The original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of the most beloved retro consoles in gaming. It can be hard to find one of these old units with the games you want to play, so emulation comes in handy. Thankfully there are a wide variety of NES emulators that work with Windows 10.
Video game enthusiasts who want to experience everything the NES has to offer should start here. Most of these emulators are download and go, though a few of them have extra set up steps.
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RetroArch is a frontend GUI for emulators and game engines. It doesn’t emulate anything itself, but it has an attractive interface for interacting with multiple emulators.
RetroArch even features custom shaders and netplay so you can experience what these old games looked like on a CRT monitor.
The RetroArch netplay creates a local network to connect people to play their favorite NES multiplayer games on modern systems.
The user interface is designed to resemble the PSP and hooks into many of the NES emulators listed below.
RetroArch is the best starting place for gamers who are new to emulation and want a polished experience. Once it is set up there is virtually no hassle in adding emulators and ROMs to RetroArch.
FCEUX is four emulators in one. It is capable of playing NES, Famicom, Famicom Disk System, and Dendy games. The emulator is entirely region-free and supports NTSC, PAL, and NTSC-PAL hybrid formats.
FCEUX is an excellent choice if you want to experience NES games that never released outside of Japan. If you like debugging and hacking game ROMs, FCEUX also supports ROM-hacking, map-making, and Lua scripting. FCEUX is also relatively small if hard drive space is a concern.
Jnes is a NES emulator that has been translated to over 20 languages. If you need an emulator with support for multiple languages, you should start here. Jnes focused on compatibility with North American and European games, but many Japanese games work as well.
Jnes is available on Windows and Android, making it an ideal NES emulator for people who want to play games on the go. Jnes is in active development, and the Android version has been completely overhauled to support Jelly Bean and higher.
Nestopia is an NES emulator that has been around since the early days of the internet. The current version is Nestopia Undead Edition (UE) that is a fork of the original source code. Nestopia UE features several enhancements and support for new platforms.
Nestopia UE works on Windows, macOS, and Linux. This fork marks the first time Nestopia has supported multiple PC operating systems. This NES emulator was a fan favorite for years, so it is nice to see it is back in active development after the original project forked last year.
Nintendulator is an open source NES emulator that has been in development since 2004. A pretty beefy computer is needed to run the emulator at full speed because it can emulate certain behaviors other emulators leave out.
One of those features is complete support for Game Genie codes and customizable controllers. AVI capturing and a debugger are also included for advanced users. Nintendulator also supports battery-backed RAM saves, meaning it doesn’t need Administrator permissions to run.
Mesen NES emulator claims to be one of the most accurate emulators on this list. It features high compatibility with most games, but Mesen goes well beyond that. NES, Famicom, Famicom Disk System, Dendy, VS System, NSF, and NSFe emulation are all supported with this emulator.
General features include save states, rewinding, AVI recording, overclocking and support for Game Genie cheat codes. Game files can also be left in .zip format to save space for large libraries of NES games.
Mesen is one of the newest NES emulators and offers a complete modern experience. Advanced emulation fans should start with Mesen since it is a complete package for most of the NES/Famicom variant systems.
RockNES is an old emulator that hasn’t been updated in a while. It features basic emulation features and generates a config file that can change the sound, video, and controller support.
Most of the emulators on this list are a better choice for RockNES, but it does work on older systems. Windows XP, ME, and Windows 7/8 users might appreciate this NES emulator.
Most of the emulators on this list are better suited to NES emulation than RockNES. It would be a disservice not to mention this popular emulator for people who use older operating systems, though. Pass this one up if you’re already using Windows 10, there are many better NES emulators on this list.
Despite the name, NESBox can handle NES, SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, and Game Boy Advance ROMS. NESBox features a save state system, local multiplayer, and the ability to map controller buttons. The only things you need to use NESBox are ROM files and a OneDrive account.
This is the only NES emulator on the list that doesn’t require you to download an .exe file. If you feel uncomfortable downloading an emulator but still want to play your ROMs, give NESBox a try.
The SNES9x emulator is the best option for emulating Super Nintendo (SNES) games on Windows. The emulator has been around since the late ’90s and continues to be in active development. SNES9x has been ported to multiple platforms and supports Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.
SNES9x features high compatibility with SNES games with NTSC, PAL, and NTSC-PAL hybrids. It is also a good choice if your system can’t handle a more accurate multi-platform emulator like higan.
Bizhawk is an emulator designed to be used by speedrunners and other gamers who need tool-assisted runs. This emulator takes the most set up out of all of the emulators on this list because you need a firmware dump for each system to use it properly.
BizHawk supports many more systems than just the NES. With proper firmware dumps, it can handle not only the NES/SNES but also Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and the Sega Saturn.
It is the best all-purpose emulator on this list if you don’t mind a little additional set up to get it working correctly. BizHawk is a must for many speedrunners playing Nintendo 64 games that rely on glitches to progress through the run.