How to play your favorite old school console games on your BlackBerry 10 phone or BlackBerry PlayBook

By Bla1ze on 3 Jun 2013 11:13 pm EDT
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With our first Talk Mobile discussions surrounding mobile gaming and whether or not it can kill off the console, I began feeling a little nostalgic for some of the old console games I used to play as a kid. Being born in 1981, the first console I really remember sitting down and playing was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Man, I begged my parents so much for that thing, and eventually they gave in and bought me one. Consoles through the ages didn't really require much computing power by today's standards. The Nintendo Entertainment System's processor for example ran at a maximum of 1.79MHz, which, realistically, likely isn't even enough power to get your smartphone to boot these days.

If you're like me and enjoy playing older, retro console games then your smartphone is more than powerful enough to run them by way of emulators. An emulator, if you're not familiar with the term, offers up the ability to run older games as if they were running in their intended environment. In short, you can play older games on modern systems.  Every platform out there these days has them available, often built using open source resources. iOS has mame along with a huge catalog of classic games companies have officially ported to the iOS platform, Android has a slew of emulators available in Google Play, Windows Phone 8 has a few emulators and yes, BlackBerry has plenty of emulators available for both the BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10.

In fact, a new all encompassing emulator that offers most older console systems has recently been released for BlackBerry 10 called RetroArch. It's capable of playing NES, GameBoy, Sega, PlayStation and other ROM's but therein lies the problem: ROM's. Aside from Google Play, which doesn't seem to care all that much, the apps for mobile devices I mentioned are apps you'll rarely find available in the various app stores.The emulators assist in running ROM's and ROM's by most standards are considered illegal. They are, essentially, copies of the games put out by publishers in a format that is easily shareable.

There are certainly arguments to be made there about how a game from 1985 that's no longer available for purchase should be an exception but that's not for me to decide. Personally, I have no problem with digging up those classics and loading them onto my device for my own personal use. If you feel the same way, then let's have a look at what is available for BlackBerry 10 and the BlackBerry PlayBook to help you complete that mission. Keep in mind, these are some of my favorites though a full list can be found in the CrackBerry forums:

Installing the emulators

Having tested a lot of them, my new personal favorite has to be RetroArch. It has a Cascades frontend and folks like Catalystg and many others are working on getting the rest ported over to Cascades as well. Plus, as noted above, it's an all encompassing emulator covering Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation gaming engines and more. To put it plainly, it's one of the best emulators I've used in terms of ease of use and compatibility.

Unfortunately, it'll likely never get accepted into BlackBerry World and just like all the others listed, in order to make use of it, you'll need to sideload the .bar files in order to get them on your device. The way I suggest and have found to be the easiest, if you're not tech savvy, is to use the Google Chrome extension, though some recent OS leaks appear to of have broken it. I've written out the steps below, but you can also find a visual guide here and a video here.

  • Download and install Google Chrome if you don't already have it.
  • Download and install from the Google Web Store "PlayBook App Manager".
  • Put your BlackBerry into development mode (Settings > Security and Privacy > Development Mode). Be sure to create a password, if it asks.
  • Note the IP of your device from this screen as well. It should default to 169.254.0.1 but just in case it doesn't, make note.
  • Plug your device into your PC/Mac until it says it's been connected and then visit the IP address be it 169.254.0.1 or the one you noted.
  • You may get a warning about SSL certificates, this is normal, just go ahead and click "Proceed Anyway". It does no harm.
  • From there, you can log in to your device. Make sure you enter the password you set up when asked.
  • Once logged in, you'll see a screen with all the apps installed currently on your device.
  • You can then simply drag and drop any .bar file into the browser to begin the install process.
  • You'll see the progress as it goes and once complete, you can then disconnect your device.

If you find this method of sideloading just isn't happening for you, there are several other ways to get the apps installed. There are solutions for both Windows and Mac available but to be perfectly honest, there is no "easy" method of doing it. Each person has to find out what way works best for them in order to get it working. Remember, this stuff is really intended for developers to be able to test their apps with. The ability to sideload for "average" users is just a side effect of being helpful to BlackBerry developers.

