How to Play Pokemon & Emulate Other Games on Your iPhone or iPad

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.


There’s no denying that Pokemon GO has given Nintendo’s franchise a new lease of life, bringing new fans on board and rekindling a love many once had for the Game Boy smash hit first released in 1996. Luckily it’s not the only way you can play Pokemon on your iPhone.

Unlock the free iPhone and iPad cheat sheet now!

This will sign you up to our newsletter

Enter your Email

Nintendo hasn’t released any classic or recent Pokemon games on the App Store, so you’ll have to turn to emulation to get the job done. With one exception, the easiest way to do this is to pay a small fee and install apps from a service called Build Store.

Best of all you don’t need to jailbreak your device to do this. Using Android? You can play Pokemon too!

Play Game Boy/Color Games with Safari

The quickest way of playing Pokemon or any old Game Boy games on your iPhone is using a web-based emulator written in JavaScript. GamePlay takes advantage of Safari’s ability to add web apps to your device’s Home Screen, and it uses Google Drive to add ROMs which can then be played offline. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Here’s how to install and use GamePlay:

  1. Open the GamePlay website in Safari on your iPhone or iPad, tap the Share button then Add to Home Screen.
  2. Unzip and upload your ROMs to a folder in Google Drive, then launch GamePlay and tap the Connect to Google Drive button.
  3. Once you’ve provided GamePlay with access, copy and paste the access code you receive into the web app you installed.
  4. GamePlay will scan your Google Drive for ROMs (compressed archives aren’t supported), tapping a ROM will download and store it within GamePlay’s local storage.

Before you get too excited, there are a few limitations with this method of emulation. While the emulator supports saving, it doesn’t support save states (where the emulator takes its own snapshot) — you’ll have to rely on built-in save options in the games you’re playing.


There’s also no way for web apps to suspend themselves when you press the home button. This means the game will reload if you minimize it, losing any progress you have made since you last saved. Web apps can’t use external controllers, so you’ll be stuck with the on-screen controls, and older devices may suffer particularly when it comes to sound emulation.

With all those considerations in mind, GamePlay is a fantastic emulator. I tested it on an iPhone 6 and found it responsive, easy to use, and I couldn’t have asked for better performance. Pokemon Blue and Crystal editions ran like a charm, saving works, and you can even add artwork by uploading a .JPEG file that matches the exact name of the ROM file.


The developers have revealed plans to add link cable support for trading Pokemon, and they even hope to provide GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS support at some point in the future. If you want a free and basic web-based emulator, and you don’t mind living with the limitations and in-game saving, turn to GamePlay.

If you want to get more life out of old titles, check out these awesome Pokemon Challenges 6 Fun Pokémon Challenges to Prove Your Mastery 6 Fun Pokémon Challenges to Prove Your Mastery Do you love Pokémon but feel bored with the series? These Pokémon challenges will breathe new life into your favorite games. Read More .

Install Emulators from Build Store

Apple doesn’t allow emulators on the App Store, and one quick glance at the number of retro games that have seen an iOS re-release will tell you why. You can’t technically side-load apps on an iPhone or iPad like you can with Android, but you can install apps from sources other than the App Store if the developer is a part of the Apple Developer Enterprise Program, and your device is enrolled.

This service allows developers to roll-out apps to iOS devices without having to use the App Store. It uses your device’s unique identification number (UDID) to check that you should indeed be installing the app, and you’ll need to maintain a certified device for as long as you plan on using the app. The guys behind Build Store have taken to using this service as a means of installing emulators and other apps that Apple has banned from its storefront, for a fee.

The emulators themselves are mostly open source, some are even available for free on iEmulators — but they have a tendency to stop working, are hosted on unreliable storage space, and generally aren’t worth the bother. If you pay $9.99 per device, per year, you can add your iPhone or iPad to the Build Store program and have access to them all. Whether you’re planning on playing Pokemon or not, it’s the best way to emulate old home and handheld consoles on your iOS device.

