How To Live Your Childhood With ZSNES

A lot of gamers grew up in the early nineties when the Super NES was king. We still consider the SNES to be the best RPG platform of all time. With titles like Final Fantasy, Mario RPG, Legend of Mana, Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart, Zelda and many many others the SNES remains a great platform.

But, over the years, our Super Nintendos will break down and stop working. Must all those beloved masterpieces fall into disuse and disappear from the hearts of gamers?

Enter the Emulator. An emulator is a program that runs on your machine which can, in turn, run programs built for other machines. In plain English: you can play SNES games on your computer using an emulator.

The law is somewhat cloudy on this issue because playing SNES games through an emulator necessarily means making a copy of the original game. However, it is legal to make a backup copy of media (i.e. games) that you already own.

So, where was I? To play SNES games on your computer you’ll need an emulator: ZSNES.

Installing it is easy as can be:

1. Install it through your package manager: sudo apt-get install zsnes

2. Run it from your system menu under “Games”

3. Relive the memories.

Yes, I actually have a copy of the Chrono Trigger cartridge. No, I don’t actually have the ROM- I grabbed this pic from the internet.

Chrono Trigger

I'm falling back in love with my copy of Chrono Trigger


Q: Playing my old games on my PC is nice, but can I get my old controller to work with it?

A: That’s a tricky one. There’s at least three ways to do it:

  1. Buy a SNES-USB adapter:
  2. Hardware mod your SNES controller into a USB controller: follow this guide.
  3. Or, if you’ve got a serial port, then you can mod your SNES controller to go through that: follow this other guide.

Q: Why is the screen so small, can’t I run this full-screen?

A: The screen seems small because ZSNES defaults to run at the native resolution of CRT Televisions. On your ultra-mega-super-high resolution computer monitor this seems small in comparison. The bad news is that the SNES games were made specifically to run at Television resolutions– so they’ll never run at anything else. The good news is that you can blow up your window, or even make it fullscreen.

  1. Hit <esc> on your keyboard to bring up the ZSNES system menu.
  2. Go under the video settings and choose one of the options that says “F” next to it.

Q: This business about ROMs being legal if you actually own a copy of the game seems kinda vague and fishy to me. Where’d you hear it?

A: It was a landmark case that the courts delt with ’round the time of the 8-track. Check it out here: Wikipedia- Fair Use, Nintendo- Absolutely Illegal, Some Guy- Tricky Loophole, Government- Legalese, Government- Legal to Archive

So it’s very complicated. The gist of it is that you may make an archival copy of something you own, but you may not download it from a P2P network like Bittorrent. On that note, I’ll point out that several gadgets exist to make ROMs. They’re called ROM Dumpers: Cartridge Dumper Workshop, you may need to build one yourself. I’ll note that you can buy a soldering iron for about $6.00 and breadboarding parts from Fry’s Electronics for about a dollar per part.


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