The 8 Best NES Emulators for Android in 2020

Play your favorite retro games on your smartphone

It's possible to play classic Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda on your phone or tablet thanks to the dozens of NES emulators for Android. You can even play games that use the NES zapper gun such as Duck Hunt.

These NES emulators are available for Android phones and tablets. Check the system requirements for individual apps to determine if they are compatible with your device.

How NES Emulators for Android Work

An video game emulator is a program that simulates, or emulates, the hardware of a game system. Emulators for the Nintendo Entertainment System became popular on PCs in the late 1990s with the rise of the web, so it's no surprise that they eventually made their way to mobile phones.

In addition to an emulator, you will need ROMs for the games you want to play. Video game ROMs can be downloaded from torrent websites, but the laws regarding the distribution of ROMs differ from region to region.

Install antivirus software on your device before downloading files online.

01
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Best Multi-platform Emulator: RetroArch

Duck Tales for NES running on Retroarch for Android
What We Like
  • Use multiple NES emulators in one app.

  • Play games for almost any platform.

  • Free with no ads.

  • Available for Android and PC.

What We Don't Like
  • Setup requires some time and effort.

  • Menus could be easier to navigate.

RetroArch is a program that allows you to use emulators for almost any system from the NES to the Nintendo DS. You must download individual emulators separately, but fortunately this can be done from within the app. You can quickly switch between different NES emulators, so if a game isn't running properly in one program, you can try another one.

02
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Most Authentic NES Emulator: EmuBox

The Legend of Zelda running on the Emubox emulator for Android
What We Like
  • Flawless graphics and sound emulation.

  • Switch between portrait and landscape mode.

  • Built-in Game Genie cheats.

What We Don't Like
  • Activating too many cheats can cause performance problems.

  • Ads can't be removed.

  • Minimal setup required.

Similar to Retroarch, EmuBox is capable of emulating numerous consoles and portable systems. While you can only use the built-in NES emulator, it's the first emulator created with Google's Material Design language, which means EmuBox was made for optimal performance on Android. If you don't like the touch screen controls, you can connect an external controller via Bluetooth.

03
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Best NES/SNES Emulator: John NESS

Bubble Bobble on the John NESS emulator for Android
What We Like
  • Play original Nintendo and Super Nintendo games.

  • Free to download.

  • Fast-forward and slow-motion options.

  • Save game data to the cloud.

What We Don't Like
  • Must pay to remove ads.

  • You must pay for it again if you've already purchased the PC version.

John NESS is a combination of two emulators originally released for PC: John NES and John SNES. Its developers have perfected the Android versions with new features. For example, you can sync your game data with Dropbox using the John DataSync plugin app, which allows you to access your save files from multiple devices.

04
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Best Nintendo Famicom Emulator: NES.emu

Monster Party running in NES.emu for Android
What We Like
  • Play games released only in Japan.

  • Excellent controller support.

What We Don't Like
  • No multiplayer capabilities.

  • No free version available.

This premium app emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System and its Japanese counterpart, the Nintendo Famicom. That means it can play the original Japanese versions of classic Nintendo games as well as titles that were never released in the US. On top of the usual extras like save states and cheats, NES.emu supports numerous controllers including the Nintendo Wii remote via Bluetooth.

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Best NES Emulator for Multiplayer Games: Nestopia

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 for NES running in Nestopia for Android
What We Like
  • Play multiplayer games on your phone or tablet.

  • Supports Game Genie cheats.

What We Don't Like
  • Music occasionally cuts out.

  • Can't be downloaded from the Google Store.

This open source NES emulator has been around for more than a decade, yet it still remains in use thanks to its unrivaled support for multiplayer games. Although it has been removed from the Play Store, you can still download Nestopia for Android through the Retroarch app, or you can sideload the APK file.

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Best Premium NES Emulator: Nostalgia.NES

Castlevania 3 on Nostalgia.NES for Android
What We Like
  • Handy rewind button.

  • Free version gives you access to all features.

  • Modern interface optimized for Android devices.

What We Don't Like
  • Complicated multiplayer setup.

  • Must pay to remove ads.

  • Free version requires an internet connection to use.

One feature sets Nostalgia.NES apart from the competition: the rewind button. Thanks to this tool, you no longer have to worry about save states. If you misjudge a jump in Super Mario Bros., just hit rewind and try again. Nostalgia.NES also supports multiplayer, but other players must use their own Android devices as controllers.

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NES Emulator With the Most Features: Retro8

Super C for NES running on the Retro 8 emulator for Android
What We Like
  • In-game walkthrough integration.

  • Enhanced graphics.

  • Cloud syncing across multiple devices.

What We Don't Like
  • Cramped touch screen controls.

  • Some bugs are still being worked out.

  • No free trial.

From the makers of the SuperRetro16 SNES emulator comes Retro8, a reliable NES emulator for Android. The touchscreen controls aren't the best, you can use almost any Bluetooth controller for a more authentic experience. The developers are frequently making improvements and adding new features, so this premium app will only get better with time.

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Best Android-Exclusive Emulator: Super8Pro

Super8Plus NES emulator for Android
What We Like
  • Optimized for Android 9.0.

  • Adjust the size of the on-screen buttons.

  • Play games on your Android TV.

What We Don't Like
  • Incessantly asks users to rate the app.

  • Must scan for new ROMs each time you add games to your device.

Super8Pro takes full advantage of the Android architecture to optimize the NES for mobile devices. For example, you can quick-save or quick-load games by double tapping on certain areas of the screen. You can also play NES games on a big screen if you have an Android TV. Although there's a free version available, it's worth the few extra dollars to remove the ads.