In this guide we bring you a curated list of the best Android TV emulators that you can install on your Android TV box and play to the most popular retro games on your TV.
In a previous post we have explained the process of installing Android TV operating system on a Windows PC so that you get to know better all the potential of this OS designed particularly for big screens. You will also be able to install all kinds of games and applications without any problem and see what they will look like on your TV, if it is worth installing, … A perfect way to know which apps to install on your Android TV device.
What is an emulator for Android TV?
An emulator is a software that allows you to develop games that were not designed for its platform, and although with different modes of accuracy, they are carried out in the same way as if they were original.
There are several emulators that you can find in the Google Play Store in order to access the most popular games of all time.
Performing this action can be quite strict, so you must take into account that your TV Box is strong enough to support the games you want to be emulated.
With the right emulators, you can turn it into a cool gaming console for your Android TV. The problem is that for OS there are not many emulators that are well optimized, as there are for Windows, Linux or even Android. Also, most of them don’t work well with external controllers or external storage. You’ve probably already noticed the latter yourself and that’s why you’ve landed here.
Upon experience, we have concluded that the Nvidia Shield TV is the most powerful Android TV on the market and therefore the best for emulating console games. And the emulators listed in this guide have been tested on a Shield TV box and seem to work flawlessly.
The best Android TV emulators
Below, we will introduce you to all the emulators that work perfectly on Android TV. You will discover emulators that, in addition to being fast on a TV Box, will allow you to play with controllers and external memory. Let’s get to business …
RetroArch, the best Game Boy, NES, Atari, Genesis and Saturn emulator
RetroArch is an open-source project that uses a powerful development interface called Libretro. Libretro is an interface that lets you build cross-platform applications that can use rich features like OpenGL, cross-platform camera support, location support, and more in the future. It comes with its own collection of built-in apps to provide you with a ‘one stop shop’ for entertainment.
Libretro and RetroArch are ideally suited for creating games, emulators and multimedia programs.
RetroArch is one of the few quality emulators that is 100% adapted to the Android TV and the use of external controllers. And it’s free! Actually, this app is not an emulator itself, but a platform that collects many emulators. It is a versatile program, which means in order for it to do anything you need modular programs which we call ‘cores’. These hearts are NOT INCLUDED. You need to go to “Online Update -> Download Cores” from the app to download them.
Now, not all RetroArch emulators work well on Android TV. According to our tests, the main consoles it can emulate optimally are:
- Game Boy / Game Boy Color: with the “mGBA” or “Gambatte” cores.
- Game Boy Advance: with the “mGBA” core.
- NES: with the “Nestopia” core.
- SNES: with the “Snes9x” core.
- Atari 2600: with the “Stella” kernel.
- Genesis / Mega Drive: with the “Genesis Plus GX” kernel.
- Saturn: with the “Yaba Sanshiro” core.
There are other RetroArch emulators for these consoles that are supposed to work smoothly and are better, but on the Nvidia Shield TV are very slow, with lag or directly do not open a game. We are talking about SameBoy, Mupen64Plus GLES3, Flycast, DeSmuME and melonDS. But do not worry, because to emulate other consoles there are better options.
Mupen64Plus FZ, the best Nintendo 64 emulator
If you want to play the mythical Nintendo 64 on your Android TV, the emulator that will allow you to do so with an almost perfect performance is Mupen64Plus FZ. It has a somewhat outdated interface, it must be said, but it is free and runs any N64 game without problems. Of course, you will have to pay 3 € if you want to use it with external storage (beware, it is not a micropayment, but a Pro version that is purchased separately).
Another thing you should know is that Mupen64Plus FZ uses by default the video plugin “Gliden64 / Very accurate” that in several games can cause graphical problems. Therefore, we recommend you to change it to “Glide64 / Precise” which does not present any problem, only that some games are played with the original resolution forced, thus losing a lot of image quality. So you will probably have to switch between one plugin and another depending on the game you are going to play.
ePSXe, the best PlayStation 1 (PS1) emulator
ePSXe for Android is a Playstation (PSX and PSOne) emulator. It is a port of the popular PC emulator ePSXe. ePSXe offers high compatibility and fast execution speed. It is designed for phones and tablets and contains a fun multiplayer mode for split screen tablets.
