How to play Nintendo Switch games on your PC
Two emulators can now run Nintendo Switch titles on PC, sort of.
If you're casually familiar with emulators, you've probably played classic titles on something like ZSNES or VisualBoy Advance or similar. These incredible programs allow people to play games on PC that wouldn't otherwise be playable on PC, and are responsible for our continued enjoyment of titles that cost hundreds of dollars to track down anymore. Emulating modern games is a different animal, though.
Because of the complexity of modern systems, it is much harder to create a working emulator that will allow you to play these games on PC. The Nintendo Switch falls into this category of difficult-to-emulate modern systems, so don't expect to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild perfectly on your PC. But some incredible emulation work has already begun, and a few Switch games are already booting and running on PC via two programs: yuzu and RyujiNX.
Wait, Nintendo Switch games on PC?
RyujiNX and yuzu are emulators that are currently being developed to run Nintendo Switch games, beginning with homebrew programs. Both have made considerable progress in the last year and are now able to boot and run a few games. It's ... admittedly not an ideal experience, but it's some dang cool tech.
Which games can I play?
Unfortunately, you can't play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on your high-end gaming PC. Yet. Between the two emulators, yuzu and RyujiNX, only three games are able to boot. They are:
- The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+
- Cave Story+
- Puyo Puyo Tetris
These games work because they are some of the least demanding games on the Nintendo Switch, not because someone thought they were going to necessarily be the most exciting ones to emulate (all three are available on PC via conventional methods). Both teams are hard at work trying to get other games to work, too.
What's the catch?
The catch to trying to emulate these games is that they don't exactly run very well. In fact, if you actually want to play these games, I recommend doing anything but emulating them. Puyo Puyo Tetris currently only gets to the second loading opening screen before freezing — it doesn't even make it to gameplay. Cave Story+ gets a bit further. Two screens into the tutorial, it's done.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is actually playable, but it looks like a hot mess, as you can see in the video above. All of these games run incredibly slow, and none of them are actual, commercial Nintendo Switch games. Instead, they're homebrew versions, as neither emulator can run commercial games yet.
If you're asking what the point is then, the answer is that both yuzu and RyujiNX are working on improving their respective emulators to play these games better and other games at all. It will take time and work to make this happen. Emulators of modern games take a crazy amount of work and reverse engineering, and the teams behind these two are already miles ahead of where emulators were a year after launch of the PS3 and Wii.
Okay, I want to try anyway. How do I do it?
First, you're going to need one heck of a PC with a fast, fast processor, because all of these games run really, really slow. yuzu recommends something that supports OpenGL 4.3 or newer.
You can download RyujiNX here, although they note that there are no stable builds currently. yuzu is downloadable here.. Keep in mind that you'll also need to download homebrew games to test, as commercial Switch games will not work.
If you want to know more about the emulation capabilities of the Switch on PC, just ask in the comments!
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What about CEMU? That emulator is far beyond all these other ones and you can play BOTW on it.
You are correct, but that is a Wii U emulator.
By Jez Corden