There are plenty of emulators that allow you to play Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) games in Ubuntu, but not all of them are equal. Many emulators prioritize speed over accuracy or accessibility over compatibility. The result is that most games work at more than acceptable framerates even on older computers.
Higan is considered the most accurate SNES emulator and will allow you to play the vast majority of titles for Nintendo’s retro console. The tradeoff for its increased accuracy and compatibility is that it’s much more demanding than alternatives, so it can stutter even on five-year-old PCs.
If you have a relatively new PC, though, and like the idea of having access to almost all titles ever made for SNES, presented as if they were running on an original console, read on.
If you are using one of the latest versions of Ubuntu, you will find Higan in its software center. Search for it using its name and install it like any other app.
After its installation completes, find it in Ubuntu’s main menu and launch it.
Loading Games in Higan
With Higan up and running, click on “Library -> Load ROM File … “
Locate the ROM of the game you wish to play in the requester that pops up. Note that Higan also supports zipped files, so you don’t have to uncompress your ROMs to load them. Select the file and click “Open.”
The game will load and run, and then you can theoretically play.
Practically, though, you can’t play yet. You still need to configure the input for this game.
Games made for the SNES were designed to be used with joypads, and in rare cases, peripherals like light guns. To be able to play SNES games in Higan, you have to map the controlling device you will be using to the inputs that games expect.
1. Choose “Settings -> Input … ” to open Higan’s control-mapping window.
2. Choose “Super Famicom” from the pull-down menu on the top left.
3. Select “Controller Port 1” from the middle pull-down menu.
4. Change the input to “Gamepad” from the third pull-down menu.
5. If you are using an actual joypad, map those buttons in a similar way to the original configuration for a more authentic gaming experience. If you’re going to only be using your keyboard, feel free to map them to whatever keys you prefer.
For the mapping, double-click the entry in the Mapping column next to the control’s name, and then press the input you want to map to it.
There is one more step before game-playing begins: You need to attach your (virtual) controller to the emulator. Notice the new menu that will have popped up next to “Library.” Higan supports multiple consoles, so this menu changes depending on the game loaded. Since you have loaded a game for SNES, this menu will now show “Super Famicom.”
Click on it and select “Controller Port 1 -> Gamepad.”
That’s it! Depending on the game loaded, you can start playing by pressing the buttons you marked to either Start, Select, A, B, X, or Y.
You don’t have to configure the rest of Higan’s options, but it’s worth mapping some useful hotkeys. Visit “Settings -> Hotkeys” to do that.
We consider the following to be the most useful of the bunch:
- Toggle Fullscreen
- Save Quick State
- Load Quick State
- Pause Emulation
Thanks to Higan, you can have access to most of SNES’s titles, presented as they’d run on the original hardware, almost as if you had connected the actual console to your monitor.