RetroArch Emulates NES, Playstation, Gameboy Color/Advance And A Whole Lot More [Android]

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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, 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.

retroarch nes emulator

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:

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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, 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.

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Comments (24)
  • robert

    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

  • Justin Pot

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

  • Angel Terrazas

    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?

  • Terqz

    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.. :)

  • Lisa Santika Onggrid

    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

      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.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.