Best NES Emulators for Retro Gaming

Mesen is widely regarded as one of the most accurate NES emulators out there. The program comes in two variants: vanilla Mesen for NES games and Mesen-S for SNES, Game Boy, and Game Boy Color titles. In addition, Messines is compatible with more than 290 titles.

As with other emulators, Messines includes a wide variety of extras that allow players to customize their experiences. The emulator even includes save states, video filters, and built-in cheat codes. In addition, if you want to try your hand at “romhacking” (ie modifying the game), Mesen includes extensive debugging tools so you can create your own personalized titles. But unlike other emulators that have more options than you know what to do with, Mesen is a breeze to download and set up. The first time you use the emulator, it runs a handy configuration wizard that guides you through configuring controls and folder locations. You can’t get much easier than that.


Modern game consoles are designed to be region free. You can buy a PlayStation 5 game in Japan and it will play just fine on the PS5 console you bought in America. Whether you understand Japanese or not is another matter. Unfortunately, older consoles aren’t as open-minded. For example, a NES cartridge from a European country will not work on a North American NES console. Fortunately, FCEUX does not suffer from this.

FCEUX is arguably as close as we’ll get to a bona fide one-size-fits-all NES emulator. Unlike Retroarch (which “cheats” by using the cores of various emulators), FCEUX supports NES ROMs of every kind, including European PAL, US NTSC, and Famicom. However, all that dedicated support comes at a small price. Unlike Retroarch, FCEUX’s color palette leaves a lot to be desired. The colors aren’t terrible, but they can’t compete with other emulators.

What FCEUX lacks in color accuracy, it makes up for in features. The emulator has all the bells and whistles that Mesen and Retroarch have, such as debugging and recording tools, but FCEUX also includes dedicated tool-supported speedrunning. Unlike other emulators, FCEUX even supports joysticks.

Nestopia UE

As mentioned, Retroarch uses the Nestopia UE core for NES ROMS. Of course, that factoid will probably make you wonder how that emulator functions on its own. Well, if the core of Nestopia UE was bad, gamers wouldn’t consider Retroarch one of the best emulators, would they?

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