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For many of us, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Advance games were our childhood. Unfortunately for the fans of Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon, Nintendo has been reluctant to create Android games, unlike Sega, which has released several Sonic games. It’s here that the openness of Android excels, allowing users to download emulators and ROMs to play some of their favorite old games.
Sure, you can emulate GBA and N64 games on your PC, and even several different consoles on your Wii, but gaming on Android allows you a new level of portability. Play on the bus ride to work. Play on your lunch break. Play on your roof — I don’t care! (However, I’m not responsible if you fall off your roof because you were too distracted by the awesome games on your phone.) You can even connect an Xbox 360, PS3, Bluetooth, or Wii controller if you really hate touch-screen controls. The possibilities are endless.
You can also emulate older consoles on Android, but I’ll focus mainly on the two best consoles that Android can emulate: Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Advance. There are DS emulators, like nds4droid, but in my experience, they have been achingly slow (if they run at all).
Get An Emulator
Let’s begin with N64. The best option out there right now is Mupen64+ AE which is available for free on the Google Play Store and also as a 99 cent donation version if you’re feeling generous. You can also get N64oid from the SlideMe marketplace for $4.99 [No Longer Available] if you have some grudge against Mupen, or download it for free here. (You can unzip .tar files using 7Zip or ZipItFree.) Both N64 emulators have worked fine in my testing, but for this article I’ll be using Mupen.
Mupen works really well and has a lot of useful features you might not have thought you needed. You can change the size and opacity of the onscreen buttons, but the real advantages are if you use Bluetooth controllers. It allows for individual mapping of the buttons, and you can create profiles if different games require different common buttons. It even supports up to four players, if for some reason you have four Bluetooth controllers lying around.
The most useful feature I found when playing Mario Kart 64 was that you can map the buttons to physical keys. Having the L button mapped to my volume keys made it much easier for me to use items (I still lost; Mario Kart was never my game).
For GBA, you can either $4.99 version. If you get Gameboid, you will need to download the GBA BIOS that can be downloaded from Roms4Droid. The BIOS is a file it requires to run, and it will prompt you for it as soon as you open the app. Just unzip it, remove the “gba_bios.bin” file, and place it in the folder on your Android device where you plan to keep your ROMs (game files).and install it on your Android, or get “My Boy! – GBA Emulator” from the Google Play Store, which has a limited free version [No Longer Available], and a full-featured
The cool thing about My Boy! is that you can move the onscreen keys, resize them, and even add some extra keys for quick saves, fast forwarding, and screenshots. The fast forward feature is the most convenient thing ever when playing Pokémon, a game that moves notoriously slowly. Having an onscreen fast forward button was a huge help.
I like Gameboid’s default layout, but if you don’t like it, too bad. It’s not as customizable as My Boy!’s. However, if you’re not willing to spend the $4.99 for the full-featured version of My Boy!, Gameboid is a solid free alternative. Both support cheats and hardware button mapping if your phone happens to have any hardware buttons that you really want to use. You can also hook up external controllers, but I’m not sure how necessary that is for GBA games.
Get Some ROMs
A ROM is a .zip file that is basically a game. There are ROMs for nearly every game imaginable: Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros., Pokemon Emerald, Advance Wars, etc. Be sure to only download games that you legally own. To make things simpler for yourself, put all your ROMs and your BIOS file in a single folder. When you startup your emulator, you’ll have to direct it to the ROM you want to play, and it’ll make your life easier if they’re all in one location.
When you save your game, you’ll use the emulator’s built-in saving save feature as opposed to the in-game saving feature. This is convenient because you can pause at any exact moment, not just where the game would typically allow you to save. Saving will create a .sav file in the same folder as your ROM. If you ever want to move your game info from one phone or tablet to another, just copy your entire ROM folder over so that it takes the .sav files with it. The app/emulator itself doesn’t store any info.
Go forth and play thy retro games. The world is your playground. You now have an expansive amount of games at your fingertips, and you should take full advantage of it.
What are your favorite N64 and GBA games? What’s your favorite emulation app for Android? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in emulating old consoles on your PC, there are plenty of options available to you. You can check out how to emulate consoles from 1972-1980, 1981-1986, 1987-1993, and 1994-2001 in our four part series on PC emulation.