During the 1990s, a couple of consoles were very popular, especially in the first half of the decade. The Sega Genesis comes to mind, with a fierce competitor in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or SNES. The SNES has a huge library of games, many of which are difficult to find nowadays, hence why using the best SNES emulator, or the following six, is recommended.
Gameplay and graphics can be modernized with emulators, from upscaling to being able to connect whichever peripheral you want, as well as netplay, in some regard. The following are the best SNES emulators for modern gameplay.
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS, and BSD
Bsnes is a Super Nintendo or Super Famicom emulator that was a subset of the higan project, developed by Near. Bsnes had multiple ups and downs during its process of development, namely before its merger with higan and after it was continued as a separate project.
It currently uses a QT GUI and is aimed at speed, ease of use, and precision. It is widely considered as the best SNES emulator. Because of its features, ease of use, platform availability, and regular updates, it stands out as a SNES emulator.
It is also an open-source project, just like its parent project, higan, as well as other projects that Near started.
Available on Windows, Linux, macOS, and BSD versions, it covers most of the popular desktop platforms. Mobile users can still play games, albeit with a caveat.
Emulating: Multiple systems
Platform: Windows, Linux, and macOS
Ares is the continuation of higan, a project started by Near. Ares is, like higan, a multi-system emulator. The goal was the precise emulation of multiple different consoles, computers, and systems. Ares is an old project, dating back to 2004. During the last almost 20 years, it has gone through multiple versions and revisions.
At the moment, it is one of the better choices for SNES emulation, as well as other systems, including the Nintendo GBA, 64, Sega Genesis, Master System, and even the Sony PlayStation.
Available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, it covers some of the best games on the most popular 1990s consoles, including the SNES.
Mesen is an NES and SNES emulator primarily. It also does power PC emulation, but the focus is on the two above-mentioned Nintendo products. Mesen is an open-source project, available on Windows and Linux primarily. macOS builds are available but are experimental. The developers recommend users to build their own macOS versions from source code (Macs have varying processors and thus, architectures).
There is a stable branch and a daily build branch, both of which are available to users. The daily builds might have more features, but they also might have bugs slip through, as is common with rolling releases versus stable builds.
It might not be the best SNES emulator, but it is in contention. The interface is smooth and welcoming, prompting users to select their peripherals and presets on launch. User-friendliness is sometimes lacking with emulators, which is where Mesen shines.
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS, and more
Snes9x is an old name in the world of SNES emulation and a known quantity. Unlike some emulators which were good and then development stopped, Snes9x became even better with time. Its interface got updated, as well as the core that runs the emulation process.
It is available on many platforms, notably Windows, Linux, BSD versions, as well as integration as a web player. Snes9x is still a great emulator, despite there being tough competition. It supports more platforms and is therefore in the lead when it comes to availability.
Another bonus is the fact that it is available as a libretro core, meaning that RetroArch users can rely on it to run games on almost any platform.
Emulating: Multiple systems
Platform: Windows and Linux
BizHawk has been seen multiple times as a multi-system emulator, and in this case, it can also do a good job with SNES emulation, as well as other systems such as the Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and more.
It is available on Windows and Linux. Of its many features, ease of use comes to mind. One emulator that can replace a whole plethora of emulators is a better option for those who prefer older consoles and games.
When it comes to SNES emulation, it is based on that of bsnes, which is probably the best SNES emulator, and that makes BizHawk a great choice for accuracy and speed. Modern features, user-friendliness, and relative simplicity compared to other emulators make BizHawk stand out.
When there are available libretro cores, and in this case, there are plenty of them, RetroArch becomes an easily recommendable emulator. What makes it good is the fact that it can run on many platforms, and is very easy to use. Downloading cores is simple and can be done within the application.
With how the application holds the hand of the users, they can focus on organizing their library and playing the games they want. SNES emulation on RetroArch is better in some cases, because of the technology invested in RetroArch, such as upscaling and overall peripheral support.
Available on many platforms, it is easy to recommend and use, though SNES-specific emulators might do some things better in regards to accuracy and behavior similar to the original console. RetroArch is still simple to use and will do the job right for almost every gamer.
Performance and System Requirements
Even the best SNES emulator isn’t that taxing on the system. During the early days of emulation, in the early 2000s, some systems couldn’t handle the emulators available at the time. Things changed with Zsnes, an emulator which hasn’t had an update since 2007.
It was famously used on computers that had processors as old as the Pentium 1. The reason for that speed was its low accuracy. That induced crashes in some games, making them unplayable. It was a compromise in the early days of emulation.
Today, computers are much faster, and even budget-oriented smartphones can run SNES games without much of an issue. Newer machines shouldn’t have issues running the said emulators. The only requirement listed for the emulators above is having .NET 6 installed for Mesen.
Running a SNES Game
SNES games come in the shape of ROMs nowadays. Originally, you had to own a cartridge of the game. As it stands, you would still have to own the cartridge of the game you want to play, and then obtain the ROM.
Using Bsnes as an example, here is how to run a SNES game.
Bsnes is very easy to use. You point the emulator to a ROM, which is usually kept in an archive file, typically a zip. It needs no BIOS or firmware, meaning that you just load the ROM and play. Configure the controls as you see fit and remember that saving is easy with emulators.
Crowning a single best SNES emulator is difficult, but all six of the above are good choices if you want to play old games in a modern way. Bsnes stands out because of its commitment to a single console. RetroArch is a great option for those who want to play on other platforms such as mobile, as well as consoles.
All the rest are absolutely fine, so take your pick and enjoy SNES better than ever.