For many people, putting on a vinyl record is more than just a vintage way to enjoy their favourite music. It transports them back to a more nostalgic times and lets them experience the music as it was in that era and gamers are no different. As flashy and high performing as modern day consoles may be, many of us still yearn to play those old classics that we grew up with and to day that is all completely possible.
Retro game emulators have been around for a lot longer than you might think. I remember, even back in the glory days of PlayStation 2, rushing home to jump on my GameBoy emulator and play a lot of the old school games that I loved and just never had access to before because I simply wasn’t born yet.
Now with the rise of mobile gaming and the power of modern smartphones, emulators aren’t just available on PC but right there in your pocket and on the go. So lets take a look what exactly an emulator is and how you can use it with your mobile gamepad to take your experience to the next level.
What is an Emulator?
When most games are released into the world, they are limited by the technology they have available at the time. Although they seem to be very advanced at the time, progress is always made and the benchmark moves on, leaving these games to be forgotten in history once their respective consoles are no longer available. Just like vinyl records lost their steam after gramophones were defeated by cassette players and the infamous boombox.
But, like vinyl records, the demand for the retro experience grew out of both curiosity and nostalgia and soon, emulators rose to the occasion. It is a program that allows your current hardware (e.g. smartphone or tablet) to run as if it were another piece of hardware (e.g. Nintendo 64 or PlayStation Portable).
So you can use your high tech Samsung S10 to run games as if it were a Gameboy Advanced and play Pokemon just like they did back when there was only 150 of them to catch!
Best with a Gamepad
When run on a PC, you would typically use your mouse and keyboard to simulate the same button actions as your favourite console, even those actions are just running and jumping. When run on your Android or iOS device, the buttons are instead laid out across the touch screen identically to the corresponding controller.
For example, when running a PlayStation Portable emulator, you will see the directional-pad (also called D-pad) and the analog stick on the left, their 4 trademark shapes on the right, and even the Left and Right bumper buttons at the top.
But, as you can see in the screenshot above, that doesn’t look very appealing and clutters a lot of the screen space and the game itself, stopping you from fully enjoying your playthrough since these buttons will still be visible even during cut scenes. Thankfully, with the use of a mobile gaming controller, that simply won’t be the case.
Gamepads are already designed with a similar layout and, once the proper settings are in place, they can seamlessly replicate all the same commands from a physical controller that is in your hand instead of needing to touch the buttons on-screen.
Times Have Changed
Thanks to High Definition and 4k resolution, modern games are looking better than ever on next generation consoles but there’s no denying the 8-bit charm of classics like Super Mario. There’s nothing more refreshing than that digital trip down memory lane especially when that memory is going to look a lot clearer.
There’s more processing power right there in your pocket than those retro consoles could ever hope to have back in the 80s and 90s or even the 2000s. So games can now be tweaked to perform even better with a substantial upgrade in graphic ability.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly be playing the first Call of Duty in glorious 1080p, but a bump up to 60 frames per second (FPS) sure does add that extra something with your mobile device since consoles could barely get anywhere close to that back then.
Don’t Forget to Save!
Nowadays, every console comes with a hard-drive built in to save your game. But, little over a decade ago, we were storing our save files and game progress on memory cards and decades before that, it wasn’t even an option. You literally had to finish the game then and there because there was no such thing as taking a break and finishing it off tomorrow. Once you turned that machine off that was it, the game was done and you had to start all over next time.
Thankfully emulators have solved that problem across all the platforms that they cater to thanks to a little something called “Save State”. This gives you the ability to instantly save your game, almost like a screenshot, and return to that exact point in the game at any moment.
You can do this just after a hard level or just before you face a boss level since you’d be able to quickly return to that moment if you died. Imagine you’re playing your favourite game and have to stop because something has come up, You can instantly save and return to that moment when you get a chance to whip out that mobile device again.
It’s Cool to Be Retro
You don’t need the latest graphics to have a great experience playing games on mobile. Even if you didn’t grow up in that era, it’s fun to look back at the games that inspired the ones we know and love today.
I personally love to emulate the PlayStation Portable on my mobile device. Although it’s a little more modern, I never got the chance to play on one as a kid and it’s fun going back and getting the chance to experience all the games I missed out on as a kid. And I can do all that on with my smartphone and my mobile gaming controller.