The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, more commonly known as the SNES or Super NES, is a 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo. Released in 1990, the SNES became one of the best-selling consoles of all time with over 49 million units sold.
Even decades after its release, the SNES remains hugely popular due to its expansive library of iconic games. Titles like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI are considered some of the greatest games ever made.
While the original hardware is still a joy to use, SNES emulators provide a convenient way to revisit these classics on modern devices. Emulators allow you to play SNES games on your PC, smartphone, or tablet.
If you want to relive the magic of the SNES era, here are the 10 best SNES emulators to consider in 2024.
What is an SNES Emulator?
Before diving into the top emulators, let’s briefly go over what exactly an SNES emulator is and how it works.
SNES emulators allow you to play original SNES games on devices the games weren’t designed for. This includes computers, mobile devices, and even modern game consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One.
The emulator mimics the hardware of the original SNES console, providing a virtual environment in which you can load SNES game ROM files. ROM stands for “read-only memory” and is essentially a copy of the game cartridge data.
By emulating the SNES processor, graphics, sound, and other components, the games should theoretically run just like they did on the original hardware. Of course, the accuracy and performance can vary quite a bit depending on the quality of the emulator.
This gives you a convenient way to play SNES classics without having to hook up the old console and cartridges. SNES emulators are legal as long as you own copies of the original games. You can even use USB controllers modeled after the original SNES controller for seamless gameplay.
Advantages of SNES Emulation
Here are some of the biggest advantages that come with playing SNES games on emulators:
Play SNES Games on Modern Devices
This is the core benefit of emulation. SNES emulators allow you to play games designed for 1990s cartridge hardware on modern PCs, phones, tablets, and more.
Save States and Rewind Features
Unlike the original cartridge games where saving was limited, emulators let you instantly save your progress anywhere. Rewind features also let you turn back time if you make a mistake.
Improved Visuals with Filters and Upscaling
Many emulators come with graphics filters and upscaling options to help smooth out pixels and make the retro games look better on modern displays.
Game Mods and Hacks
The SNES modding scene is huge. Emulators let you tap into gameplay mods, fan translations, and other ROM hacks that enhance the original titles.
Online Multiplayer Support
Thanks to netplay functionality in many emulators, you can now play classic SNES multiplayer games online with friends.
Emulators make rediscovering SNES classics more convenient and customizable than ever. Now let’s check out the best options available in 2024.
10 Best SNES Emulators for 2024
Snes9x is by far the most popular, long-running, and compatible SNES emulator. First launched in 1997, Snes9x replicates the SNES hardware with high accuracy and performance. It’s open source and completely free on all platforms.
- Cross-platform support (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
- High game compatibility and smooth performance
- Save states, rewinding, screenshots
- Graphics filters and upscaling options
- Controller customization
- Netplay for online multiplayer
Snes9x strikes the perfect balance of accuracy, features, and ease of use. It’s the best option for those looking for an authentic SNES emulation experience on PC and mobile.
Mesen-S is the leading SNES emulator for achieving pixel-perfect graphics and lag-free gameplay. Built for accuracy and speed, it delivers an uncompromising SNES emulation for gaming on PC.
- Extremely accurate SNES emulation
- Powerful tools for debugging and game modding
- Low input lag for responsive controls
- Hi-res rendering, rewinding, screenshots
- Built-in cheat code support
- Hardware accessories supported through USB
Mesen-S is ideal for SNES enthusiasts who want perfect visuals down to the pixel with seamless gameplay. The high system requirements make it best suited for modern gaming PCs.
RetroArch is an open-source, multi-system emulator frontend that’s available across many platforms. For SNES emulation, it uses either bsnes or Snes9x cores.
- Cross-platform with a consistent UI
- Broad emulator core support beyond just SNES
- Online multiplayer through netplay
- Advanced shader support for graphics
- Media player and recording tools
- Fully customizable interface
As an all-in-one retro gaming suite, RetroArch is great for those looking to emulate multiple classic systems. It takes more tweaking than standalone emulators but offers deeper customization.
3. Nintendo Switch Online
Nintendo Switch Online subscribers get access to a library of SNES classics playable through the Switch’s virtual console-like service. It has some of the best Nintendo-developed titles.
- Officially licensed Nintendo emulator
- 20+ high-quality SNES classics like Super Mario and Zelda
- Rewind and online play supported
- Perfect for Switch gaming on the go
- Updated to include newly added games
The Switch SNES app is a legal means of enjoying Nintendo classics on modern hardware. It has a limited selection but impeccable game support.
