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16 best emulators for Android to play old favorites
Emulators on Android phones are a great way to play old classics that you can’t play anymore. After all, most older games are out of print, and it’s very difficult to get your hands on an old but still functional console. That makes it surprisingly difficult to procure older games, let alone play them. The best emulators for Android fix that problem.
It’s worth noting that for some of those games, like Square Enix’s older Final Fantasy games, there are modern mobile ports, and we highly recommend buying games when they’re available to support the developer. When that’s no longer possible, we’ve tested and selected the best emulators on Android to play old favorites and listed them below in order of each console’s release date. The oldest consoles are at the top, and the newest are at the bottom.
The best emulators on Android to play old favorites
Best multi-console emulator: RetroArch
RetroArch is an excellent multi-console emulator. The app acts as a frontend. You download “cores” from the official website and each core acts as an emulator. There are dozens to choose from and even multiple options for a few different consoles. In terms of usability, it has the basics. You can save and load states, use hardware controllers, and more. It has a bit of a learning curve as you figure out how cores work, but after that, you can play almost anything.
Lemuroid (Google Play) works a lot like RetroArch with cores and is an excellent overall competitor. ClassicBoy Pro (Google Play) is another multi-console emulator with fewer options, but it’s easier to use. For our money though (just kidding, it’s free), RetroArch is the best emulator on Android for anyone who dabbles in lots of different consoles.
Best NES emulator: NES.emu
NES.emu is an open-source NES emulator and one of the few left that gets consistent updates. You get the usual stuff like fast forward, save and load states, hardware controller support, and even gun controller support. There is also a cheat engine and VS UniSystem support. It goes above and beyond with excellent game support and plenty of settings to improve things.
You do have some options when it comes to NES emulators on Android. John NESS (Google Play) does SNES and NES reasonably well. Nostalgia.NES Pro (Google Play) also works well. The only issue with those two is that they haven’t had an update in a couple of years.
Best Sega emulator: MD.emu
MD.emu is an open-source SEGA emulator for several of the company’s older systems. It supports Genesis, Mega Drive, Sega CD, and Master System/Mark III systems. That should cover everything Sega did in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s by the same developer as NES.emu and has most of the same features. They include hardware controller support, save and load states, SVP chip support for Virtua Racing, gun controller support, cheat codes, and more. It’s reasonably inexpensive and works well as an all-in-one solution for Sega fans.
MD.emu kind of stands alone at the top of the pack here. However, Sega is slowly re-releasing Sega Genesis games directly on mobile. We recommend checking out Sega Forever games (Google Play) to see if you even need an emulator for the game you want to play.
Best Game Boy emulator: John GBAC
Price: Free / $4.49
John GBAC is the best Android emulator for early Game Boy fans. The emulator covers Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games. John Emulators did a great job with this one. It has virtual and hardware controller support, cheat codes, save states, fast forward, slow motion, and more. You can even backup your game files to the cloud with a Dropbox plugin available separately.
This used to be a hotly contested emulator space, but most of the best competitors stopped updating their apps years ago. Still, My Boy (Google Play) and My NewBoy (Google Play) are good options if you have an older Android device. Pizza Boy GBC (Google Play) and Pizza Boy GBA (Google Play) are also excellent Game Boy emulators in this space.
Best SNES emulator: Snes9x EX+
Snes9x EX+ is one of the most prominent SNES emulators on Android. It’s also open-source. You get your normal stuff like save and load states, fast forward, hardware controller support, and more. It also has excellent game compatibility, good performance, and cheat code support. There isn’t much else to say about it. It gets consistent updates, works well, and that’s about all you need.
There are some other options. John NESS (Google Play) does SNES and NES reasonably well. There used to be more options in this space, but most of the rest of the developers dropped off in recent years.
Best Sega Saturn emulator: Yaba Sanshiro 2
Price: Free / $5.60
Yaba Sanshiro 2 is the only standalone Sega Saturn emulator on Android. Players require their own BIOS and ROM files, obviously, but after that, the emulator is easy enough to use. It features save and load states, controller support, and there are other settings to play with. The developer also has a list of supported games to make guesswork much easier when it comes to knowing if your favorite games are supported.
This emulator is far from perfect, but it does get consistent updates with improvements. RetroArch and Lemuroid have emulator cores for Sega Saturn, but they are Yaba Sanshiro cores anyway, so you’re getting the same experience no matter what you do.
Best PlayStation emulator: DuckStation
DuckStation is an excellent PlayStation emulator on Android. It comes with all the usual stuff along with extras like texture correction, filters, and other methods to improve the graphics. It supports up to eight total controllers, 60FPS in some PAL games, high game compatibility, and more. There is even a retro achievement system for some games. You’ll need your own BIOS image, but otherwise, it seems to work really well.
Best Nintendo 64 emulator: M64Plus FZ Emulator
Price: Free / $3.99
M64Plus FZ Emulator is one of the few competent Nintendo 64 emulators on mobile. You get the usual emulator stuff, so we won’t rehash all of that. The emulator also has some video plugins, local multiplayer support, and more. Nintendo 64 is one of the harder consoles to emulate on mobile, so this one does have problems. Not every video plugin works on every device, and some devices have better support than others. Try the free version first before buying.
M64Plus FZ stands at the top of the Nintendo 64 pyramid, but we do have more options on our best Nintendo 64 emulators list here.
