May 21 2012
As most fans of retro & classic gaming will be aware software Apps called emulators can be used to run older video games on your current device. Emulators work by copying the hardware and architecture of another device allowing software written for one machine to run on a completely different machine. This commonly includes video games and as mobile devices have become more popular, they have become better able to run more demanding emulators. All the emulators in this post have been tested on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
The legality of emulation is something of a grey area, whilst freely downloadable games are available, many games that are available for download on the Internet are covered by copyright and you should only download them if you have purchased the original and own a licence for the game. For this article I’m going to assume that you are trying to emulate a game that you legally own.
There are many types of emulators available and I’m going to look at some of the most popular, in addition all the emulators on this article are free of charge.
Times have changed and it wasn’t that long ago that the best place to see the latest in video games was in an arcade. All the latest gaming technology was there and the home machines couldn’t provide a similar experience, because of this many popular arcade games never received an accurate home conversation. Thanks to emulation its possible to play even relatively modern arcade games on your Android handset. The most famous arcade emulator is MAME and there’s a great Android version called MAME4Droid.
MAME is cable of running 2270 different rom sets featuring classic games from several generations from Pacman through to Tekken.
The quality of emulation is superb for the majority of supported games and the ability to customise the layout of the onscreen controls is welcome. The speed at which games run depends on your handset but on our test device, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the majority of games run at full speed with only the most recent of supported games like Tekken running slowly.
Many of you would have gotten your first taste of gaming through home consoles, and many of these are now emulated and their games playable on Android devices. There are far to many console emulators to cover in this one article so I’m going to look at three of the most popular, the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, the Nintendo SNES and the Nintendo Gameboy.
The Nintendo Gameboy was the first popular handheld games system with interchangeable games cartridges, and it took the world by storm becoming a must have device. The games it ran were simple, initially monochrome and limited but many of them were fun and became classics.
There’s a great Gameboy emulator for Android called John GBC Lite which is based on the gnuboy source code, and is free of charge (although ads are displayed on screen). The emulation is excellent and the simple controls work well with the onscreen virtual controls, in fact the emulated games play as well on the Android devices under emulation as they did on the original Gameboy and the screen is easier to view.
If you are looking for an Android Gameboy Emulator then this is one to check out
The Nintendo SNES ( Super Nintendo Entertainment System ) was the follow up to the Extremely popular NES system which had introduced the world to Mario and other Nintendo classic games. The SNES provided a 16 bit platform for colourful updates to these iconic games as well as a a stream of classic titles, at the point of release this was the most powerful home console on the market and it saw many impressive titles. The SNES had many classic games and there is an App available which allows you to play them on your Android Phone.
SNESDroid is available free of charge in the Google Play Store, and is a fantastic emulator. Emulation is full speed and very accurate and the ability to customise to reposition the onscreen buttons is a great touch, allowing you to customise the controls to suit each game, Street Fighter 2 really benefits from this facility.
Sega’s entry into the 16bit market was the Sega Megadrive (AKA The Genesis). The Megadrive became very popular thanks to early big game support, including FIFA and Madden and with the introduction of Sonic the console wrote it’s place in history. GENPLUS droid allows you to play classic Megadrive games perfectly on your Android device and even emulates the Virtua Processor found in the Virtua Racing cartridge, and on our test Samsung Galaxy Nexus Virtua Racing ran at full speed.
Home Computer Emulators
It’s also possible to emulate computer systems on your Android device, and in this article we are going to look at emulating 3 types of computer system, The PC, the Sinclair Spectrum and the Commodore 64.
In the mid 1990′s as PC prices fell they became common place in the home, and with their relatively high specs they started to become powerful games machines with games like Doom boosting their popularity. MSDOS programs and games can be run on your Android device through a free App called aDosBox which emulates a PC DOS environment.
PC gaming back then was sometimes quite technically complex and aDosBox sometimes inherits this complexity but if you know your way around a PC then you’ll get great results. Joystick emulation is included although you may need to activate the virtual keyboard depending on the game you are playing. Emulation performance is good and on our Samsung Galaxy Nexus we were getting performance akin to a high end 486 computer.
The ZX Spectrum is often credited with starting the home computing revolution, it’s relative low price tempted many to purchase it creating a huge user base for the blossoming games industry, and many classic games were spawned, and these can now be played on your Android Device thanks to the fantastic Marvin Emulator.
Marvin offers an incredible retro gaming experience and provides an accurate spectrum emulation complete with virtual keyboard and virtual joystick, it also offers access to the World of Spectrum Game archive, where masses of Spectrum classic games are hosted with permission, allowing you to access 1000′s of games in App, this is a fantastic feature.
Of course the Spectrum had some competition, mainly from the Commodore 64 with it’s more colourful, bold, chunky graphics found it’s own large user base, and C64 games are also playable on Android, through the Mobile C64 App. Working with C64 Disk images many games are playable and the emulation works well through the use of onscreen keyboard and virtual joystick. I was always a spectrum man myself but if you are looking for C64 classic games then you cant go wrong with Mobile C4.
For those of us who have been into gaming for a long time, emulation provides a way for us to re-live the classic games from our past, and the fact that it’s possible to play these games on a handheld device is just incredible. If you are into classic games then check out the Google Play store to see if there’s an emulator for you.
About the Author
This has been a blog post by John Lane, John has been playing and enjoying video games since 1982. To read all his Blog Posts Click Here.
You can follow John on Twitter at @videogamejohn