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Emulators And The Nvidia Shield Harmony in Gaming!


Welcome back friends! I hope today to not only to scratch your itch for retro gaming but, to also show you why the Nvidia Shield is one of the perfect platforms to scratch that itch. I will be listing which emulators work with the Nvidia Shield and what Frame Per Second speeds most games run at on those emulators and, which ones offer full controller support and offer button mapping.

Before I begin I would like to give a thank you to XDA Developers and to other Android Enthusiast’s for their hard work and dedication doing all they can to make Android a gamer’s dream software! I will also show how Nvidia themselves are on board not only with making the Nvidia Shield an Android powerhouse but, also with doing all they can both officially and unofficially to make sure Nvidia’s Shield is sought out by hackers/modders, emulation lovers, tablet gamer’s and handheld and console gamer’s and even PC gamer’s.

First things first the 72 Core Tegra 4 graphics processor along with Arm Cortex A15 MP Core, enable the Nvidia Shield to fully support current and next generation console quality graphics in games, and make older games look even better than they did in their original state, and with minimal effect on battery life thanks to its extra battery saver core. Also here are the full specs of both the Tegra 4 and the Arm Coretex A15 MP Core and what formats they support.  

Nvidia Tegra 4 T40 28 nm HPL 1.9 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A15[21] + 1 low power core Nvidia GeForce @ 72 core, 672 MHz, 96.8 GFLOPS = 48 PS + 24 VU × 0.672 × 2 (96.8 GFLOPS)[22](support DirectX 11+, OpenGL 4.X, and PhysX) 32-bit dual-channel DDR3L or LPDDR3 up to 933 MHz (1866 MHz data rate)[21] Category 3 (100 Mbit/s) LTE Q2 2013 Nvidia Shield



Now we get to the 2 gigabytes of DDRL3 ram and the 16 gigabytes of internal memory and, add to that the fact that because of the nature of the ARM Cortex A15 MP Core processor the Nvidia Shield is able to support up to 2 Terabytes of Micro SD card memory expansion. Which I know will add to the ease of being able to enjoy most if not all of your emulators on one device. Add to all of this the fact that Nvidia themselves ship the Shield with an open Boot Loader. And Nvidia makes available the full Open Source Materials and Binary Driver, lastly the added security of having also being provided by Nvidia the recovery image, giving ROM customizers  the added security of knowing they could always flash their device back to its original factory state at anytime!

Now that we have gotten past all of the technical specs I’m now going to post the emulators supported by the Shield and list if they have controller support. And of course cost or lack there of.

Android Emulators for Shield Notes: List the emulator, List System type (Which Console) and if it fully supports the Shield via Controller mappings, and if it runs most games flawlessly.
Use Level Cost (USD) Cost (EU) Emu. Console Notes
Works Perfect
$7.99 DS Great game compatibility and controls work. But also cannot map the dpad, right analog, and triggers like epsxe and n64oid.
My Boy! GBA Emulator
Works Perfect
$4.99/Free GBA Great game compatibility and controls work. Controls can be remapped.
Gameboy Color A.D.
Works Perfect
Free GBC Controls can be remapped. All buttons work well. Tried Mario Tennis (The RPG style one)
Dolphin Emulator Alpha
Doesn’t Work
Free GC, Wii Controls can be remapped, but if you try to open iso file, crashes immideatly. Tried MGS Twin Snakes, Sonic Colors & Super Mario Sunshine
Doesn’t Work
Genesis No Menu Button, default is “Y” on SHIELD but does NOT work
Works Perfect
Free MAME Both MAME versions allow for Shield controls and remapping. Reloaded auto-detect shield controls and use analog input and dual stick on dual stick games like robotron.
Works Perfect
Free Multi Works great. Controller auto-maps as of 8/07/13 update.
Mupen64 Plus AE
Needs Work
$0.99 N64 Works great with mappable controls. Games could use better emu support
Needs Work
$4.99/Free N64 Great emulation, speed, and game compatibility. Controls can’t map the right stick, dpad, or analog triggers.
Needs Work
Free N64 Limited testing. Best results with Ouya control profile. Disable touch input to turn off on-screen controls.
As of 8/12 recognizes all controls, including triggers, joysticks, and start button
Works Perfect
Free NES Great game compatibility and controls work. Controls can be remapped.
Works Perfect
$3.75 PSone
Works Perfect
$3.63 PSone Have the same control mapping problem as n64oid.
Needs Work
$5.99/Free PSP Works with decent speed for the games supported. Emulator itself has lots of work to be done for game support. Controller auto-maps as of 08/21/13 update. 8/21 update also provides SIGNIFICANT performance boost.
Snes9X EX+
Works Perfect
Free SNES Works great with controller compatibility and good speed (may need to manually map controller keys)
Works Perfect
$3.99/Free SNES Tested on shield, played everything perfect, Bind Controller 1 buttons. (not sure if distinguishes between L and R triggers vs Bumpers) – Unoid
Game Keyboard
Works Perfect
$2.99 Works with a rooted shield to map physical controls to touch screen controls. Works very well, used it so far on Pocket legends, Real Racing 3, Avadel, Ashpalt 7, and others.
OnLive Streaming
Works Perfect
Free Controls work perfectly for titles that support a controller. There are some games that are not compatible with any Android system (this is due to licensing restrictions)

