If you have the NVIDIA Shield Android TV box, you probably made that investment for the gaming functionality. This powerful box is designed for both streaming and gaming and lets you stream a huge selection of the latest games using their GeForce gaming hub. So when would you need one of the best NVIDIA Shield emulators?
What if you don’t want the latest games? What if you want to play classic Sonic the Hedgehog from the Sega Megadrive, or the version of Donkey Kong that you loved from the Super Nintendo? What if you want to play classic arcade games, or relive your Final Fantasy victories on the Playstation 2?
The NVIDIA shield certainly has the power under the hood to let you do that, but to make it work you will need to install gaming emulators for these classic gaming consoles.
Read on as we explain what exactly gaming emulators are and how they work, and recommend the best gaming emulators for the NVIDIA Shield that will let you play all of your favorite console and arcade games at home on your big screen.
Quick Product Overview
What Is An Emulator?
Let’s get the basics out of the way. An emulator is a piece of software that you can run on a modern computer system, such as your PC or a powerful Android TV box like the NVIDIA Shield, that emulates the functionality of a games console. It adapts your modern machine to deliver the classic games designed for older gaming consoles.
While the concept sounds simple, emulators are actually pretty sophisticated pieces of software. It is complicated to mimic proprietary graphics cards, sound cards, CPUs, and storage systems from technology that existed 20 years ago.
In most cases you will need a different emulator for each gaming console you would like to replicate, so you will need a Super Nintendo gaming emulator, a PS2 emulator, and a Dreamcast emulator if you want to play games from all three consoles. There are a few emulators out there that do more than one, but they are few and far between and generally don’t function quite as well as an emulator that focuses on one system only.
As well as downloading and installing the emulator, you also need to find the games that you are looking for. These are often called ROMs.
Be a little bit wary when doing this. While gaming emulators have been declared legal in the United States, downloading games is different. The games themselves are protected under copyright law, which protects intellectual property for 75 years. Yes, if you do the math on that, it means that there are no console games that are in the public domain. Even Pac-Man was only created in the 1980s.
In theory, if you own the game yourself you could extract the ROM from the game and play it on your NVIDIA Shield. In reality, most people are downloading or torrenting their games, so make sure you are using a VPN if you are doing that. You can find our recommendations for the best VPNs for the NVIDIA Shield here.
Best NVIDIA Shield Emulators
There are gaming emulators compatible with the NVIDIA Shield available for most of the classic consoles including the Nintendo, Super Nintendo (SNES), Nintendo 64 (N64), GameCube, Wii, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sega CD, Dreamcast, Sony Playstation, Gameboy DS, Sony PSP handheld, and various coin-operated arcade game consoles.
Let’s take a look at the best emulators for the various options.
RetroArch is one of the new emulators that lets you work with more than one different console. It is one of the most popular options because from the front end, you can emulate games from a variety of consoles including the PS1, NES, SNES, and Gameboy. Plus it is free.
- Multiple consoles
- Large open-source community
- Advanced features
As well as the convenience of having all the games for various consoles visible in one place, RetroArch has lots of additional features. It supports Gamepad and touchscreen playing, offers extensive video and audio customization options, lets you record and stream, and supports online multiplayer options.
It is open-source software, so new additions and updates are being made available all the time that can significantly improve your experience and some of them are pretty exciting. For example, you can do things like designing your own version of a game by combining the original assets in a new way.
While RetroArch works pretty seamlessly once you have it set up, you do need to take the time to set it up properly, and it can be fiddly, especially if you want to use any of the advanced options. Honestly, though, setting it all up is part of the fun for gaming geeks.
If you are a fan of later-generation Nintendo games, then the Dolphin emulator will let you play games from the GameCube and the Wii.
- GameCube and Wii
- Excellent picture quality
- Connect original remotes
Dolphin’s focus on these two consoles allows them to deliver lots of advanced features including saving a running game, the ability to upgrade games to 1080P resolution, and connecting your Wiimote and Nunchuck so you can play like you did back in the day.
The picture quality is certainly one of the features that stands out on this console. Emulators can be jarring sometimes as the picture quality is so much worse than what we are accustomed to today. Dolphin helps bridge that gap.
3 Classic Boy
If you prefer classic Nintendo games from the NES, SENS, N64, and classic Gameboy, then Classic Boy is what you are looking for.
