Emulators are allowed in the App Store: here’s what to keep in mind (and the best iOS controllers)

Apple now allows emulators for your iPhone in the App Store, but what exactly does that mean? We also give tips for good iOS controllers.

iPhone emulators: now allowed in the App Store

If you used to have an iPhone 4 or iPod Touch and loved gaming, chances are you played a GameBoy game around that time via the GBA4iOS app. That’s an example of an emulator: software that makes it possible to play retro games made for another device. In the case of GBA4iOS, it pretended that your iPhone was a GameBoy Advance from Nintendo.

Apple has since banned emulators from the App Store, but now they are allowed again. This probably has to do with the fact that other app stores will soon become available and you can download emulators there. At least this way Apple still has some control.

Apple’s rules

Apple does not simply allow all emulators. App makers are held responsible for the software they offer. This means that games may only be offered by the companies that own the rights. These are logical rules, since Apple does not want to promote piracy.

Of course, Apple cannot stop users from adding games to a hobby app themselves. Just as video app VLC Player is not responsible for the video files you watch, such an emulation app cannot be held responsible for the games you play with it.

Pac Man

What does the law say?

You place ROMs in an emulator. A ROM is a digital copy of a game. It is legally permitted to create such a ROM from software that you own. Downloading other games is illegal.

Emulators ensure that many more games are played illegally and the original makers do not receive any money for this. Yet emulation is the only way to still be able to play many older games.

Which iPhone emulators should I get?

The App Store rules have only just been adjusted, so there are currently no emulators available for download for your iPhone. These will first be submitted by app makers, after which Apple will approve them. Only then can you download them.

Which game controller should I get?

If you are going to start working with emulators on your iPhone (soon), we recommend using a good controller. You can connect a controller that you already own via Bluetooth, for example from your Xbox or PlayStation. If you don’t have such a controller, it is smart to get a special iPhone controller into which you plug your smartphone. Make sure you buy one with Lightning or USB-C.

Backbone One

At 120 euros, the Backbone One is one of the most expensive iPhone controllers you can buy, but that is not without reason. Not only is the controller very pleasant to use, but you also get access to the Backbone app. The app bundles your favorite games and collects all the screenshots and videos you’ve taken. You can also talk to your friends via the app.


GameSir G8 Galileo

If you want to pay a little less, the GameSir G8 Galileo is an interesting option. You don’t get an extensive app like with the Backbone One, but you do get a full controller for all your gaming adventures. The GameSir is also slightly larger, which can be nice if you have larger hands.


Your iPhone becomes an even better gaming machine

Investing in a game controller for your iPhone is certainly a smart move, because in the near future the device will turn into the ultimate gaming machine. In addition to game emulators, Apple is also finally allowing game streaming apps to the App Store. This means that you can simply stream the latest console and PC games on your iPhone via GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud Gaming, for example. A good controller is an absolute must.

More gaming

If you prefer to just download games from the App Store, check out our list of the best iPhone games of 2023. We will also tell you everything about gaming on a Mac.

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