Best Nintendo 3DS emulators for Android: play all the classics right from your phone

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Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Until recently, the Nintendo 3DS was the fourth best-selling handheld console of all time. Now that the Nintendo Switch has been around for a few years, it has taken over the 3DS, but it is clear that the 3DS is not always a great console.

But for those who are out of their 3DS and want to play some of these classics, you will need one of the best Nintendo 3DS emulators for Android. Unlike Game Boy or NES / SNES emulators, there just aren’t that many Well Nintendo 3DS emulators available. Nonetheless, we’ve rounded up the best of the best.

The 3 best apps

More options

These are the best Nintendo 3DS emulators for Android

Even if Citra emulator Has been around for years for both PC and Mac users, it is yet another newcomer to the Android emulation space. The app was officially released in 2020 and has been regularly updated to bring all (and more) of the features you expect.

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On the other hand, Drastic DS reigned supreme for years until it was recently moved. For many, however, it’s still the best Nintendo 3DS emulator for Android, as there aren’t many limitations when it comes to which phones can use it.

If you like to emulate on Android and don’t want to install a bunch of different apps, then Retroarch is the way forward. The application can be used to emulate a wide variety of different consoles including 3DS thanks to the different “cores” that can be downloaded and installed.

1. Citra emulator

Citra Z Fold 2 Pikachu LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Those who want to enjoy the best of Nintendo 3DS emulation will want to give Citra a try. The app has been around since April 2014, but it only started as an emulator for your PC. Since then, we’ve seen versions available on macOS, Linux, and finally Android.

The Android app was officially released in May 2020 and has since become the de facto choice for 3DS emulation. A free version is available, or you can purchase Citra Premium for $ 5, which unlocks additional features like dark mode. Just like other emulators, Citra searches your phone for all saved ROMs so you can start playing easily.

There are a few sticking points, the most important of which is that Citra will not perform well on any Android device. The rule of thumb seems to be that your phone should be running a flagship processor from the past two or three years. Otherwise the gameplay will not work properly and you will have to look for another emulator to use.

The new king

Citra emulator app icon

Citra emulator

3DS raw power for flagship products

Citra may be a newcomer to the Play Store, but this emulator has been around for years on other platforms. After the fall of the unofficial Android port, Citra has taken over and is the best Nintendo 3DS emulator for Android.

2. DraStic DS emulator

DraStic DS Z Fold 2 LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

For years, DraStic DS was the best choice for those watching 3DS emulators on the Play Store, but it hasn’t received any updates for a while. Although Citra may be the new fan favorite, DraStic is still one of the best emulators for Android today. The app automatically improves just about any game you launch, while also supporting some of the best game controllers for Android.

Those who don’t want to use Bluetooth controllers can customize the on-screen interface. Creating backup states is a snap, but a cool feature with DraStic is the ability to link your Google Drive account to cloud storage. This allows you to start your game on one device, then pick up where you left off on another.

And if cheat codes are your style, DraStic has you covered, too. There are a number of cheat codes available in the app which makes it easy to load the code in the middle of the game. As is the case with most of the best Nintendo 3DS emulators for Android, you might want to ensure you have a larger screen so your hands are not cramped.

Another great option

DraStic DS app icon

Drastic DS

Still one of the best emulators

DraStic DS has held the title of best 3DS emulator for quite some time. The app hasn’t seen regular updates for a while, but it still works great with most of your ROMs and works on more devices than options like Citra.

3. RetroArch

Whether you are looking for the best 3DS emulators or wondering how to emulate NES, SNES, or Nintendo DS on Android, RetroArch offers a unique approach. Instead of focusing on emulating a single console, different “cores” can be installed in RetroArch. These cores act like the consoles you’re trying to emulate, meaning you can use this app with just about any platform you can imagine.

RetroArch also makes it easy to remap controller button placement and provides weekly updates. There is a bit of a learning curve, as the app can be a bit tricky to navigate when trying to find certain features. But once everything is up and running, and customized as you want it to be, then everything is going full speed.

Unique size

RetroArch app icon

Retroarch

Use it for more than your 3DS ROMs

Instead of focusing on a single console, RetroArch has the distinct advantage of being able to emulate a wide range of consoles. It works admirably for the Nintendo 3DS, but if you want to emulate other consoles, this is the way to go.

Some stronger Nintendo 3DS emulators for Android

While not quite our top three, here are a few other great Nintendo 3DS emulators to try.

Lemuroid

Lemuroid Mario Z FoldSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Lemuroid is a solid alternative to RetroArch as it is based on the same Libretro APIs. The biggest difference here comes down to the interface; Lemuroid is much easier to customize and interact with compared to other older emulators. Late last year, the developers implemented a number of requested features that were available in other emulators, including the ability to auto-advance, change the resolution of some games, and implementations to improve audio quality.

Like RetroArch, Lemuroid also allows you to play an array of emulated games. But it is clear that the developers have some magic in their hands, as this is quickly becoming one of the best Nintendo 3DS emulators for Android.

Since there aren’t too many differences in functionality between Lemuroid and RetroArch, you might be wondering why Lemuroid isn’t included in the “big three”. Well, despite having a more user-friendly interface, RetroArch is still the better option because it can emulate more platforms.

Easier to use

Lemuroid app icon

Lemuroid

Much more user-friendly

Like RetroArch, Lemuroid offers the ability to emulate a variety of different consoles, including the Nintendo 3DS. The biggest difference here is that the interface is much more user-friendly compared to other emulators.

melonDS emulator

melonDS Pokemon Z Fold 2 LifestyleSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Lying in the weeds is another Nintendo 3DS emulator looking to take home the crown for being the best. melonDS is another emulator that debuted on Windows and was recently released for Android. Unlike others on this list, you won’t find it on the Play Store.

The developers are still working on the beta, which is why it is currently hosted on GitHub. There also appear to be almost weekly updates from melonDS. The main reason for seeing regular updates is that unlike the other options on this list, melonDS is open-source. There is no paid version available, so if you download it you won’t miss any features. It might not be as complete as Citra or DraStic, but it’s definitely on the right track.

Open source

MelonDS app icon

melonDS emulator

Open source development at its best

As is the case with many emulators, melonDS Emulator derives from a desktop client and is still under development. The app is available in beta on GitHub and works surprisingly well.

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