How to play NES, SNES, Sega Genesis games on your Android smartphone

How to play NES, SNES, Sega Genesis games on your Android smartphone
Those of you who have ever been interested in reviving their childhood memories by playing some old-school video games have probably heard of emulators. In a nutshell, an emulator is an application that enables software to be executed on platforms that it has not been originally intended to run on. And guess what – emulators for various game consoles, including the NES, Super NES, and the SEGA Genesis, are available for Android as well. The more popular amongst them are free to download from the Google Play store and can perfectly run those classic games that many of us have spent so many hours on in our teenage years.

There is one small hurdle in the way, however, namely obtaining an actual copy of a game you are interested in. Games that can be played on emulators come as files called ROMs – files that are basically a copy of the data contained on the original game cartridge. Whether downloading these ROMs is legal or not is a matter of dispute, with game companies claiming that doing so is a copyright violation, while others argue that it is fine, as long as you own and still have the original game cartridge.

Nevertheless, emulators are indeed legal. It is playing an illegally obtained game ROM on them that is in violation of the law. Checking out homebrew titles, on the other hand, is absolutely fine. In addition, there are these ROMs of games that were developed by companies that do not exist anymore, and these can also be played without any fear of men in black suits coming at your door. All in all, before you download or play a particular video game ROM on an emulator, it is advisable to do a little research and make sure you won't be breaking any laws. 

With that out of the way, let's get to the fun part. There are several good NES emulators for Android, but NES-FC is the one we use frequently. The full version of the app costs $2.68 right now, but a free "Lite" alternative is available as well. Before you launch the app, make sure you have your game ROMs copied to your phone and that you know which folder they are in. Now open NES-FC and go to settings. First thing that you should do is to tap "Video scale" and set it to "Auto" so that the image does not stretch across your display if your smartphone is in landscape orientation. Also, if you have a smartphone with a hardware keyboard, (lucky you Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY owners) go to "Key Map-1" in order to adjust your buttons, and then disable the virtual gamepad. Of course, nothing stops you from using the virtual gamepad instead, should you prefer. Now go back to the main menu and tap "Open ROM". Then simply open the desired game ROM and have fun! If for some reason NES-FC does not work well on your device, John NES is a worthy alternative.

Playing SNES ROMs follows a procedure pretty similar to the one we just described. The emulator we are quite happy with is SNESDroid for it is free and gets its job done well. Again, if your smartphone has a hardware keyboard, you can use that instead of the virtual gamepad. Just go to settings and tap "Configure Key/GamePad Input", after which you can uncheck "Show Touch Input". For convenience, it is recommended that you place the game ROMs in /mnt/sdcard/SNESDroid/roms or if you have them stored on an external SD card, go to the bottom of the settings page and point the "ROM DIR" setting to that folder. And that's it! Just go back to the main menu and tap "Load ROM". your ROMs should be listed there.

For SEGA Genesis ROMs we would recommend GENPlusDroid, which can be downloaded for free, and since it is by the same developer as SNESDroid, its interface and settings page are more or less identical. We should mention that both applications are supported by advertisements, yet they never appear during gameplay.

As far as hardware requirements are concerned, we did most of our gaming on a Samsung Galaxy S II, but the emulators managed to deliver smooth framerates on a modest Samsung Galaxy mini 2. Therefore, if you have a relatively new smartphone, performance won't be an issue. What is far more important in order to fully enjoy your gaming is to have a spacious display. That is because tiny screens and on-screen keyboards do not get along well. Of course, if your device is equipped with a decent hardware keyboard, input should not worry you much. Another thing that we should point out is that if you are not comfortable with the controls, playing fast-paced action or jump-and-run games can be frustrating. On the other hand, RPG games (Ultima, Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, to name a few) or other titles that do not require timely reactions are very suitable for emulation on a smartphone.

Anyone thinking of spending the rest of the day playing old-school video games on their Android smartphone? If so, feel free to let us know in the comments below, and do not forget to tell us what games you will be playing. Have fun!



1. Nickmfnjackson

Posts: 101; Member since: Jan 21, 2010

You guys should review a few controller options for these games, because some kinda suck playing on a touch screen. an article comparing different methods, such as, icontrolpad, gamtel wireless controller, the Gamestop controller and console controllers would be pretty sweet

7. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

this is a good idea. i wish they would put an L and R button on phones. they could even put 4 buttons on the bezel as well. you could keep the same basic phone lay out and add 2-6 well placed buttons to make gaming much, much better.

9. Zayuh24

Posts: 149; Member since: Nov 21, 2011

Actually, Sony did that with the Xperia Play, which was a hit for a month or two but was plagued with contradictory software coding and a subpar battery. I still want it though ^_^

11. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

they had a slide out controller. quite different and much more of a commitment than what i'm recommending. i just want some physical buttons around the edges (2 on the side for L, R buttons AND 4 on the opposite bezel: left, right, A, B). it would require very littel change to the accepted form factor, but add a great deal to gaming.

12. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

like when you look at the droid x, see how the camera button and the volume rocker line up like an L and R button? and the 4 android buttons could be put on the left side of the screen in stead of the bottom. boom. gaming device with no goofy slider.

13. Zayuh24

Posts: 149; Member since: Nov 21, 2011

Well that would be nice but the bezel of phones is getting smaller and smaller nowadays to make more screen space. I think it would be better to have three physical buttons (keep the L and R that you suggested while having a dedicated Home button). I think the games should have capacitative buttons instead of physical ones though. The L and R could also be used for many things outside of the game aspect and I think it would help to give them another purpose for being manufactured.

