How to Play Nintendo DS ROMs on Android

Nintendo DS for Android
Emulating the Nintendo DS on your smartphone used to be a dream, but today it’s a reality — not to mention easy and quick. From Super Mario 64 DS to Pokémon Black and White, don’t miss out on your opportunity to play all of the best DS games right on your Android device.

Step 1: Download An Emulator

An emulator is a virtual version of the console you want to play. In this case, it’s like have a DS inside your Android device. It should be noted, however, that the 3DS is (technically) a completely different system, and can’t yet be emulated on Android.

The three best emulators for DS can be found on the Play Store. nds4droid is the free option, DSoid is $2.59, and DraStic is $5.99. Naturally, you get what you pay for, and DraStic is the fastest by far, even on older devices like the Galaxy S3. Although you may want to give each a shot to determine what works best for your device.
Drastic DS and NDS4Droid
Don’t forget that the Play Store has a 15 minute window where you can return any app for a full refund in case you find the emulator to be too slow or have other issues.

Step 2: Download ROMs

If an emulator is a virtual game console, then ROMs are the virtual games. These are harder to obtain since they can’t just be downloaded from the Play Store. You can check out roms4droid’s complete list of DS ROMs, or just browse the Top 100 DS ROMs to find some of the best.
Nintendo DS Game Cartridges
Photo Credit: Flickr/JuZ

The easiest way to get these ROMs onto your Android device is just to visit the above links in your device’s browser and download directly to your phone or tablet. The files will come in the .zip, .rar, or .7z format, but don’t worry about unzipping them; the emulator will read them just fine in that format.

You should, for obvious reasons, only download games that you own.

Step 3: Get Playing

Once you’ve downloaded and a DS emulator and a DS ROM, you’re ready to get started. Simply fire up whichever emulator you chose, and there should be some sort of prompt to choose your ROM. Most emulators, like DraStic, will automatically search your phone’s contents and present you with a list of your ROMs, but other may require you to manually search for it. If this is the case, look under your Downloads folder.
Drastic DS Load ROMs
Once you’ve chosen your ROM, it should boot up and you’re able to play. But things don’t always go so smoothly. If you run into any errors at this point, try a different ROM. Sometimes there is a problem with individual ROMs or there compatibility with certain emulators. Before abandoning hope after one game doesn’t work, try a different game or a different version of the same game.

Plus, once you’ve got it up and running, there are quite a few settings to tinker around with. DraStic’s on screen interface, as shown below, offers a quick-access menu button for options like displaying the soft keys, fast forwarding, and saving. Other emulators, like nds4droid, require you to use your device’s menu button to access a list of settings.
Pokemon Black for Nintendo DS
For DS games, many people actually find it easiest to play with the screens inverted in portrait mode so that the touchscreen for the DS is on top. This makes it easier to use the on-screen controls on the bottom without interfering with the touchscreen portion of the game. However, DraStic and many other emulators offer support for all kinds of configurations, including a landscape orientation.
DraStic Gameplay
Gameplay, for the most part, should be pretty straightforward, but you’ll want to head into the settings menu if you’re having any issues. Your first move if experiencing lag should be to increase the frameskip value; this can make the game run more smoothly on older devices, but increasing it when you don’t need to could make the video look choppy.
DraStic Settings
Most emulators will also offer an experimental 3D rendering feature. Give it a try, but know that its results tend to be mixed depending on your device, emulator, and ROM. You can also customize the controls to some degree on most emulators.

DraStic’s on-screen control customization is rather limited, but nds4droid allows you to move the buttons around to best fit your needs, which can be incredibly convenient for getting just the right button layout for your personal preference.

Step 4: Manage Your Saved Files

Saving in an emulator doesn’t quite work like it would in a regular game. Instead of following normal saving procedure — for instance, pressing starting in Pokémon and navigating down to Save — you instead use the emulator’s built-in save function. In most cases, this is accessed via the on-screen menu button or phone’s built-in menu button.

Creating a save state allows you to return to the game exactly where you left off. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t reach an in-game save point or if you were in the middle of a boss fight, you’ll return to exactly where you saved when you load that save state. This is both incredibly convenient and dangerous. If you get yourself into a situation where you can’t win and then save, you have no choice but to lose. That’s why most emulators support multiple save states.

It’s good practice to regularly have multiple save states, that way if one is corrupted, or you find yourself in too difficult of a position in the game, you can revert back to an older save state. This will save you the heartbreak of losing your saved game completely.

To manage these saved states, you’ll need a File Manager. Many Android devices today come with one built-in; if you’re running a Samsung device, it’s called My Files. However, if you can’t find one on your device or don’t like the preinstalled one, we highly recommend OI File Manager. It’s free, simple, and ad-free.
Android File Manager
Once you’re in your file manager of choice, you’ll need to find the folder that contains your saved states. For DS emulators, these are most typically .dss files. Most emulators will create an easily accessible folder under the emulator’s name with the save states somewhere inside.

If you plan on wiping your device clean or just want to transfer your save states to another device, you’ll need to copy them from here. Remember their folder location, though, because you’ll need to put them back in the same place on the device you plan to move them to if you want the emulator to read them properly.

Step 5: Enjoy!

DS emulation on Android is a blast, and hopefully you’ve got it all setup now to enjoy your favorite DS games. If you need any help, feel free to shoot us a comment below.


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