The 5 Best Emulators For Android

portable emulation station

The 5 Best Emulators For Android

Gamers have always longed for a way to take their favorite games with them when they leave home. While handhelds made that easier, they did lock you into certain ecosystems. The best emulators on Android changed all that. Now, you can play console-based games on the go!

If you own an Android smartphone or slate, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of emulators and ROMs. Before you attempt to back up your games or download EMUs, you’ll want to know a few things. Let’s start with the basics and then look at the 5 best Emulators for Android users today.

Emulation on Android Explained

Android smartphones are more friendly with emulation than iPhones. However, they’re still limited in what they can do. Early consoles like the Commodore and Atari were groundbreaking when they came out. That said, they aren’t comparable to any modern smartphone in the past decade in terms of power.

That means you can’t “emulate” everything on Android, although we think you’ll be surprised by what’s available. Older systems are easy to replicate, but newer generations are challenging. In other words, there are no PlayStation 5 emulators for Android.

Want an Xbox Android emulator? Well, those don’t exist on mobiles either, and developers have a hard enough time getting them to work on high-end PCs. Progress has been made on systems like the Wii, but Nintendo isn’t a company known for cutting-edge hardware. Emulators for systems like the Atari 2600 or NES can run on different hardware, but not consoles from the 90s or newer models.

In addition to console emulation, developers have been able to replicate classic games from handheld systems. That includes Pokémon titles from the GameBoy lineup, along with the PlayStation Portable, Game Gear, and Nintendo 3DS. You’ll find emulators that can play those games on our list, but you won’t find any programs to emulate modern consoles or those still in production.

1. Lemuroid

Lemuroid is a beginner-friendly multi-console emulator and is completely free.

If you’re familiar with emulation, you’ve probably heard of RetroArch. It’s still one of the best all-around emus, but Lemuroid has become a popular choice for Android.

Lemuroid is an app from developer Filippo Scognamiglio. It currently boasts over a million downloads on Google Play, and for a good reason. This emulator can tackle games from more than 20 systems, including older Atari consoles and the entire Nintendo lineup through the N64. You can play 007 GoldenEye or Perfect Dark and then fire up a copy of Sonic or Madden without ever switching apps.

While Lemuroid’s UI isn’t the sleekiest, this app tops our list because it’s incredibly easy to use. You simply have to load your backup ROM files into a directory and have the app scan it. It will categorize titles by console. While settings aren’t many, you do get controller support. You can also enable a vibration/rumble function, set up cloud saves, or load up BIOS files for newer systems.

True, Lemuroid may not have as many bells & whistles as RetroArch. However, it’s still a great way to replicate classic consoles along with those from the 90s to 2000s. Best of all, can download Lemuroid free on Google Play and won’t be bombarded with ads.

2. PPSSPP PSP Emulator

Sony was never able to gain the same type of ground Nintendo did with their handheld consoles. The PSP or PlayStation Portable, had plenty of fans, however. The system has been kept alive due to its hackable nature. But you can still leave yours behind if you have the PPSSPP emulator for Android.

The aptly named PPSSPP PSP emulator is the best option to relive PSP gaming on Android. We’ve seen a few emulators appear over the years that perform similar functions, but none does it, like PPSSPP. Henrik Rydgård’s program made plenty of fans on PC and MACs but is even more intuitive on smaller devices like smartphones.

PPSSPP is simple to use and is full of perks. You can adjust almost anything through the settings menus from rendering resolution to Ad hoc servers and multiplayer. You can even play homebrew games and demos through this emulator thanks to the PPSSPP Homebrew Store.

PPSSPP has an APK file for VR Quest.

PPSSPP is free and has over 100 million downloads at this time. It’s also the only emu on our list with an .APK file you can sideload for VR Quest headsets.  If you like what you see and want to support the developer, you can show your support through the Gold Version of PPSSPP for $4.99.

3. Dolphin Emulator

Getting a PC to run modern console games is challenging, and twice as tough on mobiles. One project managed to strive where others faltered, and the Dolphin EMU is a must-have if you love Nintendo.

Dolphin is a multi-console program. You can’t run games from different systems, however. Instead, Dolphin opens the doors to games from the Wii and the system that came before it with the Nintendo GameCube. With this EMU, you can play titles like Twilight Princess and Lord of the Rings and scores of other games on your mobile.

The thing to keep in mind with the Dolphin Emulator is compatibility, something that plagues next-gen emulators. While the app allows you to “play” more than 50% of games from these systems, only 38% are considered perfect. You can expect glitches with some titles, but you can check on the compatibility of games beforehand through their site.

Like most of the best emulators for Android, Dolphin is free to download and use.