I will state that as of right now the Dolphin Emulator doesn’t work native on the Nvidia Shield. But believe me both Modders/Hackers and XDA developers are hard at work on fixing that problem. But cheer up because the Nvidia Shield does allow full play of the Dolphin emulator by way of PC streaming! And when it comes to the DS and PSP emulators I have some very good news. Most of the ROMs work very well depending upon what settings you are using and which emulators. And they avrage a 30-50 Frames Per Second speed.  Although there is still audio lag present with a fair amount of the supported Roms.  And everything lower than DS and PSP games plays flawlessly 60 Frames Per Second and very good sound quality!  But there is an exception Desmume a Nintendo DS emulator found within RetroArch plays very well averaging 50-60 Frames Per second and has little to no audio lag. Also I myself have tested the free Sega Game Gear emulator SmartGear and it works perfectly!

Now take all of this into account and don’t forget that for the console loving gamer’s the Onlive App allows you to play console quality games using the Nvidia Shield both at home and on the go provided you have a WiFi source. So now what does all of this mean? I’ll use myself as an example to answer that question. And not only will I type my answer I will also link a video of me and my factory stock unmodified Nvidia Shield showing not only how smoothly and easy it is to have one console/handheld that is equal to having many other consoles. But what a joy it is when that same device allows you to enjoy those same games at home on the TV using Mini HDMI video output and out and about with a nice 720p. 5 inch LCD display. I will also use RetroArch to drive home those points. RetroArch contains emulators for all of these in one nice convenit App that, is Nvidia Shield compatible: Virtual Boy, Objects, Neo-Geo Pocket, Arcade, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Master System, Sega 32X, PlayStation 1, PC Engine/PC Engine CD, Wonderswan, Nintendo NES, Nintendo DS,  Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Atari 2600, Game Boy Advance, Doom, Quake 1. Yes all of these awesome emulators offering you the ability to have over 9,000 games on one awesome device the Nvidia Shield. Proving that gaming harmony has been indeed reached for us retro gamer’s! And as an added bonus here is where you can find the roms for your emulators www.coolrom.com/roms/ . Now I will state that I only use roms for games that I either own or have owned.

Here’s the video of me showing RetroArch in action.

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  • Angel Martinez

    I tried out the shield with some of the retro games ,but I discovered some of the emulators are not compatible with it. I tried to play some games with gameboy and nes emulators but when I press certain buttons on the joystick they work, but when I wanted to use jump button, I had to use the touch screen for that. I spoke to the techs at Nvidia and they this is not a fault of their own, it is an emulator issue. What can I do I nee assistance. Do you who I can ask about this? I am at omairangel2@gmail.com

    • Elronza Williams Jr.

      Use RetroArch and all your problems are solved friend! That is the emulator I Handheld Lover use and it contains all the emulators I listed in this article and RetroArch is fully optimized for the Nvidia Shield.

  • Angel Martinez

    Hey, I noticed that RetroArch was taken off the playstore. Do you know where I can install it? Thanks.

    • Carl Williams

      Have you tried some of the alternative Android Market options? We are not sure why it was removed from the Play Store but sometimes a search for the title and APK after it yields good results.

  • Angel Martinez

    Hi Carl thanks. for contacting me! I found the emulator, Retroarch is great. I have to find an Retrogame emulator that works with the Moga Pro Wireless Controller. All the other ones work though. Thanks.

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