Cellphone emulators

From Emulation General Wiki
Revision as of 22:34, 16 May 2020 by (talk) (Emulators)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Before the smartphones we know today were staples of mainstream culture, mobile phones, and their technology were pretty rudimentary and often relied on apps made in Java seeing as the language was designed to be portable (though Windows Mobile and Symbian were also somewhat popular as proto-smartphone platforms of choice). This didn't keep games from being developed for these platforms. Casual simplistic games and rip-offs of retro franchises thrived, but it attracted some genuinely fun games that forever remained obscure, such as those from Gameloft.

The situation is quite different in Japan where mobile hardware was much more developed, only loosely Java-based, and major video game developers were much more invested in creating unique and high-quality content that's most obscure and unpreserved, let alone emulated, today. Those are the very different Galapagos mobile phones (like DoCoMo i-mode, DeNa, RoID...). Some of these games got ported to the inferior Western hardware but these are in the tiny minority.

JAR files of Java-based non-Japanese cell phones can be still found online with some effort, namely on WAP sites offering (pirated) mobile content e.g. Dedomil.

Dark Age of Monochrome Mobile Phones

Earlier black-and-white cell phone games (both in Japan and worldwide) didn't get as much love either when it comes to emulation and preservation of game binaries. There were, however, recreations of Snake and Space Impact for Nokia phones on their website at one time, along with remakes of the aforementioned games for Android and iOS.

J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition)

A free cross-platform language capable of working in devices with highly reduced capabilities. It was basically Java stripped down to the bare essentials.

While originally not intended for games (until its more advanced game-oriented API came), it became the de facto market standard for cell phone gaming - due in no small part to the SDK being free and without licensing costs.


Name Platform(s) Version Accuracy Recommended
PC / x86
KEmulator Windows 0.9.8 Mid
FreeJ2ME Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD 2018-09-07 Mid
Nokia SDKs Windows Official Mid (Nokia-only)
Sj-Boy-JavaEmulator Windows ? Low
MidpX Windows ? Low
SquirrelJME Windows ? Mid ?
Mobile / ARM
J2ME Loader Android 1.6.1-fixed2-play

1.6.1-fixed2-open 1.6.1-fixed2-dev-1237

JL-Mod Android b069+MC_b095 High
Java J2ME Runner Android Low ?
phoneME Android ? ? ?
JBED Android ? ? ?
PSPKVM PSP 0.5.5 Final Edition Mid
Has more features and compatibility than other ones, as well as 3D emulation. Has support for custom resolutions and full screen (View/Options). You can even set a proxy server for mobile Java apps that connect to the internet under options. Requires Java Runtime Environment installed. It is the recommended emulator if you're on a Windows PC, although some games (such as Wolfenstein RPG and Doom 2 RPG) freeze indefinitely on the loading screen. Last update was in 2012, closed-source.
Has fewer features than KEmulator, but better compatibility. It is recommended for games that don't work with KEmulator. It has an optional libretro core and development is active. Games that freeze on KEmulator, such as Wolfenstein RPG and Doom 2 RPG, run on FreeJ2ME with no issues, although compatibility and accuracy are not as good as J2ME-Loader on Android. Some games run too fast and require tinkering with the frame rate options.
More compatible than MidpX. Can take snapshots. More resolutions (but still buggy).
One of the older emulators. Fixed low resolution (176x220) and compatibility, no handler app support.
J2ME Loader
This is currently the highest-compatibility J2ME emulator available. Converts .jar files offline using its own resources. Easily launches both 2D & 3D apps. Samsung & Nokia API implemented. Supports different keyboard layouts and customization. It is highly accurate, with the right frame rate for each game, as well as vibration. Has slightly improved performance through hardware acceleration, but games won't run too fast. Runs almost every Nokia game, even ones that don't work with KEmulator or FreeJ2ME, but fails with Sony Ericsson 3D engine (mascot capsule), due to the fact that the mascot capsule is almost impossible to port. This is common with most of other emulators as well.
This is the experimental mod of the J2ME Loader app with Mascot Capsule 3D support.
Java J2ME Runner
Old tool, launches Java Applications on Android using native library. Apps have to be converted first, using Netmite Website. Overall 2D stability is acceptable, but 3D support almost does not work. Different types of keyboard & screen stics are included. Unfortunately, often experiences troubles with *jar conversion.
Available for cell-phones. Might be the first one that's open-source. Last update was in 2009.

SDKs for certain Nokia platforms (e.g. Series 40 and S60) may still be available, and while the emulators that come with them are made with development in mind, they can also be useful for playing most Java games and Symbian applications. The only barrier preventing them from being used these days is that they require registration to the now-defunct Forum Nokia developer site, and so far no crack for them is known to exist.