Obtaining the ROM's

Finding ROM's to play isn't all that difficult. There are literally thousands of sites out there that offer downloads, but some of them are, shall we say, a little shady or often times spammy leading you to click forever just to find a download link. Most of the files you come across are going to be in zip files or rar files and for that, you'll need to ensure you have something that is capable of opening those files. Once you obtain the files, extract them. Once extracted they can be placed onto your device. Keep in mind some emulators require them to be in a specific location such as Documents/ROMS in order to work but for the most part, the emulators will allow you to browse directly to the file through the UI. I have most of mine stored on my SD Card just simply titled ROM's.

I'm giving away my secrets here but it's really in your best interest to find a site that offers a mobile version. That way, you can download the ROM's directly to your device without needing to involve your PC or Mac to get things running. The only issue with that is that sometimes the files will come packed in a format your BlackBerry device may not recognize, in which case there may be an app to help you, or you simply just have to look for a different version or wait until you get near a computer. One site I particularly favor offers up some Cool ROM's, always has working files, and has a sweet mobile version.

Caveats

Being able to play all the games you grew up with is awesome. Being able to play them on your BlackBerry device is even sweeter. But not all is fun and games when it comes to ROM's. Obviously, there is a bit of effort involved with getting things up and running and even if you do manage to get the apps installed and the ROM's downloaded, there is still a chance they may not work to your expectations. Often times they won't run, the controls are wonky, the sound is off, the graphics are glitchy and whatever else you can possibly think of. But, when you find that classic game that you love and it just so happens to work properly, it's awesome and makes the time you spend messing about well worth it. 

To close this one out, this is also one of the reasons I believe mobile gaming will never fully kill off the console. The console makers have thus far been reluctant to bring some of their most beloved games to the mobile platforms and because of that, people keep returning to the console. It's become a "thing' now for publishers to release the old classics on the console and while emulators are really cool, there's still that nostalgia of playing an old classic with a controller in hand. Granted, it's a small reason but it's the sole reason I still pick up my PS3 controller and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Want to talk more gaming? Stick around all this week for Talk Mobile, we've got plenty more content lined up for you all.

Reader comments

How to play your favorite old school console games on your BlackBerry 10 phone or BlackBerry PlayBook

104 Comments

Thanks Bla1ze if I can get Chrono Trigger on the SNES working I will be very happy.

CB10- BlackBerry Z10

Favorite game on SNES. Killer Instinct and DK Country 2 come close too.

Posted via CB10 on my Z10 & loving it!

Just loaded FF3 and it works. Good times ahead! Some sound distortions on SNES games but the "superFX overclock" option fixes that when needed.

I've often wondered why companies don't make official emulators and roms. There is obviously a market but I guess not enough of one?

Posted via CB10

Legality of it all is murky at best. It's easier to just pretend like you have no idea what's going on while crafty third-party devs provide what the people want.

Or, did you mean the original game companies? As to that I don't know, definitely a strong enough market but they may have their hands tied with other matters.

Posted via CB10 on my Z10 & loving it!

yes, I'm talking about the original game companies. I would think that it wouldn't be very hard for them especially if there was an official emulator.

You have the occasional instance where a game gets re-released, like Final Fantasy 7 for PC (with wide screen!) which I bought. I do wish it were more common though.

Posted via CB10

They do. They just don't make too much noise about the emulator itself. Pretty much any ps1 game on psp is running on an emulator, Sega put out their smash packs on pc and dream cast, etc...

Posted via CB10

RetroArch. Totally suggest trying it before all others. It's really good at determining the best settings with little user interaction.

Bla1ze, you just made a lot of retro fans' week if they didn't know how to do this before.
Awesome post and very detailed.

Posted via CB10

PPSSPP is a PSP emulator. Available for BlackBerry 10 too. Works nicely. Though not all games work with it.

