The best Nintendo DS emulators for Android

by: Joe HindyApril 14, 2014

The Nintendo DS is among the most popular handheld consoles of all time. Its iconic value is right up there with that of the Game Boy and the PSP. There were some amazing games for the system and sometimes it’s easier to keep those games on your phone than to carry around a second device to play them. Sadly, development of the Nintendo DS emulator platform is still quite new so the selections for emulators are scarce. However, there are some decent ones and we’ll take a look at them!

best Nintendo DS emulators for AndroidDraStic DS Emulator

[Price: Free / $5.99]
First up is DraStic DS Emulator and, simply put, it is the best Nintendo DS emulator available. It features a high game compatibility, good speed, and features such as fast forward mode, various display options, and support for Google Drive. It’s rated a 4.6 in the Play Store and it’s the only DS emulator rated over 4.0. It’s $5.99 which may sound expensive but in this instance, you get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a DS emulator, this is as good as it gets for right now.
Get it on Google Play
best Nintendo DS emulators for Android

best Nintendo DS emulators for Androidnds4droid

[Price: Free]
nds4droid is the most popular Nintendo DS emulator option. It isn’t all that good but it has been steadily improving. The developer is relatively active but the improvements have been slow coming. It’s a 3.6 rating and there are some games that work well, but there are still many that do not. It’s an open source project so other developers can contribute so there is hope that this app will continue to improve. In terms of quality, it’s a distant second from DraStic.
Get it on Google Play
best Nintendo DS emulators for Android

best Nintendo DS emulators for AndroidOpen NDS Emulator (DS Emulator)

[Price: Free]
Open NDS Emulator is another open source effort that is somewhat current. Like nds4droid, it’s not very good but there is hope that the app will improve as updates have occurred recently. A few people have had success with it but generally it isn’t good enough for regular use. The hope is that the nature of open source takes its course with this app and the improvements come eventually.
Get it on Google Play
best Nintendo DS emulators for Android

best Nintendo DS emulators for AndroidPretendo NDS Emulator

[Price: Free]
Pretendo NDS Emulator is last on the list but at least it isn’t the worst. It’s also open source and based on the ds4droid source code. It fairs better than Open DS Emulator in terms of rating and functionality but sadly not by much. Like the others, it is free and you can try your luck to see if it works for you but like the others it’s a work in progress.
Get it on Google Play
best Nintendo DS emulators for Android

Wrap up

For the time being the Nintendo DS emulator app selection is disappointing. DraStic seems to have it right but the competition is still pretty stuck. If you’re here looking for an emulator, our recommendation is to throw down the $5.99 and buy DraStic because it may be some time before these other ones are as good. The reason we included them is because the developers appear to be active (at least this calendar year) and their projects are open source so they represent the best hope we have that the emulator platform gets more diverse. Until they improve, just buy DraStic. If we missed a good DS emulator, please let us know in the comments!

  • namesib

    Drastic made all other DS emulators redundant.

    • JosephHindy

      That’d be fantastic. I can’t even do a “best PSP emulators” list because there aren’t any good damn PSP emulators to put on it! It’d be an empty list with a giant sad face as the article image.

      • Hodr

        What are you smoking? PPSSPP is the best PSP emulator for Android.
        If you meant by no contest then yeah, that’s the only PSP emulator.

        But if you meant there aren’t any good PSP emulators, I disagree. I just finished Valkyria Chonicles 3 using PPSSPP, played on Android while commute and continue on PC while at home. You should check it out.

        • JosephHindy

          You and “Guest” apparently had trouble reading so let me clarify.

          I can’t do a best PSP emulators LIST. A LIST of apps that play PSP games because there is only ONE that can do it.

          In order to do a list, I must have more than ONE application. Otherwise it’s not a list, it’s a review.

          Please read more carefully next time.

          • uwot

            You said “there aren’t any good damn PSP emulators to put on it!”, and then “empty list”.

            There is no way “there aren’t any” or “empty” was intended to mean anything but 0.

            They had no problem reading it, you clearly didn’t take PPSSPP into account.

