How to turn an Android device into a retro game console

If we like retro games and we want to build our own system at home, a good way to do it is using Android. From emulators for Mega Drive, N64, GBA, PS1 or Super Nintendo, through other systems such as MAME, all of them are available in app format for Android. And the truth is that they are very comfortable.

In addition, for some time now, we have also been able to see official re-releases of retro games in the Play Store, such as the Sega Forever classics, or the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest sagas. That said, let's see how we can turn our phone, tablet or TV Box into a kind of Android retro gaming console.

How to turn your old Android mobile into a classic video game console

Video games of the 80s and 90s are not usually very demanding, so if we have an old Android mobile we can give it a new life if we decide to use it for connect it to the TV and use it as a game console.

Things we are going to need

To assemble the complete system we will need the following elements:

  • An Android phone or tablet.
  • A USB C to HDMI adapter for the mobile and an HDMI cable to connect it to the TV.
  • If our mobile does not have a USB C port, we will need to use another method to connect the mobile to the TV.
  • A retrogaming emulator or suite.
  • The ROMs of the games that interest us.
  • A gamepad or video game controller (Bluetooth).
  • A charger to have the device always on and not run out of battery.

If we have a TV Box it is even easier, since we will not need any additional cable or adapter to connect the Android device to the TV.


Once we have got hold of all the components of our “Android console”, what may take us the longest is to find the correct emulators. If we have heard of retro platforms, the fabulous Recalbox will surely sound to us. Unfortunately it is not a solution that is available on Android, although we can find cross-platform emulators like RetroArch, which support multiple consoles at the same time.

The gamepad

To achieve a proper gaming experience we will need a Bluetooth gamepad. We can take advantage of the controls of the PS4 - look HERE to see how - or buy a controller compatible with Android. Currently there are manufacturers like 8Bitdo that do real wonders, with retro gamepads of the highest quality and aesthetics.

The games

Now that we have the emulators and the gamepad, we only need to get hold of a few games. They are what are commonly known as ROMs, which is basically the game compressed into a ZIP or RAR file.

It should be remembered that making backup copies of games or ROMs is legal as long as we are in possession of the original cartridge or game. Likewise, downloading ROMs of games that we do not have in physical format is completely illegal.

As an alternative, we can also "rip" our own ROMs using a device like Retrode, thanks to which we can extract the contents of our cartridge and download it to a PC through a USB connection.

That said, there are also freeware ROMs from independent developers that don't break any copyright rights either, and in some cases they are really fine.

Retrogaming on Android via KODI

Another highly recommended alternative for playing video games on Android is KODI. As of version 18 of the application, it incorporates a new tool called Retroplayer.

We can see how to configure Retroplayer on our Android device through THIS TUTORIAL.

How to set up the RetroArch emulator suite for Android

The idea of ​​using RetroArch is to have a single central tool that allows us to emulate all games. So we can do everything from a single site without having to constantly open and close apps.

Download QR-Code RetroArch Developer: Libretro Price: Free Download QR-Code RetroArch64 Developer: Libretro Price: Free

There are currently 2 versions of RetroArch, a standard version for older devices and a 64-bit version for more modern Android devices. Therefore, it is advisable to check which version we need before installing the app. Normally we will realize it right away, since if our device is not compatible, a very clear message will appear when we try to download it from the Play Store.

Once we have the application installed, RetroArch will ask us for permission to scan our internal memory. In this way, it will detect the folders where the game ROMs are located.

Next, we will proceed to download the emulators that we are going to use. For this we are going to "Load Core -> Download Core”And we select the emulators that interest us. There are more than fifty to choose from.

Finally, we return to the main menu and click on "Upload content”. We look for the ROM of the game that we want to load with the corresponding emulator, and we will be ready for a good retrogaming session.

Among its various features, RetroArch has an online update tool, online multiplayer for those games that support it, and above all, the ability to save the game. This works even with games that do not originally have a save function, which allows us to stop and resume games when it is best for us.

ClassicBoy as an alternative

Another emulation suite that is also available on Android is ClassicBoy. It supports up to 8 different emulators, and has customizable controls, although its free version does not give the option to save the game. Something that we can solve if we get the premium version, which costs about 3.5 euros.

Download QR-Code ClassicBoy (32-bit) Game Emulator Developer: PortableAndroid Price: Free

Personally I think that in general it is not as good as RetroArch, but it has some interesting things like support for up to 4 players, gesture control and accelerometer.

Dedicated emulators: Citra, Nostalgia NES and MAME4droid

Finally, mention that there is also the possibility of installing specific system emulators. For example, in recent months it has become really popular Citra, the classic Nintendo 3DS emulator for Android. On the other hand, if the only thing we are interested in is playing 8-bit titles from the NES then we should definitely install Nostalgia NES, an emulator for Android that has been fighting for years and works really well. Likewise, if we prefer the arcades of a lifetime, nothing like trying with MAME4droid, another of those emulators of those who make school.

In short, Android has emulators for most classic systems, some better than others, but what there is no doubt is that there is a community that does not stop bringing out new things to make the most of the playable section of our mobile devices. We can find some other interesting emulators in the post “The 10 best emulators for Android ". Do not lose sight of it!

Did you find this post interesting? If so, you can find other similar items within the category Android.

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