Posted via my Z10 :D

I've got USB adaptors for my original snes,nes, and n64 controllers.

Would they work on my z10 if I get an adaptor to make it micro-usb??

Posted via CB10 & Z10 abuser

Not yet, that requires USB host capabilities which is slated to come to BB10 in 10.2, then it would be up to BlackBerry or the des to allow them to be used. Probably just easier to get one of the native supported BT controllers.

Posted via CB10

That was really quick Bla1ze, lol. Good write up though. Are you allowed to directly link to a ROM site on a CB article though? (Most people give the info but not the means of getting the files.)

Posted via CB10 on my Z10 & loving it!

I've been waiting for a post like this one. My goal is to be able to play eternal darkness on my PlayBook. Thanks.

Posted via CB10

This is so freaking awesome! Thanks! I will be downloading this right away... once i get home!

Posted via CB10

Depends on where you buy them. Some are expensive but the majority are cheap. And people , such as myself, prefer to play on real hardware where possible.

Some of the most exciting things to happen in retro gaming are the sd based mass storage solutions. Carts like the 1541 u, for the c64, offer a easy way of playing classic games on real hardware.

Posted via CB10

That's spiffy. I am looking forward to trying this then. Since my GP2X Wizz died I have had no real solution to playing NES on the go.

Posted via CB10

My NES still works, but I'd rather have the option to a on my phone than fiddle with that thing, blowing into the cartridge and hoping for the best. FYI, River City Ransom is the best NES game ever!

Posted via CB10

Dude, blowing into the cartridge, setting it on the edge and then SLAMMING it down! LoL The good ol' days...

Just played street fighter 2. :)

Wonder what it looks like on HDMI out!
It'd be awesome if the phone just displays the controller buttons and the TV just displays the game.

This is really cool. Looking forward to the updates!

Posted via CB10 & Z10 abuser

Update: just tried the HDMI out. The buttons show on the TV. App has a few bugs and crashes. But for the most part its a great start for a multi-console app.

Posted via CB10 & Z10 abuser

Sorry, pressed post too early. If you use the Game Boy Color emulator then you can just connect with BlueTooth to a Wiimote or other controller, and then the buttons don't show on the screen. That's the ultimate experience for BB10 emulator gaming.

Thanks for the article. I'll have to play around with this stuff.

Typo:

"...recent OS leaks appear to *of have broken it."

Posted via CB10

You guys are going to like this. I have an android app for downloading roms! I will try and post a link to the apk for somebody to convert to a bar. Would do it myself now, but I am in bed and about to sleep. Luckily for me I am able to get the apk off my bb10 phone and upload it somewhere. Brb

Posted via CB10 with the Dev Alpha C

Regarding the legality of this:

I was always under the impression that it was legal to use an emulator if you own the physical console and the game.

For example I have an N64 and Super Mario 64 in my garage but my TV / monitor doesn't support the N64 so I tend to play it as an emulator.

Posted via CB10

your correct, the legality of using roms of games you own is fairly straight forward. same legal principal as burning a CD you own to your computer, you already paid for the rights to it

Posted via my Zed (not Zee) 10

I have Game Boy Advance on my Z10 and I am pokemon red lol going to work all day and play super Mario Classic classic

Posted via CB10

Thanks for the links to the past, now I can play a link to the past (that was the best game ever)

Posted via CB10

Heck! If you are going to go down this road, wouldn't it be great for a developer to just remake those old games using new tools? Or would that set off too many alarms?

Oh my god! How I looked on with envious eyes at 'that bunch ' with their galaxies and emulators , Bleh! But now, oh glorious day of days, my zeddy bear has learnt a new trick. I was beginning tiring of the basic commands; Sit, Roll, Beg, Fetch, Call.

Now I too have an all singing, all dancing, ALL GAMING badass muthaf**r of a phone. Yayyyyyy.

Posted via CB10

What are our options for bluetooth controllers?

Anyone have any recommendations for controllers and where to buy them?

