I’m fortunate enough to own a Nintendo 3DS, GCW Zero, and a Samsung Galaxy S3 Android smart phone. At one time or another I’ve used all three to emulate classic game consoles and play games. How do they compare to each other?

Hardware:

Out of the box the GCW Zero is ready to go. The Nintendo 3DS requires you to buy a $40 DSTWO flash cartridge. The S3 needs a Game Klip and a PS3 controller.

The 3DS has the biggest screen. It also has two screen, this is important for playing DS games.

The GCW Zero is the easiest to pocket. The 3DS is just a bit too big for a pocket, it does well in a backpack. The S3 by itself fits easily into a pocket, the Game Klip and PS3 controller not so much.

The S3 with a PS3 controller has the best controls of the bunch.

The GCW Zero has the best battery life, about eight hours for me. The 3DS around four and the S3 2-3. It’s difficult to judge the S3 since its hard to use it for nothing else than playing a game for 3+ hours.

NES, Gameboy, and Gameboy Color games: All three devices play these games equally well.

Super Nintendo and Genesis Games: GCW Zero and S3 can emulate these darn near perfectly. The GCW Zero has trouble with SuperFX games such as Star Fox. The 3DS has trouble running graphically intense games at full speed. It works well for RPGs or other games where fast responses are not needed.

Nintendo 64 and Playstation Games:  The S3 is the only one that can emulate these. It does pretty well.

Gameboy Advance Games: All three devices can emulate Gameboy Advance with near perfection.

Nintendo DS Games: The GCW Zero cannot emulate DS and even if it did it doesn’t have a touch screen. The S3 can emulate the DS very well, though its screen will be split into two in order to emulate the DS’ two screens. The 3DS can run DS games natively and perfectly.

Other Consoles: None of the three devices have fast enough hardware to emulate consoles beyond the Nintendo 64/Playstation era. The 3DS can natively play 3DS games though. Consoles older than the NES run well on all three.

What about native games? The S3 has the entire Google Play Store to pick from. The 3DS has the library of 3DS and DS games. The GCW has some not so great Linux games.

Using it for things other than games: Hands down the S3. Being a smart phone its all good. The 3DS has a limited web browser and can watch Youtube. The GCW just plays games.

Which one of the three do I use the most? I use my Nintendo 3DS the most. The screen size, battery life, controls, DS and 3DS game support make it my favorite of the bunch. Its the one I take if I’m going on a trip. The 16bit console support is a bummer but the 3DS and DS support more than make up for it.

 

Galaxy S3 with Game Klip

I like playing old games. I missed out on the NDS, Game Boy Color, GBA, and the butt end of the SNES and Genesis. Playing games from those consoles is actually something new for me.

I’ve known about old console emulation on Android phones for a long time. I had an original Droid phone that ran NES games alright. Having to use the touch screen as a controller though makes playing the games frustrating. I’ve played around a bit with using a Wiimote as a controller but then you have to prop up the phone somehow so you can have both hands free to hold the controller, no fun either.

Jump cut to the GameKlip. The GameKlip is a bracket that fits around a PS3 Dual Shock 3 controller and attaches to your Android phone or tablet. You get a real controller to use with your games and you don’t have to try to balance your phone on your lap. The GameKlip is a great idea and I can’t say enough good things about it.

I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S3 running the stock android ROM that came with it. I have attempted to use other ROMs such at CyanogenMod and Slim Bean but they would cause the game emulators to crash after a bit of play. Very cause and effect. Flawless under the stock ROM, reboot into CyanogenMod, load the same quick save up, play for a few minutes, emulator locks up. Bummer.

How well does the Galaxy S3 emulate the different consoles?

PSX: Great! Surprising considering how other emulators perform. Using RetroArch.

N64: It’s hit and miss. Some games wont even load. Speed can be an issue. Mario Kart is sort of playable. Slower paced games like Ogre Battle work ok. I’m currently using MuPen64 Plus AE. I’ve tried several other emulators and its the best all things considered. If you mix and match emulators most anything will at least load. Playability not so much.

SNES: It works well. There can be slow downs in spots with lots of sprites moving around (Contra 3), but nothing that ruins it for you. I’m using SNES9x EX+

Genesis: The same as the SNES.

NDS: Works great. Trying to show both of the DS screens at once on the little S3 screen just makes me wish I had an Android tablet to run the emulators on. Using DrasStic.

GBA: Perfect. No complaints at all. I’m using My Boy!.

GBC/Gameboy: Perfect. I’m using GBC.emu.

NES: Perfect. I’m using John NES Lite.

What about sound lag?

I’ve read a lot about Android emulators having bad sound lag. For instance, you grab a coin in Mario and you don’t hear the sound for it until a second later. Judging from the amount of reports on the Internet I’ve seen it must be a real problem. I already had an Android phone and most of the emulators have free to try versions. I didn’t have any risk involved in trying it out. If I had to buy a phone (or even one of the Android handheld consoles or a tablet) and then hope that emulation works, I wouldn’t have done it. That’s how worrisome all of the lag reports are.

Luckily though I have not had any problems with sound lag in my setup. Is it just my phone? Maybe my combination of emulators, ROM, and Android version is good? Dunno. It just works right for me as is.

What about RetroArch?

Why use all of these other emulators? RetroArch is free and emulates every system!

RetroArch is a good concept. All of the emulators in one place, no questions about licenses, and free. Good times.

RetroArch is hit or miss though. For instance, PSX emulation under it is near perfect. GBC emulation suffers from horrible slow downs and choppy sound. Considering the specs of the two systems you would expect the opposite problem. Using different emulators tailored to a specific system works well for me.  I may have spent $15 total for all of them, but I get a lot of value back in return.

 

I have a Nintendo 3dS XL. I wanted to get a DSTWO flash cart to run emulators. While researching what to buy I couldn’t find a straight answer on how well the emulation works, specifically for SNES and GBA. About the one constant I could find was that the DSTWO has a CPU in it to help out with emulation. Most of what I could find beyond that went from one extreme to the other, it was horrible or it was great.

After trying out the DSTWO for about a month this is what I’ve learned.

SNES: Works very well. Games with lots of sprites moving around at one time will slow down a little, Contra 3 for instance. I remember Contra 3 slowing down a bit way back when I was running it on a real SNES though. Games that use the SFX chip are super slow and not playable. I played a Link to the Past, Ogre Battle,  and Super Mario All Stars (+ World) just fine.

Genesis: About the same as the SNES emulation. The Sonics play well.

GBA: Never saw any problems.

NES, Gameboy, and Gameboy Color titles all play well.

Tip #1: If you try to load the DSTWO and you get a ‘No game inserted’, or ‘No game card inserted’ error, take the cart out and press it back in pretty hard. Its not a problem with how you formatted the card or any other some such. It’s a problem with the cart not seating down properly and the pins not making contact. Just give it a good push in.

Tip #2: The SD slot in the DSTWO is spring loaded. You push the SD card in and it clicks when it is seated. You push it in again and it clicks and the card pops out. The bits inside the card that handle the spring and the seating are cheaply made and wear out after a while. This happened after about ten in and outs for me. I’ve read on some forums about it happening sooner and of course some people never have a problem at all. My SD card will push in, but it no longer clicks and sticks. I ended up opening the DSTWO up, removing the spring and taping the SD card down. I suppose I could of (and should of) sent the card back for an exchange, but I didn’t want to be without it for that long.