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20 emulators for classic gaming fun on Android phones

The rise of smartphones has led to a renaissance for a lot of classic games, but ports don’t always live up to the nostalgic glory of the original. If you’re craving some gaming action from yesteryear, then you might consider an emulator. Thankfully, you’ll find plenty of Android emulators in the Google Play Store, just in case you want to bring your old consoles back to life.

Related: Wring in that nostalgia with our favorite console emulators for Mac and PC

The Android emulators listed below are legal to download and use, but you should exercise some caution with games. There is a lot of abandonware out there, so you can find public domain games, but many ROMs are illegal and we don’t condone piracy. It may be legal to make copies of games you own, in some circumstances, but you should never distribute them. Some emulators will also require you to provide the BIOS, which can also be illegal, unless you use your own console.

Free emulators

RetroArch

RetroArch
If you’re going to be basking in a variety of old game consoles, then you might fancy an emulator that covers all the bases. RetroArch is an open source engine that actually pulls in other open source emulators. You’ll find options for the NES, SNES, PlayStation, Sega Genesis, N64, and a whole lot more. You select the one you want to run when you start RetroArch up.

Download now from:

Google Play

MAME4droid

MAME4droid
Anyone who wants to turn the clock back to the days when arcades ruled, needs to check this out. MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, and the Android version supports more than 8,000 different ROMs. For more demanding games, you’ll want decent hardware, and you might run into trouble with performance.

Download now from:

Google Play

Nostalgia.NES — Nintendo Entertainment System emulator

Nostalgia.NES
The Nintendo Entertainment System is fondly remembered by many gamers, and this emulator helps you relive some of those classic gaming moments. You can customize the virtual controller, save games, and even rewind the action. Unfortunately, you’ll need to be online and put up with ads if you want to take advantage of all of those features.

Download now from:

Google Play

Snes9x EX+ — Super Nintendo Entertainment System emulator

Snes9x EX+
This free SNES emulator is open source, and compatible with the vast majority of games. You’re going to want an Android device with at least a 1GHz processor, which isn’t going to be a problem nowadays. It comes with Bio Worm, and you can add ROMs to your internal storage or SD card. As long as games are in .smc or .sfc formats, then they should work just fine. There are also no ads, which is a rarity for a free app.

Download now from:

Google Play

MegaN64 — Nintendo 64 emulator

MegaN64 (N64 Emulator)
This might be the best free N64 emulator around. It’s a modified version of open source Mupen64+, and it mostly works well. Like most emulators, there are some titles that don’t work, and the odd graphical glitch is not uncommon. You’re also going to have to put up with some adverts and notifications that can be annoying. If you do find them annoying, try Mupen64+AE instead.

Download now from:

Google Play

Gameboy Color A.D.

A.D - Gameboy Color Emulator
You can play old Gameboy Color titles using this emulator for Android, and it won’t cost you anything, although the adverts are a bit intrusive. It works with zipped ROMs, and you’ll find support for the Wiimote and the MOGA controllers.

Download now from:

Google Play

My Boy! Free — Game Boy Advance emulator

My Boy! Free
Here’s a solid emulator for the GameBoy Advance. It even allows for multiplayer, using Bluetooth instead of Nintendo’s old link cable system. It seems to run really well, but there are a lot of extra features that you only get if you spring $5 for the premium version. If you like this, there’s also a free version of My OldBoy! for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.

Download now from:

Google Play

GENPlusDroid

GENPlusDroid
Full speed gaming action from the Sega Master System and the Mega Drive is supported by this open source Sega Genesis emulator. It is free, but you’ll find some ads in the main menu. It seems to work pretty well, and it supports some controllers.

Download now from:

Google Play

Reicast — Dreamcast emulator

Reicast
You’re going to have to dump the BIOS from your own Dreamcast to get this one working, and it doesn’t support every game, but there aren’t really any other options that cover Sega’s last console. There were some great games for the Dreamcast, so you may feel it’s worth the fiddling to get this running. You’ll need decent hardware to run this, too — at least a dual-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz, and 512MB of RAM, but preferably better.

Download now from:

Google Play

PPSSPP — PlayStation Portable emulator

PPSSPP
If you want to run your Sony PSP games on your Android, then PPSSPP is the emulator for you. You can use it to play free homebrew games, or dump your own PSP games in .iso or .cso format. You can even transfer saved games from your PSP. Since the PSP is fairly recent and fairly powerful, you will need a decent set of specs to run games. Not everything runs perfectly, and slow down is pretty common, depending on the Android device you use.

Download now from:

Google Play

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