Android is a mature system that, at this point, has enough users to warrant proper emulation. Given the number of people working on Android, it comes as no surprise that there are many working emulators. Not all emulators are equal hence why the following are the best Android emulators.
As a popular system, Android has had much attention from all sorts of developers, and there have been known cases of malicious software masked as an emulator. This is not limited to Android, and software should not be downloaded unless it has already been tested.
Alternatively, here is not one Android emulator, but ten of them:
Google Play Games
Download Google Play Games
Why not get an emulator that has been made directly by the developers themselves, Google? Even though Android is an open-source system, Google is its largest contributor. Given that you kind of need the Google Play Store in order to use most of the applications, it is only logical that Google’s emulator is the obvious choice for PC users.
It currently only works on Windows and it is still a beta application. Even with that, select applications and games work flawlessly. The entire store is far from available because the priority is a flawless experience rather than a mess of broken applications.
Mouse and keyboard synchronization works flawlessly and the listed applications also run without hiccups. The only limiting factor is the operating system, or rather, the limitation to just one of them.
This is more of a do-it-yourself approach, where it would be expected of you to have the .apk file which you would want to run. Android Studio is, first and foremost, a tool for Android development. It is one of the most used applications by developers who built Android apps. With that in mind, it should have everything necessary to run an application.
However, some things might be missing, for instance, online support for some applications. Some applications expect certain services to be running in the background, and it is very likely that some requirements will not be met. Not only that, but there isn’t really a store that would simplify application installation.
This solution should run all applications, but there are some things that might not run perfectly, not to mention that you would have to have the .apk file. Google has extensive documentation about the software, as well as a tutorial on how to run applications.
Platform: It is a system
There is nothing like running a native x86 version of Android, without any sort of emulation. This is an operating system and as such, it is a more viable solution than any emulator, at least in theory. It has the ability to become the best Android emulator, simply because it would run things natively and not actually emulate them.
Being an OS, you can install it via VirtualBox, VMWare, or as an actual system. BlissOS recommends that you install it as a system. Running as a virtual machine, you would miss out on a lot of optimizations, not to mention the extra overlay.
BlissOs is a good solution if you simply want to try the system. It is a fully open-source project that runs Android 12 at the moment. It is a fork of the Androidx86 project, which was stuck running now older versions of Android.
Linux makes sense as an operating system of choice if you want to run an Android emulator, or in this case, one of the best Android emulators that is not an emulator. Compatibility layers are a different breed of adaptation that allows running software meant for another system. Like WINE, Waydroid can also run native applications on any Linux system.
Waydroid also integrates with Linux, giving you the simplicity of having any installed Android apps in your library of native apps. With such integration, it is expected that most applications should run flawlessly. This is not always the case, but you can definitely experiment and see what works and to what extent.
Platform: Windows and macOS
Bluestacks is a known quantity in the world of emulators. It uses VirtualBox to set up an Android system on your Windows or macOS machine. As such, it runs a familiar window that many other emulators use, with great support for standard PC peripherals, namely the mouse and keyboard.
It allows you to directly log onto your Play Store account and start downloading whatever you want. You can also download apps without logging in, but realistically, most apps will require you to be logged in to work properly. Some will not even update without credentials.
Bluestacks is one of the best Android emulators for Mac, given that macOS doesn’t get as many emulators as Windows and Linux do. Bluestacks can run some of the most popular and demanding titles, such as Call of Duty: Mobile.
Platform: Windows and macOS
MuMu makes its way to the list as a working emulator with a decent GUI. It is an easy solution for those who don’t want to read tutorials and install anything other than the game that they want to play. MuMu is developed by a Chinese company, but that doesn’t make it a bad emulator.
It has a modern GUI, where everything is shiny and in your face, prompting you to install the most popular games, of which many work flawlessly. Installation is easy with a one-click solution. Virtualization must be enabled, which is done from the BIOS/UEFI.
Platform: Windows, Linux, and macOS
Genymotion is another Android emulator that uses VirtualBox to operate. As such, it is offered with and without VirtualBox as a download. The requirements are rather low, such as Windows 10 or 11, a CPU that supports virtualization, and a hardware-accelerated graphics card.
macOS and Linux requirements are even simpler to meet, provided that you have the supported versions of the operating systems, such as Ubuntu 22.04 or macOS 12 (Monterey). It is not an open-source project, but rather a commercial product, aimed at Android developers.
As such, it offers little to gamers other than the ability to run applications. The paid version has very few improvements that would matter to gamers. The free version can run applications, but it definitely should not be the first Android emulator for PC that gamers should download.
LDPlayer is an Android emulator that uses VirtualBox like most of them do. It basically creates an instance of the game that you want to play as its own little virtual machine, that you can run from within the app, or from the desktop, if you create a shortcut.
LDPlayer is a closed-source application that is free to download and use. It offers almost the same that other VirtualBox emulators do, high compatibility, decent speed, great peripheral integration, and ease of use. It has a GUI, and you can immediately log in to your Play Store account.
This is a simpler way to run Android games on Windows systems, and LDPlayer is a solid candidate to be the best Android emulator.
Platform: Windows and macOS
NoxPlayer is an old name in the world of Android emulation. Would it be a surprise at this point that it also uses VirtualBox as a means of emulating Android? Using something that works and has been tested by different developers does not mean it does not work. In fact, this could be the best Android emulator.
Like the others, NoxPlayer has a simple and effective GUI, allowing users to download and install the applications or games that they want to run. It is more gaming-oriented, given that most people are likely to play games rather than run Android productivity apps on PCs.
Windows support is great, and it works on some macOS versions. It is a good example of a gaming-oriented product.
MEmu is a solid Android emulator that uses VirtualBox as a way to create virtual Android instances. As such, it is going to have a familiar interface with at least five other emulators from the list.
However, it is said to be faster than the others, and that it makes better use of the resources that you have available. Optimization is not uncommon in emulation, but Android emulation has taken a turn for the graphical and the pretty, rather than the speedy. MEmu at least tries to make the best of the hardware that it uses.
Running Android Games on PCs
Android games aren’t that difficult to run unless you are looking at the best triple-A titles. In that case, they might take more resources than the appropriately named potato PC can provide. Using Google Play Games, here is how to run an Android game:
Unlike most emulators, Google Play Games uses Hyper-V to run games. You must have it installed. If you don’t, the emulator will prompt you to do it, and then install it for you. You must restart it for it to take effect.
NOTE: When Hyper-V is enabled, most but not all VirtualBox emulators will show the hypervisor error at startup, as can be seen in the images above.
Pick and Play
Google Play Games is simple. You have the same Play Store interface available to you. Simply pick the game you want to play, install it and enjoy.
Running Android games on desktop computers is easy if you have the best Android emulator. There are ten emulators to pick from, each doing a decent job of emulating Android games. Google Play Games is great because it was made by Google, though it is still only available for Windows.
Other choices include Bluestacks, NoxPlayer, MEmu, and all the VirtualBox solutions. For a more native-like experience, try BlissOS, the x86 Android operating system. Either way, Android is covered fairly well with a plethora of different emulators.