            Don’t be so condescending, especially when you’re the one in the wrong.

      • Apple is a patent troll

        So PPSSPP isn’t good now?

        You just lost all your credibility.

        • JosephHindy

          You and Hodr apparently had trouble reading so let me clarify.
          I can’t do a best PSP emulators LIST. A LIST of apps that play PSP games because there is only ONE that can do it.

          In order to do a list, I must have more than ONE application. Otherwise it’s not a list, it’s a review.

          Please read more carefully next time.

          • emaN

            I can’t even do a “best PSP emulators” list because there aren’t any
            good damn PSP emulators to put on it! It’d be an empty list with a giant
            sad face as the article image.

            aren’t any
            good damn PSP emulators to put on it!

            It’d be an empty list

            That seems to imply that there is not even one emulator out there. Maybe you forgot or were not aware of it. To say that they had trouble reading instead of you writing is really funny. Way to be humble good job.

          • JosephHindy

            I like how your response is essentially “maybe you’re stupid.”

            Maybe if all three of you stopped assuming I was stupid this conversation wouldn’t have happened.

          • Eric

            Honestly, let’s face it, maybe you’re stupid :)

            I won’t assume that, though. However, you clearly used the wrong words, and since you’re probably not a complete clinical idiot, one must think that you just don’t know what you’re talking about.

            Some nice users kindly took time to teach you more about the topic you were giving us your opinion about, and you decided that they both had “had trouble reading”.

            No, they didn’t. A third guy confirmed that, and I’m no less than the fourth to think so. Also, I’d like to point out that those three guys totalled 34 upvotes at the time I’m writing this… *cough*.

            Why won’t you admit that you haven’t always been systematically absolutely right? Is it some misplaced pride? What is so wrong with you that you will take it that someone telling you:
            “Maybe you forgot or were not aware of it.”
            … actually means:
            “Maybe you’re stupid.”


            Maybe you’re not stupid, but then, you’re for sure arrogant, immature, aggressive and not knowledgeable enough, even on the very topics you decide to give your opinion about.

            Way to grow, my fellow gamer.

          • JosephHindy

            Or maybe because i’ve extensively tested PPSSPP and found it to be mediocre at best in terms of stability, functionality, and reliability and, given that there are no other PSP emulators, that creating a list of sub standard apps, calling it “the best PSP emulators” would do little more than promote half done apps by lazy developers to a readership who would, ultimately, get angry at me for it. I learned that the hard way when I did the N64 emulators. Sometimes it’s better to say “no” and make a few people angry at me now than write a garbage list with one semi-decent app and have 10s of thousands be mad at me later. I’ll never make 100% of my readers happy (that’s truly delusional) but if I can avoid making 90% of them angry at me for promoting crappy apps, I’m going to take that 10 times out of 10.

            The “troll answer” guy played one game to completion on one emulator and used that as a basis for his argument to have me write a list with one mediocre app in it.

            When I tested the app, only about half of the 20 games I tested actually ran and, of those, maybe 7 of them ran well enough to be playable and of those, only about 3 or 4 ran without any significant issues. Zero of them had no issues whatsoever.

            3 or 4 out of 20 is not “good” and the fact that troll answer guy with all the upvotes up there played one game to completion is, based on my experience, luck and not an indictment of how good the app is.

            What you don’t take into account is that when I wrote these, I spent about a month testing emulators (dozens of them) and each emulator I tested with about two dozen random games. If you look, I wrote all of these emulator lists in the same two-three week span and that’s literally all I did for those three weeks. My findings were that PPSSPP was below the standard of other, more reliable emulators and, in general, only average at best. That other guy says it played one game all the way to end that makes it amazing. You’re really telling me that I should ignore my own experiences to aim my work at a guy who is, more or less, an anonymous dude in the comment section of a Nintendo DS emulators article?

            Sorry but I don’t buy that. There aren’t enough PSP emulators to do a list and the one that “kinda sorta” works isn’t as great as its fans like to think that it is. Given its lack of of competition, doing a PSP list would be a bad idea. Given its lackluster performance, giving it its own article is also a bad idea.

