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retroarch nes emulatorStop messing around with various emulators for your Android and get RetroArch. This single app – a front end for multiple emulators – can run games designed for anything from the NES to the Sega Genesis to the original PlayStation. Even better: you can get it right now from Google Play, no jailbreak required.

We’re emulation fans here at MakeUseOf. They’re part of how we preserve the fading games of yesterday The Fading Games Of Yesterday, And How We Preserve Them [Feature] The Fading Games Of Yesterday, And How We Preserve Them [Feature] What is your favorite video game of all time? If you’re in your twenties, or older, there’s a good chance that you answer to this question isn’t a recent title. It may be a classic... Read More , and they’re also just plain fun. So it’s only natural we’ve been looking for a way to play our favorite retro classics on our Android device.

RetroArch makes this possible for a whole bunch of platforms at once, and it’s really easy to install. Of course, touch screens suck for this sort of gaming. RetroArch helps by offering various on-screen controllers, but I recommend you use your WiiMote with your Android device How To Use Your WiiMote As A Controller For Your Android Device How To Use Your WiiMote As A Controller For Your Android Device Use your WiiMote as a gamepad for your Android tablet or phone. Touch screens are great for some games, but for others you just need tactile response. So, if you prefer to do your gaming... Read More , or find some other controller you can connect using Bluetooth.

Oh, and before you head to the comments: we’re not going to tell you where to find ROMs. Don’t even ask.

Using RetroArch for Android

When you first open RetroArch you’ll be presented with a complete list of “engines” supported by the program. Don’t panic: it’s not hard to figure out what this means.

retroarch nes emulator

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Think of this basically as a list of emulators offering inside RetroArch. Pick your engine, then browse your device for a ROM that the engine is capable of running. Your game will launch immediately, complete with on-screen controls:

retro arch nes

On-Screen Controls

The default on-screen controls look exactly like the old Super Nintendo ones. This is great if you’re playing a Super Nintendo game, but what if you’re not? Don’t worry; you can select from a variety of different on-screen controllers if you want. Here’s what the NES one looks like:

retro arch nes

You’ll find the option to for these alternative overlays in the app settings.

You’ll notice there’s an extra button, with a down arrow. Hit that and you’ll bring up the in-game menu for the emulator:

retro arch nes

Here you’ll find the usual save/load state buttons, which allow you to save at any time in any game. You’ll also find a slow motion button, and rewind/fast forward button. These last ones are particularly fascinating, because they basically add Braid-style time manipulation to any game you’re emulating. Map them to a button and you can undo any mistake. Here’s what that looks like in the Windows version of RetroArch:

Pretty spectacular, right?

Oh, and do you want to hide the controller overlay completely? You can do that easily: simply tap the extra button you used to open the menu another time.

retroarch nes emulator

See, it’s gone now!

Supported Emulators

As I said in the intro, RetroArch supports many different emulators. Here’s a list:

  • PlayStation 1, using PCSX ReARMed
  • Super Nintendo, using SNES9x Next
  • Nintendo Entertainment System, using either CEUmm or NEStopia)
  • GameBoy and GameBoy Color, using Gambatte
  • GameBoy Advance, using VBA Next
  • Arcade games, using Final Burn Alpha
  • Neo Geo Pocket Color, using Mednafen NGP
  • Virtual Boy, using Mednafen VB
  • Sega Genesis or Mega Drive, using Genesis Plus GX
  • Sega Master System or Sega Game Gear, using Genesis Plus GX
  • Sega CD or Mega CD, using emulator: Genesis Plus GX
  • PC Engine or PC Engine CD, using Mednafen PCE Fast
  • WonderSwan Color or Crystal, using Mednafen Wonderswan
  • Cave Story MUO Games - Cave Story: A Tiny Addictive Game MUO Games - Cave Story: A Tiny Addictive Game Read More , using the NX Engine
  • Doom 1, Doom 2, Ultimate Doom or Final Doom, using prBoom

I’m particularly excited about having a way to play Cave Story on my Android devices, but there’s a lot here to get excited about.

