As one of the oldest and most popular video game franchises, Super Mario is a staple of many people’s childhoods. If you’ve been feeling nostalgic and want to play the old classics again, but your consoles don’t work anymore, we have a solution for you.
Thanks to the power of emulation, you can relive your favorite Super Mario Bros. games right on your Android device. Here’s how you can do it.
Which Super Mario Games Are Playable on Android?
Right now, every game from the main Super Mario series of platformers released on the NES up to the Wii is playable on Android. This includes:
- NES: Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3
- SNES: Super Mario World
- Nintendo 64: Super Mario 64
- GameCube: Super Mario Sunshine
- Wii: Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2
You can also play games from the various spinoff series, like Mario Kart and Mario Party, if you like. Of course, there are other Mario games from Nintendo’s handheld systems too, such as the Super Mario Land titles.
Neither the Wii U nor the Nintendo Switch can be emulated on Android, which means that games like Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Odyssey aren’t playable.
And don’t forget, there are some official Mario games on the Play Store, like Super Mario Run, Mario Kart Tour, and LEGO Super Mario. There are quite a few Mario-like knock-offs on the Store too, but we’d recommend steering clear of those.
What Do You Need to Play Classic Mario Games on Android?
There are two basic requirements you need to play a vintage Mario game on your device:
- An emulator of the console the game was released on
- A ROM of the game
An emulator is a program that imitates an original game system. Emulators can have many features that the original console does not. Most commonly, you’ll find that emulators let you use custom save states, which let you save at any point during gameplay and load that state later.
Some emulators have support for Netplay. This allows you to play multiplayer games locally and over the internet, even on consoles that didn’t have support for online play.
A ROM is a file that contains a whole game. It’s the data that’s normally stored in a console cartridge or disc.
What Phone Hardware Do You Need?
Depending on the console you want to emulate, you may need a device with a powerful CPU. The newer the console, the harder it is to run games at full speed.
While you can emulate the NES on low-end hardware easily, to emulate GameCube games you might need a phone with more powerful hardware. Generally, at least a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 should ensure that you get no drops in the frame rate while playing. Most modern flagship or even mid-range phones should be able to handle it.
Some Mario games, like Super Mario Sunshine, have a complex control scheme. Using touchscreen controls will make the game uncomfortable to play, degrading your experience. If you own a game controller, check out our guide on how to connect a controller to your Android device for the best results.
Which Emulators Should You Use to Play Classic Super Mario Games?
What emulator you use will depend on the original platform for the game you want to play. There are a lot of options available on the Play Store, so we picked the best Android emulators for each console generation. Let’s take a look at them.
Starting with the NES, the best standalone option available on the Play Store is NES.emu. It costs a few dollars, but it doesn’t have any ads and is considered to be very accurate in its emulation.
NES.emu has a simple UI that doesn’t get in your way. It supports custom save states, and also automatically saves your game when you exit it. This lets you resume your game later exactly where you left off, even if you don’t remember to save. There’s also support for cheat codes if you want to have a bit of fun, and fast forwarding up to 7x.
You can resize and customize the onscreen controls to your liking. The emulator also allows you to plug in any gamepad that works on Android to get a more authentic experience.
Download: NES.emu ($3.99)
For the SNES, the best standalone emulator is SNES9x EX+. This comes from the same developer as NES.emu, and understandably shares many of the same features and interface elements.
You get the ability to use save states, cheats, and fast-forward in-game up to 7x. And like on NES.emu, you can also resize and move the on-screen controls, as well as use an external gamepad.
It comes with a bundled game called Bio Worm too, in case you want to test the emulator’s performance out of the box.
Download: SNES9x EX+ (Free)
Nintendo 64 Games
There’s only one worthwhile option on the Play Store for the N64: M64Plus FZ. This emulator comes with tons of features, especially in the graphics department.
M64Plus lets you add texture packs to your games to enhance the graphics. But if you find those too hard on your phone’s CPU, you can try simply upscaling the game’s resolution for enhanced visuals. You can also choose between prioritizing emulation accuracy or speed, depending on whether you value performance or an authentic experience.
M64Plus comes with support for 8BitDo controllers, as well as the original N64 controller if you have the proper USB adapter.
With the Pro version of the app, you get the ability to back up your save files to Google Drive, plus access to Netplay to play multiplayer games locally or over the internet. If you plan to play games like Mario Kart 64 with your friends, the $4 price tag for the Pro version is worth it.
GameCube and Wii Games
The GameCube and the Wii may seem like two different consoles, but due to their similar architecture, Dolphin can emulate them both. Like many other emulators, Dolphin lets you use save states and cheats.
Dolphin comes with a myriad of options to adjust graphics. You can run games at their native resolution, or upscale them up to 4K resolution, add anti-aliasing, and force the screen to render at a 16:9 aspect ratio. This last option may not work on some games.
Playing with Dolphin can be pretty taxing on your phone’s CPU, though there are some settings you can use to enhance performance. We recommend that you play at native resolution, keep Shader Compilation mode on Synchronous, and keep Shader Pre-Compilation on. Starting a game can take a few more minutes if you enable Shader Pre-Compilation, but in return, you’ll get a big boost in FPS.
Dolphin has Netplay support, but unlike its PC version, you can only play multiplayer games locally.
You can use any game controller Android supports to play with Dolphin, and you can connect up to five controllers to play multiplayer. If you have the proper adapter, Dolphin will let you use the original GameCube controller and even the Wii Remote. For the latter though, you’ll need a third-party sensor bar to use it.
Download: Dolphin (Free)
Where Do You Get ROMs for Old Mario Games?
It’s important that you know that while ROMs are readily available on the internet, downloading ROMs of games you don’t own is piracy.
We can’t tell you where to find ROMs, but we can give you some advice. The safest way to get ROMs is to either download ROMs only of games you already own a physical copy of, or rip them manually from the cartridge or disc.
Be careful when downloading ROMs, as you may end up downloading malware if you get them from an untrusted source. ROMs will typically come in a ZIP, RAR, or 7Z file, though that’s not always the case. You may download a ROM with a special file format for its console, so do some research if you’re in doubt. If the ROM you downloaded appears as an APK or EXE, delete it as that’s a malicious file.
ROM sizes vary, but generally the newer the console, the bigger the file size. Super Mario Bros. 3, for instance, is only about 384KB, whereas Super Mario Sunshine reaches almost 1GB.
Turn Your Android Device Into a Nostalgia Machine
Once you’ve got the right emulator and ROM for your favorite Mario game, you’re all set up to relive your childhood memories, with the added benefit that you can play on the go too!
And it isn’t just classic Super Mario games you can emulate. You can use the same emulators here to play old Pokemon games, among others, too.