Pokemon Go is taking the world by storm, and for many of us, this new Augmented Reality game has a strong nostalgic feel. These are the original 150 creatures from Pokemon Red and Blue that debuted way back in 1996.
If Pokemon Go has you missing some of the old games, don’t despair! It’s actually super easy to go back and play them on your Android phone or tablet. Here’s how.
Which Pokemon Games Are Playable?
Obviously, the newer a console, the more complex and difficult it is to emulate. Currently, everything from the Game Boy Color to the Nintendo DS is able to be emulated on Android. That includes:
- Game Boy Color (GBC): Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow; Silver, Gold, 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
Unfortunately, this means that 3DS games are unplayable. There’s just simply no way to emulate them on Android yet — so Pokemon X and Y, OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire, and X and Y can’t be emulated. Obviously, you won’t be playing Sun or Moon either.
How It All Works
As long as you’re coming into this with realistic expectations of what games you can play, this is what you’ll need:
- An emulator
- A ROM
An emulator is basically the game system. If you want to play GBC, GBA, and NDS games, you’ll need an emulator for each. Just because the consoles were backwards compatible doesn’t mean the emulators are.
Most emulators supports custom save states and fast-forwarding, both of which are extremely useful for Pokemon games. Custom save states mean you can have multiple save files going at once, and you can save at times you normally couldn’t, like in the middle of a battle.
— Pokemon News (@Pokemonreddit) July 11, 2015
Fast-forwarding also solves the issue of characters talking way too slowly, and it allows you to run around with speed without being told “this is not the place to ride your bicycle.”
A ROM is essentially the game. If you want to play Pokemon Red and Pokemon HeartGold, you’ll need a Pokemon Red ROM and a Pokemon HeartGold ROM.
Great, now you’re ready to dive in. Let’s find you some emulators and ROMs.
Which Emulator Should You Use?
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. Lots of spam emulators have popped up in the Play Store that are just copies of existing emulators with ads jammed into every corner — but we’ve tested these to ensure that they work well.
There’s really only one contendor for emulating this classic handheld console, and that’s My OldBoy! It comes in Free and $3.99 versions, but the Free version could definitely work for most people. It allows for regular in-game saves, fast-forwarding up to 2x speed, entering cheat codes, and customizing the controls.
Upgrading allows you to link up with other users to trade Pokemon, fast-forward faster than 2x, and save at any time. I’d say that’s worth $3.99, but that’s up to you. Either way, both the Free and Paid versions have perfect performance since it’s such an old console — and there are no ads! You can’t go wrong.
Much like with the GBC, the GBA has really one standout emulator: My Boy! This emulator is almost identical to My OldBoy! except that it plays GBA games instead.
Similar rules apply here: the Free version only allows 2x fast-forward speed and saving in-game. Upgrading to the $4.99 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! Though the best part is probably that it doesn’t have any ads, even in the Free version, unlike all the other available emulators.
Note that some older GBA emulators needed a BIOS file to work, but that’s not the case with My Boy!
First off, 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. Unfortunately, the performance won’t blow you away, but it’s good enough on most devices.
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.
Download: nds4droid (Free) on the Play Store
On the other hand, if you’re willing to pay $5.99, you should absolutely check out DraStic. It has noticeably better performance, and it supports fast-forwarding.
You can try out the free version first to make sure that it works, but it will only allow for 30 minutes of gameplay before you’ll have to upgrade. Still, if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, it’s so worth it.
Download: DraStic DS Emulator (($5.99) on the Play Store
How Do You Get ROMs?
Sorry, but you’re on your own for this one. Thankfully, ROMs can be found easily with a simple Google search, but you should only download ROMs for games that you currently own. We can, however, give you some tips for downloading ROMs.
Make sure that you get the appropriate version for your region. After most ROM names, there will be a (J), (U), (E), or maybe some other letter depending on the game. J stands for Japan, U stands for United States, E stands for Europe, and so on.
Any of these regions will work with your emulator, but if you don’t speak Japanese and download the Japanese version, it might be a little difficult for you to navigate.
Also, pay attention to the file that is downloaded. ROMs come in ZIP files that don’t need to be unzipped, and some ROMs come as RAR files. If a website downloads an APK or EXE file, delete it. That’s not a ROM; that’s malware.
ROM files are also very small. Pokemon Red measures just 370KB, while Black is 106MB.
Which Pokemon Games Are You Playing?
If you’re not on Android, don’t worry, you can also emulate old games on iOS.
And if these games still don’t satisfy your Pokemon cravings, try out these amazing fan-made games as well. Plus, if you ever move on from Pokemon, there are tons of other great retro games you could emulate.
Finally, you can emulate your Android apps and games on your PC.