Are you feeling the urge to play Pokémon, but lacking the neccessary hardware to do so? Emulation is the answer. As long as you've got a decent mobile phone or a mid-range PC, you can get started. To help you on your journey, we've put together a list of the best Pokémon emulators for GBA and DS.
Choosing the right emulator can be a little overwhelming. There's an almost limitless list of emulators to choose from. Each one plays games, but there are big differences in how each one performs. It comes down to what you are looking for in an emulator and how you want to experience your favourite Pokémon titles.
There’s two areas we are going to focus on in this list, as we want to provide players with options across PC and mobile. We’re also going to include both DS and GBA emulators as there're numerous generations between both.
Unfortunately, we can’t legally provide links to any of the emulators below. However, all of them should be easy enough to find with a quick Google.
mGBA - Best Pokémon emulator for GBA on PC
mGBA is one of the most complete GBA emulators available. It offers unrivalled speed, accuracy and portability, making it one of the best Pokémon emulators on PC. Accuracy is important in emulation, as it provides the closest experience to the original release.
What makes mGBA such a great fit for Pokémon is the rich library of features. A real-time clock emulation enables players to take advantage of the time system in games like Pokémon Silver and Gold. Connectivity with other emulators also enables players to take advantage of the Gamecube/GBA between Pokémon Colosseum and any of GBA Pokémon titles.
Excitingly, the emulator has a number of features planned for the future. The most intriguing is network cable support. In the future mGBA will emulate multiplayer game linking via a network, meaning you can trade and battle with friends over the internet.
DeSmuME - Best Pokémon emulator for DS on PC
DS emulation is a little trickier than GBA, as emulators have to render a 2D and 3D image at the same time with DS titles. Fortunately, there are some fantastic emulators available which faitfully recreate DS games on PC. DeSmuME is one of the most established DS emulators on the market, making it one of the best Pokémon emulators on PC.
DeSmuME isn’t as accurate as something like MelonDS, but it is rich with features that perfectly compliment a Pokémon playthrough. It’s age results in one of the most stable DS experiences available on the internet.
DeSmuME's ability to render pixels at a higher resolution, is what makes it one of the best Pokémon emulators on PC. As you can see from the screenshot below, the pixels on sprites, buildings and fauna all look much smoother. This is especially important when playing DS games on a much larger screen, as the increased pixel density can make some DS games look very pixelated. Therefore, DeSmuME is a fantastic option for anyone looking to emulate Pokémon titles on PC.
DeSmuME is also a great option because it provides players with two rendering options. SoftRasterizer was built in house by the team behind DeSmuME, and enables users to render from the CPU. OpenGL is an open-source renderer which runs from the GPU. This gives players options when trying to emulate Pokémon titles.
DraStic DS Emulator - Best Pokémon Emulator for DS on Android - £4.99
Running DS games on mobile is a little more difficult, but fortunately there are a few emulators up to the task. Easily one of the best Pokémon emulatorson Android, DraStic DS is definitely worth £4.99. The emulator includes numerous features seen on PC emulators, all within the palm of your hand.
Running Pokémon through DraStic DS, players can connect controllers, map buttons and even run titles at a higher internal resolution. However, performance will vary depending on your phone. In terms of performance, DraStic DS is one of the most reliable emulators available. Most phones should handle Pokémon with ease, provided you aren't running on outdated hardware. Drastic DS also includes several options for screen and button layout.
Chuck in the fact it has the option to increase emulation speeds and integration with Google Drive for save storage on the cloud, and that £4.99 suddenly doesn’t seem too expensive.
EmuBox - Best Pokémon emulator for DS on Android - Free
Other than DraStic DS, many of the free DS emulators struggle with performance issues while running titles like Pokémon. It can obviously depend on your device, but emulation can be difficult to get right and many of the free options just aren’t up to scratch. Fortunately, EmuBox provides a reliable level of performance, and acts as a three-in-one platform running DS, PS1 and SNES games.
As with most free emulators on Android, there are adverts. However, it also has many of the features you’d expect and want to use alongside Pokémon, such as speed change, cheats, and the ability to play with a controller. There are even visual and gameplay tweaks, so you can customise performance to fit your phone. Not bad at all for free.
Pizza Boy - Best Pokémon emulator for GBA on Android - Free
Not only is Pizza Boy an awesome name, it is also one of the best performing emulators available on the market. With 60fps guaranteed performance, a range of shader options, and the ability to fast forward, Pizza Boy is an actual platform to dip back into Pokémon through. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also completely free and has no adverts.
Pizza Boy is a simple feature-rich emulator that plays Pokémon titles smoothly, with almost no issues whatsoever.
Now that you're all set up and ready to go, why not check out this fan-made Pokémon Rom which replaces all original 151 Pokémon sprites with original artwork.