How to Play Games with Nintendo Switch Emulator on Windows PC

Emulators are a fun way to play older console games as well as newer games on a PC. Gamers have been using emulators to play their favorite games for three decades. Read on to learn how to use a Nintendo Switch emulator to play games on your Windows PC.

What is an emulator?

An emulator is a computer application used to emulate an operating system or a different operating system. Apart from games, emulators are also used to run legacy software that is incompatible with modern computer hardware.

However, video game emulators really became popular in the 90s so people could play their old console games on a PC and relive their memories.

Empty your Nintendo Switch games

To play Nintendo Switch games on your PC, you must already own a Nintendo Switch and games you want to emulate. It is not advisable to download the game files from a torrent site. Downloading anything from a torrent site is dangerous and illegal.

Before you can dump games from the Nintendo Switch, you must first download custom firmware for your Nintendo Switch to essentially modify your handheld console. To do this, follow the steps below.

  1. Turn off your Nintendo Switch and remove the SD card.
  2. Connect the SD card to your computer by inserting it into the microSD card slot or by using an SD card reader.
  3. Download Atmosphere and fusee.bin.
Download Atmosphere and Rocket
  1. Also download the latest firmware from the Darthsternie Firmware Archive using “Mega” or “Archive.org”.
Firmware download for Ryujinx from Darthsternie Firmware Archive
  1. Unzip the firmware, Atmosphere and fusee files from the .zip folder and copy them to your SD card.

To transfer a Nintendo Switch game from your Switch to your PC, follow the instructions below:

  1. To download NXDump tool.
NXDump Tool Download
  1. Copy the NXDump tool file to your MicroSD card.
  2. Eject your SD card and put it back in your Nintendo Switch.
  3. Open “Gallery” and locate “NXDump Tool”.
Open NXDump Tool on Nintendo Switch
  1. Launch it by pressing the “A” button on your joystick.
  2. When the NXDump tool window opens, select “Dump contents of installed SD/eMMC card”.
Option selection "Empty the contents of the installed SD/eMMC card"
  1. Select the game on your Nintendo Switch that you want to dump, then access the game menu by selecting “RomFS Options”.
Selection of "RomFS Options" in the NXDump tool menu
  1. Select the “RomFS Section Data Dump” in the next window and allow some time for all your game files to dump.
Selection of "Dump data from RomFS section" possibility to start the emptying process
  1. Close the gallery app and turn off your Switch.
Turn off the Nintendo Switch
  1. Remove the SD card from the Switch and connect it to your computer.
  2. Go to the “Switch” folder and open the “nxdumptool” folder.
Open the "NXDump Tool" folder inside the "To change" case
  1. In the “nxdumptool” folder, open the “RomFS” folder.
Opening the RomFS Folder
  1. When you see all the games you have dumped, copy them to your computer.

How to Use Nintendo Switch Emulator to Play Games on PC

To play your Nintendo Switch games on your Windows PC, you will need to download an emulator. There are currently two free open source emulators that can emulate Switch games: Ryujinx and Yuzu. Both have their pros and cons and work the same way.

You also need a powerful PC to emulate Nintendo Switch games. Without it, it’s likely that both emulators will struggle no matter how good they are. Follow the steps below when using Ryujinx for how quick it is to get up and go.

  1. Go to Ryujinx official website and click the “Download” button.
Opening the Download section to download Ryujinx
  1. Click “Download” under “Windows” to download the installation file.
Download Ryujinx for Windows OS
  1. Choose a location to save it and click the “OK” button.
  2. Navigate to where you saved the downloaded file and extract the folder.
  3. Double-click the “Ryujinx” application file to launch it.
Launching the Ryujinx App
  1. Minimize the Ryujinx Console, then click “File” and select “Open Ryujinx Folder” in the Ryujinx Launcher.
Selection of "Open Ryujinx Folder" option
  1. Open the System folder and check if you have “prod.keys”. In most cases you should have it, but if you don’t, look for it in your file browser.
Confirm if Prod keys are available in Ryujinx system folder
  1. Access the Darthsternie firmware archive and download the latest Ryujinx firmware.
  2. Update Ryujinx firmware to the latest version by clicking “Tools”, then selecting “Install firmware from XCI or ZIP”.
Install firmware on Ryujinx by selecting the option "Install firmware from XCI or ZIP"
  1. Select the firmware .zip file you downloaded. Click “Open,” then click “Yes” on the confirmation screen.
Installing the latest firmware on Ryujinx
  1. After updating the firmware, click “Options”, then “Settings”.
Opening the Ryujinx settings menu
  1. Click on the “Input” tab.
Opening the Input tab in the Ryujinx settings menu
  1. Select player controller settings, then configure your keyboard/controller. By default, the keyboard is selected and configured. If you want to use an Xbox or a third-party gamepad, connect it to your computer and set it up, then click “Save”.
Configuring Ryujinx Controls
  1. You can change the resolution of the game by clicking on “Graphics”, then selecting the resolution under “Resolution scale”.
Configuring Ryujinx Graphics Settings
  1. Return to “General” and click the “Add” button under “Game Directories”. Open the location where your games are saved and add them by selecting the “Add” button.
Add games to Ryujinx by selecting the "To add" option under "game directories"
  1. Click “Apply -> Save”.
  2. Start playing your Nintendo Switch game on your PC.

How to update your games or add downloadable content

To update your game or add downloadable content, you must have already saved the downloadable content or game update to your computer before following the steps below.

  1. Right click on the game and select “Manage Title Updates” to update your game or select “Manage DLC” to add DLC.
Update the game or add DLC
  1. In the pop-up window, click “Add” and open the location where the update or DLC file is saved.
Update a game by selecting the "Manage title updates."
  1. Click on the update to select it, then select the “Open” button.
  2. Click “Save” for the game to update instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to dump games and imitate them?

In the United States, it is acceptable to dump a Nintendo Switch game you own and use it with an emulator on Windows, as this is considered fair use. However, the rules for saving your own games may differ in other countries. Game emulation is, of course, legal, but you shouldn’t use a ROM you don’t own.

What are the disadvantages of an emulator?

Emulators have many advantages but also disadvantages. They are slow, resource intensive and may lack some features or functions of the original program.

Will emulators harm my computer?

It depends. If you download an emulator from an untrustworthy website, the emulator might be infected with a virus. But generally, most emulators are safe and virus-free.

Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Abdul Moiz.

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