Emulation 101 - A Guide on How To Play ROMs

The days of the Nintendo 64 and GameBoy Advance are long gone, unless you’re one of the few still hanging onto a functioning retro console. For the rest of us, there are ROMS, and they even have a lot of advantages over the old consoles.

Tired of everything going so slowly in Pokemon? Many emulators allow you to speed up the game to walk more quickly and get through the animations and text. Want to cheat but don’t have a Gameshark? Many emulators allow you to easily input various kinds of cheat codes.

Plus, you can carry this around in your pocket. Just load up all your favorite emulators and ROMs on your smartphone, and you’re good to play on the bus, on your lunch break, or even during class (we won’t tell your teacher).

Emulators and ROMs are undoubtedly awesome, so how do you go about setting them up? Let’s walk through it using the GBA emulator and Pokemon Emerald as an example.

Step 1: Download An Emulator

At LoveROMs.com, you’re going to find everything you need to get started, and the first thing you need is an emulator.

Look for the blue bar along the top of the site, and hover over Emulators to find the console you want to emulate.

LoveROMs Menu Screenshot

If you’re on a mobile device, you will see the mobile version of the site. If that’s the case, tap the three-line icon in the upper left to find the emulator icon. Click that to see all the emulators.

LoveROMs Mobile Screenshot

The most popular emulators for each console will be here, and they link to their respective websites to be downloaded. You can use the drop down options to filter each video game system. We’ll be using “My Boy!” from Android, which requires us to download the app from the Google Play Store.

LoveROMs Emulator Screenshot

Now we’ve got an emulator, which is basically our console, we've completed the first step.

Step 2: Download ROMs

On the top of every page is a search box and a link to the ROMS page. From these two places, you can search for any ROM you want, or just browse the popular ones by going to the ROM page itself. Since Pokemon Emerald is currently the most popular GBA ROM, we'll use that for our example.

LoveROMs Homepage Screenshot

Android

You can either download the ROM to your PC and transfer it to your device via USB, or you can download it directly to your mobile device by visiting LoveROMs.com on your smartphone.

PC / Mac

If you’re on a PC/MAC, you can use the Download #1 Option (file manager, a .exe file) or Download #2 which has Captcha & Advertisements then a direct download link.

LoveROMs Download Screenshot

Step 3: Play!

With the emulator and ROM now downloaded, you’ll want to fire up the emulator. Depending on which emulator you’re using, this process might vary a bit, but we’re walking through the “My Boy!” emulator right now Most emulators will prompt you to open your game right at the start. If not, look for an “Open” or “Load” button. On Android, your downloaded games will probably be housed under the “Download” folder.

Load Game Screenshot

Load the game file up by selecting it. It should be a .zip file, and you don’t need to unzip it. Just like that, you’re off to play some games.

Pokemon Emerald Screenshot

Some emulators allow you to adjust the virtuals controls, change the speed of the game, have multiple save files, and more — so be sure to play around with the settings before you get started!

Step 3A (Conditional): Download the BIOS

Some GBA, PSX, Dreamcast, and Atari Emulators require you to download a seperate file called a BIOS file. MyBoy! has a custom-made BIOS that's built-in, you can skip this step. Additionally, if you are not emulating GBA, PSX, Dreamcast, or Atari, skip this step.

Since we are downloading a Gameboy Advance emulator, you might need a BIOS file. (A BIOS file is like a key to a car, for emulators, it starts up the loading screen. You can find it here.

It's pretty straight forward, download the BIOS file and place it in the same folder the emulator is in (most of the time, see emulator documentation). After you do that, you'll need to go to your Emulators settings and point it in the direction of the file.

Step 4: Back It Up!

While some emulators allow you to save in-game as you normally would, others allow you to save at any moment. This can be helpful for doing a quick save before a big event or for keeping multiple save states at once. If you want to be sure not to lose those save states, here’s what you got to do.

Most emulators will create save files with the extension .st1 (or .st2, etc.) or .sav and put them in somewhere in the parent emulator folder (or ROM folder). On Android, for “My Boy!”, you can find these in your file explorer under MyBoy > Save. Worried that you’ll lose your files if your lose or damage your phone? Backup those files to Google Drive or Dropbox.

If you plan to move phones or wipe your phone, you can just copy the whole folder to your computer and copy it back to your Android device when done (Or just use Dropbox for Android). Other emulators on other platforms often operate in a similar way as well.

And that’s all there is to it. Now go out there and download ALL the ROMs!

!#[email protected]#[email protected]$#!!!! Can't figure it out and just want to play? Play your favorite games with your browser instead.

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