Stop 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, 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, 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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
See, it’s gone now!
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, 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.
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.