How to play Android games on your Windows PC

Free Android emulator Nox App Player specializes in desktop-powered gaming. Here's how to get started.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read

For many a game fan, playing desktop games on a mobile device is a kind of Holy Grail pursuit. Hence the creation of devices like the Nvidia Shield tablet and streaming apps like Remotr.

Ah, but what if you want to flip the equation? Android is home to innumerable great games, many of which have no desktop counterparts. Wouldn't it be great if you could play those games on your PC?

You can. Nox App Player is a free Android emulator that makes it easy to run Android games in Windows.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

How easy? Almost to the point where you don't need me to explain it. Because all you really have to do is install the Nox App Player, then navigate the virtual Android environment the same way you would on your phone or tablet -- but using your mouse for "taps" and "swipes" instead of your finger.

Of course, some games benefit from a keyboard interface, which is why Nox lets you map keyboard keys. To activate this "simulated touch," press Ctrl-1, click or swipe with the mouse, then press whatever keyboard key you want assigned to that action. Keep clicking/swiping and assigning until you're done, then click Save.

I used this method for Crossy Road and it worked perfectly. I also tried Nox with games like Asphalt 8 Airborne, Batman: Arkham Origins and The Walking Dead: Road to Survival. For all of them, you simply hit up the Google Play store and install them normally.

Incidentally, all those games worked really well on my system, an Asus ZenBook UX305. Your mileage may vary, of course, especially with graphics-intensive titles. (Batman, for example, was a little laggy in spots, but still playable.)

It's worth noting that Nox can be used for more than just games; it's a full-blown Android emulator, though one stuck at Android 4.2.2. That may present a few compatibility issues, but, again, I ran into no problems with any of the games I tried. Also cool: Nox makes it easy to record video, which could be useful for training purposes or the like.

There are other emulators out there, including Andy and Amiduos -- the latter capable of running Android Lollipop. But in terms of simplicity and game-friendliness, it's tough to beat Nox App Player.