Emulation of the SNES is now possible on portable hardware such as iOS and Android devices, and on the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS via homebrew software. Even Nintendo has accepted the potential of emulation, as exhibited by its implementation of the Virtual Console service in the Nintendo Wii, but emulating the SNES on the PC remains the most popular and the best method of playing SNES games as it is has been time tested and is the most accurate way of emulating the console.
Using a PC emulator for SNES means that you have more raw power available to mimic the capabilities of the console, and despite what some would have you believe, perfectly accurate emulation of the SNES can take a lot of power – up to 3Ghz worth! And that is certainly not possible on any portable device and especially not the Wii.
Today, we’re going to take a look at two of the best PC emulators for SNES available today, so get load up your old ROMs and start the emulation!
PC Emulators for SNES #1. ZSNES
First up and best on the emulation stage is ZSNES, a free PC SNES emulator written mostly in x86 assembly. The SNES emulator has official ports for Linux, MS-DOS, Mac OS X, Windows and an unofficial port for the Xbox. Starting with development in mid-1997, ZSNES made its name on the SNES emulation scene due to its ability to emulate most SNES enhancement chips at some level, a feature quite rare for the time.
Although, it is sometimes criticized due to its low level of accuracy with some games, ZSNES is still being developed today, although not by the original developers, and is constantly getting rid of any flaws fans might discover.
This PC SNES emulator features a simple interface that allows users to load the games through ROMs. One of the best features of the software is that it allows you to use joypads to play the games and also allows the use of turbo buttons for rapid fire and any other use for those games can dream up. ZSNES also has the usual filters and graphical options that allow you to make the games look and feel more original or as if they were being played on an old CRT TV, a much appreciated feature for those who want to feel nostalgic while playing an old game.
The cheater in you also gets the ability to input cheats as if you were using an Action Replay or Game Genie device, but one of the best features ZSNES offers with regards to “game breaking” is the ability to forward or rewind the game a few frames, which can be a real life saver when playing some of the harder titles. It can also emulate some of the accessories that came out for the SNES, like the light gun. The ability to save and load states is also present as a standard. Users also have options to customize the interface and change the hotkeys to make them feel more at home while using the emulator.
ZSNES is one of the best SNES emulators on the PC today due to its excellent compatibility, nice accuracy with all the popular titles and ease of use.
PC Emulators for SNES #2. SNES9X
Although SNES9X is a little more accurate than ZSNES, it plays second fiddle to the latter due to lower levels of customizability, but it is by no means a bad PC SNES emulator and firmly remains rooted at the second spot due to its great compatibility and moderate level of possible customization. This SNES emulator for PC started development almost at the same time as ZSNES and gained notoriety for being the first SNES emulator to offer sound output. It is still being actively developed by its original developers.
SNES9X uses a more Windows-like interface compared to the ZSNES’ more custom-made geeky looking one, and perhaps this is why it is more popular with users, as it makes them feel more at home using using the software. This SNES emulator for PC features all the standard stuff like the ability to save and load states, custom filters and the ability to use cheats. But you lose the ability to forward of rewind games and use turbo buttons like in ZSNES – a trade off that had to be made in order to increase the accuracy of the emulation.
If you don’t like ZSNES for some reason or just want to try an alternative, SNES9X is the way to go.
The Best Alternative SNES Emulator
If you desire more accuracy, want to play SNES games in all their original glory, use effects that make them look and feel as original as possible and have that 3Ghz needed we talked about earlier, you should take a look at bsnes – an emulator that has been making waves on the scene due to its great accuracy and ability to do SPC7110 emulation, cycle-accurate SPC700 emulation, cycle-accurate SuperFX emulation, and Super Game Boy emulation.
SNES emulators do have an expiry date, something that especially holds true for ZSNES as it is written in pure x86 assembly and cannot be ported to other types of machines due to this. It might be the best PC SNES emulator available today, but it is time to move on to bigger and better things – and that is bsnes, until something better comes along, because Windows might soon get rid of backwards compatibility for 32-bit applications like it has done with 16-bit ones, which is going to doom pieces of software like ZSNES, great though they may be, to extinction, along with the hacks and fan translations that have been locked to run on it. So, it is better to move now and port all those things to other emulators than suffering in the future.
As an end note, remember to use ROMs the legal way by porting them from a cartridge, not by downloading them illegally off the internet, and feel free to give us your thoughts, feedback and criticisms (constructive or otherwise) in the comments section below.