Thursday, May 30, 2024

iOS Retro Console Game Emulators

OatmealDome (via Steve Troughton-Smith):

Apple modified their App Store guidelines to allow retro game emulators in the App Store. This week, Delta, a multi-system emulator that was previously only available via AltStore, was released on the App Store.

Since these events happened, we’ve been asked many times if we will submit DolphiniOS (our fork of Dolphin) to the App Store.

Unfortunately, no.

Apple still does not allow us to use a vital technology that is necessary for Dolphin to run with good performance: JIT.

Joe Rossignol:

Apple told us that emulators that can load games (ROMs) are permitted on the App Store, so long as the apps are emulating “retro console games” only.

Apple would not tell us which consoles it classifies as retro[…]


There is also a Commodore 64 emulator on the App Store called Emu64 XL.

Joe Rossignol:

The lead developer of the multi-emulator app Provenance has told iMore that his team is working towards releasing the app on the App Store, but he did not provide a timeframe. Provenance is a frontend for many existing emulators, and it would allow iPhone and Apple TV users to emulate games released for a wide variety of classic game consoles, including the original PlayStation, SEGA Genesis, Atari 2600, and others.

Craig Grannell:

When iGBA was removed, Apple cited “spam” and “copyright” reasons, which led to speculation that emulators allowing you to load your own games were still banned. Apple later clarified this wasn’t the case – if they emulated “retro console games”. But what is ‘retro’? Is that about blocking emulators of commercially viable systems, or does Apple have a set time period in mind? And is ‘console’ shorthand for ‘old game system’ or more literal, meaning Apple would block emulators for arcade systems and also old computers that weren’t primarily geared toward gaming?

We just don’t know, and Apple in the past has glibly said “we know it when we see it” regarding unacceptable App Store submissions. Not great for developers, but we can make predictions. Notably, Apple has historically blocked virtual implementations of its own hardware, and so a big test of the new rules would be a developer submitting an Apple II or Mac Plus emulator. And don’t expect an iPhone emulator for classic iPhone games on the App Store any time soon – or perhaps ever. For that, you’ll still – ironically – need an Android device.

Tim Hardwick:

Gamma, a new emulator for playing classic PlayStation 1 games on iPhone and iPad, has just hit the App Store.

Joe Rossignol:

RetroArch is a frontend that provides all-in-one access to many different emulators for consoles from Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, SEGA, Sony, and others. The app offers RetroAchievements, which are essentially custom challenges added on top of classic games, such as “find and collect a Fire Flower” in Super Mario Bros. for NES.

Mike Rockwell:

The only arguments I can see in favor of other emulation apps is that RetroArch isn’t great without a controller and it can be a little tricky to get setup. But I think most people would be better off watching or reading a guide and buying a Backbone One.


Update (2024-06-04): Joe Rossignol:

Folium has become the first Nintendo 3DS emulator for the iPhone available in the App Store, although there are some caveats to be aware of.

Foremost, this is the first Nintendo emulator on the App Store that costs money. Folium developer Jarrod Norwell is charging $4.99 for the app, which is a bold choice given that Nintendo recently sued the developers of Yuzu, a Nintendo Switch emulator that made a profit off a subscription-based “early access” tier.

1 Comment RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I’d be amused to see an iOS Pippin emulator.

Leave a Comment