DIG is a one of the best emulator frontends for Android devices. DIG makes categorizing your video game emulators and ROMs easy and attractive. With support for Android, everyone can now take advantage of DIG to play retro games.
- What Is DIG and What Does It Do?
- What Is a ROM? What Is an emulator?
- 1. How to Install DIG
- 2. Add ROMs to Your Device
- 3. Scan for ROMS
- 4. Configure the Emulators
- 5. Change the Default Emulator
- 6. Scrape for Missing Cover Art and Metadata
- 7. Customize the Theme
- 8. Customize How Games Are Displayed
- 9. Set DIG to Auto-Start
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is DIG and What Does It Do?
There are a ton of emulators available for Android devices that mimic the hardware of retro video game consoles. These emulators allow users to play ROMs of the games that were originally designed for these systems. Unfortunately, if you have a large video game collection, you’re stuck with launching different emulators for each system.
This is where DIG steps in. It acts as a graphical user interface for all of your emulators and ROMs on Android. Essentially, DIG is an attractive way to display your retro game collection as well as a super-easy way to launch any game from any system.
With DIG, your game collections are organized by console. Furthermore, individual games feature metadata, like box art, screenshots and even a synopsis of game play. That being said, it is important to understand that DIG is not an emulator itself; it is merely a graphical interface that organizes the console emulators and ROMs that you already have on your Android device.
What Is a ROM? What Is an emulator?
ROM stands for “read only memory.” The word ROM can mean different things, depending on the context in which it’s used. However, when talking about video game emulation, a ROM is just a digital copy of a game.
To play the ROM, you’ll need a corresponding emulator. An emulator is a piece of software that mimics the original hardware of a video game console. For example, if you wanted to play Mario Kart on Super Nintendo, you would need a Super Nintendo emulator and the Mario Kart game ROM.
1. How to Install DIG
DIG is available on the Google Play Store for free. Simply tap the install button, and DIG will download and install to your device. You will find the DIG app icon on either your home screen or in your app drawer. To launch DIG, simply tap on the app icon. Before you launch the app, though, there are a few more things we need to do.
It’s worth noting that the DIG frontend does offer some in-app purchases. These paid premium features add some nice features, such as unlimited themes. The free version of the app doesn’t limit any of the core functionality. In addition, the free version of DIG is not ad-supported, so thankfully, it’s not littered with ugly ads. We recommend trying the free version first before opening your wallet. If you feel like the premium features are worth it or just want to support the developer, opt for the in-app purchases.
2. Add ROMs to Your Device
As we mentioned above, DIG is a graphical interface, or frontend. Think of it as a one-stop-shop that organizes and runs your games, regardless of the emulator it uses, from a single screen. As a result, DIG does not provide any video game ROMs, nor does it give you the ability to download any ROMs from within the app.
Therefore, you must source your own ROMs. It’s important to remember that while video game emulators are completely legal, the same cannot be said about ROMs. Obviously, DIG is essentially useless without game ROMs, so you need to get your hands on some before you can start playing.
Once you have your ROMs, you’ll need to transfer them to your Android device. If your Android phone supports microSD cards, we recommend using one. Since DIG is compatible with a number of different consoles, feel free to load your Android device with your entire retro game collection.
Whether you opt for your device’s internal storage or a microSD card, we recommend placing your ROMs in a folder labeled “ROMs” or “Video Games.” If you prefer, you could even organize your ROMs into separate folders by console. Doing so makes things a bit easier when it comes to telling DIG where your ROMs are located.
3. Scan for ROMS
With your ROMs on your Android device, launch DIG. Find the app icon on your device and tap on it. When you first fire up DIG, it will ask you whether you want it to scrape your device for ROMs. It will give you the option of either scanning your entire device or manually electing a specific folder. Since you’ve already organized all of your ROMs, choose the second option and point DIG to your ROMs folder. Doing so will make the scanning process take less time.
Once DIG begins its scan, you’ll notice that your game lists will populate automatically. DIG breaks your ROMs down into categories such as “Systems” and “Genre,” making it easy for you to find a game you want to play. For example, tapping on “Systems” will show you the consoles that have ROMs ons your system.
If you have the Super Mario Bros ROM, the Nintendo Entertainment System will show up as a selectable option in the “Systems” sub-menu. Selecting it will show you all of the NES ROMs you have on your device. Furthermore, DIG will also automatically download the box art, screenshots and other metadata, such as the release date and plot summary associated with each game from TheGamesDB.
Note: your device will need to be connected to the Internet to scan for metadata.
If you add more ROMs to your device in the future, you can easily add them to DIG. To get your new games to show up in DIG, you’ll need to tell DIG to manually scan for new ROMs. To do so, tap on “Options” in the main menu, then tap “ROM scanning,” and finally “Start manual scan.”
DIG will ask whether you want to scan your entire device or a specific folder, then begin its scan. A small wrench icon will appear in the top right of the screen to indicate that it’s still scanning. Once the wrench icon disappears, DIG has finished the scan, and the new games should appear within DIG’s menus. Unfortunately, when you scan for new ROMs, you’ll notice that the cover art and other metadata is missing. To rectify this, scroll down to step number six.
