Retro games

How to play old PC games on your Android device

There is a certain charm in playing old school games on your Android. Power-wise, Android smartphones and tablets are more powerful than the average PC from the 2000s. Running old PC and PSX games with the sheer technological power of Android phones is now possible.

Thankfully, there are several ways that you can enjoy old titles on your Android device without pulling all your hair out. I’m going to show you how to find game ports, how to use game streaming, and how to emulate games on your Android device.


What do I need?

One of the biggest issues you’ll deal with in playing old PC games on your Android device is the controls. Touchscreen controls are not well suited for games that were designed for keyboard and mouse controls. So, it is a little hard to actually play them on a touchscreen. Playing on touchscreen also hinders you to exploit the totality of the game experience.

  • I highly recommend that you invest in a Bluetooth controller for your Android device. If you have a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One controller, you can easily connect those with your Android device. I’ve personally used both controllers on my Android smartphone and they work flawlessly. It’s also quite easy to set up these devices.
  • You could also get a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combination but you’ll need a smartphone or tablet that has dual Bluetooth mode built-in. Otherwise, you can use an OTG USB hub to plug in a keyboard and mouse to your smartphone. Usually, OTG cables or adapters are easily available for a couple of dollars.
  • You also need to supply the games yourself, I highly recommend that you use legal copies. There are various free games online, but be careful with your downloads or you could have some issues.

Now that we have discussed all the technicalities, let’s see how you can play old PC games on your Android.


Finding the “port” of the game

If you’re looking to play a popular PC game on Android, there’s a chance there’s already an official port available on the Google Play Store, especially if it’s popular. A port is basically a game remade for another console. You can check out the game you’re looking for on the Play Store.

Playing Old PC Games on Your Android Device (Half-Life on Android)
Play Half-Life on your Android device

The best thing about ports is that most are made by the developer officially. So there is a high chance it’ll work on your device.

Of course, there’s also a chance that your favorite game isn’t available. Thankfully, we have a few other methods on how you can play old PC games on your Android device without any problems.


Pros:

  • The ports will work fine on your device.
  • Less buggy and frame drops are less frequent compared to using emulators.
  • Can be officially made by the game’s developer.

Cons

  • Not a lot of variety is available.
  • Ports of old games are hard to find especially if the demand for that game is relatively low.

It’s also important to note that there are independently made game ports around the web. Do a quick google search for the game you want and see if there’s a port for it.


Using emulators to play old games

Emulators are applications that imitate another operating system. In layman’s terms, you can play old PC games on your Android device. What’s nice is that there’s an emulator for almost all classic gaming consoles, so you don’t have to worry about finding games, especially if it’s old.

1. DosBox Turbo

An example of this is DosBox Turbo, it’s an incredible app that emulates Dos on your Android device. It’s a paid app but only costs around $2, which is a reasonable price to ask considering its capabilities.

It’s one of the fastest DOS emulators around as well. The app is well optimized and runs great on almost any smartphone, even with only 1GB of RAM!

Play Duke Nukem 3D on your Android phone using DosBox Turbo

One of the best things the developers did was to make a quick start guide for new users. You can find the DOSBox guide here.

It’s a bit of a long process, but here’s how you do it:

  1. Download Dosbox and Dosbox Manager from the Google Play Store.
  2. On your PC, download the game you want to run.
    • We recommend using GOG.com to get legal copies of old classics. I personally suggest that you give Fallout 2 a try, it’s a classical RPG with great character progression.
  3. Connect your smartphone to the PC.
  4. Locate the folder named “DOS” on the internal storage of your smartphone and copy the game files to the folder.
  5. Open DosBox Manager and long press on the profile icon.
  6. From there select “Copy” and type in your preferred profile name.
  7. Long press on your own profile and select “Edit.”
    • In this menu, you can tweak the emulator based on your preference. This is different for each device but if you know what you are doing, it’s fairly easy. We recommend that you crank the RAM as high as you can on newer devices. Generally speaking, 256MB will do the job.
  8. Search for the “Autoexec” option in this menu. Tap it to edit the autoexec.bat file that will run whenever you tap on this profile.
  9. (This process needs to be repeated for each game.) If you are familiar with DOS commands, this will be easy. All you need to do is give the path to the game file:
    • Cd <location of game file.exe>
    • <gamename.exe>
  10. You’ll also need to adjust the input settings as well as the screen settings in the menu.
  11. Now all you need to do is tap once on your profile and DosBox will automatically run.

