Turn yourPhone Into a Retro Console [Guide]

How to Turn Your Phone Into a Retro Gaming Machine

Although there are limitless options out there when it comes to dedicated retro gaming (emulation) devices, sometimes the best gaming device is the one you have with you. Which for most of us, are our android smartphones.

That’s why in the article we will cover everything you need to know to turn your smartphone into a retro android emulation powerhouse.

You don’t need the latest and greatest hardware for retro gaming either. This is what makes it so easy to emulate most retro consoles on any device, even with relatively old hardware. This is also why Android is one of the best options for retro gaming since everyone has a smartphone these days that can handle it. You don’t even need to spend extra cash as you can easily play your favorite classic games on a spare phone you’ve got lying around at home.

Just because your old console is trashed, doesn’t mean you can’t relive your childhood days once again.

Turning your Android phone into a retro game console is quite easy. Here is all you need to start retro gaming on your smartphone.

  • An Android smartphone (essential)
  • A TV or a monitor with a USB/HDMI cable (optional)
  • A controller (optional)
  • Emulators and ROMs (essential)
  • A frontend (optional but important)

You probably have most of these items already, but getting the right emulators, ROMs, and frontends is the tricky part. But there is nothing to worry about as most emulators and frontends are easily available on the Google Play Store, and ROMs are fairly easy to get from most websites (but only if you own them, of course).

But first thing’s first. Choosing the right smartphone.

What Smartphone to Use?

smartphone to use How to Turn Your Phone Into a Retro Gaming Machine

As previously mentioned, you don’t need a top-tier smartphone for retro gaming. Most mid-range phones these days are more than enough for running classic games. Even older phones with budget hardware can offer pretty decent gaming performance.  

But if you want to run higher-end retro consoles on your device, like the PlayStation 2 or Gamecube, then you will need to pick a phone with at least a Qualcomm Snapdragon 700 / 800 series chip. But for older consoles like the PlayStation 1, PSP, Sega Dreamcast, or Gameboy Advance, a Snapdragon 600 series phone should be more than enough. For smartphones with MediaTek chips, you will need at least a Dimensity series chip for higher-end retro gaming, but a Helio series chip should suffice for lower-end retro consoles.

There is a high chance you already have a phone with these chips, but you can easily confirm your phone’s specifications by going to gsmarena and searching for your device.

Once you have picked the best smartphone to use, it’s time to set it up.

All-In-One Emulator

unnamed e1643951291828 How to Turn Your Phone Into a Retro Gaming Machine

An emulator is any hardware or software that lets your device act like another computer system. So if you install a retro game emulator on your phone, it will let you run your device as if it’s a gaming console like the Nintendo Gameboy, PlayStation 1, Nintendo 64, and all their games too.

The fastest and most hassle-free way of making your phone emulate almost every console ever made is to just download an app called Lemuroid (which is based on the famous front end called RetroArch). It has all your “cores” (essentially emulators) already installed and ready to go without you having to do anything.

At the first launch, Lemuroid asks you where your ROM files (explained later in the article) are located, and then it not only organizes them, but it also downloads all the relevant box art automatically.

It lacks most of the advanced settings and customizations that come with RetroArch, or with most emulators, but it is definitely good enough to get the job done in one fell swoop.

But if you are one of those people who want everything dialed in exactly how you want it and aren’t afraid to delve into advanced settings, the following methods might be more to your liking.


emulators 1 How to Turn Your Phone Into a Retro Gaming Machine

Finding the right emulator can be a bit complicated as there are several options even for a single console. But you only have to make a quick search on the Google Play Store and you will find everything you need. Some of the better emulators cost a bit of money, but it’s usually nothing more than a few dollars. But you can definitely make do with free emulators when starting out.

That being said, here are some of the best-known retro game emulators for Android.

Simply install the emulator you need and you should be ready to go, but you’re not there just yet. You still need to get ROMs to start playing games on these emulators. And if you are having trouble setting up your emulator, remember to read the description of the emulator on the Google Play Store for the exact steps you need to follow.


ROMs How to Turn Your Phone Into a Retro Gaming Machine

In order to get the games you want to play, you will need to download ROMs. A ROM is essentially an entire game with all of its files included. These files are available everywhere on the internet and most of them will be free of cost.

However, downloading free games that you don’t own is illegal and RetroNoob does not promote piracy. We recommend downloading the games you already own to stay out of any potential trouble.

Also, some websites can be unsafe to use as they often have malware and all sorts of other issues. But don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few safe-to-use websites where you can easily get ROMs for all consoles.

Most ROMs will come in the form of ZIP files. These can easily run on your Android phone or PC. You can either download ROMs directly into your phone or download them on a PC and transfer them over to your phone.


android emulation

Now that you’re done putting together your emulators and your childhood games, it’s a good idea to grab a suitable frontend. This is because a frontend will organize all your emulators and games into a single spot with a console-like UI so you feel right at home. Plus, it just looks cool.

But remember that getting a frontend is not crucial either. If you have your emulators and ROMs ready, you’re already set to start playing. A frontend is simply there to help you control all your emulators and games in one place. It’s essentially a launcher, but in this case, for retro games.

As always, you have a few options to choose from. But the best-known frontend/launchers are Dig (best) and ATV launcher.

Once you have a frontend, you’re done with your software setup for gaming.

Now for your hardware setup.

Building Your Own Console Setup (Optional)

console setup How to Turn Your Phone Into a Retro Gaming Machine

If you’re happy playing on your smartphone screen then you’re already done setting up once you connect a controller. Touchscreen gaming is for peasants after all.

But for those who don’t want to game on a smartphone screen, you can always connect to a bigger display for a full-on console experience. This step is fairly straightforward as you only need a bigger screen like a TV, or a monitor, and a wireless controller.

Simply grab a USB to HDMI cable and connect your phone to a monitor/TV and you’re done. Connect your Bluetooth controller to your phone and you’re finally ready to start playing. Launch up your frontend of choice then sit back and enjoy.

Casting your phone’s screen to a secondary display is also an option, but that adds input delay between your devices, which is not ideal for gaming. Plus, you will also need to spend extra cash on casting devices and nobody wants that.

But it’s always an option if you want to keep everything wireless.

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