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Pokémon Go took the world by storm, attracting new players and instilling a powerful feeling of nostalgia in others. This is in no small part thanks to the title featuring the original set of creatures from Pokémon Red and Blue that debuted way back in 1998.
If you’re missing some of the old Pokémon games, don’t despair. It’s actually quite easy to play them on your Android phone or tablet today. Here’s how.
Which Pokémon Games Are Playable on Android?
Currently, everything from the original Game Boy games to the Nintendo DS titles are available to emulate on Android. That includes:
- Game Boy (GB): Red, Blue, and Yellow
- Game Boy Color (GBC): Gold, Silver, and Crystal
- Game Boy Advance (GBA): Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald; FireRed and LeafGreen
- Nintendo DS (NDS): Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum; HeartGold and SoulSilver; Black and White; Black and White 2
These are the main series games, though you can also emulate spinoff titles like Pokémon Pinball if you like.
As you’d expect, the newer a console, the more difficult it is to emulate. While there are some experimental builds available, 3DS emulation is still not possible for Android. This means that newer games like Pokémon X and Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and Sun and Moon can’t be emulated on Android.
By the way, we’ve looked at how to play Pokémon games on iPhone and iPad if you have those devices as well.
How to Play Pokémon Games on Android
Once you’ve made sure that the game you want to play is realistic, this is what you’ll need to get Pokémon on Android:
- An emulator for the system the game was originally on.
- A ROM of the game.
An emulator is a piece of software that imitates a certain game system. If you want to play GB, GBA, and NDS games, you’ll need an emulator for each. Just because the consoles were backwards-compatible doesn’t mean the emulators necessarily are.
Most emulators supports custom save states and fast-forwarding, both of which are extremely useful for Pokémon games. Custom save states let you use multiple save files at once, and you can save at times the game doesn’t normally let you, like in the middle of a battle.
Fast-forwarding solves the issue of characters talking too slowly, and also allows you to run around quickly without being told “this is not the place to ride your bicycle.”
A ROM is essentially a file containing all of the game’s data. If you want to play Pokémon Red and Pokémon HeartGold, you’ll need a Pokémon Red ROM and a Pokémon HeartGold ROM.
Now you’re ready to dive in. Next, we’ll look at what emulators to use and how to find ROMs.
Which Emulator Should You Use for Pokémon?
The answer to this question depends on which console you’re looking to emulate, so let’s look at them separately.
If you don’t see an emulator on this list, it’s probably best to avoid it. There are unfortunately lots of spam emulators in the Play Store that are just copies of existing emulators with ads jammed into every corner. We’ve tested the below choices to ensure that they work well; see more of our favorite emulators for Android if you want to play other consoles too.
Game Boy and Game Boy Color
There’s only one solid contender for emulating both the Game Boy and Game Boy Color: My OldBoy! It comes in free and paid versions; the Free version should work for casual use. It allows for regular in-game saves, fast-forwarding up to 2x speed, entering cheat codes, and customizing the controls.
Upgrading for $4 allows you to link up with other users to trade Pokémon, fast-forward faster than 2x, and save at any time. We’d say that’s worth a few dollars, especially if you plan to play several games.
Either way, both the free and paid versions have perfect performance since these systems are so old—and there are no ads during gameplay.
Game Boy Advance
Much like with the GB/GBC, the GBA has really one standout emulator: My Boy! This emulator from the same developer is almost identical to My OldBoy!, except that it plays GBA games instead.
While the free version of the app is no longer available, the paid full version allows you to save at any time and fast-forward up to 16x speed. You can even link up to trade with or battle your friends.
If you want to play GBA Pokémon games but can’t pay, check out John GBAC for a free alternative.
Download: My Boy! ($4.99)
We’ll first mention the free option: nds4droid. This emulator is completely free and open source with no ads. It has customizable controls, so you can put the buttons or D-pad wherever you want. While the performance won’t blow you away, it’s good enough on most devices. It also hasn’t been updated in a few years, unfortunately.
Like most emulators, it supports custom save states and cheat codes, but there’s no fast-forwarding. For playing games at normal speed, though, it gets the job done.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to pay a few dollars, you should absolutely check out DraStic. It has noticeably better performance, and it supports fast-forwarding.
DraStic is still in active development, and works on Android TV along with smartphones and tablets. If you’ve got a few bucks to put towards your Pokémon experience, it’s worth it.
How Do You Get Old Pokémon Game ROMs?
We can’t provide information on where to find game ROMS. While they’re readily available across the internet, know that downloading ROMs for games that you do not own is piracy. Nintendo has a strong stance against the use of ROMs, so you do so at your own risk.
We can, however, give you a few tips for parsing through ROMs.
Make sure that you get the appropriate version for your region. After most ROM names, there will be a (J), (U), (E), or some other letter depending on the game. J stands for Japan, U stands for United States, and E stands for Europe.
Any region should work with an emulator, but you’ll of course want to get one that matches where you live. If you don’t speak Japanese and download the Japanese version of a game, it won’t make much sense.
Also, pay attention to the file that downloads. ROMs come in ZIP files that you usually don’t have to unzip; some come as RAR files instead. If a website provides an APK or EXE file, delete it. That’s malware waiting to infect your device.
ROM files are small in size, relative to the age of the console. Pokémon Red measures just 380KB, while Pokémon Black is around 110MB.
Which Pokémon Games Will You Play?
Now you know how easy it is to get Pokémon games for your Android device. You can start reliving your favorites or trying a generation you missed on-the-go anytime.