Sega Saturn emulators

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The Sega Saturn (American Model)
The Sega Saturn is a 32-bit, fifth-generation console released by Sega in 1994 in North America.

Sega Saturn emulation has been historically one of the harder consoles to emulate, leading to there not being many good options, but that is slowly getting better with emulators such as Mednafen releasing their Saturn core and constantly improving it with every version.


Name Operating System(s) Latest Version Active Recommended
Mednafen Multi-platform 1.21.1
SSF Windows 0.12 beta R4
Yabause Multi-platform 0.9.15
YabaSanshiro Multi-platform 1.6.4
Kronos Multi-platform 1.2
MAME Multi-platform 0.195
BizHawk Windows 2.2.2
Satourne Windows 2.0 beta 3
Saturnin Windows 0.40
GiriGiri Windows 0.6
Yabause Multi-platform 0.9.15
uoYabause Multi-platform V116 (0.5.5) (Android)
0.3.2 beta3 (iOS)


The most accurate Saturn emulator available. However, it has no graphical interface unless using an external Mednafen frontend or a libretro frontend and requires specific BIOS files to work. A quad-core Intel Haswell-microarchitecture CPU with a base frequency of >= 3.3GHz and a turbo frequency of >= 3.7GHz(e.g. Xeon E3-1226 v3) is recommended.[1]
Also very accurate. However, it is closed sourced and only for Windows.
It's open source, but far less developed and has more compatibility issues.
Its compatibility is on par with Yabause.

Emulator development[edit]

The complexity of the system has made the creation of a proper emulator for it rather difficult.

One very fast central processor would be preferable. I don't think all programmers have the ability to program two CPUs—most can only get about one-and-a-half times the speed you can get from one SH-2. I think that only 1 in 100 programmers are good enough to get this kind of speed [nearly double] out of the Saturn."Yu Suzuki reflecting upon Saturn Virtua Fighter development.[2]

The Saturn had technically impressive hardware at the time of its release, but its complex design, with two CPUs and six other processors, made harnessing this power difficult for developers accustomed to conventional programming. The biggest disadvantage was that both CPUs shared the same bus and were unable to access system memory at the same time. Making full use of the 4 kB of cache memory in each CPU was critical to maintaining performance. One example of how the Saturn was utilized was with Virtua Fighter's use of one CPU for each character.[2] Many of the Saturn's developers, such as Lobotomy Software programmer Ezra Dreisbach, found it difficult to develop for compared to the PlayStation because of its more complex graphics hardware.[3] In order to port Duke Nukem 3D and PowerSlave to the Saturn, Lobotomy Software had to almost entirely rewrite the Build engine to take advantage of the Saturn's unconventional hardware.[3] Third-party development was initially hindered by the lack of useful software libraries and development tools, requiring developers to write in assembly language to achieve good performance. During early Saturn development, programming in assembly could offer a two to fivefold speed increase over C language.[2] Sega responded to these criticisms by writing new graphics libraries which were claimed to help make development easier.[4] These libraries were presented as a new operating system by Sega of Japan.[4]

Unlike the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 which used triangles as their basic geometric primitive, the Saturn rendered quadrilaterals with forward texture mapping. This proved to be a hindrance because most of the industry's standard design tools were based on triangles, with independent texture UV coordinates specified per vertex. One of the challenges brought forth by quadrilateral-based rendering was problems with textured surfaces containing triangles. In order to make a triangular-shaped object, rendering had a fourth side with a length of zero. This technique proved problematic as it caused texture distortion and required careful reworking to achieve the desired appearance—Sega provided tools for remapping textures from UV space into rectangular tiles. These complications can be seen in the Saturn version of Tomb Raider.[3]


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Next Generation (magazine) issue 2, 1995
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Interview: Ezra Dreisbach. Curmudgeon Gamer (July 9, 2002)
  4. 4.0 4.1 So many 32-Bit Systems To Choose From Next Generation (magazine) issue 12, 1995