- Original Nintendo consoles
- Free or Pro
- Various controllers and profiles
You can customize the control schematic for each console, and even connect Playstation and Xbox-style controllers and functionality if you wish. You can set controller profiles, so you don’t have to update them every time you return.
The emulator is free but has limitations. You do need to upgrade to Pro for features such as saving at any time during the game (as opposed to when you finish a level). You also get gesture controller functionality with Pro. Serious Nintendo fans will be happy to pay a modest price for these great features.
If you want to play classic Sega games on your TV, then you need MD.emu, which is ideal for the Sega Genesis, Sega Megadrive, and Sega CD. It emulates a real 16-bit renderer, and not just an 8-bit renderer, which allows for the most seamless gaming experience.
- Sega consoles
- Multiplayer support
- Accurate sound reproduction
Save your games seamlessly as you try to conquer new levels, and you can even enter cheat codes if you are so inclined. Connect a classic Sega six-button controller or four since the emulator supports multiplayer mode.
One of the features that stands out is the accuracy of the sound, which is not always perfectly replicated on emulators. It is one of the most important elements when it comes to transporting you back in time to a misspent youth.
It works in any orientation and supports touchscreen functionality, so it will work on your smartphone as well as your Android TV box.
PlayStation fans will want to get their hands on ePSXe, which is both easy to use and very stable. While it is not free, it is affordable, and the available plugins and advanced features make it worthwhile.
- Playstation consoles
The emulator supports split-screen mode for two players and it lets you save at any time. Controller functions are customizable, and there are enhanced graphics for better image quality than the original.
One of the great things about this emulator is that you don’t have to be an expert to get it working. Once it is installed it is pretty much good to go, but you do have options if you want to enhance your experience and fiddle with the settings.
Minimum Specs For Gaming On Android TV Box
If you have the NVIDIA Shield Android TV box, you have a powerful piece of hardware that is more than up for the task of running gaming emulators. Will emulators work with just any Android TV box, though? Well, no. There are some minimum specifications that you will need to run emulators.
First, you’ll need a decent CPU, preferably at least S22 capacity, and this should be coupled with at least 2GB of RAM. Without this, you’ll probably just find that the emulators are too sluggish. Also, make sure you are updated to at least Android 9.0 for compatibility with all the latest emulator apps. H.265 UDB decoding is also a must.
Emulators also take up quite a bit of space, so you probably want at least 16GB of ROM storage, if not more. Consider multiple USB ports for connecting controllers. While they probably connect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, USB connections are faster, especially if you are playing multiplayer.
You can find our recommendations for the best Android TV boxes for gaming here (and yes, the NVIDIA Shield is at the top of the list).
For the best experience, you will also want game controllers that work with your Android TV box and that match the gaming configuration that you prefer. Find our recommendation for the best gaming controllers for Android TV boxes here.
How To Install Emulators On Your Android TV Box
Many gaming emulators make themselves available in the Google Play Store or the Aptoide store, so installing them is as easy as installing any other app on your device. Emulators that aren’t in these stores will need to be sideloaded onto your device using a program such as Downloader. You can read our guide to sideloading apps onto an Android TV box here.
Once you have downloaded and installed the app, there are a few things you need to do to get it working.
First, you need to allow the app to detect gamepads by accessing the key/gamepad input settings. The names of these menu options will vary depending on the emulator that you are using. From there you will be able to auto-detect a controller that you have connected to your device and also set the functionality of each key.
Once you have your controller working, you will also need games! Many emulators have a menu where you can see and download available games from connected sources. You can also download games from other sources and import them into the emulator.
Once you have downloaded a game, a good emulator like the ones that we have recommended should let you start playing right away.
There are few things more enjoyable than camping out in front of the TV and spending a few hours playing classic video games, either by yourself or with friends. If you have had a variety of gaming consoles over the years, there are probably many games that you would like to play again; however, there is no way that you want to dust off those old consoles, if they even still work.
This is why gaming emulators for Android TV boxes have become so popular. You can play those classic games on your TV by downloading a few programs onto your box and connecting a controller.
Check out our recommendations for the best gaming emulators for different classic consoles and our beginner’s guide for getting up and running.
Do you use a gaming emulator on your Android TV box? What are your tips and recommendations? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.