Nintendo Entertainment System emulators

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The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit, third-generation console released in 1983 in Japan, where it was known as the Famicom.

The Famicom Disk System (FDS) is a Japan-only add-on which played special versions of games. It featured an extra FM sound channel, which allowed for richer sounds and music than is possible on the regular console.

Emulation for the NES is robust, with several high quality emulators for various systems.

Emulators[edit]

PC
Name OS Version FDS Libretro Core Accuracy Recommended
Mesen Windows 0.6.0 Cycle
puNES Windows, Linux 0.100 Cycle
Nestopia UE Windows, Linux 1.47 Cycle
Nintendulator Windows SVN Cycle
higan Windows, Linux, OS X 0.102 ✓ (as bnes v0.83) Cycle
BizHawk Windows 1.11.9.1 Cycle
nemulator Windows 4.01 High
FCEUX Multi-platform 2.2.3 Mid
FCEUmm Multi-platform 98.13mm Mid
MESS Multi-platform 0.181 Mid
FakeNES GT Windows, Linux, Mac, MS-DOS 0.59 b3 Mid
QuickNES Multi-platform v1 Low
HDNes Windows Git Low
Jnes Windows 1.1.1 Low
NESticle Windows, DOS x.xx DOS
0.42 Windows
Low
3DNES Windows, Mac, Linux v1.1.2 ?
Consoles
Name Operating System(s) Latest Version FDS Libretro Core Accuracy Recommended
NesterJ* PlayStation Portable 1.13 beta 2/AoEX Mid
Virtual Console Wii, 3DS, Wii U varies per system Minimal
Nestopia** PS3, 360, Wii 1.44 Mid
FCEUX Wii, Gamecube 2.2.1
3.3.2
Mid

* AoEX is based on NesterJ 1.12 Plus 0.61 RM, so it includes features like rewind mode, cheat codes support, rotated/mirrored screen, sepia palette, support to rare mappers (the pirate bootleg FF7 works on it), etc, but its compatibility is inferior to 1.13 beta 2.
** Only available on consoles as a libretro core (e.g. RetroArch).

Mobile
Name Operating System(s) Latest Version FDS Libretro Core Accuracy Recommended
Nestopia* Android, iOS 1.44 High
Jnes Android 1.4.8.55 Android Low
Nostalgia.NES Android 1.12.2

* Only available on mobile as a libretro core (e.g. RetroArch).


Comparisons[edit]

  • Mesen is the most accurate NES emulator according to tests.[1] It should be the emulator of choice for those who desire the utmost accuracy. Mesen is also very user-friendly and supports a lot of features that other emulators are missing such as: netplay, auto-updating, has good filters built in, loads both .zip, goodmerged files, etc.
  • PuNES is the second most accurate NES emulator according to the same tests.[2] That's not to say that it will generate an absolutely perfect experience compared to actual hardware. PuNES also supports rewinding in games.
  • Nestopia has a high ranking in those same tests.[2] Nestopia has issues with The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and doesn't display the status bar in Mickey's Safari in Letterland correctly among other problems. Nestopia Undead Edition (abv. Nestopia UE) is a fork of Nestopia meant to keep it alive and fixes the aforementioned bugs. This is generally the recommended standalone version. The libretro core for Nestopia is the Undead Edition in libretro form.
  • FCEUX scores fairly low in the same tests, despite being a recommended emulator on TAS Videos. The New PPU is more accurate than the Old PPU, however. The emulator is still useful, though, thanks to its robust Lua scripting features and incorporating FCEUmm into its feature set.
  • For official emulation, use Virtual Console. It is very accurate and has the backing of many of the developers, including Nintendo, Capcom, Square Enix and Namco. The Wii has a significantly larger library of NES games to choose from than the 3DS or Wii U, especially from third-party publishers.

There are many NES emulators not listed here, as the NES has more emulators than any other system, plus new ones are started all of the time. Only the ones that are well known or stand out in some way will be listed.

Emulation Issues[edit]

Overscan[edit]

Example of faulty visuals that are exposed when no overscan is cropped. Note the blank blue area to the left and the green garbage on the right. On NTSC CRT TVs, these areas may or may not be visible
Several NES games need the overscan to be cropped to look proper. There is however, seemingly no standard level of overcropping. Many games seem to require different levels of overcropping. SMB3 requires a lot of cropping, however the same level of cropping will obscure of the letters in the status bar in Castlevania games. It did not seem that there was standardization until the next generation of consoles.

Color Palette[edit]

Main article: Famicom Color Palette

Unlike consoles like the SNES, which natively generate the image in pure RGB, the Famicom normally generates and outputs an encoded NTSC video signal, which must then be decoded by the TV's built-in NTSC decoder. This means the resulting color palette often varies depending on the display's decoder. This is why NES games appear to have different colors on different TV sets. Famicom emulators have a variety of different palettes to choose from.

Hardware Variants[edit]

Famicom Disk System[edit]

A Japan-only peripheral using the disk format instead of cartridges, with unique games made for it, some of which were later ported to the regular NES/Famicom cartridge format with significant downgrades (especially the loss of enhanced FDS hardware audio).

You'll need the fdsbios file to emulate games made for this peripheral. Switching disk sides will require using "Eject/Insert Disk", "Switch Disk Side", then "Eject/Insert Disk" again.

VS System[edit]

An arcade system based on the NES released for the US. Most emulators have an option to let you "Insert Coin(s)".

ROMs made with VS System in mind played in the emulator's NES mode, or playing a NES ROM in the emulator's VS mode, will cause the colors to be totally garbled. This is either an issue with the emulator's configuration or the ROM's iNES header.

Famicom Box[edit]

Also re-released later as Sharp's FamicomStation. It's a bulky metal cube with a slot to insert money and tons of locks, which was distributed in select hotels and stores. It can hold at once up to 15 select Famicom releases, which much more lockout chips and pins with different behavior than usual, and support for only mapper 0 games. It also has unique boot screen for both models.

Neither the cartridges nor the BIOS have been dumped or tested if they work with an emulator, unlike with the Super Famicom Box which had its BIOS and most ROMs dumped.

Dendy[edit]

A pirate NES Famicom clone which was sold in Russia and Eastern Europe, with the blueprint reused for other Famiclones. Here's a link to a CC-subtitled Kinaman video for more details. It's a very quirky NTSC NES optimized for 50Hz, with other changes from the official PAL NES - though those differences break compatibility of Dendy-specific releases with most emulators.

MESS supports this console, and some other emulators (such as Mesen, puNES and FCEUX) introduced support for it in r3134, with the already included support for iNES 2.0 ROM headers (which include the option to mark a ROM region as PAL Dendy). The carts themselves can be played as long as the emulator supports broken cards.

Setting the "Family Keyboard" under "Input" might be needed for some of these Famiclones.

Resources[edit]

  • Nesdev Wiki - A place for all your NES programming, and NES emulator programming needs.
  • Nesdev Forum - Discussion of NES Wii Virtual Console accuracy.

References[edit]