Emulation has really grown big in the past decade – more and more consoles are getting emulated onto PCs and Android smartphones as well, lately; as a matter of fact, just about every console, ranging from the old school arcade machines, that we used to barely be able to reach standing on our tiptoes, all the way to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox, has at least one emulator for PC. Nintendo’s successor to the portable, handheld consoles, the hybrid, half-portable Nintendo Switch is no exception – the Yuzu emulator has joined the fray.
A younger brother of Citra, the Nintendo 3DS emulator, coming from the same developer team, Yuzu was born in 2018, being significantly younger than his sister. It’s written in C++, has official releases for both Windows and Linux, with the macOS version being unofficial right now, after Apple dropped support for OpenGL, subsequently causing the dev team to abandon that version; however, after the experimental Vulkan version of Yuzu was made, it’s possible to make a macOS version, since it’s a free, open-source program.
Yuzu has, sadly, had quite a bumpy ride with online play recently – in early November, shortly after introducing the online play through Raptor Network, it was indefinitely removed, followed by an apology from the developer team and without a specific reason stated, but it was most likely due to the grey legal area that emulation is in, especially as Raptor Network allowed people to play online without connecting to the actual Nintendo Switch servers. It’s one thing to allow online play on consoles that have been discontinued, like Nintendo 3DS, but Switch is still alive and well, so it would probably attract the attention of Nintendo – as long as people have a powerful enough PC, they would never have to buy the actual console.
Despite being rather young, Yuzu has a pretty stellar list of games that are playable from start to finish with virtually no issues and an equally stellar list of games that are fully playable with minor issues. There is still a lot of games that can’t get past the main menu phase, but it’s not discouraging, seeing how many games can be enjoyed to the full extent. We’ll list some of them below.
Cuphead is a 1930s cartoons-inspired run ‘n’ gun game developed by Studio MDHR in 2017. Although there is a PC version of this game, its Nintendo Switch release has been emulated on Yuzu almost perfectly. It’s fully playable with no glitches whatsoever and no need for workarounds of any kind. In Cuphead, you control one of the two main characters, brothers Cuphead and Mugman, that fight with various enemies, Super Mario-style, in order to repay their debt to the Devil. The difficulty of the game is legendary, and YouTube is full of rage compilations of people losing their minds over this game. It’s extremely fun to play, though!
It runs on averagely 30 fps, with the usage of both GPU and CPU being around 40% on a rather high-end configuration. Keep in mind that the emulation of modern consoles requires pretty powerful PCs.
Snipperclips is a Switch-exclusive co-op puzzle game released in 2017 by SFB Games. It requires two to four players to play together as Snip and Clip by overlapping, cutting pieces of each other (sounds gruesome, but it isn’t!) and using them to complete various puzzles, such as carrying things, popping balloons, fitting into certain spaces, etc. It’s a great party game! It works almost flawlessly, on average 60 fps with tendencies to drop to 30 and some audio distortions, but nothing game-breaking.
This is another puzzle game exclusive to Nintendo Switch. It has a single-player mode, as well as a co-op mode (that can also be played by one player by switching from Qbby, the boy, and Qucy, the girl box). The main mechanic is creating chains of boxes that help the players reach their goals as bridges, extended hands, platforms, etc. There’s also the third campaign in which you play a rectangular character (as opposed to the former two, who are square), Qudy, that can rotate vertically and horizontally, as well as create rectangular boxes. It’s a fun game, whether single or dual player, with adorable graphics and innovative puzzles and level designs. It runs on stable 60 fps, almost perfectly, having only slight audio glitches here and there.
This 2018 release is a real gem among fighting games, partly because it’s a jumble of characters from all the famous Nintendo franchises (and some others, including Konami, Capcom, Sega, etc.), such as Link from Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Banjo and Kazooie, Joker (from Persona 5), and so on. It’s a real hit at parties because of its chaotic nature of six players trying to knock each other out of the arena/platform, and also multiplayer support (in this case, only the local area network type).
It seems to require a particularly strong PC to run on high settings, with the average fps of 55-60, and GPU and CPU usage of 60-65% and 40-55%, respectively.
Early Access Bonus: Good Job!
This game isn’t on the official Yuzu release yet, but it is playable if you have the Early Access subscription on Patreon. It’s released in 2019 by Paladin Studios for Nintendo Switch. It did a really good job (pun intended): it got good reviews (not stellar, but still good) and it’s a rather innovative puzzle game – it requires of the protagonists, a son of a CEO of some megacorporation, to ascend through the office hierarchy by being as destructive and weird as possible about doing seemingly mundane tasks; the player even gets higher grades the more damage they cause to the environment in the level. It seems to be running pretty smoothly on constant 60 fps, with no noticeable glitches or stutters.
These were some of the games that are currently in the best state on the Yuzu emulator. The complete list of compatible games and their labels based on the playability state can be found on Yuzu’s official website. Judging by how well-off Citra is, it’s not wrong to expect great things from this developer team, and it seems good times for this emulator are yet to come.