Controller support is a must for the Z10 (and the PlayBook for that matter). I've had these emulators since day one on both devices and they do offer great moments, but controls can sometimes be frustrating. For now, nothing beats the trusty NES and SNES in my living room.

Posted via CB10 from my Z(ed)10

There is controller support on Blackberry 10.

On Playbook our hands are tied by the limited (or lack of a) Bluetooth stack - I don't know yet how I am going to deal with this here. It might require (if we are even allowed to do this) baking in our own custom Bluetooth stack and then trying to get Wiimotes and/or PS3 pads to work with.

It is certainly a shame that something with 'Play' in the title does not support native gamepads as a basic feature.

True, the Z10 does have support, my mistake (I must suffer from short term memory loss). I do agree that the PB needs controller support, but one can only hope that it will come with PB BB10.

Posted via CB10 from my Z(ed)10

"Download Google chrome"

Umm... yeah. How can I download it when it just keeps saying I've never logged in with a Google device?

Posted via CB10

One thing this article doesn't really reflect is that RetroArch is trying to become more than just an 'emulator frontend'.

We have done several game ports (including a game port of Doom, Quake and NX Engine - Cave Story) and we have two promising and non-game/non-emulator cores here that utilize OpenGL ES -

You can go to our libretro blog to see these two new cores - SceneWalker and ModelViewer - I can't link to them here because they are being regarded as 'spam'.

There should be every reason for Blackberry to let us publish this on Blackberry World - perhaps they don't like the emulator connotations but you can't argue against a free app ecosystem that will continue growing by month into all sorts of interesting directions.

It just so happens that the majority of libretro cores right now are emulators - but it doesn't have to be that way. It's very versatile and to just 'censor' it because it has a bunch of libretro cores as emulators and that is what people like to use is really restricting people in what they are able to do with their devices - it should be up to the user to make that decision and not Blackberry, Apple or Microsoft.

The only positive aspect of Android and its App Store so far is that it has forced its competitors to become more open. Let's hope that continues and that users get some more options instead of being lectured like a child by any one app store proprietor not to do this or that.

Frankly, I view emulation of these old consoles as a basic 'right' - you already most likely bought these games in one capacity or another - right holders and publishers are not entitled to free duplicate money everytime you feel the urge to play an old game again - you already paid for the product - it should be yours and it should be up to you what you want to play it on and where - otherwise we might as well regard every game cartridge and CD as having an unspoken rule of 'one-time use' only DRM. The prices for instance on Nintendo's Virtual Console store are most of the time obscene and the 'doctored' ROMs inspire little confidence that they care much about authenticity. Therefore, they need some outside pressure in order to be 'convinced' to do a better job - because what they're offering so far is a bum deal for the consumer. Hence RetroArch and its libretro cores have many altruistic causes in and of themselves even if the vast majority of people only use it for emulation.

So don't let any "rights holder" (especially some platform holder that forms part of a larger cutthroat industry) tell you that what you are doing by using emulators is inherently wrong - what they are doing is inherently wrong and they have been doing it inherently wrong for years because they just think that end-users will swallow it up. Their 'entitlement' argument is a double-edged sword that applies to them as well - how they convince themselves that they are entitled by mere privilege of being a 'copyright owner' to keep raking in cash for games inside their backcatalogue that should already be entered into the public domain by now or which you already bought on another system is beyond me. That sounds like a system that is as badly broken as the patent system.

Here is the basic facts - the 'right holders' in most cases have already been burned out of the industry over 20 years ago or earlier (these days you don't even have to wait for that to happen over the course of 20 years - that happens as soon as your game is shipped and the publisher closes the studio down and hires a bunch of new guys to screw over in the same way) - and certainly they have been burned out of the respective game studio they initially worked at. So what right really do these companies have over their IPs when the 'contractors' (ie. the actual ARTISTS) had to waive all their rights when working for the company and sign over all their rights to their IP? Or a studio that has long since been killed off (LucasArts by Disney for instance) or dissolved into a larger company? A '40s-style Hollywood studio-like industry that feels zero incentive to put stuff into the public domain and just extends patent after patent to prevent doing anything back deserves no respect from anyone. It is a two-way street - you file patents and you should uphold your end of the bargain in that after a fixed amount of time it should enter into the public domain. Any company not doing that is a leech and as much of a 'public welfare' queen as the 'ROM leechers' they like to demonize from beginning to end - it's basic greed.

