How to download and play NES games on Android using the NES Emulator

Relive your childhood!

Remember those days when there was never anything like the complex open worlds, fast-paced shooters, and authentic graphics we see nowadays? Just the frustration of a Super Mario level, or the satisfaction of gunning through enemies in Contra. That level of pick-up-and-play is difficult to find in the current world of gaming. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) used to be one of the most popular consoles for this. In this article, we cover absolutely everything you will need to do, in detail, to set up how to play NES games on an Android smartphone for free.

Released in 1983, the NES is the first source of gaming for many people today. Wouldn’t it be so great to go back to those days and relive those memories? Luckily, it’s possible! All that is required is an Android smartphone and a bit of time spent setting up the system. Nothing here should cost you a penny, and the result will be an application right on your phone that can easily load up NES classics, like Super Mario Bros, Contra, Tetris, Mega Man, and more.

We have also covered guides on how to emulate and play old-school PSP, PS1, PS2, Nintendo 3DS, GBA, Wii/GameCube, and DOS games on your modern Android device. Make sure to check them out as well!

How to play NES games on Android for free

An emulator is simply a bit of software that lets one device act like another. In this context, we are looking for an app for Android that can simulate the Nintendo Entertainment System. It will not impact the device in any way, since it is just like any other mobile app.

Step 1: Download an NES Emulator

Android NES Emulator: Play Store app
Image via Google Play

To find an NES emulator, simply search for one on the Google Play Store. The one shown in the image below (Nostalgia.NES) is a popular and reliable choice. There will be ads in this app, however, these can be removed with a purchase.

Step 2: Download some NES games

Once the app is downloaded, the next step is to look for some games that will run on the app. This can be a little trickier to do, because of the sheer number of sites on the Internet, and there is a chance of walking into an unsafe site. Not to worry though, as some sites are reliable, such as EmulatorGames.Net. This one has a bunch of different games listed out, and one can easily pick one, and click the Save Game button. From a legal perspective, just ensure you own a physical copy of the game before obtaining a ROM file of that game.

Android ROMs Website
Image via

There may be some slightly new terminology on the website. A ROM is a name commonly used when referring to games run on emulators. ROM stands for Read-Only Memory, and in this context, a ROM is a copy of a game’s read-only memory. Put simply, an emulator ROM is just a digital version of a game cartridge. These games are generally quite small since the NES is quite an old console. With each ROM taking up a few KBs of space, it’s possible to set up a massive library of games.

Step 3: Extract and Organise the game files

From the website used in the previous step, downloaded files came as ZIP files. The first task is to extract them, which is a fairly straightforward task. For those who aren’t as experienced with this type of thing, simply open the Android phone’s file manager and look for the downloaded file.

This should be in the Downloads folder but just in case, using the Search bar is another way of finding the file. Once located, select the file and click Extract. The result should be a file with the name of the game and “.nes” at the end.

ROM file
Image via Gamingonphone

In the app downloaded from Step 1, organizing the files is not necessary. The app will automatically find which ROMs are downloaded on the phone and will list them out. However, it can sometimes be good practice to keep things organized by copying all the “.nes” files into one folder and labeling them as something like NES Games. Again, that’s not necessary and is just a way of keeping things a bit tidy.

Step 4: Loading up the Games

Once the “.nes” file is extracted, navigate back to the emulator we downloaded earlier. It doesn’t matter whether the files are in dedicated folders or they’re just lying about somewhere. In the app, the games should just be listed right there.

Android NES Emulator: App main menu
Image via Nostaliga.NES

If not, ensure that the games file is in an open folder, i.e. one that isn’t locked or in a ZIP file. Now, just click on the game you want to play and start playing! The main menu is fairly self-explanatory, and downloading new games will easily add them to the list.

Step 5: Getting familiar with the controls and settings

The controls replicate the classic NES system, there’s the directional pad, buttons for A and B, as well as Start and Select buttons. There are also a bunch of different settings and features on the emulator that would not have been possible back on the real thing.

Android NES Emulator: App games screen
Image via Nostaliga.NES

Most of these are fairly easy to understand and the game settings are just ways to fix any serious issues, and it’s probably best not to unnecessarily mess with them. Otherwise, the game should work perfectly fine!

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Why isn’t the game starting ? It is just showing a video of Mario.

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