            What I do, however, that you and other commentors don’t do, is re-evaluate these things every year. Maybe PPSSPP will not be average next year and maybe there will more solid options. If that’s the case, I’ll write a list (or a review). If not, I’m not going to bother for another year because it’s not worth it.

            Lets also not forget that I included the PPSSPP emulator on “the best android emulators” list because, for the PSP, it is the best one even if it’s stability is clearly questionable. So I actually did include it in a list, I simply said I wasn’t giving it its own list or its own review because it isn’t that good.

            That doesn’t make me stupid. Or unaware. It means I have a higher standard for what is “good” because if I screw up, a metric ton of people get mad at me. I don’t have the luxury that random, anonymous commentors have where if you actually say something stupid, no one knows who you are and forgets about it 25 minutes later. My name and face are on these posts and when I screw up, people remember that because I post here constantly.

            Call it “arrogance” if you want, but I call it being “careful” and wanting to “promote things that are actually really very good” and not things that are passable at best. PPSSPP is passable at best.

          • dasdada

            PPSSPP run great on my octacore droid, never had a crash or lag, fps is stable and save state is good. been using it about 2 months now. but its true some game just dont run right in them, like naruto ultimate ninja. but for other games its flawless

          • Exes

            Just shut up. It’s obvious what he meant. A LIST HAS MORE THAN ONE ITEM ON IT. If there is NOT MORE THAN ONE, THERE IS NO LIST. It is just a review, as he explained. Clean out your eyes.

      • Balls

        So, since you’re sad about piracy killing the games industry(where do you even buy ubisoft coolaid?), what’s your preferred source of legitimately purchased ROMs for emulation purposes?

        • JosephHindy

          I personally work on an honor system since I trust myself to adhere to it. For instance, I get ROMs for things like Final Fantasy 6 on the Game Boy Advanced….but then I went and bought Final Fantasy 6 on Android when it was released. I paid Square Enix for Final Fantasy 6 so I don’t feel so bad about borrowing the game on another system.

          It’s essentially buy what you can when you can for me. If you jack a game ROM, try to find somewhere where you can purchase something from that studio (even if it’s merch, like a t-shirt) so they at least get something for their troubles. I don’t care so much about publishers as I do the guys who actually develop these games and the games themselves.

          • TheClarosVita

            I justify my full collection of Final Fantasy Roms and isos with having played FFXIV Legacy for a year. =D lmao

          • SimplyDope

            Mine with playing FF XIV: A realm Reborn for a year =))

          • Christopher Campbell

            I like that Idea of the T-Shirt cause games like God Eater Burst & Phantasy Star Portable 2 are very hard to find as Physical UMBs. I have Valkyrie Chronicles 2 (12) & Star Wars Elite Squadron (10) UMB I got from Kijiji.

  • SuESanders

    It fairs better than Open DS Emulator in terms of rating and functionality but sadly not by much. Like the others, it is free and you can try your luck to see if it works for you but like the others it’s a work in progress.

    • JosephHindy

      Really dude? Posting a Titanfall referral link from Amazon? GTFO!

      • SuESanders


      • Semroth

        There wasnt a titanfall referral link so you GTFO

        • JosephHindy

          The dude edited his post after I posted that. It was 4 months ago and there’s an edit button.

  • rogue3

    How about best OG GameBoy emulators?

    • JosephHindy

      That’s coming up soon. Either later this evening or tomorrow :) keep an eye out in our app list section (found under Apps in the header at the top of the Android Authority website) :)

      • Jaime

        Thanks Joseph!

  • Hodr

    The reason why most DS emulator on Android suck is because they are based on x86 emulator such as open source DeSmuMe.
    DS is ARM -> x86 emulator -> run on Android ARM. No wonder it’s slow!

    DraStic targets ARM from the ground up, starting from OpenPandora handheld. That’s why it runs pretty good on ARM-based Android device.

  • Apple is a patent troll

    Without emulators there are no good mobile games.

    • Otto Andersson

      Agreed. It’s funny how supposedly powerful today’s phones are, but Mario 64 with emulator is a hundred times more fun than the best smartphone game out there.