2. ExaGear

ExaGear is an application that gives your ARM Android phone the capability to run Windows PC apps. ExaGear is like DosBox but a little easier to pull off. Here is how you can run it on your Android device:

Half-Life on Android screencaps
  1. Download ExaGear RPG or ExaGear Strategies, depending on the type of game you want to play.
  2. Download the game you want to play on your PC.
  3. Install the game on your PC.
  4. Attach your smartphone to the PC using a USB cable.
  5. Copy the folder of the game from your PC to the ExaGear folder on your phone. (It is usually in /Storage/Emulated/SDCard.)
  6. The game will automatically sync with the app.
  7. Run the app and see if you can locate the .exe file for the game.
  8. From there you’ll need to choose the control schemes. (You can try them out before purchasing.)
  9. After that, you can now play your PC games on your Android phone.

There are plenty of emulators to choose from and it all depends on what you want to play. Almost all old consoles have emulators on Android, so be sure to check them out! Here’s a link for 20 emulators you can try on your Android device.


Using game streaming services

If you have a gaming PC, then you can easily stream your old PC games on your Android device without much problem. You can do this by setting up “Remote Play” on your Steam settings. In order to stream PC games, you’ll need the following:

  • A PC with Steam installed.
  • A Steam controller or a Bluetooth controller.
  • A good wireless connection.
  • The Steam Link app on your phone.
Google Play Transparent border

To set up remote play on your Android device, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Steam Link app.
  2. Pair your Bluetooth controller with your phone.
  3. Connect your Android device to your computer running Steam (you must both be in the same local network).
Play old PC games by using Steam's remote play

You can pair your Android phone by going to Steam’s “Settings > Remote Play.” You’ll be able to see and connect with your device here.

You can now play your existing games on Steam on your Android phone. This also means that you can try finding the game you’re looking for on Steam. It will work seamlessly as long as you have a stable internet connection with high upload and download speeds.

There are other game streaming platforms that allow you to stream your games on a different device. But Steam is the biggest PC marketplace and it has a lot of different games available for you to purchase legally and play.

Note: you’ll only be able to do this on a local network. If you’re planning on streaming your games outside of your home, it won’t work.

Play retro games on your Android device using Steam's remote play

Pros:

  • Easy to set up.
  • Can work really well if you have good and stable connectivity.
  • Brings your library to your Android smartphone.

Cons:

  • It only works on PCs with the above-average specs.
  • Limited to those who have fast internet connection speeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are emulators legal to use?

Yes. Emulators are legal. The problem is that most games that you’ll be playing on an emulator are copyrighted.

Where can I download PC games for my Android phone for free?

Unfortunately, downloading pirated games online is illegal and I advise against it. You can purchase the games you want to play for emulators online in sites such as GOG.com. Although there are also free downloads of old PC games that you can find online.

What PC games are available on my mobile phone?

Check for ports of the game you’re looking for online. There are plenty of free retro games and imitations on the app store that you can download. There are also ports of old PC and PS1 games that you can download for free.


Game on

These are some of the ways you can play PC games on your Android device. If you value portability more than anything else, then it would be best to find ports for the game for a more seamless play-through. But if there isn’t any port for the game you want to play, you can always opt to use an emulator.

Most emulators nowadays work as good as the console (or better), depending on the type of console being emulated. All you need is a little bit more battery life so you can enjoy your favorite games while you’re out.

Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section below. I personally love old school RPGs and would love to hear your favorites.

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4 Comments

  1. So, if I want to play Battlefield 1942 on my phone how do the last couple of methods go around not having the CD in order to play? Also, how do I play the expansion packs, such as Battlefield Vietnam or Road to Rome? Thank you for the amazing info.

  2. Hi Billa tks by your effort in give info about games (windows version) to play on emulator an Android Boxtv
    just ask you if have some way to “adapt” the Tomb Rider 2013.APK and the OBB data file produced to Nvidia Shield ( android SO) in the mod for be playable on other Android Device with medium hardware specifications, like my Tanix TX5 Amlogic S905x2 4GB LPDDR4, GPU Mali G31 MP2.
    Or wich have emulator ( maybe PS3 emulator) to open and play this files of Tomb rider 2013.

    1. Hi Dude! Although there are “cracked” versions of most games, it’s illegal. And you aren’t really supporting the developers of the games you want to play so much. Not to mention the fact that “miners” have been found in a lot of cracked versions of games.

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