ExEn (Execution Engine)

A freeware solution developed by French mobile game developer In-Fusio around 2000. It was a Java-based solution presenting itself as an alternative to the limitations of J2ME's game development (offering missing feautures like sprite zooming, parallax scrolling, rotations...).

It achieved relative success and widespread hardware support in Europe, and was also used in China.


Name Platform(s) Version Accuracy Recommended
PC / x86
EXEN-V2 Generic Simulator Windows ? Low
EXEN-V2 Generic Simulator
A very old dead emulator for ExEn software. While many games will go in-game, they'll crash at various points.

Mediatek Runtime Environment (MRE)/MAUI

Being the turnkey solutions firm that they are known for, as their chips are used on millions and millions of el-cheapo "Shanzhai" devices all over the world (especially counterfeit Nokias and Goophones among other things), Mediatek has also come up with their own mobile platform and API known as the Mediatek Runtime Environment, aka MAUI. It is targeted for so-called "smart" feature phones, i.e. those that offer similar functionality to standard mobile operating systems like Android, but are watered down for entry-level users. An SDK is available on their developer site for members, and VXP files for games and other applications appear to be available on the usual WAP sites.


Name Platform(s) Version Accuracy Recommended
PC / x86
Mediatek MRE SDK Windows 3.0 ?


An even more hardware-efficient free European-centric mobile gaming solution developed by Synergetix, it wasn't supported widely (Ericsson T300, T310 and T610).



WGE (Wireless Graphics Engine)

By TTPCom. Has even fewer support by videogame developers and phone hardware manufacturers.



N-Gage (Nokia)

Originally a joint Nintendo-Nokia cellphone handheld hybrid project slated for 2005, Nintendo backed away from the project (and its plans for NES/Game Boy ports for mobile were repurposed for their Virtual Engine project). Nokia continued the project on their own anyways and released it on October 7, 2003, for $299 as the most powerful handheld of its time, that is up until the DS and PSP came along and ended Nokia's hopes at dominating the handheld gaming market. It had an ARM920T CPU at 104 MHz.

However, while gaining support through GBA/PS1 ports (including the only English version of the JP-only Xanadu series until 2016) and a few original exclusives, the thing suffered from huge design flaws, from the button layout to the display and cell phone functionality.

Has a revision called the QD which was unveiled on April 14, 2004, with an ARM9E CPU. ROM dumps of N-Gage games are available.


Name Platform(s) Version Accuracy Active Recommended
PC / x86
EKA2L1 Windows Git None
Engemu Windows Git None
NGEmu Windows Git None (see below)
N-GageCool Windows 1.2.1 ($) Terrible
A Symbian OS emulator with high-level emulation and goals that include the Nokia N-Gage, it's currently not recommended as development is still very early.
A Nokia N-Gage focused emulator with low-level emulation.
The first known Nokia N-Gage emulator (With high-level emulation), although it is currently on hiatus due to a lack of information required to further development. Linux support is planned for the future.
A dead payware emulator for Windows. It only partially emulated the J2ME-based Nokia N-Gage exclusives and nothing else from the rest of the bunch.

At the current moment, there are no proper solutions for Nokia N-Gage emulation.

Japanese i-mode (DoCoMo)

Japanese mobile manufacturer NTT DoCoMo released its own profile for J2ME developers to use when programming for the phones. This profile is known as i-mode Java - also called by its nickname DoJa (DoCoMo's Java). It's quite different from regular J2ME applications.

While i-mode phones were made available in a limited fashion in Europe, the game apps weren't exported, the i-mode specific features were mainly used for enhancing web pages for mobile browsers and even the Java API is the different more limited "Overseas Edition". The main reason behind this was the fierce push back by Nokia and other western mobile hardware manufacturers refusing to support the DoJa software standard until very late.

DeNa (Mobage), Namco (Tales of Mobile) and Level-5 (RoiD) set up Steam-like game distribution portals specific to some cell-phone models yet i-mode based. The different names are to confuse dirty gaijin, probably.



Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW)

A mobile development platform by Qualcomm, originally intended for CDMA handsets such as those sold by Verizon. Unlike Java ME, applications and games for BREW use native code as opposed to running in a virtual machine in the case of Java ME. Also, BREW development has a higher barrier to entry due to stringent certification requirements, which led it to be significantly less popular than Java ME even in markets where CDMA has a significant market share, such as in North America. To top it all off, downloaded BREW apps are tied to an individual handset via a digital signature, making piracy or sideloading difficult if not impossible; it is however possible to unlock certain BREW-enabled CDMA phones to run backups and pirated apps, though downloads for BREW apps and games are rare and hard to find compared to Java ME.

The Zeebo, a video game console and online distribution platform developed and released with developing markets in mind, also runs on BREW. No known dumps of their games appear to exist, though gameplay footage from them were uploaded on YouTube.



Read More