To play the original PlayStation games, we recommend ePSXe. It is paid, but it is very well optimized to run PSX and PSOne games with enhanced graphics. On the Shield TV it performs exceptionally well. In addition, it supports any type of external controller to play local multiplayer games. It has HD rendering, support for cheats and an option to save the game when you want. Highly recommended.
Redream, the best Dreamcast emulator
Redream is a Dreamcast emulator, enabling you to play your favorite Dreamcast games in high-definition.
You can have SEGA’s Dreamcast on your Android TV with the Redream emulator, which works great. While emulating this console can be a big challenge for many devices, the Shield TV emulates even the most demanding Dreamcast ROMs like a champ thanks to this powerful emulator. Redream is free, but you will only be able to run the games in SD quality if you don’t pay.
If you want to play in HD with this emulator, you will have to pay its Pro version that costs 6 €. What we like most about Redream is that it does a flawless emulation and supports external controllers (it even maps them automatically). And the rescaling techniques used to play in high resolution do not harm the performance of the game at all. Try it!
DraStic, the best Nintendo DS emulator
DraStic is a fast Nintendo DS emulator for Android. In addition to being able to play Nintendo DS games full speed on many Android devices. DraStic is only intended for play of private backups of legally acquired Nintendo DS games. This product is not affiliated with or endorsed by Nintendo in any way
On the Nvidia Shield TV it also works quite well, although it is not perfect. But not because of the emulator itself, but because of how many DS games are made. Our complaint is that the experience of emulating touch controls with a controller is quite annoying.
In many cases, it’s going to be impossible for you to properly match the touch controls to the joystick you’re playing with on the Shield TV. Because of this, many games are unplayable. We recommend only using this emulator with games that do not require touch controls (such as Mario Kart, for example). And those that do require them, you will have to play them on PC with the mouse or on your mobile with the touch screen. This emulator is paid, by the way.
PPSSPP, the best PSP emulator
Another portable console that you can emulate wonderfully on Android TV is the PSP. PPSSPP is the original and best PSP emulator for Android. It runs a lot of games, but depending on the power of your device all may not run at full speed.
No games are included. You need to use your own real PSP games and turn them into .ISO or .CSO files, or simply play free homebrew games, which are available online. Put those in / PSP / GAME on your SD card / USB storage.
Of course,the PPSSPP emulator, which is the one that works best so far, allows you to play the entire catalog of this PlayStation portable without lag, slowdowns or annoying bugs. It is capable of running heavy games in Full HD, such as God of War: Chains of Olympus. So it’s worth it.
Unlike DraStic, you will have no problems with the controls of this emulator, as the PSP has no tactile complications. Ah! And note that PPSSPP is a 100% free emulator, but it has a paid Gold version for those who want to support its development.
Dolphin, the best Wii and GameCube emulator
Emulation of Nintendo’s GameCube and Wii consoles is quite demanding for most Android TV devices that are intended to play streaming content. Still, the popular Dolphin emulator is capable of running some games on android TV. Not all of them, mind you. You’ll find many games that simply won’t work, as most Android TV devices are not powerful enough to emulate them.
To squeeze this emulator, we recommend using the Vulkan API instead of OpenGL, although it is possible that some games work better with the latter. In addition, we advise you to use its MMJ version. But the truth is that the most powerful Wii and GameCube games cannot be emulated properly and those that require Nunchuck are quite difficult to control. In short, It is so hard to define the best device to use this emulator, although it can be useful for some games.
Citra, the best Nintendo 3DS emulator
Citra is an emulator for Android, enabling you to play your favorite games on your Android TV.
The 3DS is another console that has been quite difficult to emulate on some Android TV devices. In fact, still the emulation of 3DS games on Android TV Boxes is not perfect, but in recent years it has improved a lot thanks to the advances of the Citra emulator. Now, you can already play titles like Ocarina of Time, Majora Mask, Sonic Lost World and Luigi’s Mansion at 30 FPS. There are even games like Super Smash Bros and New Super Mario Bros 2 that run at 60 FPS.
