How To Play Your Favorite Game Boy Games Without Jailbreaking Your Phone

Nintendo has long been one of the top dogs in the gaming department. Unfortunately, many of us, including myself, no longer own a Nintendo handheld device, and can not play the games on our various iDevices because Nintendo is rather ambivalent about making their games available to players on third-party devices.

In years past, many people would jailbreak their phones in order to play classic Nintendo games on their phones. However, this is no longer necessary. In this article, I will teach you how to play your favorite Nintendo games right on your phone — no jailbreak neededLearn how after the jump.

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What is an Emulator?

The first thing you need to know about playing Game Boy games on your phone is that it’s not as easy as downloading an app from the App Store. In fact, there aren’t any apps on the App Store that can do this, which is why a jailbreak was required to do this in the past. A jailbreak is no longer needed to run Game Boy games on your phone, but you are going to use something a little bit out of the box: an emulator.

At its essence, an emulator is a profile that you download onto your phone that acts as an application. The process is done completely on your phone and is much easier than jailbreaking, but it does require you to do a little bit of housekeeping before downloading.

Travel Back in Time

In order for the emulator to work, you need to adjust the date settings on your phone back to 2012. To do this, go to Settings > General > Date & Time, and toggle “Set Automatically” off. Then, scroll up to a date from 2012. It may take you a moment because there’s no good way to adjust year itself.

Scroll up in the date field until you have reached 2012.

Scroll up in the date field until you have reached 2012.

Note that while your phone’s date is set back, it freezes your cellular connection. You won’t be able to send or receive messages while your phone is set back. However, this is not permanent, as you will reset this in a couple steps.

Download the Emulator

Next, you’re going to want to download the emulator on your phone. The emulator we want is called GBA4iOS, and is available here. Once GBA4iOS is selected in the drop down menu, you will be prompted to install it. Press install, and the emulator will begin to download on your device.

Select GBA4iOS from the drop-down menu (left), then allow the it to be installed when prompted (right).

Select GBA4iOS from the drop-down menu (left), then allow the it to be installed when prompted (right).

Once it is done installing, a purple icon labeled “GBA4iOS” will appear on your home screen. You will want to open the emulator, but don’t worry about doing anything with it at this point. After it has been opened, you can head back to Settings and reset the date on your device. This can easily be done by toggling the “Set Automatically” switch back on. You should now be able to send and receive messages like normal.

Download Your Games

So now you have the GBA4iOS installed, but you have no games. Luckily, the emulator makes it really easy for you to find games formatted to run in it. By tapping the magnifying glass in the top right corner, the emulator will launch a Google search for ROMs, or games.

GBA4iOS makes finding compatible games as easy as a tap of a button—literally.

GBA4iOS makes finding compatible games as easy as a tap of a button—literally.

The search will put quite a few sites at your disposal; I like to use the first result, CoolROM. This site will provide you with basically every Nintendo game you can imagine, from franchises like Pokemon, Mario, Zelda, and more.

Websites like CoolROM put hundreds of classics at your fingertips (left); make sure you open up the file you downloaded in GBA4iOS (right).

Websites like CoolROM put hundreds of classics at your fingertips (left); open up the file you downloaded in GBA4iOS (right).

Once you find a game you like, click on it to open the information page, and scroll down until you find the Download Now button. A zip file with the game will download, and you will be redirected to another page in Safari. On the new page, select the Open In tab in the top lefthand corner, and open the file in GBA4iOS. The game should be installed and ready to play in the emulator.

Play!

All of your games should be accessible via the menu in the emulator when downloaded. By selecting a game, it will launch inside of a simulated Gameboy Advance—complete with a D-pad and all.

GBA4iOS delivers the closest you can get to an authentic Gameboy experience on iOS.

GBA4iOS delivers the closest you can get to an authentic Gameboy experience on iOS.

Skins can be edited via the Settings panel in the emulator, which is accessible via the button in the top lefthand corner of the menu.

You can download as many games as you wish. Most games weigh in at a file size slightly less than a gigabyte, which is a reasonably small size considering you are downloading complete games. You can always clear up space for new games by sliding left on a game you no longer play and deleting it.

I have found that this emulator plays flawlessly on my phone, which is currently running iOS 7. It can be a bit weird to adjust to the controls of the game, as they were meant to be played with physical buttons, but other than that, I haven’t really found any problems with the emulator.

With that, you’re done! Which game are you most looking forward to play on your phone?