A good portion of the Super Nintendo (SNES) games were simply not released in the West, nor were they translated into English, nor were they sold in the US. So what can you do? The answer is relatively simple: use one of the best SNES simulators available, starting with a program that suits your needs. Trust us: they are a great option to try out titles of yesteryear.
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In the ever-changing landscape of video games, it’s easy to go from one new release to the next, leaving a lot of great releases in the dark. Unfortunately, many of those great titles are not so easy to play anymore, unless you use a simulator. If you have a copy, it can be difficult to get it to work properly if your equipment is not in top condition.
A note on SNES simulators
Simulators have always existed in murky legal territory. While retro games enjoyed through emulation are no longer sold, the rights often belong to the original company.
Simulators are legal in most countries, but downloading a game to play on a simulator is often not, and distributing a simulator is considered a violation in most countries.
Nintendo is particularly protective of its games, and while it hasn’t persecuted people who download emulators, it has put pressure on people who host games for download.
This also makes simulators a prime target for the spread of malware, as there are few “official” channels for distribution. Our list of the best SNES simulators includes only the well-established ones with a good track record.
These are the best SNES simulators available
There is a perfectly legal and safe way to enjoy classic SNES games without owning an old SNES. That’s Nintendo’s own SNES Classic Edition.
Nintendo did not include a complete SNES in the SNES Classic Edition. Instead, to power their adorable microconsole, they turned to the same platform almost all microcomputers use: Linux on an ARM processor, like the one found in most smartphones. Nintendo also built a custom simulator called Canoe.
Canoe is far from the most compatible or even the most accurate simulator. It doesn’t even properly emulate all the games included in the SNES Classic. But it’s useful, has low overhead, and has the advantage of being the foundation for a micro-console that is capable for the price.
With Hakchi2 CE, a custom firmware for SNES Classic, you can turn the adorable little thing into an emulation machine. However, due to how well Canoe works on hardware, it is generally best to use it whenever possible.
You can’t download Canoe for use independently of the SNES Classic Edition, and given its flaws, we doubt you’ll want it. But, it’s an easy and legal option that anyone can sit back and enjoy within minutes of taking the SNES Classic out of its box.
If you have the budget for gaming, this is one of the best SNES simulators to experience and enjoy alone.
Higan It is the product of one of the great players in the field of emulation, Byuu. The current version can run 12 different systems, but the one that started it all was the SNES. Byuu is also the creator of the acclaimed Bsnes simulator that formed the basis for Higan, and if you’re looking for the most current version of that core, you must have Higan.
Many of the more popular SNES simulators began development in the late 1990s. Due to a lack of computational power, these simulators tended to focus on high-level emulation (HLE), which attempts to simulate the response of a system. efficiently but does not attempt perfect precision.
HLE focuses more on functionality than form, which often causes certain classic games to malfunction or malfunction. There was even a time when ROMs (copied games) had to be modified from their original format to work on these HLE simulators.
Bsnes (and later Higan) was built to have cycle precision. This low-level emulation (LLE) seeks to represent the original retro game code as accurately as possible. This allows you to play Super Nintendo games and get as close as possible to the experience you would have on the console.
The downside is that it takes a lot more computational power to do this. Even higan is not 100 percent accurate yet, and it will likely take years before processors are powerful enough for that to be possible.
But, if you are looking for the best and most accurate SNES simulator on the market, you should use Higan. Also, if you like some of the darker SNES accessories like the Satellaview, Higan is by far the best option to wear.
SNES9x It has its roots in two of the oldest simulators on the SNES. The early days of emulation are confusing and much has been lost to the ether, but two of the first (and successful) attempts to run Super Nintendo games on the computer were SNES96 and SNES97.
The two developers of those simulators, Gary Henderson and Jerremy Koot, met in July 1997 and merged their work. The result is SNES9x.
Why use SNES9x when Higan and Bsnes have better compatibility and more accurate? In fact, there are several areas where SNES9x is the simulator to beat. It’s light on system requirements and the SNES simulator is available on Android, jailbroken iOS phones, Nintendo 3DS, PSP, and more.
From the looks of the SNES9x website, you would think that work stopped around 1999. However, the forums are still live and the OV2 developer is actively maintaining the simulator.
The “official” builds are far from the only SNES9x versions available. For mobile devices, you should take a look at SNES9x EX + or SNES9x Next (also available as Libretro Core). There is even a version available for Pocket PC, so you can use Mario on your PDA. Seriously!
The development of ZSNES It started in 1997 and while it became popular, it is among the least accurate simulators that are still in regular use today. Compared to the previous simulators, its execution is absolutely terrible. However, there are some excellent reasons to keep a copy.
If you want to check out some SNES ROM cheats, which are mods of existing retro game fanatics, you will run into trouble with high-precision simulators like Bsnes or SNES9x. Since ZSNES was so popular when SNES ROM hacks and ROM hacking tools became popular, many of them used the simulator to test their games.
That means a lot of ROM hacks weren’t designed with precision in mind, but rather around the quirks of ZSNES, so they only work well (or don’t work) in this SNES simulator.
There is also the question of Netplay. If you really want to play SNES games online with your friends, ZSNES (particularly versions 1.36 and 1.42) has one of the best working codes of all the SNES simulators available.
Unfortunately, Netplay was removed in version 1.50, so you will have to stick with the older ones to play multiplayer. The last advantage that ZSNES has over other simulators is that it can be run on a turnip. It has astonishingly low overhead, so if you’re stuck with granny’s old Hewlett-Packard Windows ME, ZSNES is the simulator of choice.
Considering its paltry computer requirements and unique ability to run hacking tools, there’s no reason not to have this popular SNES simulator on your hard drive.
The No $ line of simulators is poorly accurate, but there are some marginal reasons to check them out. No $ SNS, the SNES version, has features that are not available in other simulators. Also, it’s the only way to use some extremely rare peripherals (besides having the actual console, of course).
No $ SNS features include some rare ones like Exertainment Bike (which is a heart-pounding exercise bike for SNES), Barcode Battler, Pachinko Dial, NTT Data Pad, X-Band Keyboard, and Twin-Taps (a pair pushbuttons created specifically for a Japanese trivia game) will all work. It can also emulate additional hardware like Satellaview, Super Disc CD-ROM.
The No $ SNS has an excellent debugger with its premium assembler and disassembler. You can also test the code on a real SNES with a single tool. If you are looking for homemade or ROM cheats, these features are valuable. Overall, No $ SNS is a great choice for adding rare peripherals and creating a unique experience.
In the end, SNES simulators make nostalgia possible – you can play old games without worrying about licenses or malware. This list gives you a great starting point for finding a quality simulator and starting to explore the past. Please note that you should never use a SNES simulator for illegal activities.