Google me Find me on Twitter Link to me View me Get the RSS Subscribe via email Email me

How to: Old School Gaming on Your Android Device

Today, I posted a picture on my Google+ page about using an app to emulate old video games and connect a PlayStation controller.

The original user, Danny Machal, connected his ASUS Transformer Infinity to play Nintendo 64 games. I was going to post the how to on creating the link, then I thought that some readers might not even know the basics of ROM emulation.

The concept of ROM emulation stems back to the original incarnation of gaming. Gamers wanted to be able to play their old games on their new devices, so they created emulators to enable the process. Because of copyright regulations, emulators don’t last long when placed into the open market.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good emulator, you just have to work a little. You can find an emulator for just about every gaming system available. Here’s a list of my favorites, with a link to a site where you might find an emulator:

  1. Atari (800/2600)
  2. Nintendo (nesoid)
  3. Super Nintendo (snesoid)
  4. Nintendo 64 (n64oid)

You might try DroidEmu (free with ads, or $7.99) to emulate many different older-system games under a single app. I would recommend not using Google Play to find an emulator, since most of the emulators are just adware.

This process requires that you “sideload” the apps. To enable sideloading click Settings > Security > Unknown sources.

Run Apps from Unknown Sources

At this point you can install non-Google Play apps. Be careful though, you can install malicious apps, so make sure you have a great security program like Lookout, and you’re only downloading from trusted sources. Note: an installable will have an app extension of “.apk” (minus quotes).

I find the easiest way to sideload is to either download the app directly on my device or use USB to transfer. Sometimes, I’ll also use Dropbox or Bitcasa to transfer the app, if I’m at my computer and don’t have the USB cable close. This method requires a triple transfer (download to computer, upload to Dropbox/Bitcasa, download to Android device), so you’re taking more time. You’ll also use this same method to transfer your game ROMs, so figure out a method that works well. Tip: I like saving to Dropbox or Bitcasa because you can easily store your ROMs/apps for the future, if you need.

With your emulator installed, you’re ready to start looking for some games. A simple search on Google can pull up some sites, but my favorites are this one or this one. Most sites organize their ROMs alphabetically by gaming system.

Follow these steps to get your ROM onto your device:

  1. Download ROM to computer;
  2. Extract .zip file
  3. Transfer ROM file to your tablet or phone’s SD Card

You don’t need a SD Card, but remember, ROMs take up space.

When you start the emulator, you’ll see a list of games if you’ve installed everything correctly.

Click the game and start playing.

DroidEmu Running Contra on Android

Time to bust out that tattered list of codes tucked away among your used-to-be-seldom-played Atari, Nintendo, or SEGA games.

Next time, I’ll show you how to connect your Wii or PlayStation controllers. But for now, have fun reliving your childhood.

Update: I should have added that you will most likely violate US copyright laws by installing and using any emulated game. Nintendo offers a great summary of the copyright restrictions.

Let's discuss this