Remember the days you spend in front of the TV, staring at the vibrant colors and the mesmerizing pixel arts of your childhood games?
What if I tell you that those days are not far behind? What if I tell you that you can play those retro games once again on the LEDs and OLEDs of the nonce?
The Shield TV is that final touch you need to bring out the yesteryear gamer in you.
With its Tegra X1+ chipset and more than adequate RAM, you can play all your childhood games right on the system. The proprietary Gamepad that Nvidia makes provides a bit more icing on the cake.
All you have to do is to choose the right Emulator. An Emulator helps you play the games you desire without needing the exact hardware(like a SNES system) to run them on.
But which one will you choose from the sea of emulators available, either in the Play Store or from the ones that can be sideloaded?
Below, I have compiled a list of the best Emulators available for Shield TV.
RetroArch is the most widely used Emulator available on the market.
It has been the favorite of many gaming communities and users alike due to its polished graphical interface and the wide range of features on-board.
One has to take into account that RetroArch is not a traditional emulator, which supports only a single platform.
It supports multiple platforms meaning you can play games from different game platforms on this app.
RetroArch employs "Cores" that are used as plugins for emulators, and there are multiple cores for a single platform. So, if there is a problem with a particular Core, you can choose another one instead.
Be it a PS1 game, or a SNES one, or any other platform, you can find the appropriate Core on the app that supports the platform.
The automatic detection and sorting of the games and files available on the system is another advanced feature to look out for.
It also has support for automatic controller configuration, which is handy when using the Shield gamepad.
Built-in shader packs make those old retro games relevant by making them look good even when playing on a big screen.
Talking about shaders and graphical advancements, you can also customize the app according to your liking, like choosing a different home screen layout with an entirely different graphical interface.
The recording and streaming capabilities of this app make the deal even sweeter.
Advanced features like button mapping and machine translation are unheard of when you consider the price. And speaking of price, the app is completely free and readily available in the Play store.
The developers regularly provide updates and keep the app up-to-date, fixing any problems along the way.
But there is a caveat to this sunshine and daisy story of RetroArch. The app may be slightly intimidating for a newbie since the process of actually loading the game and playing it is a bit tedious.
Choosing the right Core can be a bit cumbersome, and the controls may need a slight tweaking before you can use them.
The definite learning curve aside, this is the best emulator app out there, with its all-in-one deal.
Since most emulators are available in the Playstore itself, make sure you have a proper internet connection to download and install them properly.
If you are having issues with the internet, check out this article on Internet issues on Shield TV.
Another prime example of a frontend/multi-platform emulator available in the Play store is the ClassicBoy emulator.
ClassicBoy, much like RetroArch, but with a simple and intuitive UI and stress-free navigation, maybe the ideal emulator for you.
It has a grand total of 8 emulating cores available, a bit short on that department while considering RetroArch. But that's not a deal-breaker because it supports all the relevant platforms like Playstation1, SNES, NES, GameBoy, Sega, etc.
What makes it such an alluring deal is its UI and usability. You are greeted with the emulator cores onboard, right from the get-go, unlike other emulators.
The intuitive interface makes loading games and applying customizations a breeze. Speaking of customizations, there is plenty to look at. From creating custom controller profiles to render resolution customizations, the options are many.
The options for applying Cheats can satisfy the lazy bum in you, or not.
It has support for both 32 bit and 64-bit systems, meaning both the base model and PRO model Shield TVs can support the app.
Even though the app can be a bit buggy at times, the developer routinely updates the app, providing more and more features every time.
The app is free on the play store, but there is also a Gold version that adds autosave and saves slots, along with sensor and gesture controls.
The PSP was one of the best consoles that ever came out of Sony's workshop. I remember carrying one around the street, challenging the alley boys to duel on Mortal Kombat and FIFA. Now I use PPSSPP to invoke those bygone days.
PPSSPP is the best PSP emulator for playing PSP games on your Shield TV. It has a great interface and automatically recognizes and sorts the available games from the storage.
It even displays the cover art and further information about the games once it recognizes them.
Automatic controller mapping and a snappy upscaling feature are all welcome additions. Inbuilt anisotropic filtering and texture scaling make the games, which are designed to be played handheld, playable on the big screen at high resolutions.
