This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK.
For whatever reason you turn to them, emulators have always offered a gaming experience that was almost as good as the real thing, although not quite perfect. But the developers of Yuzu, a Nintendo Switch emulator for the PC, recently released an update that allows games like Super Mario Odyssey to run at a full 60 frames per second, which is the same performance as you’ll get on the actual Switch hardware.
Getting classic games from older consoles like the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo to run perfectly through a software emulator actually requires a significant amount of processing power as the CPU has to emulate the behaviour of the processors and other chips those consoles relied on. As a result the emulated experience is never a perfect recreation. Often times there are frame rate issues or weird sound artefacts that pop up, which is why companies like Analogue build physical hardware that behaves exactly like those old processors did to flawlessly emulate games. But since throwback consoles like the Mega Sg cost £145, and most software emulators are free to download, gamers are usually happy to live with a few compromises.
It’s a bit of a different story with modern consoles, however. They often use custom chips based on the same CPU and graphics card architecture as PCs do, so there’s the potential for emulated games to perform much better. Software emulators still don’t offer a gaming experience that 100 per cent matches what consoles like the Switch can do, but as a recent update to Yuzu proves, they’re getting real close.
YouTuber BSoD Gaming tried out the latest Yuzu release and was impressed to find that through most of Super Mario Odyssey, the emulator was able to spit out frames at 60 frames per second, with the frame rate only slightly dropping in some of the game’s more complex levels. But its worst performance is now actually better than the emulator’s previous best, and the same performance boost was seen with the Switch game Pokémon Let’s Go.
It’s an impressive accomplishment given Yuzu was only first able to play Super Mario Odyssey last July, and a year later it’s boasting performance stats that rival the actual Switch. But at the same time, the emulator has to be optimised and tweaked for every Switch game it wants to support, and that can be a long and time-consuming process. If you’re really chomping at the bit to play the latest and greatest from Nintendo, you’re better off dropping £200 on the Switch Lite and just get on with it, instead of hoping your gaming PC has the necessary horsepower to fake it.