4. Configure the Emulators
While DIG is not an emulator by itself, it is compatible with a wide variety of emulators for a variety of consoles. If you already have an emulator installed on your device that DIG is compatible with, DIG will automatically recognize that emulator and assign it to be used with the ROMs for that system. If you don’t already have an emulator installed for the ROMs in your collection, DIG makes finding and assigning emulators incredibly easy.
If you try to launch a game without an emulator being assigned to play that game, DIG will automatically go to the Google Play Store to download the appropriate emulator. Simply download and install the emulator to your device, and DIG will automatically assign that emulator to be used with corresponding ROMs.
5. Change the Default Emulator
One of the best things about DIG is that you can use virtually any emulator available on Google Play. If you would like to experiment with different emulators, DIG makes it easy to switch between them. To do so, simply navigate to the game list of a console. In the top right of the screen, tap on the three stacked dots. In the drop-down menu that appears, tap on “Manage system.”
Tap on the default emulator to prompt a list of compatible emulators, then select the emulator that you have installed on your Android device. DIG will automatically set that emulator as the default for that system. As a result, the next time you launch a game associated with that console, DIG will use the emulator you nominated to run it.
6. Scrape for Missing Cover Art and Metadata
DIG automatically downloads the metadata for your ROMs when you launch the app for the first time. However, if you add games at a later date, those games will not have box art or screenshots when they are added to your game lists. Fortunately, you can scrape for missing cover art and metadata at any time.
To download missing metadata, tap on “Options” in the main menu. From there, tap on “Game covers -> Refresh images.” DIG will ask whether you want to attempt to download missing box art. Simply tap “OK,” and DIG will do the rest.
7. Customize the Theme
Now that you’ve added your ROMs and configured the emulators, you’re ready to play your favorite retro games. However, as great as DIG is, the UI is a bit bland. Thankfully, DIG has a number of themes available so that you can customize the look of DIG on your device.
To do so, launch DIG and tap on “Options” from the main menu. On the following screen, select “Themes.” In the drop-down menu that appears, tap on “Select theme,” which will show you four options that are bundled with the DIG app. The default is “Black.” You can see examples of the black theme in some of the screenshots above. The screenshot directly above sports the white theme.
In addition to the black and white themes, there is also “Gray” and our personal favorite, “Blue/Covers,” which adopts a blue hue in the menus and uses the box art of the ROMs on your device as a background.
In addition to the default themes, there are a ton of themes available for download, thanks to a robust online community that is making and sharing themes on the official DIG website.
To install a new theme on your Android device, download one you like from the DIG forums. If you downloaded the theme to your computer, you’ll have to transfer the file over to your Android device. Be sure to make note of where you place the file.
Next, launch DIG on your device and select “Options” from the main menu. From there, tap on “Themes.” In the drop-down menu, select “Install theme.” DIG will prompt you to point it to where the theme is stored on your device. Once the theme is installed, it will be a selectable option alongside the default black, white, gray and blue/covers.
8. Customize How Games Are Displayed
In addition to changing the theme, DIG also gives users the ability to change how games are displayed. The default option displays the box art of your games in a grid. However, there are a number of different options available. When browsing your games, tap on the three stacked dots in the top-right corner of the screen. In the drop-down menu that appears, tap on “View as.”
In the menu that follows, you will see a variety of options, including “Carousel,” “Wheel,” “Cover flow” and others. Simply tap on the option of your choice to apply it. If you don’t like any of the other options, don’t worry. To go back to the default view, follow the same steps and select “Grid.”
9. Set DIG to Auto-Start
Don’t plan on using your Android device for anything other than playing retro games? You’ll probably want DIG to launch automatically when you turn your device on. Fortunately, setting this up is a breeze.
First, launch DIG. On the home menu, tap on “Options.” On the Options screen, select “App.” In the drop-down menu you’ll spot an option labeled “Auto-start DIG on device boot.” Tap this option to flick the toggle switch on. The next time you boot up your Android device, DIG will launch automatically.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can DIG run on my old Android device?
The short answer: yes. The DIG app is compatible with Android devices running 4.0 KitKat and above. If you have an old Android tablet or phone lying around, you can use DIG to turn it into a dedicated emulation machine. Better yet, take your experience to the next level by getting one of the best gamepads for Android.
Where can I find emulators?
There is an Android emulator for virtually every console you can think of, and many times multiple emulators. They can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. We recommend doing some research first to find the best one you or letting DIG recommend one for you.
Where can I get my hands on game ROMs?
The legality of ROMs is somewhat of a grey area and can vary depending on where you live. Generally speaking, sharing or distributing ROMs is almost certainly illegal, but the chances of being prosecuted are slim.
Obtaining ROMs can be done in one of two ways. First, you can “dump” your old game cartridges and discs to create digital copies of the game. How you “dump” them depends on the video game console. Some can be dumped with software, while others require specific aftermarket hardware to facilitate the data dump.
Alternatively, download the ROMs. As mentioned earlier, downloading ROMs of games that you do not own is questionable. But ultimately, what you decide to do is your business. We’ll leave it up to you to find ROMs to download.
Image credit: DIG All screenshots by Ryan Lynch
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox