This story was originally published and last updated .
Emulating games isn't exactly a new thing, but emulating on your smartphone has caused the hobby to enter something of a renaissance in recent years. With many of us sitting around at home (and not wanting to break the bank on Hot New Games), there's never been a better time to crack into the mountain of classic (or not-so-classic) games available online. Getting started with emulating video game consoles on Android can be a bit dizzying, so we're going to break down the tools and resources you'll need to get up and running, be it with some old school Mario or a relaxing afternoon of Pokémon in the backyard.
Dolphin is an incredibly popular emulator for the Nintendo Wii and GameCube, and the Android version has been improving more and more lately. The app recently gained dark mode support, and now more features from the desktop emulator are coming to mobile.
Late last year, Nvidia released a pair of new Shield TV devices: the tube-shaped Shield TV dongle, and the more traditional Shield TV Pro. It was later discovered that the dongle ran a 32-bit version of Android TV, which caused some to worry about incompatible apps, but you (probably) have nothing to worry about.
Dolphin Emulator — the popular Wii and GameCube emulator — recently returned to the Play Store, making it easy to keep updated as Android beta development continues, and so it has. According to the latest progress report, Dolphin now has support for on-phone rumble/vibration in GameCube titles. Landscape mode is now forced by default as well on Android, and the developers would also like to apologize for some recent changes which broke existing savestates without warning for many.
Dolphin, the well-known Nintendo GameCube/Wii emulator, has maintained an Android version since 2013. However, the app was pulled from the Play Store around two years ago, so users could only download development builds from the project's website. Thankfully, Dolphin has now returned to the Play Store, with the developers aiming to release new builds on a monthly basis.
If you're not familiar with it, Dolphin is a cross-platform emulator for the Nintendo GameCube and Wii. The Android port came out in 2013, and the Dolphin community has continued to develop it since. The project's July 2018 progress report highlights several improvements to the Android version, including Android TV channels support and better Vulkan compatibility.
The Dolphin emulator is an impressive feat of software engineering. Starting as a GameCube emulator, it later added compatibility for Wii games, due to the similar architecture. Over the years, Dolphin has gradually improved game compatibility; they recently reported that every single retail GameCube game boots. Even accessories like the Wii Remote and Wii Balance Board work perfectly, and experimental Android builds of Dolphin have been in development for years.
Dolphin on Android still isn't as usable as other console emulators, but the fault mostly lies with current Android hardware. Even the Nvidia Shield console, one of the most powerful Android devices on the market, can't run games at full speed.
Emulating games is hard, y'all. There are a ton of classic game emulators for Android, and most of them work really well... replicating relatively ancient, low-power hardware for two dimensions. Even something like the 20-year-old PlayStation is difficult (but not impossible) to emulate on the latest mobile hardware, which is objectively about a hundred times more powerful. That's what you get when console makers create more or less customized hardware and software that doesn't have to play nice with any other platforms.