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Top 5 emulators for Windows Mobile - Mobile Minute

ScummVM - Beneath a Steel SkyIn the last two Mobile Minutes we've focused on productivity tips: How to sync your PDA with Thunderbird, and replacements for the built in file explorer. But we all know the real reason you lug a tiny computer around with you isn't to keep your contacts and appointments within arm's reach. It's for playing games in board meetings.

With that, we bring you Download Squad's top 5 emulators for Windows Mobile. Each of the following programs has been tested on a PDA running Windows Mobile 2003SE with a VGA screen. They should all work on Windows Mobile 5.0 devices with VGA or QVGA screens.

Keep in mind that while the emulators are all free it is against the law to download commercial video game ROMS. There are a number of resources out there for finding free and legal "homebrew" or demo games. Or you can always convert your own game cartridges or discs into ROMS.

First up is ScummVM (pictured above). ScummVM allows you to run a large number of point-and-click adventure games, including the Secret of Monkey Island series, Sam & Max, Broken Sword, and others.

Scumm is the name of the programming language that early LucasArts games, including Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion were written in. Early versions of ScummVM only worked with games written in this language, but as work on the program has continued, compatibility for other games was added.

ScummVM is one of the most multi-platform programs I've ever seen, with releases for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, with versions that run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Windows Mobile, Symbian, PalmOS, the PlayStation2, PSP, Nintendo DS, Sega Dreamcast, Gp2X, Solaris, BeOS, AmigaOS 4, OS/2, MorphOS, and Atari/FreeMiNT.

If you've got some old LucasArts games lying around, (and a floppy drive that can read them), odds are you can play them with ScummVM. And anything that runs on the desktop version runs on the mobile versions. You can also find a few games that have been released for free at the ScummVM web site.

FPSCE - breath of fire 3FPSCE

Okay, playing video games from 1992 is great and all, but what have you got that's a little more cutting edge? Well, how about a PlayStation emulator? Sure, we're a bit of a ways from that PS3 (or even PSP) emulator you've all been waiting for. But it's still pretty cool to be able to whip your PDA out of your pocket, load up FPSCE and play some WipeOut or Resident Evil.

Not all games run at full speed, and you've got to keep in mind that there are fewer buttons on most PDAs than there are on PlayStation controllers. So the games that are easiest to play are those that don't require a ton of button press combinations. Fighting games are out, while role-playing and simple racing games are in.

If you happen to have a Dell Axim X50v or X51v PDA with a 16MB graphics accelerator, the FPSCE developers have been kind enough to release a beta version that takes advantage of the chip and boosts performance significantly.

You can either play with an on-screen keyboard, or shift to full-screen landscape mode, where you press invisible virtual buttons on the screen. It's a little tricky to get used to pressing buttons you can't see or feel, but it's much easier to read text and see fine details when playing in landscape mode.

It takes a little bit of work to get FPSCE up and running, but members of the developer/user community have written up a decent set of instructions that should help you figure out how to rip games from a CD and play them in the emulator. There are also some technical demos that you can try out for free.

PocketGBA PocketGBA

PocketGBA offers the best performance of any Gameboy Advance emulator around, hands down. Like FPSCE, there's a hardware accelerated version available for Dell Axim X50v/X51v owners, which boosts performance a bit more.

The emulator is extraordinarily customizable. Like most of the emulators listed here, you can set hardware buttons to act as joystick buttons. But you can also arrange buttons on screen in a variety of ways.

You can play in portrait or landscape mode, but I find it pretty difficult to press the buttons in landscape. And while most Windows Mobile PDAs have about the same number of buttons as a Gameboy Advance, two of those buttons are usually awkwardly placed on the side of the device. So if you want to play a game that makes frequent use of the L and R buttons, you may need to tap the screen to hit those buttons, and even then you may run into problems.

For that reason, PocketGBA is another impressive emulator that's best used for playing racing and RPG games.


Raise your hand if you've got a Super Nintendo hidden away in your closet in case you have a sudden urge to play the original Mario Kart or Final Fantasy III. Okay, we can't see you, cause this is a blog, but feel free to leave a comment.

Anyway, you can relive your glory days with PocketSNES. There's not too much to say about PocketSNES other than the fact that it works. You get 9 save state slots for those times when you can't get to a save point but you've got to jump off the subway.

There are versions available for MIPS and SH3 processors, meaning you can pick up an old HP Jornada or Casio Cassiopeia and essentially turn it into a video game machine that rivals a Gameboy Advance in graphics and performance.

And the source code is available, which has led to a number of nifty updates. One version uses OpenGL to boost performance on Dell Axim X50v/X51v PDAs, while another recent update adds full support for non Axim VGA devices.

PocketN PocketNester

The original Nintendo Entertainment System is the stuff that legends are made of. Legends like Zelda, Mario, and whatever the names of those countless digital ducks you shot down where.

There are several NES emulators for Windows Mobile devices, but PocketNester has always been a favorite. It looks great, lets you choose between several on-screen keyboards, has multiple save and load states, and lets you do a quick save/load.

You can run ROM files or zipped ROM files. And while there hasn't been an update in over 3 years, the developer posted a note at SourceForge recently indicated that a new release is on its way.


This roundup is hardly meant to be an exhaustive list of emulators for Windows Mobile PDAs. If you want a comprehensive list, I'd suggest taking a look at Michu's EmuPage.

There are plenty of programs out there that emulate everything from the SEGA Genesis to DOS. But the five emulators listed here all have one thing in common. They run smoothly on Windows Mobile devices, and are optimized to work with small-screen, keyboardless devices. While you can run Zork or WarCraft I on pDOSBox, trying to type in commands on a tiny on-screen keyboard really sucks all the fun out of gaming.

Tags: adventure games, AdventureGames, fpsce, freeware, gameboy advance, GameboyAdvance, lucasarts, mobileminute, nes, nintendo, playstation, pocketgba, pocketnester, pocketsnes, scummvm, snes, super nintendo, SuperNintendo