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5 retro games emulators you didn't know you could play on your Android phone

From the Sega Saturn to the Virtual Boy, there are plenty of lesser-known consoles you can emulate on Android.
February 12, 2023
Neo Geo Pocket Color retroarch SNK vs Capcom resized
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

There’s really no shortage of retro games emulators to run on your Android smartphone. Some of the big-name machines you can emulate on Android include the NES, SNES, Sega Mega Drive, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Sega Dreamcast, and more. Those are just the home consoles too, with emulators also available for major handheld machines like the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation Portable. For more info and all of these and more, check out our guide to the best emulators for Android.

But what if you’re on the hunt for more niche machines to emulate? Well, these are some of the lesser-known consoles you can emulate on Android.

NEC TurboGrafx 16

Did you know that Bomberman maker Hudson Soft and Japanese IT firm NEC teamed up to produce a games console? Yep, the TurboGrafx 16 — known as the PC Engine in Japan — was first released way back in 1987.

The TurboGrafx 16 essentially landed between the NES and SNES in terms of graphical capabilities, touting an 8-bit CPU and 16-bit graphics chip. This enabled some great-looking video games for the time, such as Street Fighter 2, Strider, and R-Type.

You can emulate TurboGrafx 16 games on your Android device via the PC.Emu emulator. This is a paid emulator retailing for $4. Alternatively, the TurboGrafx 16 Mini console is also available, albeit for a few hundred dollars these days.

Notable games: Bonk’s Adventure, R-Type, Bomberman ’93, Parasol Stars

Sega Saturn

Redmi 5 Sega Saturn
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

Sega’s rival to the PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 suffered from high launch pricing, eclectic specs that made game development difficult, and Sega’s scattershot approach to previous hardware. So it’s no wonder that the Saturn was a sales disappointment in most regions bar Japan.

Sega was also caught napping by the 3D revolution, with Sony PlayStation and Nintendo offering consoles that were specifically made with 3D in mind. Nevertheless, the Saturn gained a reputation for being a 2D powerhouse, with 2D titles often running better here than on the PS1.

Fortunately, modern gamers can indeed emulate Sega Saturn games on Android thanks to the Yaba Sanshiro 2 emulator, available via the Play Store. The developer previously told us that the emulator’s minimum requirement was an Amlogic S922X TV box chipset (4x Cortex-A73 and 2x Cortex-A53), but even a Snapdragon 660 device should run almost all games just fine. Either way, you should probably buy a mobile controller for the best experience.

Notable games: Nights Into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Daytona USA, X-Men vs Street Fighter

Neo Geo Pocket Color

Neo Geo Pocket Color retroarch on Pixel edited
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

This device was one of many challengers to Nintendo’s handheld throne in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and it certainly made for an interesting proposition compared to other pretenders.

In terms of hardware, the Neo Geo Pocket Color offered a critically praised control stick as well as a reported 30 to 40 hours of battery life from two AA batteries. By comparison, Nintendo touted up to 10 hours off juice for the Game Boy Color.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for the Neo Geo Pocket Color was its library of SNK-developed games. SNK was renowned for its arcade titles, and the company indeed developed portable entries based on these hits. Some of the more biggest names in this regard included Metal Slug 1st Mission, SNK vs Capcom, and King of Fighters.

Unfortunately, the Neo Geo Pocket Color didn’t make a dent in handheld sales owing to the Game Boy line’s dominance. But you can still see what all the fuss was about thanks to the Neo Geo Pocket Color core in the all-in-one Retroarch emulator (seen above) as well as the $5 NGP.emu app.

Notable games: SNK vs Capcom, Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, Puyo Pop, Cool Boarders Pocket

Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo hopped aboard the stereoscopic 3D bandwagon with 1995’s Virtual Boy, years before the 3DS and Avatar were a thing. Unfortunately, this turned out to be Nintendo’s biggest console flop ever.

The Virtual Boy took the form of a headset mounted on a stand, delivering stereoscopic 3D effects with red and black visuals. Yep, no color visuals here. Nintendo also cautioned that the headset could cause nausea and headaches.

Between the strange design, red and black visuals, Nintendo’s own warnings, and the pending arrival of the Nintendo 64, it’s no wonder the console doesn’t make an appearance on Nintendo’s own historical sales chart. Nevertheless, the good news is that you can emulate the Virtual Boy on Android via the free Virtual Virtual Boy app, using either Google Cardboard or a pair of anaglyphic 3D glasses.

Notable games: Virtual Boy Wario Land, 3D Tetris, Red Alarm

Nokia N-Gage

Nokia N-Gage

The N-Gage was the first gaming phone on the market, launching way back in 2003. Nokia’s handset shipped with the company’s Symbian operating system and the expected physical inputs (namely a D-Pad and physical buttons).

Unfortunately, the N-Gage had a number of flaws that ultimately resulted in its premature demise. The silliest issue was that you had to hold the phone sideways to make a call, spawning plenty of memes as a result. Furthermore, switching game cards required you to remove the battery first.

These issues were fixed with the N-Gage QD follow-up (seen above), but it’s fair to say that the Nintendo DS, new Game Boy Advance models, and Sony PSP stole Nokia’s thunder by this point.

Nevertheless, you can now emulate the N-Gage and other Symbian-powered smartphones via the EKA2L1 emulator on the Play Store. The installation process is pretty complicated compared to other emulators, but at least there’s an in-app link to a webpage with relevant links.

Notable games: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Tomb Raider, Pathway to Glory, The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey, The Sims Bustin’ Out

Are there any other overlooked retro games emulators you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments!