Even in the age of video game remakes, remasters, and VR, nothing can quite replace the joy that many experience from playing the classics. Retro gaming is alive and well, although the players from the 8-bit days are at least 30 years old now!

Whether you’re an old-head or new-age gamer who started on the PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch, there are some video games from the ‘90s that will simply never fade with time—Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI, for example.

With one of the most beloved game libraries of all time, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES) is home to all of these titles. The console was Nintendo’s first dabble into the world of 16-bit, coming late to the party after the TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis. Despite not arriving as timely as these consoles, the SNES quickly made an afterthought out of both.

Luckily, even for those who don’t own a pricey retro console, SNES games can still be enjoyed on PC—even within the browser. In this article, let’s take a look at the best SNES emulators to play games online.

Play Emulator

Play Emulator is a popular online emulation website that features multiple different consoles. Its SNES library is one of its most impressive, and getting started is very easy.

Play Emulator currently features 911 playable SNES games. It’s got all the classics, such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, EarthBound, and Super Metroid, but it also has some obscure titles that players may not find elsewhere, such as Same Game Mario.

Like Same Game Mario, many of the lesser-known titles are Japanese releases. A few more include Super Bikkuriman, Super Famista 5, and Gekisou Sentai Car Rangers.

After clicking on a game, it will begin loading in an SNES emulation frame sized at 640×480. Simply click the Run Game button and the ROM will begin downloading and initializing. Once loaded, it will begin playing as if the cartridge was placed into the console and turned on.

Here’s how Play Emulator’s controller settings are mapped to the keyboard by default:

  • Start: Enter
  • Select: Shift
  • Up: Up
  • Down: Down
  • Left: Left
  • Right: Right
  • Y: S
  • B: Z
  • A: X
  • X: C
  • L: A
  • R: D

Clicking outside of the emulation window will automatically pause gameplay, which is great if playing while doing something else (such as work).

When a game in the SNES emulator, a menu bar will appear at the bottom-left of the emulation frame when hovering the cursor over it. Here’s what these icons represent, from left to right:

  • Full-screen mode
  • Pause game
  • Change controller settings
  • Download state (saved game file)
  • Load state (saved game file)
  • Reset game
  • Enable/disable sound

Play Emulator is a complete solution to playing SNES games online, offering all of the major features most players want.

SNESLive

Unlike Play Emulator, SNESLive is an online emulation website built exclusively around the SNES. This allows for the website to cater specifically to the console and its games, offering a randomizer, a top 50 list, and playable games by genre.

SNESLive offers a smaller game library than Play Emulator, at just under 300, but it has less fluff—the games available, such as NBA Jam, Donkey Kong Country, and Mega Man 7, consist mostly of popular titles and the best SNES games of all time.

Each game’s page offers a full paragraph description of the game, and most also come with a YouTube video that either shows some of the game’s gameplay or offers a walkthrough or tips. Below this area of the screen, there are rows of related games.

The most significant difference between SNESLive and Play Emulator is that SNESLive’s SNES emulator is powered by Adobe Flash. Although nearing the end of Adobe’s official support for Flash, we’ve found that SNESLive’s player is smoother and less jittery than other platforms.

To begin playing a game, go to its page and click on the Play Now button within the emulation frame. From there, the game will begin downloading and immediately turn on.

SNESLive offers the standard menu options: Reset, pause, load/save state, and controller configuration. By default, this is the controller-to-keyboard setup:

  • Start: Enter
  • Select: Shift
  • Up: Up
  • Down: Down
  • Left: Left
  • Right: Right
  • Y: S
  • B: X
  • A: Z
  • X: A
  • L: Q
  • R: E

However, SNESLive supports one option that many other online SNES emulators don’t: Netplay. Netplay is a way to play multiplayer retro games with other players through a lobby-style online system. SNESLive asks for a player name and then, if the game supports it, connects the player to the netplay room list. The only problem is that SNESLive’s netplay community seems borderline nonexistent, as I’ve personally never found an active room.

While SNESLive’s game library falls short compared to Play Emulator, players may find that an SNES emulation platform powered by Flash offers performance benefits that make SNESLive the best choice of the two.

While there are dozens of online SNES emulator sites scattered across the web, many of them are the same, or a very similar, reskin of Play Emulator’s platform. Of them, Play Emulator has the most games, while SNESLive offers netplay and an alternative, sometimes smoother SNES emulator.

Do you have a favorite online SNES emulator that isn’t Play Emulator or SNESLive? If so, please leave us a comment below and let us know the benefits of it, as well as your favorite SNES games!