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A Tutorial For Nestopia, An NES Emulator That Prides On Accuracy

Last update: Oct 2, 2020

Tutorial For Nestopia

It is written in C++. Compared to the more popular emulators in the scene, Nestopia strives for accuracy in emulating clock cycles. Compared to FCEUX, another NES emulator popular among users, Nestopia offers customisation of colours, sounds and graphics of the emulated software. It also supports the emulation of custom controllers such as Power Glove.

Nestopia began development in June 2003, and the final open sourced version was published in June 2008. However, it is still a great emulator for users to get into nowadays, due to its strong port and ability to run on a large variety of systems.

Why should you use Nestopia?

FCEUX, Nesticle, Nestopia, Higan, etc. Which one among these is the best? Simply put, there is no one answer. Each emulator has their own benefits and drawbacks, and it is up to the user to decide which one fits their usage. For instance, Higan is a great emulator which is cycle accurate. This means that the emulation of games is done with 100% accuracy. This is great for modders and speedrunners who want as close to an original experience as possible. However, emulators like Nestopia and FCEUX provide some useful features that can help solve some issues with older hardware emulation. RetroArch is a great all in one emulation system which might be complex for new users.

How does one go about installing Nestopia on their system?

Nestopia supports almost all major computer operating systems out there, and the installation process is very simple. After downloading the .zip file from the official website, one has to extract the .zip file into a folder. To open Nestopia, click on the nestopia.exe icon and you are done!

How to setup keyboard or gamepad support on Nestopia?

Nestopia supports a variety of control options such as keyboard, controller, joystick, touchpad, etc. To get started, go to Options > Input...


Next, you will arrive at the screen shown below. The highlighted “Pad 1” refers to player 1 on the emulation software. The red arrows under the key tab point to the buttons on the keyboard that are bound to the NES controller. You can change any of these bindings to your liking by double clicking on them in the “Mapping” tab, and pressing the new binding. Set All allows the user to reconfigure each button using a step-by-step process.

step-by-step process

How to load an NES game on Nestopia?

After obtaining some NES Roms (which will be discussed further ahead), one should load the ROM into the emulator to initiate the software. To do that, go to File > Open.... This will open up a file explorer. Click on the folder where the ROMs reside and then click Open to launch the game immediately!

What are screen filters and should you use them?

Screen filters are scalers that upscale the emulation graphics. In other words, filters help increase the quality of the game graphics and this can be done through a variety of methods, some of which are looked into here. To access filters, go to Options > Video. The screen shown below will appear, and the desired filter can be selected and saved from here.

screen filters

What do each of these filters do?

Well, each filter has their own algorithm and method to upscale the image and improve quality. Let’s look through some of the available screen scalers:

  1. Scanlines: Remember old CRT televisions? Well, scanlines were a part of old display technology, so this filter implements scanlines into the graphics to imbue old school nostalgia and reduce jagged lines!
  3. NTSC: This filter attempts to emulate the fuzziness of old NTSC television.
  4. ScaleX: This is a more advanced implementation which involves anti-aliasing (rounding of jagged lines) without causing much blurring.
  5. Hqx:A slightly different implementation of ScaleX which involves smoothing or rounding of jagged pixels. This is the best option for users who want the highest image quality out of NES titles.
  6. xBR: This image scaling implementation involves heavy anti-aliasing to remove any jagged lines/borders, at the cost of adding blur around edges. This is probably the best option for games with a more cartoony aesthetic.

What are save states and how do they work in Nestopia?

Save states are an important feature in modern emulators. They save the exact state of the game and allow the user to load to it instantaneously. This is a big boon in NES emulation, especially since a majority of games from that era did not support saving. A user can utilise save states by a keyboard shortcut or simply going to File and clicking the appropriate option.

save states

Users have two options for save states: quick saving and regular save states. The difference between the two types is that quick saves cannot be named and have their own keybind whereas regular save states can have unique names for posterity and keeping track of it.

Additional features

The features mentioned above are standard among emulators. However, there are some additional features that Nestopia provides that are listed below. Taking a deeper look into them will provide a new light into why Nestopia is quite popular.

Fast forwarding

Nestopia has a feature where the user can fast forward the game. This is particularly useful in games with long unskippable cutscenes. By default, Tab is the button assigned, however this can be reassigned in the Input menu.

Using Game Genie/Action Replay

Well, NES games have a notoriety for being hard to beat, employing the old school arcade mentality of game over/repeat. Game Genies and Pro Action Replays were tools invented in the 80s to give the user the ability to modify the game and cheat. Nestopia has the capability to support such modifications to the game. Firstly, go to Options > Cheats >Add. In this screen, the user can add the necessary code under the Game Genie/Action Replay tab and save it. The code will be applied on a restart of the ROM, and Nestopia also provides the ability to swap between different codes and disable them at the comfort of the user. No longer should you suffer in The Legend of Zelda without hearts!

Using Game Genie/Action

Where does one find Game Genie codes?Well, Google is a great start. There are tons of websites such as GameGenie.com which provide codes that the user can input to modify their game state.


Screenshots are an integral part of emulation. Whether you are capturing the high score in Frogger, or lamenting about how close you were finishing Contra, getting a photo of that screen is essential. By default, Alt + E should capture a screenshot and save it in the Nestopia sub-directory. However, this can be reassigned in the settings like other keybinds. You can find the screenshots in a folder called “screenshots”.

Removing the sprite limit

Did you know that the NES had a sprite limit on screen? This means that a game with tons of action on the screen tends to cause flickering artifacts on the screen. The main culprit of this issue was the weak computing power of NES devices. Well, guess what? Our computers nowadays are exponentially stronger than NES consoles, and Nestopia has an option in the settings to disable sprite flickering. Or you could disable it, to fully immerse in the nostalgia! Just go to Machine > Options > No Sprite Limit to enable or disable it.

Removing the sprite limit

Where do you find ROMs for Nestopia?

Legally, a user is supposed to source ROMs from cartridges in their possession. In reality, this is an almost impossible task for most users, so there are some repositories where the users can obtain ROMs from. As always, the easiest way to find these websites is by Googling for them. Any websites mentioned can get taken out by DMCA, although popular sites like EmuParadise are a good place to start.

ROM hacks? What are those?

ROM hacks are ROMs with modifications to the game state. While this does not always mean cheats, a lot of them tend to make the game easier and more accessible for the general audience. ROM hacking is a more advanced topic we cover in another article, and finding pre-hacked ROMs is possible in certain websites. Again, Googling for ROM hacks will provide you with a wealth of information.

A final word

Well, a lot of ground was covered in this article about Nestopia. Emulation is a large community growing by the daily, so don’t be afraid of getting into it late. There is a place and time for everyone, whether the NES, SNES or the Genesis is your favourite console!

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