How to turn your Android smartphone into a full-sized games console

On October 2, 2012

App Type: Android

How to turn your Android smartphone into a full-sized games console

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Our beloved smartphones. They’re so small and run so silently, that it’s easy to forget that the high-end ones are quad-core beasts that could – figuratively speaking – beat the shit out of many of our ‘big’ home computers. As such, many of us haven’t considered their potential for raw old-school gaming fun.

Yes, we know there are emulators on which we can run games on all consoles ranging from the Commodore 64 to the Nintendo 64, but let’s face it, we’re not really getting the most out of them if we’re confined to using our seductively pretty – but not so good for gaming – smartphone screens. For a truly old-school experience, we want big screens (theoretically, they should be old cathode tube TVs, but since everyone’s got an HDTV these days, we’ll have to make do) and multiple controllers.

So without further ado, here’s how to turn your – preferably mid-high range Android smartphone into the ultimate gaming multi-console (the word sends shivers down the spine, doesn’t it?).

1. Download the emulator(s) you want

This is the easiest part. Google Play already has great emulators for you to download, and most of the old-school consoles are represented. Literally all you have to do is download them and they’re up and running.

The only emulator that’s a little more complex than the others is the one for PSX (or PS One, as kids these days like to call it) due to the games originating on CD. Here’s how to get it working.

  • Download the emulator you want (I recommend Fpse)
  • Download the SCPH1001 PSX BIOS.bin  file from the internet, unzip it, then place it in the folder on your Android that you’ll be keeping your games.
  • Download ECM Tools – This program converts the native PS One file type (ECM) into ISO or BIN files, which can then run on your PSX emulator.
  • Open the ECM PSX games with the ‘unecm’ feature in ECM Tools, and it’ll convert them to compatible ISO and BIN files.

2. Download the games (ROMs) you want

Sadly, there is no way to directly download ROMs from Google Play, but that’s understandable given the legally dubious nature of ROMs. As things currently stand, If you own the original game, you can download the ROM. With that out the way, here are a few good sites where you can download your favourite games from.

Simply download the game, extract it, then put it in the Android folder where you plan on keeping your games (remember, this should be the same folder as the BIOS file if you want to play PSX games). Once you’ve done this, you should be able to find and open games from the menu of your chosen emulator.

3. Hook up your smartphone up to a Bluetooth gaming controller

Now this can be the tricky part. One option is to take the easier, costlier route of investing in a dedicated Android bluetooth controller, such as Phonejoy Analog Game Controller or the clip-on Gametel controller.

Alternatively, if you have a spare PS3 controller kicking around, you can link that up to the phone. To do this however, you’ll need to root your phone (there are plenty of guides out there on how to do this).

Once you’ve rooted your phone, you should download the Sixaxis Compatibility Checker app which tells you whether your is capable of syncing with a Sixaxis. Make a note of the ‘Local Bluetooth Address’ at the bottom of the screen.

  • Download and Install the SixaxisPairTool app on your PC
  • Connect your PS3 controller via USB to your PC, then open SixaxisPairTool.
  • In the empty ‘Change Master’ box, type in the ‘Local Bluetooth Address’ from the Sixaxis Compatibility Checker and press ‘Update.’
  • Download and install the Sixaxis Controller app. Open it, and it may ask your for SuperSU (you’ll know what this is if you rooted your phone) permission to wirelessly link with you controller. Grant permission.
  • Open the Sixaxis Controller app, change IME to Sixaxis Controller.
  • Hit the Menu button, select ‘Preferences,’ then go into ‘Gamepad Settings’ and select ‘Enable Gamepad.’ Your controller should now be good to go and it’s just a matter of editing input preferences in each individual emulator!

4. Hook your phone up to your HDTV

To do this, you’ll need a micro-USB to MHL adapter. This little conversion box is the hub of your emulation experience, and there are three things you need to do to it.

  1. Run an HDMI cable from the adapter to the TV.
  2. Use a micro-USB cable to plug the adapter into the mains.
  3. Plug the micro-USB end of the adapter into your phone.

Your phone display should now appear on your HDTV.

5. Hook up another controller (or 3) and you’re good to go!

Most of the Android emulators now support multiple controllers, which can be set up using the ‘Settings’ features of the respective emulators. So if you’ve got enough controllers, simply set them up by binding the buttons to whichever ones you feel comfortable with, and you’re ready for for some old-school gaming lockdowns with your mates.

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