      Maybe, I hit that point of being old, but I miss flat rate game prices without ads as well.

      • Apple is a patent troll

        I hear you. I miss the days where I can get a game and it not shoving apps or in app purchases in my face.

        • JosephHindy

          Yeah, back in those days, piracy wasn’t a huge issue. Not like you could go to Napster and download a game then go buy a blank cartridge to burn it all on.

          Piracy is destroying the game industry and it does suck to watch.

          • Samik Sengupta

            Shoving in app purchases and microtransactions has nothing to do with Piracy. But it has something to do with faster internet speeds and gaming turning into a profitable business industry it is today than it was 20 years ago.

            Soon greedy shitheads who have zero passion about gaming came in the picture and turned the more recent, smartphone gaming into a shitty business.

            Piracy ram rampant even during the 8 bit /16 bit era. I know several early 90s games that used primitive DRM systems because of that. There just wasn’t any piratebay.

          • JosephHindy

            That’s a very naive way of looking at things, especially when plenty of developers have openly stated that they only do Freemium titles now because of piracy.

          • Hmmm

            Which developers that actually matter? Or are we talking publishers who are entirely profit driven and can’t be expected to behave better? Where is this piracy occurring, which platforms are being destroyed by it?

          • JosephHindy

            All developers matter. Without developers, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

          • billy

            lol just pick an android game and google the name + apk. there are only a handful of good android games you cant get full versions of through piracy, and even those require an internet connection to verify licensing or download current sections of the game.

            even with freemium games you can usually remove the adds (revenue point) with tools like luckypatcher.

            the worst part about it is that developers for android and steam are usually independent developers that either keep the old school feel of gaming alive or truly push the artistic boundaries, but they are the easiest to pirate based on their platform. i mean, do call of dookie or halo even matter anymore? there is another major VG market crash on the horizon, you can smell it and see it happening…

          • Ygorbla

            Kinda. I mean, the reason why you have all these good, high-quality games to emulate on the Android is because they were originally sold for $60 in stores. Nobody pays $60 for an Android game, so you don’t see games that are worth that much or have that much content (and the ones that do have to support it in other ways, like ads or in-app purchases.) So when you say “I can emulate better games on the Android than I can find in the store”, you’re comparing apples and oranges, because you’re using piracy to bypass the costs of those older games.

            The other issue, of course, is that when you’re using emulation, you can go back and pick and choose the best games of the past 30 years. There were a lot of shovelware games for the NES, SNES, and so on, but nobody remembers them because nobody is going to waste time emulating them — you don’t get an emulator to play

            Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind. This leads people to view past eras through rose-colored glasses, to an extent.

            I don’t think the issue is entirely about piracy, though. There’s a lot of reasons why people are unwilling to pay more than a few bucks for a smartphone game. But ultimately you get what you pay for — nobody is going to be able to make a new Secret of Mana and then sell it for $2.

            (Another part of the issue is that the market is insanely crowded and there’s no real way for good games to attract attention — this means that if you price your game for more than a dollar or so, or, in some cases, if you ask for an upfront price at all, you’ll be pricing yourself out of the market. This results in a race to the bottom in terms of prices which makes it hard to make games of any significant size or depth unless you center them around microtransactions to pay for that lengthy development time.)

          • k

            Piracy was rampant on the PS1 and destroyed the Dreamcast. Half the people I knew that had Xboxes pirated games. I myself owned a GBA flash cart. Just because you didn’t know about game piracy back then didn’t mean it didn’t exist or that it was even difficult.

          • JosephHindy

            Just because everyone you know is a thief doesn’t mean everyone in the world was. Your logic works both ways.

          • Nicolas Baron


          • Flimmy

            What’s destroying the game industry is garbage developers (or more often, garbage publishers) who don’t care for the content they’re forcing devs to push out at unrealistic speeds. Look at all the development teams publishers like EA have killed off. You wanna talk about killing the industry, you’re focusing on the wrong issues.

