How to Emulate the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) on Your PC
By Alex Garnett
Fifteen years ago, there was something of a competition between two SNES emulators: ZSNES and SNES9x. ZSNES was a bit faster, and SNES9x a bit more compatible, but both of them ran relatively happily on a 100MHz 486, and that was that.
Not much has changed since then. The latter remains a bit more compatible (now notable for being the easiest way to run the recently translated original Super Famicom release of Tactics Ogre, as well as Nintendo’s inventive, never-released Star Fox sequel). Getting SNES9x going is pretty simple: Just download the emulator, unzip the archive, run it, and select File –> Load Game.
Both apps support Internet multiplayer, cheats, and a number of image upscaling techniques. For image upscaling in SNES9x, you’ll want to use the Display Configuration menu, under Options. Chunky-pixel diehards should uncheck bilinear filtering and ensure that the Output Image Processing drop-down list is set to none. Futurists will want instead to start with an output processing setting like hq3x–which effectively triples the SNES’s resolution output from a native 256 by 224 to a still-reasonable 768 by 672–and experiment from there.
Perhaps the most important SNES emulator feature is a fast-forward button. After all, many SNES classics (Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, and the like) are role-playing games that move along at a glacial pace by today’s standards. Pop the fast-forward button, and your SNES emulator will hum the game along at double or triple speed on any vaguely modern computer–great for power-leveling.
For users who want superfaithful emulation, a third option is the somewhat infamous bsnes. While not for the faint of heart–it requires between ten to twenty times the CPU power that other SNES emulators do, and its somewhat stubborn creator has a tendency to revamp the entire GUI in each new release–it promises to deliver an SNES experience with uncannily bleepy and bloopy authenticity.