LaunchBox for Android: Emulation fans should try it!

Launchbox for Android with 8bitdo controller

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

If you’re a big fan of retro console emulation, you’ve probably heard of LaunchBox. The frontend is incredibly popular on Windows thanks to its versatility, richness of features and constant updates. Fortunately, there is now a LaunchBox for Android, and it is making good progress.

Required reading: What you need to know about emulation on Android

If for some reason you’ve never heard of LaunchBox or didn’t know there was an Android version, you’re in for a real treat. It’s still early days, but the Android port of the frontend is going to be something very special.

In the article below, we are going to give you all the essential information you need about emulation frontends and LaunchBox for Android in particular.

What is an emulation frontend?

Launchbox for Android Game Selection Double Dragon

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

If you’re serious about emulation, you probably have specific needs when it comes to emulators. This inevitably means having multiple apps on your phone, one for each emulator. In some cases, you may even have multiple versions of an emulator, knowing that one version works better for some games. It’s a lot to manage.

An emulation frontend like LaunchBox for Android solves this problem. Instead of opening your app drawer, remembering which emulator does what, launching the correct emulator, and then launching a game, just launch one app – LaunchBox. From LaunchBox, navigate to the game you want to play and then play it. LaunchBox does all the heavy lifting.

An emulation frontend makes finding a game and playing it with the right emulator as easy as pie.

The trade-off here is that you need to set up your front-end for it to work the way you want it to. This requires a little extra time, but it makes life so much easier once you get it going.

LaunchBox isn’t the only frontend for Android either. Another popular choice is called To dig. You have to shop around a bit to find the frontend you like the most.

What is LaunchBox for Android?

Launchbox for Android home screen

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

As mentioned, LaunchBox is very popular on Windows. The software makes it easy to manage your emulators and games and organize them in a beautiful and customizable experience. If you invest some money in LaunchBox for Windows, you get access to Big Box, similar to Steam’s Big Picture Mode. This makes your Windows PC look and function like a TV console.

Originally, there was also a LaunchBox for Android. However, Unbroken Software – the company behind LaunchBox – gave up on supporting it in April 2020. There were many reasons for this decision (which we will discuss later in this article). However, in August 2021, Unbroken Software re-released LaunchBox for Android with a complete overhaul of the code.

Related: The best gifts for gamers you can get

With this new revision, LaunchBox for Android is much closer to the Windows version. It’s more user-friendly, simpler, and even has an import setting that lets you dump your Windows library into Android.

Obviously, this new version of the software has not been around that long. As such, it’s not as fully featured as the previous Android iteration, not to mention the long-running Windows version. However, it has come a long way in a short time and will only get better and better.

Does LaunchBox come with emulators and games?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Nintendo 3DS Emulation Super Mario 3D Land

For legal reasons, you will not find any emulators or games with your LaunchBox installation. You need to find your own emulators online and make sure they follow local laws. Likewise, you are in the know to find out how to legally digitize your physical games that you own.

Once you’ve got all that sorted, LaunchBox will take care of the rest. The program knows all major emulators and connects to them automatically. It also imports console and game artwork from its own huge collection. That database also includes video clips, sounds, and even game guides. It’s all done automatically, so your library will look beautiful right away.

A recent feature of the Windows version of LaunchBox allows you to install and update automatically RetroArch. This does not yet exist with LaunchBox for Android. However, it could be a down-the-line feature that would be a step away from your installation procedure.

What does LaunchBox for Android look like?

Below are some screenshots of LaunchBox for Android as it appears when you set up your games and consoles. These images are from v1.0-beta-1.

Is LaunchBox for Android free?

Launchbox for Android Game Selection God of War

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Yes! If you want to give LaunchBox for Android a shot, you can simply download it and use it for free. There are also no time limits or device limits.

However, the free version of LaunchBox limits you to just 100 games. That pool of games can be spread across multiple emulators. For example, you could have 25 NES games, 25 Sega Genesis games, 25 Nintendo 64 games, and 25 PlayStation games. You can also just have 100 NES games instead. Anyway, once you hit a total of 100 games, you can’t add more.

The paid version of LaunchBox for Android removes this limitation. Once you’ve paid, you can import as many games and emulators as you want.

There are two paid versions of the app:

  • Regular license: You pay $10 access to the software for one year. After that, you pay $5 every year for the latest versions of LaunchBox. This is good for people who like the software but don’t know if they will use it for a long time.
  • Forever Updates License: As the name of this version suggests, with this you get all the features and versions of LaunchBox for Android forever. For a one-time payment of $25, you will never have to pay Unbroken Software for anything again.

Keep in mind that LaunchBox for Android, like the Windows version, is DRM-free. That means you don’t need to purchase multiple licenses for multiple devices. You can buy one license and then install the unlimited version of LaunchBox on your phone, tablet and Android TV streamer at the same time.

Why is it not available in the Play Store?

google play store android phone

When Unbroken Software stopped developing the original Android version of LaunchBox, lead developer Jason Carr… very frank about what happened. LaunchBox on the Google Play Store has cost far too much in the company’s profits to allow for further development.

However, things have changed since then. People are more open to sideloading applications, thanks to Fortnite and even RetroArch. Google is also being forced to change the way it manages its platform. This is one of the main reasons why LaunchBox for Android is not in the Play Store. It allows Unbroken Software to create what it wants to create without worrying about Google making a huge cut in its profits.

Related: The best sideloaded apps for Android that you can’t find on Google Play

Additionally, Carr complained of multiple software limitations of Android as a major reason for LaunchBox’s original removal. Unfortunately, these restrictions have not changed. In fact, they have only gotten worse. However, Carr hopes that widespread adoption of platforms like LaunchBox and RetroArch will make it a big setback if Google makes emulation on Android more difficult than it needs to be.

Anyway, LaunchBox for Android isn’t available on the Play Store and probably never will be. Learn how to get started in the next section of this article.

How do I get started with LaunchBox for Android?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra GameCube emulation with Xbox controller in hand

Follow the instructions below to get LaunchBox for Android on your phone, tablet or TV:

  1. Go to the LaunchBox website here.
  2. Enter your email address and press download now. An email is required to obtain the download link, although it does not have to be your primary address.
  3. On your Android device, open the email LaunchBox sends you. Click on the download link you find there.
  4. The LaunchBox for Android APK file will be downloaded. When it’s done, install the file by tapping the notification.
  5. You may be asked if you want to allow unknown apps. If so, just follow the prompts to approve the installation. Restart the installation if necessary.
  6. Once installed, open LaunchBox for Android and get started.

After you install the app, updates will be downloaded automatically so you don’t have to go through this process again.

The app makes it really easy to connect your ROM files and emulators to LaunchBox. As long as they are somewhat organized on your phone, it should find everything automatically. If you get stuck, there are already plenty of how-to videos on YouTube to get you started.

What do you think of LaunchBox for Android? Are you excited about his future? Or do you prefer a different frontend? Let us know in the comments!

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