam Deck guide as well.

Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (3)

2. Ryujinx

The Ryujinx Switch emulator is less technical than Yuzu, meaning that the learning curve to getting it setup is lower and it is lacking in some other settings that Yuzu has. Ryujinx is pretty straightforward and has a user friendly interface that is similar to the Switch console’s.

Ryujinx is definitely the best Nintendo Switch emulator for Mac users. This Mac version was released more recently, but has been steadily pushing out updates to improve performance and game compatibility.

Which games work on Ryujinx?

Ryujinx is also completely free to download and use and just like Yuzu is also open source. Ryujinx has grown in popularity not only because it is easy to use, but performance on Ryujinx is pretty solid and this Nintendo switch emulator work on Windows, Linux, and Mac computers. Also we should mention that Ryujinx does work on the Steam deck.

You’ll never find an emulator that can play every single Switch game perfectly, but Ryujinx also has a list of popular games to check for compatibility on their Github. The developers seem to be continuously working hard to add support for additional Switch games.

We’d still recommend Yuzu if you’re on a Windows or Linux device, however for users on Mac devices, Ryujinx is a solid option for a Switch emulator. You can check it out and download it on the official website here.

Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (4)

3. Cemu

Interestingly enough, while Cemu can run some Switch games, the Cemu emulator isn’t a Nintendo Switch emulator at all. The Cemu was originally created to emulate Wii U games, however because the developers still regularly keep the emulator updated, Cemu can actually run some games with surprisingly good performance. Most games on Cemu can be run in 60 FPS and it has some additional options available for mods, resolution, shading, and image rendering.

Cemu only works on a Windows PC so Linux and Mac users are out of luck this time.

While technically not a Nintendo Switch emulator, Cemu does have a list of compatible games as well that you can check out here. Their list of compatible games allows you to filter by the different compatibility ratings and even shows statistics on what percentage of games are in each state. Currently, over half (52%) of the games listed can be played with minor to no major issues. You can check out Cemu and download it from the website here.

Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (5)

4. Skyline

Skyline is an open source and experimental emulator for the Android smartphone and it is the best Nintendo Switch emulator for Android devices. The Skyline emulator works for ARMv8 Android devices and is licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0. The project gives special thanks to Ryujinx, Yuzu, and Switchbrew mentioning that all three were extremely helpful throughout the development process.

Skyline also has an early-access build called Skyline Edge which contains all of the latest features that are being worked on. Only subscribers to the Patreon have access to Skyline Edge. In general, regular Skyline features are ~2 weeks behind those that are available on Skyline Edge.

Skyline is regularly updated by the team and also contains a game compatibility list that you can find here.

With regular updates and consistent builds being pushed out to the public, Skyline is a great Android Switch emulator to check out. You can download Skyline for your android phone from the official website here.

5. NSEmu

NSEmu is an open source project that doesn’t seem to have been updated too much recently, but still seemed like it should be mentioned in this list. The developers mention on Github that it’s very much still a work in progress and they have a To Do list that you can see here.

We couldn’t find a list of compatible games or too much additional information about NSEmu, but if you’re looking to dive into the world of Nintendo Switch emulation and get your hands dirty on a project, check out NSEmu and see if the developer will let you help out!

Our Top Emulator Pick for Playing Nintendo Switch Games

Yuzu is by far our pick of the best Nintendo Switch emulators for PC. In terms of quality, number of compatible games, regular updates, and an active community, the Yuzu emulator is the go to choice. It’s open source and actively maintained by its developers. It’s also clear that the team behind the project are passionate about what they do.

Best Nintendo Switch Emulator of 2024 | The Top 5 (2024)
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