Nintendo Switch emulators

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Nintendo Switch
The Switch in its two forms, portable (above) and docked (below).
Developer Nintendo
Type Hybrid video game console
Generation Eighth generation
Release date 2017
Predecessor Wii U
For other emulators that run on Switch hardware, see Emulators on Switch.

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". A couple of months later, members of both the Citra and Dolphin teams announced the release of their own emulator written in c++, which was capable of booting some homebrew applications; within a couple of weeks yet another emulator named Ryujinx, written in c# by developer gdkchan, was released showing successful booting of commercial Switch games Puyo Puyo Tetris and Sonic Mania.


Name Platform(s) Latest Version FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
yuzu Windows Linux Nightly
Ryujinx Windows Linux Nightly
NSEmu Windows git
Mephisto Linux macOS git
CageTheUnicorn Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD git
Mobile / ARM
Skyline Android Nightly ~
Egg NS Android 4.0.5
Horizon Linux Linux N/A
yuzu (compatibility)
An open-source emulator made by many of Citra's developers. 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). This emulator currently offers early access builds to $5/month Patreon subscribers which allows them to utilize new features prior to their eventual release on the mainline build. One of yuzu's notable features is its disk-based shader cache for OpenGL, negating the need to compile shaders on the fly on every boot. Resolution scaler support was added in October 2021.
Ryujinx (compatibility)
An open-source emulator that's programmed in C#. It also supports resolution upscaling to 4K and beyond; custom upscaling/downscaling ratios are supported. Ryujinx now has a disk-based shader cache. Unlike yuzu, Ryujinx does not offer packaged early access builds; however work-in-progress features can still be tested by using Appveyor builds or building locally from unmerged pull requests. Separately, Ryujinx has released a closed source LDN-enabled preview build supporting local wireless multiplayer across the internet, as well as LAN mode compatibility on local networks with Switch consoles on supported games. As of March 2022, Vulkan API support is still being worked on. Ryujinx is able to load some applets included in the firmware (like the Mii maker), unlike yuzu.
Skyline (compatibility)
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. Many titles can go ingame with poor framerate and minor glitches, but the Skyline team has done great work at making 3D games have graphical output, boosting FPS in many titles, and fixing bugs in games. Because of the use of both Ryujinx and yuzu's code (with their permission) and working harder on the project, Skyline is improving at breakneck speeds.
Egg NS
Similar to DamonPS2, it is closed-source payware/malware emulator only for Android. It can hardly run any games and behaves very much like virus software. It is best to NOT use this emulator. Claimed the first spot in getting games running on Android. 81 titles are purported to work, and the rest are either not working or assumed to fail. There is significant controversy surrounding this emulator for the following reasons: the current version lacks any onscreen buttons and instead requires users to purchase a specific controller; it expects to run on a high-end device within the ballpark of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855/855+/865/865+; it was discovered to have violated GPLv2 licensing requirements by using code from yuzu and even Skyline in a disallowed manner. Made by the Chinese illegal market.

See also