First released in 1997, ZSNES paved the way for many SNES emulators that followed. It’s still a fast, compatible choice for low-end PCs today.
- Lightweight emulator good for old PCs
- High game compatibility and support for addons
- Customizable mouse and keyboard controls
- Save states and screenshot-capturing
- Filters to enhance graphics
ZSNES lacks some of the nicer features of modern emulators but remains easy to use and fast. It’s a good option for playing SNES games on older computers and laptops.
BizHawk is a multi-system emulator focused on tool-assisted speedrunning. The SNES emulation is provided through bsnes cores.
- SNES emulator geared for TAS speedrunning
- Lua scripting for tool-assisted runs and mods
- Built-in live streaming capabilities
- Full set of speedrun toolboxes for gameplay control
- Supports controller input for speedrun tricks
For those interested in speedrunning classic SNES games through emulation, BizHawk provides one of the most robust toolsets. Casual players may find it overly complex.
7. SNES9x EX+
SNES9x EX+ is an Android SNES emulator based on the Snes9x core. It’s feature-packed and designed specifically for mobile devices.
- Touchscreen overlays tailored to each game
- Custom controller layouts and on-screen buttons
- Hardware controller support over USB OTG
- Fast-forward and slow-motion controls
- Auto-save, cheats, and screenshots
SNES9x EX+ brings an excellent SNES experience to Android phones and tablets. The interface is streamlined for touch controls while retaining Snes9x’s great compatibility.
8. SuperRetro16 (Retroarch)
SuperRetro16 is the SNES core that comes bundled with Retroarch on mobile devices like Android and iOS. It offers a basic but effective way to run SNES games.
- Decent game compatibility and fast speed
- Supports both touchscreen and controllers
- Includes basic save states and rewinding
- Customizable touchscreen layouts
- Part of the RetroArch ecosystem of apps
As the Retroarch core for mobile SNES emulation, SuperRetro16 provides a straightforward option with adequate features. Other cores like Snes9x have higher compatibility though.
Lemuroid is an all-in-one retro game emulator for Android devices with a polished user interface. It includes enhanced Libretro cores for SNES emulation.
- Material design and private folders
- Save syncing between devices
- Low-latency gameplay and texture filtering
- Rewinding, fast forward, screenshots
- Gamepad, touch, and keyboard control
Lemuroid combines an elegant front end with solid libretro cores for SNES and other retro systems. The premium version unlocks extra features like cloud saving.
10. DuckStation (Retroarch)
DuckStation is a newer but fast-rising libretro PlayStation emulator core. However, its accuracy and speed also make it a great choice for SNES emulation.
- High-accuracy SNES emulation
- Enhanced graphics via upscaling and texture filtering
- Low input lag for a smooth gameplay feel
- Built-in cheat code support
- Memory card integration for saves
Via the Retroarch app, the DuckStation libretro core provides superb SNES emulation and gameplay on par with dedicated options like Snes9x.
Choosing the Best Emulator for Your Needs
With so many solid SNES emulators to choose from, how do you decide which one is right for you? Here are some key factors to consider:
- Platform support– Make sure the emulator runs on your target device like Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Android, etc.
- Accuracy vs. performance– Some emulators prioritize frame rate and speed while others focus on precise emulation at the cost of higher system requirements.
- Features– Look for features that matter to you like netplay, graphics upscaling, mod support, controller customization, etc.
- User interface– The complexity and design of the front end can range from minimalist to feature-packed.
- Smartphone optimization– For mobile emulation, you want an emulator tailored specifically for touchscreen controls.
Take stock of your device capabilities, games you want to play, and emulator features you’ll use. This will help narrow down the best option for your needs.
Setting Up SNES Emulators
Once you’ve picked your emulator software, installing and setting it up is fairly straightforward. Here’s an overview of the process:
1. Download and Install Emulator
First, download and install your emulator of choice on your computer, phone, or other target device. Most emulators provide an installation wizard or executable file to handle this.
2. Download SNES ROM Files
Next, you need to source SNES game ROM files which contain the original game data. You can often find sites hosting free game ROMs with a Google search but make sure to only download games you own.
3. Load the ROM into the Emulator
Each emulator will have a method of loading or importing the SNES ROMs you downloaded. Typically you’ll just need to open the ROM file through the emulator interface.
4. Customize Graphics, Controls, etc.
Before playing, take a moment to dive into the emulator settings and customize any graphics filters, button mapping, audio, and other options to your liking.
