Retroarch Android Emulator

There’s a new free emulator collection on the Android market, Retroarch Android. The UI is confusing and has some flaws, but overall I like it.

If you like emulation and retrogaming, that’s a strong reason to pick Android over the iPhone. The iPhone has a strict “no 3rd party runtimes” rule, which has prevented most emulators from being approved. Someone snuck MAME into a Gridlee app, which hasn’t been pulled yet.

On Android, there’s no ban on emulators. There are multiple emulators for every popular system. However, many of them are closed-source ports of GPL code, a violation of that license. Some people took an open-source GPL emulator, put an Android wrapper around it, and then started selling it without disclosing the source code. Retroarch is 100% open-source.

Retroarch already existed for other platforms. People use it to play old games on their PS3, Xbox 360, or Wii. (You may need to hack or mod your console to run Retroarch.) Now, there’s an Android port.

Retroarch uses a different “core” for each system.  That’s the reason many different emulators are packaged as one.

Retroarch covers a lot of systems:

  • Playstation (via PSXReArmed)
  • Super Nintendo (via SNES9x Next)
  • NES (via NESTopia)
  • Game Boy/Game Boy Color (via Gambette)
  • Game Boy Advance (via GBA Next)
  • Sega Genesis/Master/Game Gear (via Genesis Plus GX)
  • and quite a few others!

The only major omission is MAME, but it does have Final Burn Alpha.

I had already bought fpse, and compared it to Retroarch.  I compared 3 games, and I’m surprised that Retroarch emulated them better!  For example, Pro Pinball Timeshock on fpse leaves ball trails as it moves, but it works on Retroarch.  Unfortunately, Devil Dice neither works in Retroarch nor fpse.  Now, I feel silly buying fpse, but that was before Retroarch Android was released.

I compared SNESoid and NESoid to Retroarch.  Retroarch is better.  SNESoid and NESoid can’t handle when you have multiple simultaneous keypresses, like run+dash+jump in Super Mario Brothers.  I thought it was a problem with my phone, but Retroarch handles it perfectly!

There are minor annoyances with Retroarch.  It doesn’t support analog controls, for the few PS1 games that use it.  You have to use the overlays to access the “quck menu” for saves; there’s no option to map a key to the quick menu.  For some bizarre reason, the overlay opacity was too much in NES; it worked with other cores.  If you have a physical keyboard, you have to disable controller autodetection, so you can map keys yourself.

I still haven’t found a good Android emulator for Atari 800.  The two I tried didn’t work well.

Overall, I like Retroarch.  It’s better than the other emulators I tried.  It’s open source, so it should continue to be upgraded.  It has some minor UI flaws, but they should be fixed soon.

4 Responses to Retroarch Android Emulator

  1. Anonymous Coward March 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Google may distribute Android for free to phone manufacturers, but Android was developed from Linux and by another company. Google just purchased Android from another company.

    It is ironic Google likes to crow how wonderful and smart they are, but Android was written without any baby Google clowns around.

    How’s that policy of hiring recent graduates straight out of university going Mr Clown?

    Are you suffering yet from a lack of real word software experience?

    Obviously as you don’t write software anymore and you can only buy stuff in.

  2. Anomymous Coward March 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    You really need to be careful of the Google Clowns.

    Their empire is founded on advertising. They don’t make money anywhere else.

    They give Android away free to phone manufacturers, even though they had to pay to take over the company that developed it. If the Google Clowns are so smart, why couldn’t they develop this sort of software themselves. We all know the Google clowns like to boast how clever they are and how difficult their interviews are. Well it a pity they couldn’t manage to hire anyone smart enough to modify Linux enough to turn it into a smartphone operating system!

    Now for some areas (those than involve commercial products) Google’s search results have a page of junk and software downloads, goods etc are from the second page onwards.

    This forces companies selling anything on the Internet to buy adverts from Google.

    I’ve seen the Cost Per Click rise each year and I find it difficult to believe this is from a fair auction process. Google must do things to bump up the price – perhaps their “quality” scores for keywords and adverts. I have a well worded website and still I get low quality scores from Google for my adverts and keywords. So the Google Clowns bump up my cost per click.

    The Google Clowns have lots of bellies to feed and they are getting the money from screwing advertisers.

    Google’s cost per click is 2x – 10x the cost on

    It is bad the Google Clowns have a near monopoly on search.

    Before things get worse and worse people must stop using and move over to anything else – perhaps

    The Google Clowns will force up the price of software and goods as their manufacturers are forced to pay inflated Google advertising costs. They have to do this because lots of people use Google.

    Google search is not free. The cost is passed on to you via manufacturers’ advertising costs.

  3. LOL.

    Yeah, I must agree that RetroArch Android, though not perfect, is miles ahead of the competition. Now only if the iOS port were as good -.-

  4. What does that have to do with Retroarch Android?

    If you’re a spammer, you’re a pretty pathetic one. Your website “” is just an empty WordPress installation.

    According to piwik, you came via the toplibertarian website, so you get the benefit of the doubt. You almost wound up in spam.

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