Get Retro Arch

So, a program this awesome will never be offered in the Google Play Store, right? You probably think you need to download an APK, jailbreak your Android and then install it.

But you’re wrong: you can download RetroArch from Google Play right now.


It goes without saying: do not use this emulator to run software you don’t own. Ever. Nintendo will hunt you down and smote you with the flames of ten thousand suns, and you won’t like it.

If you own a mess of NES software — or software for any retro platform – this app is your new best friend. It gives your Android device the ability to play a wide variety of the best Android games from the past. What are you using it to play? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

  1. robert
    February 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    legally speaking you are supposed to be creating your own rom dumps, from the physical copies of the games that you actually own.

    ive been having horrible trouble getting successful bluetooth connection from a wiimote on android, ios, and pc (as in NONE of them work). it seems like it might have at one time, but everything has somehow been broken in recent updates

  2. Justin Pot
    February 16, 2015 at 2:10 am

    For legal reasons we can't tell you where to find ROMs, sorry.

  3. Angel Terrazas
    February 15, 2015 at 8:08 am

    This sucks. I only downloaded two roms to nds4ios and none to retroarch and when I was about to download super smash bros (my favorite game when I was little) it said that the game could not be downloaded due to copyright. Does anyone know any good rom websites beside cool roms?

  4. Terqz
    March 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing, this is a good find for me since I am a Pokemon enthusiast and wanting to play Pokemon in my android phone..

    Thank you MUO.. :)

    • Justin Pot
      March 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Catch 'em all!

  5. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Wow. I hate having to hunt down different emulators for different consoles, and this one just blow my mind away. To think they specifically support Cave Story!
    Does this work with multidisc ISO (as if in Final Fantasy 7-9)?

    • Justin Pot
      March 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Multidisk ISO should be fine. As I recall those games ask you to save before switching disks, so at the very least you should be able to switch disks then.

  6. Jack Giebel
    March 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    You don't need to jailbreak to install non play store apps on android...

    • Justin Pot
      March 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Yeah, I'm pretty new to Android and am learning. I had the impression that several phones and tablets blocked third party apps, but it seems that's the exception and not the rule. Thanks for helping clarify.

  7. Alexander Carstensen
    March 1, 2013 at 9:49 am

    That looks awesome! Definately going to check it out.

  8. Craig Snyder
    March 1, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Huge fan of this so far, really nice share.

  9. Brad Ganley
    March 1, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Jut as a side note responding to something you said that has absolutely no bearing on the article:

    You don't have to "jailbreak" an Android phone to install an APK. Also, jailbreaking is an iPhone thing. Rooting is the closest thing Android has to that and, again, it's not necessary to do that to install an APK.

    • Justin Pot
      March 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks for the clarification, Brad.

  10. Garris Rago
    February 28, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    This looks amazing, does anybody know if its possible in anyway shape or form to connect a nes controller to this?

    • William Lewis
      February 28, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      I was just wondering the same thing. A quick google search responded with PSX4droid, which is a PS1 emulator that allows you to connect your PS controller to your Android phone. It's not the exact answer you're looking for, but it proofs it is possible.

  11. juan david gil
    February 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    it works well, i have it, just two things: it doesnt handle zipped roms and sometimes it behaves funny when updating the app (low disk space message, just uninstall and install the updated version)

    • Federico Guzmán
      March 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Actually I used it with zipped roms without any problem...

      • Justin Pot
        March 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        Pretty sure a couple of those screenshots are zipped ROMs...

  12. j
    February 28, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    nintendo will *smite you

  13. Javier Vega
    February 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    This looks nice, i've seen a lot of emulators for android like this one (pack of emulators) that are paid (or filled with ads), maybe this will be a nice addition to my device...installing...


    • Justin Pot
      February 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Yep, this one is both free and clean. Open source is awesome.

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        March 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm

        This is open source? Extra awesomeness, then.

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