It has happened to all of us; you want to replay a game from your childhood that you really enjoyed. To relive that experience is truly magical, but the obscurity and cost of retro games and consoles can be discouraging, and this problem is where emulators shine. Alongside classic retro ports on Android, Emulators are a wonderful means to replay the beloved games of your childhood on your mobile devices. Emulators for all the retro consoles you can think of are available on the Play Store, and the handheld nature of consoles like the Gameboy Advance and PSP are perfect for the best Android phones and their touchscreen controls. While the best games on Android are great for a reason, there’s nothing like a good nostalgia trip for de-stressing after a long day.
Now this shows how far we’ve come. AetherSX2 is designed to emulate Playstation 2 games on Android devices, with a touchscreen interface mimicking a PS2 controller. The emulator provides extensive controller mapping options and quality-of-life settings for tailoring your experience. The default control layout does omit the ‘R3’ and ‘L3’ buttons, but these can be easily re-inserted in the controller settings. Games will slow down or stutter if the graphical requirements become too high, but this varies from game to game and depends largely on the power of your device. AetherSX2 also includes on-screen shortcuts for quick save and load functions and a toggle function for game speed. While customization settings are less extensive than some PC emulators, the app keeps pace with its contemporaries in terms of accommodating personal preference. So jump in and enjoy the PS2’s famously huge game library. AetherSX2 runs an excellent experience.
Get used to these kinds of titles. One of the more popular consoles for emulation, due to its library of beloved games, Snes9x EX+ runs SNES games on Android. The software provides a fairly well-constructed replica of the SNES controller, with additional buttons and commands available. Since the SNES is far less graphically demanding than other consoles, games face minimal slowdown or skipping. The default screen controls do feel slightly loose, but you can fix this issue in the options by increasing button sensitivity. Snes9x EX+ recreates the SNES experience anywhere, easily on par with the original console in terms of frame rate and stability, all from the comfort of your Android device.
There’s a name that’s fun to say. Another classic console made accessible on your Android device, GENPLUSdroid can run a plethora of Sega Genesis titles with ease. The emulator suffers from Genesis controller adaptation, thanks to its many, many buttons. You can easily fix the problem using the interface customization options, undoing a potential dealbreaker. Performance is smooth, and the experience of playing Genesis titles translates perfectly onto a smaller, touch-screen-based platform. Give it a try if that eBay price just isn’t worth it.
MyBoy! is an emulator that offers both a free and premium version — some settings are behind a paywall. However, both versions offer an exemplary GameBoy Advance emulation service. Settings are extensive and perfect for customization. The default touchscreen controls are spot-on for GBA gameplay. Games run smoothly, with zero to no bugs or crashes — an upgrade even from the original handheld. Given the simplicity of the technology, MyBoy! is actually an improvement over the original GBA experience. It’s definitely worth the reasonable price to enjoy some stability on your nostalgia trip.
Speaking of nostalgia, DuckStation is an emulator for the original Playstation. Unlike other Emulators on Android and PC, DuckStation’s quality does not exceed the console it emulates. The control sensitivity cannot be adjusted, resulting in a loose, almost unresponsive feel. Aside from this, DuckStation’s settings are very impressive. You can select the classic PS controller with only the D-pad or an interface with either one or two analog sticks. The software runs games very well, given the PS’s lower technical demands. If you don’t fancy spending a fortune on a PS, try Duckstation.
Short-lived as it might have been, the Playstation Portable (PSP) has some nostalgic exclusives — only accessible via the handheld console. PPSSPP recreates the experience of using a PSP almost perfectly, given that its games were designed initially for a handheld. This does hold the emulator back in certain ways. Much of the game design relies on ease of access to the shoulder buttons via the player’s index fingers. The touch interface makes it awkward to use the shoulder buttons and the analog stick simultaneously. Despite this, the input sensitivity is spot on, the graphical power is surprisingly impressive, and the settings are more than sufficient for a seventh-generation console. If you remember this handheld fondly, PPSSPP will provide an authentic enough experience.
Dolphin is the best choice for mobile emulation of Gamecube and Wii games. The Gamecube interface is superb, accurately converting the iconic controller’s design to a touchscreen interface. Graphically, some games suffer from the smaller screen, appearing fuzzy or shaky, but this issue is inconsistent. In addition to running games exceptionally well, Dolphin does not require external bios, meaning less prep time before play. The touch interface for Wii game emulation is equally authentic to the original. However, game selection is limited to titles not built around motion controls, as Dolphin has no motion control features. Games that require little or no motion controls can be played normally. Dolphin is definitely a great option for fans of Nintendo’s sixth and seventh-generation consoles.
Talk about beauty in simplicity — My OldBoy! emulates games made for the original Gameboy and Gameboy color. Settings are on the same quality level as My Boy!, so the ergonomics are far beyond what the original handhelds offered. Controller options and speed-up functions give players more freedom to personalize their experience. These features can even circumvent slow or tedious processes and sequences in games. Loading screens, extended cutscenes, and grinding for levels are all made easier by the fast-forward feature. Simple, uncomplicated, and high quality, My OldBoy! is perfect for reliving the past.
A nifty app for the organization-obsessed, Lemuroid is an emulator that boasts a long list of supported retro game platforms and delivers on every single one. Lemuroid presents an interface similar to a gaming console, with thumbnails assigned to their respective games. This interface is achieved by placing the desired game files into a single folder, allowing the app to display them in one place. The app does support an impressive library of consoles, from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo 3DS, and they all run perfectly well, with little to no slowdown. Lemuroid has satisfactory customization settings and options; the only drawback is the tedious task of moving all the necessary files into a single place. But if you prefer to have all your games in a single app, Lemuroid is a great choice.
YabaSanshiro 2 Pro
Despite some minor crashing and stuttering issues with heftier games, YabaSanshiro 2 Pro nets you a decent emulator for Sega Saturn titles. The interface is fairly simple to navigate, and the store page even offers instructions on how to assign the files on your android device for emulation correctly, a detail that some apps of this type could and really should implement. YabaSanshiro 2 faces the usual issue of accommodating a control interface with a great many inputs, making the best Android tablets and their superior screen sizes a good choice. If you want a nice simple emulator for playing Sega Saturn titles, you could do worse.
A well-designed app for what it sets out to do, redream is an HD Sega Dreamcast emulator capable of running surprisingly large game files on your phone with little to no frame rate issues or texture problems. The interface deserves props for its simplicity, making it easy and approachable for newcomers to access and rearrange their files within the app. Games are run in HD quality without any slowdown or skipping, and the app supports the best Android controllers just in case you want the definitive Dreamcast experience. Take a look.
Ending on a weird note, RetroArch is an emulation app that styles itself as an all-in-one hub for all your emulation needs, but with emulation apps themselves. The app requires you to download “cores,” existing emulators. The emulations work fine and run games smoothly. The problems come up in the options, more specifically, the excess of them. RetroArch has a lot of options and settings, which can be very off-putting when you’re green to the idea of game emulation. That and the default touch controller has far too many buttons, which can be edited, but this process takes time. The app serves its purpose well enough, and if you want your emulation software all behind one icon, RetroArch is worth a look.
Gaming history is in your hands
These emulators represent a means to protect the history of gaming via the best Android gaming phones, a history that is always at risk of being lost. Be sure to tell us what games you’re planning to play first and which emulators are your favorites. Still in the mood for some retro gaming? Feel free to visit AP’s best arcade games on Android roundup. Our roundup for the best emulators on Android is constantly updated with new entries for your discovery; any suggestions for additions can be left in the comments below. Until then, have a blast!