Though more than 33 years old, there’s still vast interest in the Nintendo Entertainment System and its iconic library of games. Just look at the mega-successful NES Classic Edition, the mini replica that packed in 30 of the console’s most popular games.
While the NES Classic is still available in stores today, but Nintendo isn’t planning on manufacturing additional units once current stock runs out. If you have one already, you may be happy to know that you can hack it to expand your library of 8-bit games.
But what if you can’t get your hands on an NES Classic? You can get some NES games through Nintendo Switch Online and others from the Nintendo 3DS eShop. You won’t be able to get any game you want, though.
Sadly, many NES games are virtually extinct due to high reseller costs or pure lack of availability. That’s where emulators for PC and mobile come into play. Emulators allow you to play basically any classic game your heart desires. Here are the best NES emulators for PC and Android.
Nintendulator is a great emulator for those who are looking for near-exact replicas of NES games. Emulation isn’t a perfect science. It’s hard to deliver the same experience that you’d find playing the original cartridge.
The developer behind Nintendulator has worked to remedy that with fairly frequent updates aimed at precise emulation. There are other emulators on this list with more features and better performance at times, but Nintendulator makes a valiant attempt at mirroring NES gameplay. It supports USB controllers, has Game Genie support, and even has the soft/hard reset features of the actual NES.
FCEUX (PC, Mac, Linux)
FCEUX is one of the more popular NES emulators. And for good reason. After downloading FCEUX, all you have to do is open it and load a ROM. If you want to do more than simply revisit an old classic, FCEUX has plenty of features that make it an excellent all-in-one emulator.
From debugging tools to tool-assisted features for speedruns, FCEUX lets you do far more than just play retro games as they were originally intended. FCEUX is the culmination of several previous emulators of similar names. Though its most recent version released in 2016, FCEUX remains one of the most reliable and easy-to-use NES emulators around. FCEUX is available for PC, Mac, and Linux.
Nestopia UE (PC, Android)
Just how good is Nestopia? Well, more than ten years have passed since development stopped for this NES emulator, and it’s still on our list. With RetroArch, a front-end UI for emulators, you can download the Nestopia “core” to enjoy the official version of this excellent emulator. Admittedly, RetroArch is somewhat hard to get the hang of.
Thankfully, there’s another option: Nestopia UE. The “Undead Edition” is a stand-alone emulator that carries on what Nestopia started. FCEUX has more features for those who want to get into speedrunning and ROM hacking, but Nestopia UE and the RetroArch core of the original are still great options.
Mesen (Windows, Linux)
Though still technically in beta, Mesen has quickly become one of the most impressive NES emulators available. It supports every game for the NES and includes a bevy of features that will interest enthusiasts.
Along with video recording and debugging tools for speedrunning, Mesen allows overclocking, multiple video filters, a rewind feature, various sound effects, and even Netplay for online gaming. Mesen is one of the most accurate emulators around as well, rivaling the aforementioned Nintendulator. Look for Mesen to get even better over time, as it receives consistent updates.
For mobile users, look no further than Nostalgia.NES. This Android-based emulator was designed using FCEUX, so it’s essentially a portable version of that tried and true emulator. Nostalgia.NES has a clean interface for touchscreen controls, but it also has a really cool feature that allows for up to four players to game wirelessly using separate Android devices as controllers.
You can also use standard Bluetooth Android gamepads if you aren’t a fan of touchscreen controls. Nostalgia.NES supports save states, rewinding, and does a pretty darn good job at emulating the NES Zapper for games like Duck Hunt. Before you download Nostalgia.NES, make sure you have a microSD card in your phone. All ROMs must be loaded onto the card in order to play.
Disclaimer: While downloading and sharing emulators is perfectly legal, downloading ROMs BIOS files is illegal, even if you own a physical copy of the game. This list is meant to be used as a reference. We do not advocate illegally downloading games. Nintendo also recently won a $12 million lawsuit against the operators two ROM sites.