Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • Nintendo Switch emulators allow gamers to play Switch-exclusive games on a Windows PC and other platforms, providing an alternative to the console’s old hardware limitations.
  • Ryujinx is a recommended emulator choice for running Nintendo Switch games in 4K 60FPS, while Yuzu offers stability but limited game compatibility.
  • Cemu, although technically a Wii U and GameCube emulator, can run some Switch games with graphical enhancements and is a good option for those with older gaming PCs.


The Nintendo Switch is home to many amazing games that are exclusive to the console. Fortunately, gamers can use Nintendo Switch emulators to play Switch-exclusive games without being restricted by the hardware. We have listed some of the best Nintendo Switch emulators that can help you run games on a Windows PC and other platforms.


Reasons to Use a Nintendo Switch Emulator

Nintendo Switch is by far one of the best handheld consoles currently on sale. Despite being a six-year-old device, it still competes with the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S in terms of popularity and sales. However, the Nintendo Switch is also reaching a point where it can’t keep up with modern consoles due to old hardware.

Users are limited to 720p 30FPS when running modern Nintendo Switch games on the console. Fortunately, there are many Nintendo Switch emulators that helped us run games like “Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” in 4K 60FPS. However, you will need a powerful gaming PC to emulate these Nintendo Switch games. So make sure to look at the recommended PC specs given below to check if your computer/laptop can emulate Nintendo Switch games properly.

You can also download mods to completely change the way to play a game. These mods can either be downloaded through a third-party website or from Yuzu’s official website.

We highly recommend using a controller with a Nintendo Switch emulator. You will find setting up the controls for the emulator relatively easy if you follow this advice. Emulating an analog stick from a keyboard can be quite complicated, so it is better to just use a controller.

3 Best Nintendo Switch Emulators for Windows

It’s been six years since the release of the Nintendo Switch console. During that time, many emulators have been able to properly run Switch games on different platforms like Windows, Linux, Android, and macOS. For PC gaming, the Nintendo Switch emulators given below have been monumental to the emulation community.

1. Ryujinx

Ryujinx nintendo switch emulator
Ryujinx

Available on: Windows, Steam Deck, Linux, and macOS

Download: Ryujinx

Ryujinx is a free Nintendo Switch emulator that can run on Windows, Linux, and macOS. It is written in C#, which helps the emulator in better gaming performance and with a wide range of emulation. Due to this, Ryujinx has a massive library of over 4,000 games out of which 80% are playable. Why that discrepancy? When it comes to emulation there is a difference between the ability to load a game and the ability to play that game perfectly like the emulated hardware. “Playable,” is a term used to reference if the game is emulated well enough that you might forget you’re even using an emulator. Overall, if you want to run a Nintendo Switch game in 4K 60FPS, Ryujinx is the best choice.

According to online benchmarks and our personal testing, the emulator is only slightly behind Yuzu in just a few games. However, the loss of FPS is negligible in most cases. The Ryujinx emulator is also quite easy to update as the application routinely checks and informs users about a new build. Unfortunately, Ryujinx’s graphical settings options are quite lacking compared to the other two emulators on the list.

2. Yuzu

Yuzu Nintendo Switch emulator
Yuzu

Available on: Windows, Steam Deck, Linux, and Android

Download: Yuzu

The Yuzu emulator was the first of its kind to properly emulate Nintendo Switch games on a Windows PC. It is an open-source emulator which was made by the developers of Citra, one of the best Nintendo 3DS emulators. The Yuzu emulator is considered quite stable and can even save different settings profiles for each game.

Despite its stability, the emulator cannot run as many games as the Ryujinx emulator. Since the Yuzu emulator is made with C++, it can work on different platforms as a high-performance application. However, it also limits the number of Switch games that can run on the emulator without any performance issues. Make sure to check Yuzu’s Game Compatibility List before downloading the emulator. Any game that is rated Perfect or Great will run on most PCs without any issues.

3. Cemu

Cemu Emulator
Nalin Rawat / How-To Geek

Available on: Windows, Steam Deck, and Linux

Download: Cemu

Technically, Cemu is a Wii U and GameCube emulator, not a Nintendo Switch emulator. However, it can run games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW), Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Bayonetta 2, and more. The problem is that it can only run a few Switch games that were also available on the Wii U console. Fortunately, the team behind the emulator has added a bunch of graphical enhancements throughout its life cycle. Due to this, the emulator can run games like BOTW on almost double the frame rate of Ryujinx or Yuzu.

Mods and graphic packs can also be added to any game directly from the Cemu library. The emulator is also quite lenient in terms of PC requirements. It only needs 4GB of RAM and can even run properly on older CPUs and GPUs. If you have an old gaming PC, but want to play BOTW, then Cemu is the best choice. The emulator also went open source in 2022 and started development for Linux and macOS support.

Before downloading these emulators, ensure your PC has the recommended specs. A powerful PC will help load the game and run it without any lag or bugs. We recommend using a PC that least has a 6th generation Intel Core i3 processor or Ryzen 3 and a minimum of 8GB of RAM. Although, 8GB of RAM is more than enough we recommend 16GB of RAM for the best performance. In terms of graphic cards, you need an NVIDIA GeForce GT 1060 GPU or an AMD Radeon RX 550. Fortunately, the Yuzu emulator has also clearly stated the minimum PC requirements to run Nintendo Switch games properly.

CPU

  • Minimum: Intel Core i5-4430 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • Recommended: Intel Core i5-11400 / AMD Ryzen 5 3600
  • Optimal: Intel Core i9-13900K / AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D

Graphics

Your PC should have a GPU that supports OpenGL 4.6 or Vulkan 1.1. According to Yuzu, Half-float support and VP9 decoding support are also recommended. We do not suggest using a PC with an Integrated graphic card due to very low performance. Dedicated GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD will produce far better results in emulation.

  • Minimum: NVIDIA GeForce GT 1050 4GB / AMD Radeon RX 550 4GB
  • Recommended: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 6GB / AMD Radeon RX 5500 8GB (with “Force maximum clocks” enabled) / Adreno
  • Optimal: NVIDIA Geforce RTX 3060 12GB / AMD Radeon RX 6700 10GB (with “Force maximum clocks” enabled)
  • Integrated Graphics (Minimum): Intel UHD Graphics 730 / AMD Radeon Vega 3
  • Integrated Graphics (Recommended): Intel Iris Xe Graphics / AMD Radeon 680M / Qualcomm Adreno 740 / ARM Mali G720

RAM

If you are using an integrated graphics card the memory requirement is much higher since the GPU uses system RAM as its video memory (VRAM).

  • Minimum: 8GB
  • Recommended: 16GB
  • Optimal: 32GB
  • Minimum with integrated graphics: 12GB

If you have a very old gaming PC with just 4GB of RAM, we recommend trying to work with Cemu. The Cemu emulator doesn’t have as strict PC requirements when compared to the Ryujinx and Yuzu. You can also try running the emulators on different platforms if you have access to them. For example, if you have a Steam Deck you can run all three emulators mentioned above. If you have a MacBook, you can try running the Ryujinx emulator to play Nintendo Switch games. You can also run some less powerful games on the latest Android phones using the Yuzu emulator.



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By John P.

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