Steam Switch!

Switch on My Deck

Gaming Apr 27, 2022

So I said I was going to do it and I did do it: I ran a Nintendo Switch emulator on my Steam Deck and played a couple of games on it. There were some issues though.

Firstly, getting it up an running wasn't too difficult, but it wasn't perfect: I installed Yuzu, which is still in it's infancy in terms of compatibility and playability as far as emulation goes, but it is a nice enough experience. It isn't the only Switch emulator around but it's probably the more popular among them. The software itself is actually easily installed through the Discovery thing the Deck has when you run it in Desktop Mode, but beyond simply installing it, actually setting it up is a bit more involved, since you need the encryption keys ripped out of an actual Switch, possibly a firmware dump as well depending on the games you plan on playing, plus the actual games themselves.

There's obviously a legal way of going about getting hold of these things, namely if you actually own an earlier model of the Switch which is susceptible to the RCM "fusee-gelee" exploit, allowing you to dump the files yourself, for use by yourself. Or, there's the not-so-legal method.

There's plenty of tutorials out there explaining how to configure Yuzu on the Steam Deck for the best experience, though currently given the Deck is still a new piece of kit and Yuzu is still being heavily developed, nothing is particularly set in stone at the moment. I set it up to an extent and tried playing Super Mario Odyssey; it actually works well enough but did run a bit on the slow side (30-40FPS on average), but I did get horrendous audio stuttering which would eventually stop but would then begin again shortly after.

I was running the game off an SD card (and not a good one either) which may have been a factor there, though I've seen people ask for help about audio stuttering in this game on Yuzu before so it may not have been anything to do with my hardware, though I hadn't exactly gone in-depth on the settings side of things. Having said that, I also tried Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but that would crash Yuzu completely just as it showed the main menu in the game. If that was because I hadn't set Yuzu up properly or I had a dodgy ROM of the game, I don't know nor could I be bothered to figure it out.

I was not expecting a fantastic experience with Yuzu on the Deck right out of the box and, to be honest, I don't care that it wasn't either. I was never going to emulate the Switch on the Deck beyond doing a few tests anyway, unless it turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. But that's not because I thought the Deck would never be able to handle it; it clearly can and I can only assume (and hope) compatibility and performance will improve as both the Deck and Yuzu are further optimised. No, in actuality I was never going to emulate the Switch because I've already had my fill of the thing and I got fed up with it long ago.

It says a lot that after I spent half an hour trawling through a catalogue of titles, I only came across two games I was vaguely interested in trying to emulate and they were both the only physical titles I actually owned when I had a Switch. I bought one at the end of 2018 and missed out on getting a version that was exploitable, but I stuck with it until 2020 when I finally sold it. I never bought anything else physically as I say other than Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the latter one I had already owned on the Wii U (I bought that console in 2014 and ended up selling it in 2016).

I did have a few crappy games I got off the eShop, but I kept seeing games being released on the system that I could buy a much better version of on Steam, usually for a cheaper price. Coupled with how I was also at the end of my tether with Nintendo's shit, such as their ridiculously expensive digital pricing strategy and the fact they are apparently allergic to deep discounts among other things, I dipped out of the Switch game and haven't looked back. And now, with the Deck I can actually have those better versions of the games on Steam and still play them in a portable manor.

I must say I won't lie and say I didn't feel considerably smug emulating the games on my Deck, not least of all because it's like sticking your fingers up at Ninty. If anything I really do hope the emulation becomes more precise, or more specifically it becomes more feasible doing it on the Steam Deck, because quite frankly it's about fucking time Nintendo got a bit spooked about the competition, pulled their thumb out their arse and acted a bit less anti-consumer witht heir shitty pricing schemes and lightened up a bit by relaxing their moronic legal practices (both of which are certainly not a new phenomenon for them though).

As for other emulation; although I suggested previously I'd try RetroArch, I ended up not bothering. I run that on my laptop and have emulated a lot of older generation console games on it comfortably, so I have no doubt the Deck would do it wonderfully given it's got 8 years on my laptop in terms of technology and power. At this point though I can't really be arsed to emulate anything on the Deck, I'd rather just enjoy it for what it is for the time being. I haven't even bothered installing Windows on it. Yet.

Something I also haven't gone into today is the rigmarole I went through trying to get a working non-third-party method of allowing Windows 10 to read the EXT4 formatted memory card I was using in the Deck. The short answer is, without using third-party tools, a developer build of Windows 10, or upgrading to Windows 11, you can't. I did end up creating a Virtual Machine on my laptop and running Windows 11 Pro on it though (despite it being unsupported), so that's something else I'll probably write about eventually.