Best Dreamcast emulator: Redream
Price: Free / $5.99
Redream is a Sega Dreamcast emulator and a pretty good one. It has good game support, the usual emulator features, and more. Hardware controller support is particularly good and all the games we tested worked fine. Some devices may have some issues, but we didn’t have any on our Galaxy S22 Ultra tester.
Redream does have some pretty stiff competition with Reicast (Google Play). The two complement each other nicely. Usually, if it doesn’t work in Redream, it works in Reicast and vice versa. It’s really a matter of preference and which app better supports your device and the games you want to play.
Best PlayStation 2 emulator: AetherSX2
Entering into the PS2 era and beyond, the lineup of emulators really starts to thin. Case in point: the only decent PlayStation 2 emulator on Android is AetherSX2. Thankfully, it’s a great emulator with a lot of useful features. We tested the emulator on flagship devices from 2021 and mid-rangers like the POCO M4 Pro, and performance was mostly satisfactory. You will definitely want to stick to the developer’s guidelines of a Snapdragon 845 or higher, but any flagship from the past two years or so will work fine.
The catch is that you need to provide your own BIOS image, and the only legitimate way to do this is to rip one from your own physical console. Likewise with games. Obviously there are less than legal ways to go about this, but you’re on your own at that point.
Best GameCube and Wii emulator: Dolphin Emulator
Dolphin Emulator is, as far as we know, the only good option for GameCube and Wii emulation on Android. It features a clean UI, decent game support, configurable on-screen controls, hardware controller support, and more. The games that work seem to function quite well. We had minimal frame skips or stuttering on our tester device. Of course, some games will perform better than others.
There are no other emulators capable of doing what Dolphin does. In fact, multi-console emulators that use emulator cores have a Dolphin core. So, technically speaking, even if you use a core through RetroArch, it’s still the same people who develop Dolphin Emulator.
Best Nintendo DS emulator: DraStic DS Emulator
DraStic DS Emulator has long been the top dog in the Nintendo DS emulator space. It has excellent game compatibility, good on-screen controls, and all of the essential emulator features. The app can also increase the resolution of some games, add cheats, and more. It hasn’t had too many updates in recent years, and that’s a bit of a shame. With Google’s recent push to hide older apps, we hope the developers give this one an update sooner rather than later.
PS Vita emulator: PPSSPP
Price: Free / $4.99
PPSSPP is the best PlayStation Portable (PSP) emulator on Android. In fact, the open-source code from this app is what most of its competitors use. The app includes your basics like save and load states. You can also fast-forward and use hardware controllers. It works rather well, and we played the entirety of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years on two different devices with no trouble. However, those with lower-end phones may experience some performance hiccups.
Rocket PSP (Google Play) is also pretty good. Some folks report that Rocket PSP works on their devices better than PPSSPP on occasion, but we would still try PPSSPP first.
Best Nintendo 3DS emulator: Citra Emulator
Price: Free / $4.99
Citra Emulator is one of two Nintendo 3DS emulators on Android that we’re aware of. That said, this one is the better option by a fairly wide margin. It supports hardware controllers along with the usual stuff like save and load states. There are also options to improve the graphics by scaling the resolution and using texture filters. The premium version adds some additional texture filters as well. Game compatibility was solid all-around in our testing, too.
The only other Nintendo 3DS emulator worth mentioning is MegaZ 3DS. We’re pretty sure it uses Citra’s open-source code, so the differences are likely minimal.
Best Nintendo Switch emulator: Yuzu
Yuzu has long been one of the best Nintendo Switch emulators on PC, but now it’s also available on Android. Performance is a step above other Android Nintendo Switch emulators like Skyline, although there are a few caveats. Developers note that it will work best with newer flagships running the latest Snapdragon SoCs. Phones with MediaTek or Exynos processors may not work at all.
Still, we’re talking about emulating a current-gen (if underpowered) console on Android, which is a major feat. Even major releases like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom were supported on day one. Of course, we only recommend emulating games you’ve purchased and ripped yourself, and with Nintendo’s penchant for litigation, it’s possible that this emulator on Android won’t be around forever.
Other, more niche emulators
There are emulators for a metric ton of other things on Android. We’ll go through a short list of emulators for older or less popular consoles here.
We’d also like to give an honorable mention to Autosync by MetaCtrl (Google Play). It basically lets you take any folder on your phone and back it up to the cloud. This is an amazing app that lets you backup all of your save states, emulator files, etc, and then restore them on another device. It takes a minute to set up and learn how to use, but every emulator user should have it as it basically adds cloud-saving support to every emulator. Just take your time when setting it up.
- 2600.emu (Atari 2600) — A reasonably good Atari 2600 emulator for playing classics like Pac-Man. It’s sleek, refined, and works well with every game we tried.
- C64.emu (Commodore 64) — C64.emu is the only consistently updated Commodore 64 emulator and comes with plenty of features. It also works well.
- EmuBox (multi-console emulator) — EmuBox is an okay multi-console emulator with support for a few different consoles. It’s still in active development, and it’s quite buggy, but it could get better over time.
- MAME Neo Arcade Emulator (NeoGeo) — The ads with this game aren’t great, but compatibility is good, and it’s one of the few competent NeoGeo emulators.
- NGP.emu (NeoGeo Pocket) — A NeoGeo Pocket emulator that works well. It supports multiple file formats, game language switch support, and hardware controller support.