How Tos

How to play Nintendo 64 games on Android - with the best N64 emulator

Hey, Ocarina

How to play Nintendo 64 games on Android - with the best N64 emulator

If there's one console that gamers get misty-eyed about whenever you mention it (besides the Dreamcast, of course), it's Nintendo's trailblazing N64.

It may not have had the biggest library of titles and it may have been hampered by a thumb-breaking joypad that future societies might presume was some sort of '90s torture device, but one mention of GoldenEye's multiplayer or Hyrule Fields in Ocarina of Time is enough to silence any criticism heading the N64's way.

Previously, we've pegged N64oid as the primo 'droid emulator for the Nintendo 64 console, yet its removal from Google Play means development on N64oid stopped last April.

So, for this step-by-step guide to running N64 games on your Android blower, we've used Paul Lamb's completely free (unless you want to make a donation) Mupen64Plus AE emulator.

It's still on Google Play, it's based on the popular Mupen64 PC emulator, and - because it's in beta testing - it's regularly updated with tweaks and fixes.

Let's get started, then...

Note: Pocket Gamer does not condone piracy, and offers this information for entertainment purposes only. Pocket Gamer also takes no responsibility if you follow this guide and manage to bugger up your phone in the process.

First things first, you need to make sure you've got a reasonably high-end Android phone to hand to get the most out of this emulator. For this particular guide, we are using our unrooted Nexus 7. We've encountered no problems apart from the occasional frame rate chug. Time to head over to Google Play and download Mupen64Plus AE onto your handset. Although you've now got the means to play your favourite N64 games in the palm of your hand, chances are you haven't actually got any games to play. Ergo, you need to find ROMs for those you want to play, and, while we can't tell you exactly how to find them (due to the unmistakable scent of a lawsuit hovering over us), a quick Google search should see you right. Remember to get them in .n64, .v64, .z64, or zip file formats. In case you've temporarily forgotten what games you should hunt down, make a beeline for Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye, and Blast Corps straight off the bat.
Once you're well stocked with N64 ROMs, you need to get them onto your device. Simply connect your handset to your computer via a USB cable. Once all the necessary drivers are installed, you can just open up the file directory. Once inside, create a folder called "ROMs" and then copy across the games you want to play into it. Once they're all in, disconnect the USB cable.
Finally, it's time to fire up Mupen64Plus AE for the first time. Just tap the icon to get started, and when the main menu appears, select 'Game' from the options to identify your ROMs folder and pick a title to play. It's tempting to start tinkering with the 'Settings' straightaway, but we found that trying out a few games to measure performance before tinkering saved us time in the long run. Unless you're planning to use cheats (you scoundrels), on the next screen tap the 'Resume' button. This means you can quit mid-play and your position is auto-saved, ready for you to pick up immediately from where you left off.
Your game should now boot up without any problems and save whenever you leave the app or dip back to the menu. You can tweak many of the emulation settings, such as frame-skipping to speed up performance. Plus, there are lots of tips and tricks on the developer's website. The defaults worked pretty flawlessly for us, but plugging in a physical pad (an Xbox 360 one, in our case) really brought these classic games back to life in a way touchscreen controls never could.
Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
A newspaper reporter turned games journo, Paul's first ever console was an original white Game Boy (still in working order, albeit with a yellowing tinge and 30 second battery life). Now he writes about Android with a style positively dripping in Honeycomb, stuffed with Gingerbread and coated with Froyo