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How to play Pokémon and other Game Boy games on your iPhone

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Play Pokémon and other Game Boy games on your iPhone
Image Credits: TechCrunch

Apple finally updated its App Store guidelines to allow global developers to host retro game emulators on iOS. Now, you don’t need to jailbreak your iPhone or download any sketchy software — you can get a sophisticated emulator right in the palm of your hand for free on the App Store.

No one is more vindicated by this shift in Apple’s policy than Riley Testut, the developer who made GBA4iOS about a decade ago when he was in high school (when he released GBA4iOS, I showed half of my AP Statistics class how to play Pokémon on their phones during class — sorry, Mr. Cinelli). But back then, you had to sideload the app through a loophole, and eventually, Apple caught on and ruined our fun. By fall 2014, GBA4iOS was dead. RIP.

But things have changed a lot since 2014, and since its launch, Delta has been downloaded 3.8 million times, and two weeks after its launch, it’s still topping the app store charts.

“It’s surreal how good the reception has been, and how many people are playing it,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch detailing the app’s history and development. “This is the app I’ve been working on for 10 years.”

So why the change of heart now, almost 10 years later? It’s probably a mixture of pressure from changing laws in the European Union, as well as increasing pressure for Apple to at least try to stop acting like a monopoly. Now, at long last, Testut has released a Game Boy emulator directly into the iOS App Store, where it has already climbed to No. 1 on the entertainment charts, as well as the free app charts generally. Delta, the emulator, even supports DS, N64, SNES and NES games, in addition to Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games.

If you want to finally play Pokémon on your iPhone, here’s what you need to do:

  • Download Delta. No jailbreaking! No sideloading! It’s finally just a normal app!
  • Now, how do you get games? This is where it gets tricky. If you’re a Paladin-esque rule follower, you can use a tool like Epilogue’s GB Operator, which can rip .ROM files directly from the Game Boy games that you already own.
  • But maybe you don’t have the Pokémon Emerald cartridge that your parents bought for you when you were nine years old. While downloading an emulator like Delta is not illegal, downloading .ROM files can be considered piracy, which is not a practice that we condone.
  • On a completely unrelated note: You know how sometimes when you have a question, you search for related communities on Reddit that might help you answer that question?
  • So, now that you have legally obtained your .ROM file, how do you get it onto your phone? You can put it on Google Drive and add it to your iPhone’s files folder, you can email it to yourself and download it… basically you just want to do whatever is easiest for you to get that coveted .GBA file at your fingertips.
  • Note that only certain file types are supported by GBA4iOS. If you got your game in a .ZIP or .7Z file, you need to actually unzip it first. I used the iZip app — also free in the App Store — but this sort of thing is generally more straightforward if you just download it on your computer.
  • Now, when you open Delta, you’ll see a plus sign in the upper-right corner. From there, you can import your games from iTunes or your files folder.
  • Time to party!

Maybe you just want to play a classic game from your youth. But don’t sleep on ROM hacking communities, which have been modding retro games for decades. These developers can create professional-quality patches for your .ROM files that transport you into completely new games (but you probably want to do the patching on an actual computer). If you’re bored of Pokémon Ruby, why not try Pokémon Emerald Rogue? Now that Delta is in the App Store, the world is your Cloyster.

Apple changes App Store rules to allow retro game emulators globally

Apple pulls a Game Boy emulator for App Store violations, but says game emulators are allowed

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