Nintendo Switch emulators

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Nintendo Switch
Nintendo-switch.png
Switchdocked.png
The Switch in its two forms, portable (above) and docked (below).
Developer Nintendo
Type Home video game console
Generation Eighth generation
Release date 2017
Predecessor Wii U
Emulated ~

The Nintendo Switch is an eighth-generation hybrid gaming console released by Nintendo on March 3, 2017 and retailed for $299.99. During its development, the Switch was known as the NX (short for NeXt or Nintendo "Cross") and was widely speculated up until its announcement. Aside from specialized components unique to the console, the hardware is more or less off-the-shelf, being built around a semi-custom variant of Nvidia's Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip which was also used on a number of Android devices. The Switch contains 4 ARM Cortex-A57 CPUs and 4 ARM Cortex-A53 CPUs running at 1.020 GHz with 4GB of RAM and a proprietary GPU codenamed GM20B.

While Nintendo intended to step up the security of the console, vulnerabilities were still found early on that allowed tons of system files to be dumped, including dumps of games in the form of romfs.istorage archives, an exefs folder, and license files. These game dumps eventually got shared online by scene groups except for their licenses but were missing important files to run and even if they had been completed, there were no custom homebrew apps let alone solutions to load unofficial game dumps for the system. A number of prominent hacking teams (starting with shuffle2 and fail0verflow in collaboration) all came across a new exploit independently of each other that allowed complete control over the system, later officially recognized by Nvidia as CVE-2018-6242.

A "debugging emulator" for the Nintendo Switch, CageTheUnicorn (now Mephisto), popped up not long after the first components were dumped. It was designed to emulate sysmodules with "no support for graphics, sound, input, or any kind of even remotely performant processing [...] by design". It was then revealed that members of both the Citra and Dolphin teams were already working on their own emulator in secret, followed by another developer releasing an emulator named Ryujinx.

Emulators[edit]

Name Platform(s) Latest Version Active Recommended
PC / x86
yuzu Windows Linux Nightly ~
Ryujinx Windows Linux macOS Nightly ~
NSEmu Windows Git
SphiNX Windows ✗ (WIP)
Mephisto Linux macOS v1.2.1, Git
CageTheUnicorn Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD Git
Mobile / ARM
Egg NS Android 1.0.3
Skyline Android 0.3
yuzu (compatibility)
An open-source emulator made by many of Citra's developers. It advanced so quickly the team had many games working fully in a matter of months. As it is a hard fork of Citra it shares many of its traits, namely cross-platform support and the use of OpenGL (though unlike Citra it also supports Vulkan). Top-tier hardware is required to get decent speeds in most games at the moment; many 2D games now render graphics properly and at good speeds, many 3D games are playable with some even reaching full speed, and a lot of exclusives are playable already but can't be considered perfect yet. The development team continually works to improve compatibility and accuracy, and offers builds that introduce new features early through Patreon.
Ryujinx (compatibility)
Another open-source emulator that's programmed in C#. Despite the differences in code, the Ryujinx team shares a lot of information with the yuzu team. Most 2D games are now booting and running at comfortable speeds and some 3D games are playable. It also supports resolution upscaling to 4K, though at a severe performance penalty.
SphiNX
A closed-source emulator that's been in the works since late July/August 2018. It can boot some homebrews as well as the title screen of one commercial game. Seems to be a one person project for personal training more than a fully fledged community project.
Skyline
An open-source compatibility layer for ARMv8 Android devices. For the sake of convenience, the team bills the app as an emulator, but it functionally works like Wine, running almost all of the original code on bare metal except for what interfaces with the rest of the system. At the moment, Skyline does not have any graphical output, but some games do boot with audio.
Egg NS
Claimed the first spot in getting games running on Android. 81 titles are known to work, and the rest are either not working or assumed to fail. That's about it for positive things; the current version lacks any onscreen buttons, and instead forces users to purchase a specific controller. It also expects to run on a high-end device within the ballpark of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855/855+/865/865+. Combine all that with users needing to log into their service to use the emulator, and you can imagine there was quite a controversy. The fact that it was eventually discovered to have lifted code straight from yuzu (which uses a license with stronger copyleft conditions) did not help.

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