Android smartphone and tablet games are designed to be compelling and addictive; their sales figures back this up. But quite often it would be great to be able to carry on playing a game after your battery has run down, or you’ve sat down in front of your PC or laptop.
The answer, of course, is to continue playing your Android game on your PC. But how is this possible?
Several tools are available that can make this happen, from emulators and virtual machines to browser plugins. But which is the best option?
3 Emulators That Will Run Android Games on a PC
One popular way to run Android software on a PC is by running an emulator or virtual machine. Three options worth considering in this case are:
- GenyMotion — A virtualization project, that runs with Oracle VirtualBox. Free signup is required.
- Nox App Player — Emulates Android on your Windows desktop. Probably the simplest of these options. It’s also a favorite for people who want to play Pokemon Go on their PCs.
- AMIDuOS [No Longer Available] — Android Lollipop emulator designed to run games (and apps) in Windows 7/8/10. Costs around $14 (price on site is €13) but with a free 30 day trial.
But which of these is best? If you’re looking for a method of playing any Android game on a desktop PC or laptop (or even Windows tablet) with the minimum of fuss, the best option is Nox App Player. But because we like you, we’re going to look at all three in detail.
Playing Your Favorite Game
There’s a good chance that if you’re trying to play Android games on your desktop computer, it’s because there’s one particular title that you want to have some fun with. Of course, we don’t know which game that is, but you’ll find that the clear majority of titles will play without any problem.
To give you an idea of how easy it is to install a game with these three systems, however, I’ve attempted to install Angry Birds Go on each one. But is it simply a case of installing the game from the available app store, and playing, much as you would with a mobile Android device?
Note, however, that you may require some time to correctly configure how you control the game. While keyboard and mouse may be an option, a game controller is probably your best bet.
1. Virtual Android With GenyMotion
Two downloads are available for GenyMotion. The first has VirtualBox bundled, for those of you aren’t already using the virtual machine tool. If you have Oracle VirtualBox installed on your PC already, however, choose the smaller download. You’ll need to sign up to proceed, but this is free for home use.
We’re looking at the Windows version here, but note that GenyMotion offers Mac OS X and Linux downloads.
Once downloaded, run the GenyMotion installer to get started. During the setup, you’ll be prompted to enter your login details. Click Yes when prompted to add a new virtual device, and select your preferred virtual Android device from the list, clicking Next to proceed, then Finish when the process is complete.
To run your downloaded virtual device, click Start. GenyMotion features a bunch of controls along the edges of the window, including screen rotation and volume. You won’t find any games there, so will have to install a gapps package (Google apps) to install Google Play. We tried this and unfortunately the results were disappointing, but you might have better luck using this guide:
Not that you will not be able to install titles via a third-party app store, as the browser crashes when this is attempted.
2. Nox App Player
A less time intensive option, Nox includes some additional features, such as screen recording. To install, head to the website and download, then run the EXE file, following the instructions. Once complete, Nox App Player will be ready.
This emulator is very user-friendly. For instance, there is a collection of buttons around the app window, that you can use to simulate interaction with a touch screen, portable device. There’s also keyboard mapping, which can improve your performance in Android FPS games, which like any other, can be installed from Google Play.
It’s also possible to drag files — including game APKs — from your PC.
To install a game from your PC, you need to first enable root on the app. Look for the Settings cog in the top-right corner, click this, then select On in the drop-down menu for Root. You’ll need to restart Nox App Player to proceed. Once restarted, apps can be installed by dragging an APK file from your PC desktop into the Nox App Player window. There’s also a browsable option via the right-hand menu bar.
If you need more help setting up Nox to run your Android games on Windows, have a look at this article:
AMIDuOS is a simple installation, and once you run it you’ll see that you can install games from the Amazon App Store (stock apps are included). To install games from Google Play, you’ll need to a gapps (Google Apps) package, which you’ll find at the AMIDuOS website.
Simply choose the update that matches the AMIDuOS version you installed, and follow the displayed instructions to apply it to AMIDuOS.
Once this is done, you can start installing apps.
Android Emulators Stability and Issues
While all three of these tools are worth trying, in practice the results are mixed. For instance, Nox App Player will only run with the basic Intel GPU on my laptop. Similarly, AMIDuOS refuses to install Angry Birds Go from the Amazon App Store.
And then there’s GenyMotion, with its Google Apps-free environment and almost useless browser. A lot of effort and some luck is required to get games running here.
In short, while these tools are all workable, and might give you the results you want, there is a lack of consistency. This might be a big problem for you if you want to run that great new mobile game on your desktop or laptop.
So, what should you do?
Traditional Android App Emulation on Your PC
We’ve previously looked at other tools for running Android apps and games. These options might suit you better than those listed above.
- Bluestacks — This is probably the most well-known Android emulator.
- Android x86 Project — A full Android operating system designed to run on desktop computers (if for some reason you’re interested in older Android versions running on your PC).
- Remix OS — Another Android distribution aimed at desktop PCs. (Remix OS is particularly good at running high-end Android games.)
Our look at methods of running Android apps on your PC will offer more options. Meanwhile, if you have an Android device and want to run games from it on your PC, look at AirMore, a PC sync tool that features wireless mirroring.
We’ve also looked at the ARChon Custom Runtime for the Chrome browser, but this — and its more recent update — don’t appear to support Android games on a desktop computer.
Playing Android Games on PC: It’s Not Easy
As you’ve no doubt realized, getting Android games to run on your PC is not simple. While it is possible, you’ll need to spend time working out which is the best app for you, and your PC. Once you’ve done this, you’re then going to have to spend even more time trying out the games you want to run on your PC, and hoping that your chosen emulator or virtual machine is up to the task of running the game. Even then, you might run into issues with the lack of a suitable controller.
If it’s a big screen Android experience you’re looking for, you might prefer to cast your Android device to a TV, or even invest on an Android game console.
Have you tried any of these methods? Do you prefer to keep your Android games on your phone or tablet? Controller issues? Tell us in the comments.