^^^THIS^^^

I thank you for taking the time to wrote that all out. IP rules are starving innovation and bloating the fat cats who seem to think that NOTHING EVER should enter the public domain. They are fine with taking protection with out reciprocating to enrich the public domain at the end of a certain period. This is a HUGE issue that affects all kinds of industries by stifling the freedom to use certain types of information for free of being sued.

Thank you for laying out some of the problems with current IP rules so well.
To anyone using an android or BlackBerry, keep calm and ROM on!

Posted via my Zed (not Zee) 10

Do these work with the keyboard on the Q10? Touchscreen controls are agonizing. Haha.

Posted via CB10

"I began feeling a little nostalgic for some of the old console games I used to play as a kid. Being born in 1981, the first console I really remember sitting down and playing was the Nintendo Entertainment System"

Man, I suddenly feel very old :(

I couldn't wait. I tried it and it works without a problem. Jackal works well too. Lol.

Posted via CB10

Hi All,
The games I downloaded are in smc format and not playing. AMi I doing something wrong or not doing something at all?.................................................................................................................................................

Apologies guys, figured it out and enjoying it

I had a little question, having downloaded the retroarch I downloaded two Gamecube Roms but I don't know if it possible to play it with the Emulator. I'm not sure which to select, and most of the time it crashes. Is it possible to play Gamecube and Wii games on the PlayBook/Z10 ?Help

I side loaded the RetroArch and went onto the cool rom website downloaded mario bros (nes). When I select it from the game menu on my phone and press play the screen goes back to my z10 menu and nothing happens. so gutted could someone please help me out whoever occurs the same problem

Basically you've told your phone not to allow the retroarch to access to your data on the headset. Just allow the programme to do so! Goto settings, security and privacy then applications permissions to change it. After that game on! :)

Blaze, you need to try out PC gaming!

Games like Arma3, War thunder, Wargame AIrland Battle/European Escalation, Starcraft, Lol, Mount and Blade, with better graphics and for pennies.

I usually pay less than $10 for $60+ games on steam sales and there's a summer coming up.

Pcs are cheaper than you think, and much less frustrating since you have control over the experience.

Just a re: to the ps3 controller comment.

Otherwise, how would this work with control sticks and stuff?

I was able to load it perfectly fine on my Z10, however, I have been trying all day to load it onto my PlayBook, and even though DDPB says that it should be installed, it isn't showing up anywhere. Is there anyone who might have some insight into why this might be happening?

I'm doing something wrong but don't know what. I download & unzip the roms, but they won't install. Help? I'm using the chrome method.

Posted via CB10

I downloaded the emulator, have gone to the ROM site and downloaded them onto my phone, but when I go to open it, my retro arch just closes. what am I doing wrong?

Edit: figured it out, needed to allow it access to my device.

If someone could help me out.... I've put it in development mode, IP is standard as mentioned. I downloaded the Playbook manager thing. The IP for my device shows up but everytime i try to access the device it says the connection timed out/took too long to respond and i get a general error.

Any suggestions where i went wrong?

Thanks a bunch!

Is anyone having issues with the PCSX-rearmed (playstation)? When I'm unzipping the files they're saving as .7z and the emulator doesn't seem to recognize it. Is it the file type that is the issue or is this a file path problem (I usually am fine keeping all my ROMs on a SDcard/documents/ROM path)

Downloaded retro arch. Is there a way to change the input icon on screen? I need the r2 l2 button for ps1. I don't have any bluetooth controller.

Keepin'it fresh Z10