14. sum182

Posts: 229; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

what i use is wiicontroler. it adds bluetooth support so you can hook up your wiimote to your phone, no root required, free in play store. it works perfect as i was able to finish megaman x using it. It even has nunchuck support and you can hook up more than one controller. Using that setup, we had 4 person smash bros (n64 version!) with wiimotes/nunchuck using the asus transformer hdmi to was awsome!

17. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

You stole EVERY WORD right out of my mouth. That is what I use & it works flawlessly. I use the classic controller attached on my Wii controller to play SNES, & N64 games. I just use the Wii controller to play NES & Genesis games. I have EVERY major GREAT game for all the NES, SNES, Genesis & N64. I have almost 300 total games for all 4 systems on my GNex & my Asus Transformer Prime. The app needed to use the Wii Controller is called WiimoteController. It works with stock Android & AOSP versions of Android. It doesn't work with HTC’s Sense though. :-( +1

18. atheisticemetic

Posts: 377; Member since: Dec 18, 2011

so it's time to put a new rom on my rooted htc rezound then lol i will soon be senseless!

23. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

That is 100% correct. I really don't understand why that is but it seems that Sense has some code that the app doesn't like for whatever reason. When I had the HTC Evo 3D I couldn't use the app but once I went with stock vanilla Gingerbread, CM7, or MIUI it worked perfectly. Go figure! lol

27. atheisticemetic

Posts: 377; Member since: Dec 18, 2011

lol how strange! i'm also bummed that foxfi only works on bluetooth. htc makes great phones but limit their hardware from time to time :/

2. rdeleonp

Posts: 44; Member since: Jan 21, 2012

Nice article!

3. paynekiller

Posts: 152; Member since: May 24, 2010

Interesting article for those who didn't know, but all I'm really interested in is physical buttons since I dont have the xperia play, would be nice if I could connect my PS3 conterollers thru bluetooth

6. shadowcell

Posts: 300; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

There is actually. You can download Sixaxis on Google Play. You MUST have root access first hand. Before doing so download the compatibility checker and plug in your controller to see if your phone can pair successfully. For those who don't want to bother with that PhoneJoy sells a game controller that looks just like the one for about $35 USD. Enjoy.

4. parkwaydr

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 07, 2011

Mk 2 is still my favorite

5. Cyan3boN

Posts: 446; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

where can I download the roms, any website friends?

10. tech-head

Posts: 133; Member since: Sep 02, 2011

Nobody is going to tell you this.......

15. dirtydirty00

Posts: 428; Member since: Jan 21, 2011

bro... its called the internet. just search. on ur phone. then hit download. its easy.

28. atheisticemetic

Posts: 377; Member since: Dec 18, 2011

just google it

8. Ric1511

Posts: 26; Member since: Dec 28, 2011

Touch screen is fine for some games like Chrono Trigger & other titles, but for games like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 & Megaman X, it becomes really frustrating to play without a gamepad. For this reason I purchased an Xperia Play on craigslist. :) Also don't forget the GBA, PSX, & N64 emulators. I purchased FPse on the market, works wonders. There's just a couple more steps to make games work for this. For those who don't know, the Developer yongzh is offering his most popular Android emulators(Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Color, Genesis, Atari, Game Gear, Super Nintendo) for free on The only one he is selling is the N64 emulator. One more thing, if you have a tablet with Android 3.1 and higher, you can hook up a PS3 controller(and others) with a cable you can get on eBay for 3 bucks, no root required.

19. atheisticemetic

Posts: 377; Member since: Dec 18, 2011

what is this cable called?!!!!

24. Ric1511

Posts: 26; Member since: Dec 28, 2011

This is it: Be sure you filter your search for USA sellers only. If you buy from Hong Kong you will be waiting 5 weeks. The link I provided is from a USA seller.

26. theBankRobber

Posts: 682; Member since: Sep 22, 2011

Dude thank you so much for the link. I got one right away and with free shipping.

16. Jeradiah3

Posts: 1149; Member since: Feb 11, 2010

I saw an AT&T rep have an NES emulator on his Galaxy Note and im thinking, I could do that when i get the Note!! Where can you get that at and does it harm your phone

20. exo2u

Posts: 27; Member since: May 10, 2012

Isnt it funny the more you know about something the once thought generalities just seem stupid and wrong. Ill let you guys on a secret ROBERT BROGLIA makes the best emulators hands down. His snes emulator is free on his site Just giving credit where its truly due, people should recognize. Btw Robert broglia was wiimote+nunchuk support on all of his emulator amongst other wireless controller support. Exo2u is back to help the wickedly stupid!

21. thedarkside

Posts: 654; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

thats it im getting a droid. still keeping my iphone, but getting a droid.

22. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Love the Android OS just for this reason...I currently am not using an emulator, but have had one in the past on the capivate. There are plenty of games out there to be had without an, if one could create an emulator of the PS3 or XBOX 360, then that would be nice.

25. good2great

Posts: 1042; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

this is what i miss the most about android... you can throw anything on it u want and its works! think i'm gonna get a low priced android tablet so i can enjoy my weekend with some classic retro games... great post!!!

29. stephinelinda

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 18, 2015

With almost everything that seems to be developing inside this specific area, your viewpoints are actually fairly radical. On the other hand, I appologize, because I do not subscribe to your entire suggestion, all be it radical none the less. It would seem to everybody that your commentary are generally not totally justified and in reality you are yourself not really fully certain of the assertion. In any case I did take pleasure in reading it.

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