There are many reasons to not get a foldable phone like the Galazy Z Fold 2 right now: they’re weird, expensive, and the software still needs more work. But I think we can all agree, they’re awesome for emulating retro games.
A few weeks ago, we had an epiphany: Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is perfect for playing old classic video games thanks to its huge 4:3 display. As fate would have it, Microsoft’s just-released Surface Duo (read our review here) and its dual screens also is a pretty kickass device for playing old Nintendo and PlayStation games.
With a simple app like RetroArch, I was able to turn the Surface Duo into an SNES, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 64, and PlayStation 1. In the case of the DS, the Duo’s two screens is a match made in heaven.
Do I even need to say anything more than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 — the greatest skateboarding video game of all time — on Surface Duo?
This isn’t a step-by-step guide or comprehensive emulation test or anything, but it should be said that Input doesn’t condone piracy. We own all of the games for the ROMs we used for demonstration purposes.
Now that we got that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about how fun emulating retro games on the Duo is. We used RetroArch, but other emulators like Citra should work similarly. (Though they may not split between the two screens as neatly and you may have to fine-tune the overlays for the controls.) We just know RetroArch scales nicely to the Duo’s two displays in fullscreen “spanned” mode (just drag the app over the gap/hinge to spread it).
Running one of the many available open-source SNES cores, RetroArch displays the game on the top screen with the controls on the bottom. And it’s glorious — the Duo’s 5.6-inch AMOLED display is so much more spacious than splitting a regular phone into two sections, which usually means a cramped gaming experience.
I loaded up one of my favorite SNES games of all time, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and well, see for yourself.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Super Street Fighter II Turbo runs at steady 60 fps.
Super Mario World
My other favorite SNES game, Super Mario World, also runs at well at a constant 50 fps.
Not all emulation is silky smooth. While Pokémon Diamond for the Nintendo DS does work, there is some noticeable latency. When you’re walking around with the D-pad, you can see there’s some screen tearing. This is commonplace on many emulators.
A different emulator than RetroArch or a different GBA core than the one I used may produce better results. Despite clocking in 60 fps, the black dot glitching is distracting. I could play the game for sure, but it wouldn’t be easy on the eyes for 30-something hours.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
The remake for PS4 and Xbox One just came out, so of course I had to see if the Duo could run the classic PS1 version of Pro Skater 2 that helped popularize the franchise. To my surprise, the 3D game runs pretty well. Nailing tricks is hard on a touchscreen — tactile buttons will always be superior — but I was pleasantly impressed with the Duo’s ability to handle it.
One thing I should note about playing more graphics-intensive games: the Duo gets really warm. Not burn-your-skin hot, but the Snapdragon 855 chip coupled with the Duo’s super thin hardware means a slightly toasty emulation experience.
Super Mario 64
I'm not even gonna say anything for this one because it's self-explanatory.