While game consoles have always been relatively popular, there’s no getting away from the fact that the retro games of years gone by are some of the best. Yes, we have some great games out now, with fantastic graphics and storylines but, sometimes, you can’t beat the simplicity of Tetris, Donkey Kong, and other similar games.
Sadly, few of these games have ever been ported on to the iOS platform, although there are a couple of Nintendo games that did make it. These don’t play the same as the original console version though and don’t seem to offer anywhere near as much fun. A few years back, this wasn’t a problem. By jailbreaking our devices, we could install game emulators, turning the iPhone into a game console just to play retro games on.
Cydia is not as easy to get as it used to be but a handful of clever developers have solved the problem for us. Several game emulators have now been released without the need to jailbreak, giving us back our favorite games, completely free and in complete safety.
What is an iOS Emulator?
An iOS emulator is a small app that makes your iPhone or iPad think it is something it isn’t, such as a game console. They work by emulating the software of the hardware of a device like a console, ensuring you can use your iPhone or iPad for a different purpose. The difference is that, with an emulator, you don’t get a physical controller, although some do support these. Instead, you get on-screen controls, effectively transforming your device into a mini console.
What Are The Advantages of Using an iOS Emulator?
iOS emulators offer plenty of advantages:
Using your iPhone or iPad as a game console, allowing you to play all your favorite retro games
You don’t have to modify anything; the emulators work well and you can play just about any game on them
All the emulators are free
Your saved games can be moved between your devices
Get a true simulation of whatever console device you want
No limit on how many games you can store, it’s all down to space on your device
Some emulators have games built-in but all allow you to download ROMs from the internet and load them in
Some are multi-platform emulators, no need to install separate ones for different console games
Lots more advantages
Top Ten iOS Emulator Apps
Lots of emulator apps have been released in recent times, most working very well without the need to jailbreak first. The ten we list below is the tip of the iceberg and the very best ones on offer.
Once called SIOS, MeSMU is designed solely for SNES games. Developed by Lucas Mendes Menge, it was originally launched to play Super Nintendo games and is now touted as one of the best emulator apps, with great performance. Full-screen gaming is supported, along with support for SMC and ZIP ROM files, plug and play support for external controllers, auto-save, and loads more features. It has been updated to support iOS 13 and is completely free.
GC4iOS is unique in that it is the only emulator to let you play Wii and GameCube games. It is purely a repository, though; there are no games already loaded in. It’s down to you to find your own games, download them and install them into the emulator app. All iOS devices are supported and an update has made the emulator compatible with iOS 13. You can download this app from AppCake.
One of the best Nintendo emulators, GearBoy offers support for the entire Gameboy range, plus many other Nintendo consoles. It offers accurate emulation, providing you with a superior console experience on a mobile device. It has support for Mix Frames, ensuring you get the ghosting form the Gameboy games and LCD controller emulation support. It also supports compressed ROMs, which makes it even easier to download your ROMs form the internet and play them through the emulator and it works on iOS 10 to iOS 13.
GBA4iOS was one of the very first emulator apps to be released. Developed by Riley Testut, a well-known and respected developer, for a while it was available for download from the iOS app store, thanks to a small loophole. Apple eventually patched it and licked the app out but Testut was determined we would enjoy the emulator regardless. A few tweaks here and there saw it made available to all once again, with support for all devices up to and including iOS 9. GBA4iOS supports Gameboy games, including Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance, as well as some other Nintendo games. There are some games already included in the emulator but downloading and adding external ROMs is very easy. The emulator offers fast downloads, multiplayer gaming support, one-click play, customizable game controls and game maps, cloud server hosting, and more. It is free and is still updated on a regular basis.
Another emulator app from Riley Testut, Delta takes up where GBA4iOS stopped, supporting devices on iOS 10 to iOS 13 inclusive. It supports several Nintendo consoles for gaming, including the Gameboy range, NDS, Sega, N64, NES, and SNES. It works the same as GBA4iOS and has similar features, although it does offer a few extras, including split-screen support, a built-in browser, and cloud syncing.
PPSSPP (PlayStation Portable Simulator Suitable for Playing Portably) emulator app offers emulation for PSP gaming and is arguably the best PSP emulator around. It works on jailbroken and non-jailbroken devices and offers a ton of cool features. Those include customizable on-screen controls, support for external controllers, the ability to restore saved games on any device with the emulator installed, transferring games save on your PSP console, increasing the anisotropic filter and texture scaling, and so many more. There’s no need to install any extra files for the games you want to play because the emulator simulates the BIOS and OS of the device, so just download the ROMs, click and play for free.
Provenance is a multi-platform emulator, offering support for the PS1, PPSSPP, Gameboy, Nintendo, and other consoles. No need to download one emulator for each console; simply click and play your games, regardless of what they are for. Provenance works on iOS 10 or higher, with support for iOS 13 added, multiplayer gaming support, the ability to record your gameplay, and then share it with others via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, customize your game maps and game controls, and many more features.
The second of our emulators with support for multiple platforms, HappyChick is incredibly popular. It has support for more than 18 consoles, including PS1, PPSSPP, NDS, the Gameboy range, and many more. You can choose from thousands of games, from your old favorites, right up the latest blockbuster games. It has support for iOS 13 and will work on all iOS devices but it is better if you have a minimum 2 GB RAM to get the full range of features and quality of play. It offers multiplayer gaming support, cloud server hosting, LAN support to play games offline, one-click play, and much more. There are also a whole host of customizations you can make to the app and its completely free.
As you might guess from the name, NDS4iOS emulates the Nintendo DS. It doesn’t have a vast variety of games preinstalled in it but you can get them from the internet and load them into the emulator very easily. It has plenty of features, including cloud syncing, Dropbox syncing, lot so fin-app customizations to help you get the emulator how you want it, multiplayer gaming support, and is a very user-friendly emulator too. You won’t get any closer to an NDS console experience without buying an NDS console and it’s all yours completely free.
Last, but by no means least, is iNDS, another Nintendo emulator. There are some games preinstalled but you can add as many as you want from the internet, and build up your collection of favorite games very easily. It has support for iOS 13 and has lots of decent features, such as in-app customizations, Dropbox syncing and game recovery support, a built-in browser, auto-save, a search facility, and many more.
Well, that’s quite a selection of emulator apps to choose from. Pretty much all the best game consoles are covered, giving you a huge variety of games to play. You aren’t limited to retro games, although some emulators will only let you play those; some allow you to play the very latest games too, giving you an even bigger choice.
If you opt for a multi-platform emulator, you can bring all your favorite games from different consoles into one app and play them easily, with just a couple of taps. All of them are free to download and use and the ROMs are also free to download but do use only the reputable sites.
Take your pick, tell us what emulator you use and what games you are playing.