Play Emulated Games on iPhone with RetroArch

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    Jun 4, 2021, 11:01 am3.5k ptsInteresting

    As great as Apple devices are for most things, there is one area where they can prove challenging – gaming. This is especially the case for emulated games, where the safety features of iOS systems can make it difficult to install third-party emulator programs. Take the right steps, however, and it can be possible to enjoy thousands of emulated games from any semi-recent iPhone. Using RetroArch as a framework, here we want to explore how to install RetroArch, while also taking a look at what this emulator system can do.

    What is RetroArch?

    In simple terms, RetroArch is a framework that collects dozens of different emulators for dozens of different systems into one centralised app. This means users won't have to bother with the complexity that installing many individual emulators can imply, streamlining the process into something even the more technophobic can enjoy.

    iPhone classic games

    "iphone" (CC BY 2.0) by Lieutenant Pol

    Installing RetroArch

    For this process, we're going to be following the official guide to installing RetroArch on iOS devices. For this process, you need to begin by ensuring you have both iTunes and Cydia Impactor installed. Also, for simplicities' sake, we're going to assume an installation on a non-jailbroken device. Once you have these prerequisites ready:

    1. Run Cydia Impactor and drag the RetroArch .ipa file into it
    2. Enter your iTunes email and password
    3. When you get an error, head to, and sign in with your Apple account info
    4. Locate the App-specific Password field and click to generate a password, then enter a password label (we recommend RetroArch)
    5. Copy this app-specific password and drag and drop the .ipa file onto Cydia Impactor again, followed by re-entering your iTunes email
    6. When the next text box appears, enter your app-specific password one more time and wait for the process to complete
    7. Once this is done, go to the settings on your iOS devices and select General
    8. Locate and open Device Management
    9. Your iCloud email address should be featured, click on it and then click Trust

    And with that, the emulator installation is complete!

    The ROMS

    Games on emulators can be complicated in a legal sense since they're usually not officially supported by developers. This doesn't necessarily make them illegal, however, and they can be quite simple when you understand that emulators are a platform, in a similar manner to how online casinos operate in the modern space. To get the most out of this world, it's best to utilise online payment methods to find exactly what you want, as it can be next to impossible to track down original games in person.

    For reference, to play an online casino game, all that players need in terms of funds could be found in payment methods like Neteller. In casino systems, Neteller is well known for its safety and user-friendliness, also operating in an expedient manner compared to other systems. The only real difference is that in online casinos you're paying for direct access to their games and bonuses, whereas in old emulator titles you'll be looking for any original form of the media.

    Once you have a game in a hard format, it's then considered acceptable to download identical game files in the applicable ROM format from ROM websites. Though it can be possible to rip games directly yourself, this is an unnecessarily complicated step that can be avoided. Google searches will be your friend here, as will unzipping tools.

    The next step is simply transferring the relevant game ROM files into your device. For this:

    1. Run iTunes and connect your iPhone via USB to a computer
    2. Press on the iPhone icon and then navigate to File Sharing
    3. Select RetroArch and drag ROM files into the RetroArch Documents field.
    4. Run RetroArch to confirm

    game controller iOS

    "Controller Gaming" (Public Domain) by Anton Porsche

    Through these simple steps, users can easily gain access to potential libraries of thousands of games dating back to the early 80s. Just be sure that you already own legal copies of the ROM game, and maybe consider associating a controller with your iPhone for a more ergonomic experience. With all that out of the way, the only question is where should you start?

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