If you have your old saved files stored up somewhere, you can import them to the app and then continue from where you left off. Additionally, you can save your game any time, irrespective of the game's progress.
Frequent updates by the developer make sure that the app is free of any bugs and errors.
The app is available for free in the Play store. You can also buy the Gold version of the app which provides Full-HD translation of the games.
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The best PS1 emulator for Shield TV is FPse. Even if other multi-platform apps I mentioned above support PS1 emulation, they may not be solely optimized to play PS1 games.
FPse is solely made for emulating PS1 games. The app is based on the OpenGL platform, meaning it has a great graphical output at high resolutions.
It automatically scans and displays the cover art of the games present in the storage, making it easy for the user to open and play the games.
The Force feedback emulation feature provides vibration feedback to the user, which further heightens the mood and the level of immersion.
Advanced features like autofire capabilities and automatic cheat engine searches which can aid you in your journey, further increase the app's appeal.
Support for an external controller and a lot of customizations options onboard makes the app a true candidate for gold.
It supports a wide range of file formats, like .iso, .bin, .z, etc. which further increases accessibility.
You can get all of this for a price of $3.49 from the Play store. There is a newer version, FPse64 which doubles down on performance and compatibility.
MD.emu is an emulator aimed at emulating Sega Genesis platform games. And it simply is the best emulator for Sega games.
Based on an Open source platform, MD.emu provides a carefree emulation of games with features like support for an external controller and custom key profiles.
Its brilliant optimization makes emulating retro games like Sonic and Contra very pleasing. Support for a wide range of file formats is also very helpful.
It also has support for autosaves along with saving state compatibility with the provided 10 save slots.
The simple and direct UI helps you load and play games without any gimmicky graphical complexities.
The app is available on the Play store for a price of $4.99. You can also check out the other emulators made by the developer Robert Broglia.
Buyer's Guide: Options to consider while selecting an Emulator
It may get a bit dirty while selecting an emulator for the Shield TV if you don't know what you're getting yourself into. An inappropriate app can make the whole experience weary and regretful.
To select the right emulator, consider these options before selecting the app.
First and foremost, check whether the intended app is available on the Play store. If the app is not available in the Play store, better avoid it.
If the app is not available in the Play store, you may have to sideload it.
Sideloading is not as easy as it seems because you have to download the app separately and then install it on the Shield TV through several apps that are not readily available.
You have to go through this ordeal each and whenever an update comes out since you cannot update the sideloaded app through the Play Store.
If you have the app installed through the Play store, you don't have to worry about the update and also the problems that accompany a sideloaded app.
2. Ease of Use
Check whether the app has an intuitive User Interface. If not, you may have trouble loading the games and playing them.
Almost all the apps I've mentioned above have a very intuitive and eye-pleasing interface which even supports auto-detection and sorting of the games.
Automatic controller mapping and support for external controls are also desirable features. Manual mapping can be time-consuming and can get erroneous even after carefully mapping the buttons.
Support for multiple file types can make your day a little bit brighter.
A non-user-friendly interface can spoil the whole experience. Make sure you can cope with the interface.
3. Optimization and Updates
If you choose a multi-platform emulator app, make sure the app is optimized well enough for all the platforms. Some apps may not have the best optimizations, resulting in laggy gameplay and incompatible controls.
In that case, switching to an emulator designed for a single platform may be advised. These apps are well-optimized for that particular platform, making it ideal if you plan to play games only from a particular platform.
Another requirement to check for is the support from the developer. Many a developer makes a great app and leaves for all eternity without taking a look back at it again. Such abandoned apps must be avoided at all costs.
Check whether the app is regularly updated, especially if you have to pay a premium for it. Apps that have endured time without any updates may be vulnerable to bugs and errors.
In an ever-evolving world of emulators, finding the right one for your use may be a challenging task. With this guide, you will know what to look out for.
Must you choose an app other than the ones in this list, make sure to check every criterion mentioned in the buyer's guide.
Check out my guide on How to Install Emulators on the Shield TV for an in-depth guide on setting up the emulator after choosing the right one.