Of course, you have to keep the original resolution or not increase it so much to be able to play with a decent fluidity. Actually, we don’t think that there is an Android TV device that perfectly device to emulate the 3DS, as there are still many important games that don’t work, such as A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D Land. Anyway, you don’t lose anything by trying it out to see what games you can play.
DamonPS2, a PlayStation 2 emulator
DamonPS2 is a PS2 Emulator for Android! Just like using PPSSPP emulator to run PSP game on smartphone, you can use DamonPS2 to run PS2 console game. DamonPS2 emulator can run PS2 video games Android TV and is compatible with over 90% of PS2 games (with some graphics bugs).
Among the 13,965 PS2 games, the DamonPS2 emulator can run over 90% of the PS2 games (with some graphics bugs). And the DamonPS2 emulator is fully compatible with over 20% of PS2 games.
Upon our tests, DamonPS2 emulator doesn’t really work well with the vast majority of games and its development hasn’t progressed much in recent years. However, there are a few games that moves them with an acceptable FPS rate. Gradius V runs at 40 FPS, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory at 25 FPS (with lag), Alone in the Dark at 45 FPS (with dips), Devil May Cry at 40 FPS (with lag) and God of War at 30 FPS (with lag and dips).
Of course, you can also use the free version of DamonPS2 without paying. But the free version has some functional limitations
Didn’t manage to emulate Nintendo Switch, PS2, GameCube or Wii games on your Android TV? Don’t worry, you still have one last option. If you have a PC with GeForce GTX graphics, you can use the Gamestream feature of the Nvidia Shield TV to solve this problem. You emulate the games on your PC and with this feature you stream them to your TV to play in up to 4K at 60 FPS and with the controller connected to your Shield TV.
Gamestream (which is not the same as GeForce Now) uses high-speed, low-latency video encoders created and optimized by Nvidia specifically for its graphics cards and devices. As a result, the streaming gaming experience with this feature is flawless. Note that you will not only be able to stream emulation games to your TV, but also native PC games – and it’s free! So give Gamestream a try.
Bonus: Pack of Android TV emulators
Below, you will find a pack of emulators that include compatible emulators for a great majority of TV Box.
Keep in mind that most of them are not free of charge and many lack starter games. Also know that, for the use of some of them, it will be necessary to use a joystick for games.
- Nintendo DS Emulator: DraStic For Android Tv Box
- Nintendo 64 Emulator: Mupen64 Plus AE, N64 and MegaN64 For Android Tv Box
- Nintendo Emulator (NES): Free NES Emulator and NES emu For Android Tv Box
- Super Nintendo Emulator: Super Retro16 Lite and Snes9x EX For Android Tv Box
- PlayStation Emulator: ePSXe For Android Tv Box
- PlayStation Portable Emulator: ppsspp and ppsspp (play store) For Android Tv Box
- Sega Genesis Emulator: GENPLUSDroid For Android Tv Box
- Sega Megadrive Emulator: MD emu For Android Tv Box
- Game Boy Color Emulator: GBC emu For Android Tv Box
- Game Boy Advance Emulator: GBA Emulator, GBA EMU and Gbairod. For Android Tv Box
- Comodore 64 Emulator: C64 emu For Android Tv Box
- Installation of Retro emulators for TV Box
- You should know that this Pack where numerous emulators are grouped for the purpose that you can play on your TV Box, does not have games included, for this you must purchase them for each specific emulator.
If you want to use the Retro Pack on your TV Box, you must first configure it following these instructions.
Since you are going to use TV Box, you need to find a bluetooth or USB Gamepad, make sure that your device is compatible with bluetooth.
Not all TV Box models can support this emulator pack
How to install the Android TV emulators pack
To install the Pack, download and save it on a USB stick, it is also possible to download it directly from the TV Box through the browser, but you will need a decompressing app for RAR files, previously installed.
You must give permission to install unknown sources, this issue is specific to the Android, in sending alerts of intrusion of unknown applications, simply accept and install your favorite emulator.
Anyway, we hope you liked this guide to emulators for your Android TV. If you want to recommend another emulator that we do not mention here, PLZ use the comments box so that everybody knows.