3 Best SNES Emulators for Windows 10/8.1/8/7/XP


The console may be 25 years old, but the Super Nintendo Entertainment System still boasts some of the best retro-style video games of all time (and proudly so!). To play these SNES games on your Windows machine, there are a lot of emulators available out there. Thus, you must know how to get the finest SNES Emulators for Windows.

Here are our top 3 picks for you to choose from.

Top 3 SNES Emulators

Snes9x: The emulator beyond limits

Platforms: Linux/Windows/AmigaOS 4/Mac OS X/MorphOS/iOS/PSP/Android (Yes, thats a lot)
Price: Free
Download Page: http://www.s9x-w32.de/dl/

The emulator allows you to play all games designed for the SNES on your PC; this also includes some of the games that were exclusively released in Japan.

SNES9x for Windows is available in two versions: one for the much older 32-bit machines and another version for the more recently used 64-bit machines. The emulator does not occupy a major portion of your RAM or engage your cores at a very high level. It’s as light-weight and feature heavy as you will ever get.


Snes9x Save Game Options

Snes9x can create game saves and game configuration files using formats that include .srm, .dat, .oops, .zst, and .zs#. Few of these save games and configuration files, like .srm files, can be used freely with other Super Nintendo System emulators to move save game data between games or when porting.

Snes9x allows you to use “Save States” as well, though you might want to keep in mind that these save states are only compatible with Snes9x and not other SNES emulators (as you might have guessed). This option is available under the file menu as “Save Position” in the Snes9x emulator, and you save up to “9” such positions during the gameplay at any given time. So you never have to worry about not being able to complete the “Perfect” Mario Run(we know you miss it)

Snes9x Graphics

Snes9x comes with some graphics options providing things like graphics shaders and filters to manipulate the appearance of the emulated image – high-quality filtering to de-pixelate graphics/ colour shaders and scanlines to simulate the output of an interlaced CRT TV(in case you want to go Retro mainstream). You can also tune settings like Transparency Effects, toggle Hi Resolution Support, Blend Hi-Resolution Images and much more. Display settings can be switched from Direct 3D to OpenGL if your system supports it.

Snes9x Controller/Input Configuration

The Snes9x supports six different types of controller configurations:

  • SNES Joypad: Super Nintendo Controller
  • SNES Mouse: Super Nintendo Mouse
  • Super Scope: Super Scope Light Gun
  • SNES Multitap: Super Nintendo Multitap
  • Justifier: Justifier Light Gun
  • Justifiers: Justifier Light Guns

Cheat Engine support is also included in the Snes9x emulator.

higan (Formerly known as BSNES)

Platform: Windows, OS X, Linux, FreeBSD
Price: Free
Download Page: https://byuu.org/emulation/higan/

The emulator is an open source multi-system emulator. Currently, the only thing worth using in higan is the cycle-accurate SNES core. It was created as a response to the more inaccurate SNES emulators such as ZSNES and shoddy ROM hacks. It also supports emulation of other consoles.

higan’s SNES emulator, “BSNES”, has three different modes or profiles: Performance, Balanced, and Accuracy. The Balanced version is recommended for the more “modern” CPUs. You should consider using the “Accuracy” profile only for the most extreme cases. The “Balanced” profile in BSNES was previously known as “Compatibility” profile in the versions before “v0.92.”


The main compromise to performance in the Balanced profile is the PPU (graphics) emulation: rather than rendering a pixel at a time as real hardware usually does, it renders an entire scanline in one go. Since Nintendo told SNES programmers not to mess with the PPU while scanline rendering was in progress, this has no effect on most games – but some programmers deliberately broke the rules, and these games will experience problems in the “Balanced” profile.

What makes the higan “unique”?

higan is unique among other emulators for introducing the concept of “Game” folders. Game folders were all about accurately representing the game “cartridge” and its metadata. Things like SRAM, cheats, input settings, emulator metadata and ROM information get stored along with the game.

higan’s Pros: 100% Accuracy

higan, known initially as BSNES, was coded with the goal of 100% cycle-accurate SNES emulation. This ensures that your games play exactly as they were intended to, on the original console, including the low-level hacks that require precise timing (such as shadows in A.S.P or Air Strike Patrol), up to a degree not possible on other SNES emulators available for Windows.

higan’s Cons: High system requirements

To attain the high level of accuracy that it boasts, the higan emulator requires significant usage of system resources and memory. Because of this reason, a system with a fast processor and a fair amount of RAM is a must – higan isn’t recommended for users working with older machines or CPUs.

Sounds great, right? Well, if you can make up for the requirement of a fast computer with a RAM that is free of other programs hogging its memory, along with each core working up to 40% efficiency then its the go-to choice for you. Still wondering why Snes9x is ranked at the top? Let’s move on to the third one.

RetroArch: Looks excellent & accurate

Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux
Price: Free
Download Page: http://buildbot.libretro.com/stable/

With the RetroArch emulator, you can play the SNES games with nearly any USB gamepad and customize the button layout. Just like Snes9x and higan you can save and load your game state anywhere in the game with the emulator. Something very unusual(yet weirdly satisfying) is a feature that allows you to rewind the game in real time, although we are not sure how that will come to any use.

With this SNES emulator, you can Adjust a myriad of video settings, including shaders that add old-school effects or smoothing to your graphics similar to Snes9x.
With the UI mimicking similar to that of the PlayStation Network, one would unmistakably see this one coming – Play games online with friends using Netplay.


How to Setup RetroArch SNES Emulator

  • Go and download the latest version of RetroArch from its download page.
  • Open the 7z archive file and extract the files included in it wherever you want (like C:\Program Files\RetroArch).
  • Double click on the RetroArch exe file to start it up. You can navigate the user interface with the arrow keys, press “X” to select, or “Z” to go back. It also supports various USB gamepads right off the box.
  • To load an emulator in RetroArch, you’ll have to install that emulator’s “core.” Head over to “Online Updater” > “Core Updater” and scroll down until you can see the bsnes-mercury cores. If you have a genuinely powerful computer (with a higher than 3GHz CPU), try the bsnes-mercury-accuracy core. If your computer/machine is more low-powered, go with bsnes-mercury-balanced or bsnes-mercury-performance cores instead.
  • Then return to the main menu, and to go “Load Content” –> “Select File” and “Detect Core.” Finally, select a ROM file from your hard drive to start playing!

Why we ranked it at the end?

As we already mentioned above, RetroArch can be a little complicated. Installing different cores and tweaking settings can prove to be extremely confusing if you aren’t familiar with the RetroArch emulator, and since there aren’t a lot of guides on it, you’ll be doing a lot of googling to figure it out, especially if you plan to use it for more than one emulator.

The bsnes cores (like higan uses) require a reasonably powerful computer to run—the cost of high accuracy, unfortunately—so if you’re working on a particularly weak CPU. In that case, you may need to settle for the tool – which is still a great choice considering all things offered.

Hope, you liked our list of SNES emulators available freely to download.


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