Expect a slight learning curve if you’re new to emulation. Fortunately, they have an active community through their forums and Discord. If you have a modern smartphone with plenty of pop, you can pick up the Dolphin emulator for Android or test it out on Mac and Windows PCs. 

4. ePSXe for Android

The console wars went to a new level when Sony and Microsoft unveiled their first systems. While you can’t play Xbox games on Android unless you’re using Game Pass, you can emulate the original PlayStation. The best option for these titles is a program called ePSXe.

Developers didn’t wait long to dig into the PlayStation One when it was discontinued in place of the PS2. ePSXe can’t handle those games, but it can play older games from the original console. You’ll need to deal with a BIOS which is easy to set up through the app.

ePSXe lets you adjust a number of preferences from the CPU to the UI.

Have a PlayStation controller? You’ll be able to sync it up in seconds and play games from anywhere. The touchscreen controls are solid, but no substitute for an official controller. We’re big fans of the app’s memory card management system as well. From here, you can set save states and memory cards to your Dropbox account.

This is another emulator that can be tough to get used to if you need to adjust settings to suit your phone. If you have a modern handset, you’ll have no problem as long as your backup files are sound and you have a BIOS file. ePSXe is a fantastic option for fans of the PlayStation 1 and is free to download for smartphones and tablets.

5. M64Plus FZ Emulator

PlayStation 2 may be the best-selling console of all time, but Nintendo rules the Top 5. The Nintendo 64 wasn’t the company’s best-seller, but some of the top games of the 90s were produced for this system. Thanks to M64Plus FZ, you can enjoy them on most modern smartphones.

The N64 arrived in 1996 to much fanfare and a unique controller. The colorful console introduced a number of new characters to the world while bringing back favorites like Mario and Zelda. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is just one classic you can play on your smartphone as compatibility is excellent with the M64Plus FZ Emulator.

If you already have backups of your favorite N64 games, you can get started on this emulator in just a few taps. The interface is about as simple as it gets, but you can download box art and tweak dozens of settings. That includes the ability to add texture packs, set controller profiles, or set up Netplay for some GoldenEye 007.

With M64Plus FZ Emulator, you can enjoy some of the 90’s on your smartphone.

The M64Plus FZ Emulator is our top choice for playing N64 games on a smartphone, with over 5 million downloads on developer Francisco Zurita’s Android app. This emulator is free and ad-supported.  

More Great Emulators for Android

The above emulators will play games from the most popular home gaming consoles including systems from the 80s through the 2000s. They are the best, but they aren’t the only ones. Whether you’re looking for an emulator for a specific console or have compatibility issues, you can still explore other excellent alternatives.

While we love Lemudroid for its ease of use, it can’t run “everything” which is where RetroArch comes in handy. This front-end emulator allows you to play all of the same systems as our top choice, but with more consoles including arcade machines. RetroArch also gives users more customization than any other apps and is free to download.

Nintendo has used a variety of controllers over the years including the SNES which introduced shoulder buttons. The console itself is easy to emulate, but one of the best standalone emus for the SNES is from Robert Broglia. This classic emulator has plenty of features and is a breeze to set up. It’s also not the only emulator available from the developer.

Snes9X EX+ is free to download, but the rest of Robert’s emulators are in the paid category. Options include the GBA emu along with emulators for the Neo Geo, Lynx, Swan, and the Commodore 64. Another noteworthy emulator developer on Android is called John Emulators. They are some of the best alternative Nintendo Android emulators with a nice mix of free and paid apps.

Alternatively, some classic games are available without emulators thanks to game packs and ports. Sega has released Sonic for touchscreen devices, and the SNK Corp has several popular options including Big Tournament Golf and Samurai Showdown 3.

The Wrap-Up

The emulation scene has been active on Android since the first handsets rolled out and have shown no signs of slowing down. While you can’t find an emulator for every console, developers have made progress on systems like the Switch and other next-gen consoles. If you want to play classic games on larger screens, check out our guide to the emulators for PC.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best consoles to emulate on Android?

That comes down to preferences and play styles, but handhelds like the PlayStation Portable and GameBoys are perfect on smartphones and tablets.

Are there any PlayStation 3 emulators for Android?

No, there the only PlayStation emulators that work are for the PlayStation 1 and PS2.

Is Final Fantasy available on Android?

Yes, it’s one the only classic series you don’t have to emulator considering Square Enix has ported all of the early games over to Android.

Can you emulate Android games on the TV?

While you can use the cast feature to stream games from your phone to the TV, latency is typically an issue.

Can you play classic console games on Android without an emulator?

 Yes, but only through official ports of classic games from companies like Sega, SNK, Sony, and other publishers.

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