            The same publishers make their games cost an absolute fortune on the PC and treat their customers like criminals. Maybe when companies like EA and Ubisoft step their shit up, piracy will begin to spike less. When piracy guarantees that your game will be working by day one with offline playability, you’d have to be a tool to take the “proper” route and blow money on a product that more often than not will not work for the first few days, and even when it does, still treats you like a thief that needs to be monitored online.

            What’s really killing the industry are the people who don’t know how to spend their money, the one repeatedly telling publishers that they’re happy to spend 60 dollars on a blatantly half-complete game, then another 60 later in the year for the rest of the content which we’ve seen time and time again has already existed before the full game was even released. This has nothing to do with piracy, this is just publishers realizing they can treat people like a fool and get away with it.

          • JosephHindy

            “What’s really killing the industry are people who don’t know how to spend their money.”

            That covers a much larger area than you know. Not just shady, tap-to-play games like candy crush saga and half completed games, but piracy too but also to piracy. If they spent money on good games, more good games would be released. Developers don’t go “omg they stole the hell out of that game because it’s a masterpiece…we should make another one!”

        • Icarus

          In the olden days, you pay a game for its’ entirety. Now, you’ll pay for the base game, then you’ll pay for game times, you’ll pay for in-game purchases, you’ll pay for downloadable contents, you’ll pay new versions, and the list goes on and on.

          • Vashta

            Phone game’s aren’t games. Buy a handheld if you want real games. Real games aren’t gone, don’t talk like they are.

      • Airyl

        You probably haven’t played any good Android games. The Bard’s Tale, NOVA 3, Monument Valley, Leo’s Fortune, Deemo, Badlands, World of Goo, The Room, Sorcery! and Modern Combat are all good, fun Android games.

        • Otto Andersson

          True, I didn’t go ahead and play most of those. Also, nostalgia makes me partial to emulators, perhaps.

    • Histirea

      The only good mobile games (without an emulator) end up being ports from dedicated gaming systems. Spectral Souls, for example.

    • Raimar Lunardi

      Even the SNES emulators have better games, such Super Metroid and PSX with plenty… No single android game is up to any Metroid/Castlevania…

  • MasterMuffin

    All the free options are pretty horrible. I tried to play some Pokemon Platinum, got frustrated because laaaggg before first gym and stopped playing pretty soon after it and just played with DeSmuMe. Smartphone screen is IMO too small to have the 2 screens with controls

    • Jaime

      Try drastic, it is really good. Pricey, but good.

      • MasterMuffin

        Yea I know it’s good, but smartphone screen is still too small IMO. I need to get an Android tablet

        • Jaime

          On a 5″ screen I can play without too much problem, but I mostly play RPG’s and Mario Kart. I have an 8″ tablet and it is better for sure.

          • MasterMuffin

            I want Sony to make a 7″ or 8″ tablet, because they make their tablets so thin and waterproof so I could carry it everywhere :)

          • Jaime

            Man, Sony makes beautiful tablets! 8″ thin, dust and water proof would be like heaven!

  • Derek Lanter

    You shouldn’t be discussing emulators. The legality is murky at best. Go buy a DS or 3DS and play them legally and let the developers make money.

    • Apple is a patent troll

      Because people want to carry lots of different devices with them, I mean why have a camera on your phone when you can carry one with you.

    • Histirea

      Region lock. Can’t play Rune Factory 4 in the UK without importing both US system and a copy of the game, and many great games like Tales of Innocence never leave Japan, so our only option is to emulate it.

      ROMs also have the benefit of fans patching the Japanese version for English audiences.

  • Gulo

    Drastic is by far the only and one option for DS emulation on android. It’s fast, reliable and worth the price. Don’t bother with the others.

  • Jade

    Have you did my boy app, yet?

  • Arc Futahito

    Drastic is pretty bad with ff: 4 heroes of light. There is no hope in this world. Well, except playing it on PC with NO$GBA.

  • james

    what about this one : !!?

    • Chris Josten

      I downloaded it. You need to “unlock” with surveys.

  • Football potato

    Look at those pointless arguments…
    Internet is dying