5. Start Playing!
Once set up, select your game in the emulator menu and click play or start to begin enjoying classic SNES gameplay on a modern screen!
Advanced SNES Emulator Features
Beyond basic setup and playing SNES games, many emulators provide additional advanced features that can enhance the experience:
Graphics Upscaling and Filtering
Graphics filters and upscalers let you improve the pixelated look of retro games on modern displays. You can apply smoothing, anti-aliasing, shader effects, and more.
Save your exact point of progress anytime without restrictions. SNES cartridges had limited save game functionality but emulators let you instantaneously save state.
Rewinding records gameplay in real-time so you can turn back time to fix mistakes. It’s invaluable in challenging retro games that lack mid-level saving.
Most emulators support built-in and external cheat codes ranging from fun modifications to game-breaking invincibility. Just be careful not to overdo it!
Play classic SNES multiplayer games like Mario Kart online against friends using emulator netplay functionality.
The SNES modding and emulation scene has produced all kinds of fan-made ROM hacks over the years. Emulators make these accessible to try out.
Super Nintendo Emulation on RetroPie
RetroPie is a popular Linux distro built for retro gaming on Raspberry Pi boards. It offers a polished interface and multi-system game emulation, including SNES emulation.
RetroPie utilizes the Snes9x emulator for playing SNES ROMs. It’s a streamlined way to build an emulation-focused retro game console powered by a Raspberry Pi computer.
Some of the benefits of SNES emulation using RetroPie include:
- Turns a Raspberry Pi into a retro console
- Supports controllers like the SNES Classic and BluetoothScrapes box art and metadata automatically
- Access to ports of classic game engines
- Can overclock for improved performance
- Open source and highly customizable
RetroPie provides an all-in-one retro gaming environment. With support for SNES and many other classic systems, it’s great for emulation projects using single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi.
Playing SNES Games Legally
Emulation opens up access to playing decades-old SNES games. However, there are limitations around game ROMs that are important to keep in mind:
- Downloading or distributing copyrighted SNES ROMs freely on the internet is generally illegal.
- To legally play SNES ROMs, you need to own an original copy of the game and create a backup yourself.
- Alternatively, buy game re-releases like on Nintendo Switch Online to get legal access.
- Official cartridge-to-digital dumping devices can conveniently create game backup ROMs.
- Check your local laws for any restrictions regarding game backups and emulation.
In summary, SNES emulation provides an amazing way to revisit classic games. But just be mindful of only using game backups you’ve created yourself or legally obtained.
Frequently Asked Questions About SNES Emulators
Here are answers to some common questions about using SNES emulators:
Are SNES emulators legal to use?
Yes, the SNES emulator software itself is 100% legal. The illegality mainly revolves around downloading copyrighted game ROM images from the internet versus creating your backups.
How do I add games to SNES emulators?
You need SNES game ROM image files. After downloading, you can load ROMs into your emulator through the app interface, often by just dragging and dropping the ROM file.
What PC specs do I need for SNES emulation?
SNES emulation has modest system requirements. Even low-end PCs can handle simpler emulators. For more accurate emulators, a decent processor, graphics card, and 2GB of RAM should suffice.
Why are some SNES games not working in my emulator?
Emulation accuracy varies. Try a different emulator or source a clean dump of the ROM file. You may need to manually patch some games, especially fan translations and hacks.
Can I play SNES games online against friends?
Yes, many modern emulators now support netplay functionality for playing classics like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II online against friends and the community.
Where can I find SNES emulator cheat codes?
Pretty much all emulators support cheat codes. You can find extensive cheat code databases for SNES games through a quick Google search.
How do I hook up SNES controllers to an emulator?
You can use original controllers with USB adapters. Modern controllers inspired by SNES classics also work great. Some emulators additionally let you map keyboard, mouse, or gamepad controls.
Can I play SNES games on Android and iOS?
Yes, there are many stellar SNES emulators optimized for mobile devices like SNES9x EX+ for Android and Provenance for iOS. You can connect controllers to your phone or use touchscreen overlays.
SNES emulators provide an awesome way to experience all the classic 16-bit magic of the Super Nintendo era on modern devices. With save states, control customization, graphics enhancements, and other special features, emulators make revisiting these retro games more convenient than ever.
The most accurate and user-friendly options today for PCs include Snes9x, Mesen-S, and RetroArch. On mobile, SNES9x EX+, Lemuroid, and Provenance offer stellar SNES emulation. Raspberry Pi boards can transform into dedicated SNES consoles with RetroPie as well.
Take your pick from the best SNES emulators in 20