Modern mobile games are fine, but most of them can’t compare to classic games like Pokémon, Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario 64, or The Legend of Zelda. Thankfully, it’s possible to play all of these classic video games and more on your iPhone or iPad with the best emulators below.
An emulator is a software imitation of a video game console. You can install emulators on your iPhone or iPad – without jailbreaking it – to play some of the most popular video games of all time. Here are the best emulators for your iPhone or iPad.
About emulators and ROMs
Apple doesn’t allow video game emulators in the App Store, but it is still possible to install them on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch without jailbreaking your device. That means the emulators are a little unstable at times, but that’s a small price to pay for getting access to the best classic video games on your iPhone.
Most of the emulators on this list can be downloaded from websites such as free iEmulators or the App market. But you can get better reliability if you look for a. pay BuildStore Subscription. Otherwise, you may have to compile the apps on your iPhone using a computer.
The best way to install emulators on your iPhone is to use the AltStore. It’s free and reliable; it just takes longer to set up.
For more information, check out our in-depth guide on How to Install Emulators on Your iPhone.
Now that you’ve installed a video game emulator on your iPhone, you still need some ROMs to use with it. A ROM is the software version of a video game cartridge or diskette. While you will need a ROM for every game you want to play, the same game ROM will work on any emulator that supports that console. For example, the same N64 ROM will work with any of the following N64 emulators.
Emulators are legal, but downloading ROMs for games you don’t own is considered piracy. Some companies don’t mind if you “back up” games they already own, but again, this is not always allowed. Although ROMs are freely available online, we do not condone downloading them.
1. Delta (Gameboy, N64, SNES)
delta is the best iPhone emulator for Nintendo enthusiasts. It is the successor to the hugely popular GBA4iOS emulator; You can download an incredibly stable version of Delta from the AltStore.
Delta supports a wide variety of Nintendo consoles:
- Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance
- NES and SNES
- Nintendo DS (with a Patreon subscription)
With Delta you can save your games in any status, use quick saves if you have an external controller, and sync all your data with Google Drive or Dropbox for safe keeping. You can even add cheat codes to your games for a bit of flair or lock your favorite saves to make sure they don’t get overwritten.
If you want to play Pokémon on your iPhone, this is the best emulator you can use.
Delta lets you connect wireless PS4, Xbox One and MFi game controllers, as well as bluetooth or wired keyboards. You can adjust the button assignment as you wish and even save presets per system or per controller.
Without an external controller, you can still customize the emulator skins that appear on your iPhone screen and choose keys for Delta to hold down so you don’t have to hold down certain keys while playing.
All of these details just scratch the surface of Delta. The developer is still working on improving it and there are many more updates to come.
2. Provenance (Nintendo, Sony, Sega, Atari)
You need to install origin by compiling it from a computer, but it’s worth it. Provenance is one of the oldest and most popular multi-platform emulators for the iPhone. It’s especially good when you want to play original PlayStation games on your iPhone.
Provenance emulates 30 systems, including the main consoles from:
- and more.
You can always save your games or record recordings of your game and sync all of this data with iCloud. You can even automatically load a specific save every time you open Provenance to start playing as soon as possible.
Connect a wireless MFi, iCade or Steam controller for more convenience when gaming on a small screen.
Unfortunately, the developers at Provenance recently removed it from the most popular emulator websites. However, you can still install it with an Apple developer account by following the directions on the Provenance Wiki.
3. iNDS (Nintendo DS)
We’ve already mentioned Delta as the best Nintendo emulator for iPhone. However, in order to unlock Nintendo DS emulation on Delta, you will need to pay for a Patreon subscription. This is where iNDS comes in; This emulator allows you to play Nintendo DS games on your iPhone for free.
Derived from the once popular NDS4iOS emulator, iNDS is available for non-jailbroken devices via iEmulators and the BuildStore. As with all iOS emulators, Apple sometimes revokes the license for this app, which means you might have to wait for the developers to renew it before you can install it on your iPhone.
But once it works, iNDS will let you play Nintendo DS games at almost full speed on iPhone 5 and later, and up to 60 FPS on newer iPhones.
Use save games and auto-save options to sync your game data through Dropbox so you don’t have to worry about losing your progress even if the emulator is revoked. iNDS also includes 100,000 game cheats to add a new level of fun to your favorite DS games.
Since the Nintendo DS has two screens on top of each other, you can use iNDS in either portrait or landscape orientation, with both screens in the center of your iPhone display. You can also customize the size and style of the controller, and even turn off the touchscreen on the second screen to avoid accidental taps.
4. PPSSPP (Sony PSP)
PPSSPP is dedicated to emulating PlayStation Portable (PSP) games on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Although it should be able to run any PSP game on your device, older iPhones may not be able to run the games at full speed.
As with all of the other emulators on this list, you can create save states for your games so you don’t have to worry about hitting a save point before exiting the emulator. You can also add cheats to your games for extra fun.
Perhaps one of the best things about PPSSPP is that you can transfer existing saved games from your real PSP. So you can pick up right where you left off in GTA: Vice City.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a built-in way to sync your games to the cloud. However, this may be best considering that most PSP ROMs are extremely large files.
The PSP controls appear transparently above the game screen while you are playing, which means that PPSSPP will display the largest possible screen on your device.
5. RetroArch (Atari, DOS, Genesis, PC-Engine)
RetroArch brings together emulators for a long list of different consoles and offers a single, smooth interface to play the best classic games on almost any device. You can install RetroArch on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, making it one of the most versatile emulators available.
In addition to Game Boy, SNES and PlayStation emulators, RetroArch also supports older platforms such as:
- Neo Geo bag
- PC engine
- Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
- and more
RetroArch uses the same gamepad for all of the different emulators included. This makes it easy to familiarize yourself with the touchscreen layout no matter what game you’re playing, which, thanks to the wide support of RetroArch, could just be one of many.
You can create user-defined memory states and set your favorites so that they are automatically loaded when the app is started. You can also lock the latest saved games to avoid overwriting them.
RetroArch’s netplay feature allows you to connect with other players for multiplayer sessions. This works on multiple platforms so you can even play with Android or PC users.
6. Solar eclipse
darkness is a new emulator on the market that has won huge acclaim for its quick and easy installation method that cannot be revoked. Just visit the Eclipse website from your iPhone or iPad and follow the instructions, watch out for advertisements, to share the app on your device’s home screen. Then just tap the resulting app icon to launch the emulator.
It is really that easy.
You can then import ROMs from the Files app or your Google Drive account to play on your device. Eclipse supports ROMs for the following consoles:
- Game Boy and Game Boy Color
- Sega master system
- Sega Game Gear
If you haven’t downloaded your own ROMs, you can use the Game Hub to install libraries through Eclipse for instant access to a collection of games. There are even libraries that focus on modified games to offer a different experience using the same old games.
As with all of the other emulators we’ve mentioned, Eclipse lets you save your game states and fast-forward through the boring parts. You can also customize the skins to play your favorite consoles with fresh new designs.
Other iPhone game options
Although it takes a bit of work to set up, emulators provide tons of classic gaming experiences on your iPhone or iPad once you’ve run them. And these choices will allow you to play tons of games across all platforms that you like.
If installing the emulators is too much for you, check out other great gaming options for your iPhone.
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