Nintendo Switch Emulator Yuzu Gets A Huge FPS Performance Boost On Android

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If you know anything about hardware emulation, you'll expect that emulating the Nintendo Switch is a pretty tall task, and as far as it goes for "all hardware," you'd be right. However it's now possible to play a lot of Switch games on ARM64-based Android devices with better-than-real-hardware performance thanks to a new feature, the name of which will surely give away why it's such a big deal: Native Code Execution (NCE).

NCE is exactly what it sounds like: instead of emulating a different ARM64 processor on your ARM64 device, Yuzu is simply running the native ARM64 CPU instructions on your device's SoC. There's still a ton of emulation going on, particularly on the graphics side of things, but modern ARM devices are much, much faster than the 2016-vintage Tegra X1 that powers the Nintendo Switch, and there's ample performance available for many games to run at 60 FPS or better on the emulator.

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How many games? Well, we have to keep in mind that Yuzu Emulator's compatibility database only considers performance in broad strokes, so as long as game is playable on reasonable PC hardware, it's considered to be compatible. With that said, the website says that 644 of the 2699 tested Switch games run absolutely perfectly, and a further 813 games run "great". That's right around half of the Nintendo Switch library that is fully playable on the emulator with good performance.

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If you don't have a PC and are playing on Android, keep in mind that NCE doesn't help for all Switch games. To work, the title has to be developed for a 39-bit address space, not 32-bit or 36-bit. The Yuzu developers say that some older games which were developed targeting the now-deprecated 36-bit address space, such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild, were converted to 39-bit with updates, but not all games were so fortunate. For titles that don't target a 39-bit address space, the emulator will still work, it'll just revert to JIT recompilation, and depending on the game and your hardware, that may dumpster performance on your device.

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The FPS counter will show whether a game is running in JIT or NCE mode.

If you've never messed with Yuzu Emulator, but you're curious, know that you really don't need a powerful gaming PC to get it working. Yuzu delivers playable performance on even very demanding games like Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom when running on the ASUS ROG Ally, and that machine uses an integrated Radeon GPU. Performance in emulators is, as usual, much more restricted by CPU and memory subsystems than by the graphics hardware. After all, the games have to run on the Switch's GPU, which is downright puny by modern standards.

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This eight-player Super Smash Bros Ultimate session ran silky-smooth on the ROG Ally.

Keep in mind that whether you're emulating on a PC or a phone, you'll need to make sure that you're playing your own dumps. For Switch games, that means you need a modified Switch console that can perform the dumping process. Downloading ROMs from the internet and playing them, even if you own the hardware and the game, is technically still piracy under US law, and some places don't have the Fair Use protections that US citizens enjoy.

If you'd like to get started with Yuzu, head over to the emulator's Quickstart guide. It's a bit of a misnomer as the process includes hacking your Switch and then dumping games which is non-trivial both in terms of skill and in terms of time. However, it's certainly the quickest way to get started on legitimate Switch emulation.