The apps don’t go through Apple’s vetting process, and therefore aren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny as most iOS apps are, but the way that sandboxing works on (non-jailbroken) iOS means that the apps cannot damage your iPhone. You might want to hold off providing them with access to your contacts, photos, location, and granting other permissions, though. Be wary of putting login information into these apps, because there’s no way of telling whether your credentials are being sent elsewhere, or who is using the access token and for what.

How to Install Build Store Emulators & Apps

  1. Join Build Store by visiting from the iOS device you want to enroll. Sign up with an email, and provide a password.
  2. Add your device and install the iOS profile when prompted, which will provide Build Store access to your device’s UDID.
  3. Pay your $9.99 — you can use PayPal to pay via credit or debit card for almost-instant access (eCheck takes longer).
  4. After 5 or 10 minutes (in my experience) your device will be activated. You can now head to on your device and select some apps to install.
  5. iOS will ask you whether you want to install an app or not (sometimes you need to hit the button a few times). To accept, hit Install when the notification appears.

If all goes well, your app should install like any other. You’ll find it on your home screen, complete with an icon, and you can access its local storage through iTunes File Sharing by connecting your device to a Mac or Windows computer, launching iTunes, selecting your device, then heading to Apps and clicking the app in question. You can then add ROMs to each emulator using this interface.


Sometimes things stop working, emulators won’t launch, or the app in question has its certificate revoked. These disruptions are generally brief, but you can head to the Built Store Twitter account to find out the latest news.

Console, Handheld, & Arcade Emulators

Emulator apps provide more functionality than web apps like GamePlay. They can use the iOS frameworks put in place by Apple, like any other app you’d download from the App Store. Most support suspending apps, so you can switch to another app and return to it later without interruption (provided it hasn’t fallen out of memory). Apps are stored locally and accessible via iTunes, and some even include support for cloud services. Since gamepad support was added to iOS 7, many of these emulators can be played with accessories like the GameVice or PXN Speedy.


Stability can be a mixed bag, though it’s generally better than web-based alternatives. Performance will pretty much entirely depend on the age of your hardware — the newer your device, the better performance, and the more you’ll be able to play. As we’ve mentioned in our previous post covering emulators on iOS How to Install Emulators & Homebrew on Your iPhone or iPad (No Jailbreak Required) How to Install Emulators & Homebrew on Your iPhone or iPad (No Jailbreak Required) Install emulators and other homebrew on your iOS device, no jailbreak required — it's actually a pretty straightforward process that can be accomplished with free tools and a bit of patience. Read More , you can build many of these emulators yourself from source if you have the time and know-how. In my experience, taking care of all the dependencies can be a real pain, which is one good reason to pay the $9.99 instead.

Game Boy / Color / Advance: GBA4iOS

For everything Game Boy — whether it’s the original monochrome masterpiece, Color edition, or the later Game Boy Advance — look no further than GBA4iOS. There are three versions of GBA4iOS on the Build Store, with one maintained exclusively by Build Store themselves which adds support for screen recording.

This is personally my favorite iOS emulator. Three generations of Nintendo handheld games perfectly lend themselves to the iPhone form factor, performance (on my iPhone 6) is excellent, and the emulator itself is jam-packed with features. Among them is support for save states, external gamepads, AirPlay for remote displays, the ability to fast forward ROMs, custom controller skins, and cheat codes.


You can also connect your Dropbox account to access your ROMs, and though wireless link support is a bit unstable and slow, it’s there if you want to trade Pokemon or play multiplayer games. GBA4iOS and Pokemon FireRed might just be the best Pokemon experience you can have on iOS.

See also: GearBoy — a simple Game Boy/Color emulator that focuses on readability of source code and accurate emulation. Supports gamepads and compressed ROMs, but lacks features like Game Boy Advance support or save states as seen in GBA4iOS.

Nintendo DS: iNDS

This is an emulator where the age of your device will start to come into play in terms of performance or getting games to run at all. You’ll need a device with at least 256MB RAM, which means the iPod Touch 4G, iPad 1 and iPhone 3GS are out. After playing Pokemon Platinum on my iPhone 6, I wasn’t exactly impressed with the performance. Things moved slowly, controls felt a little sluggish, and I couldn’t get the Start button to work.


However, developers say you can get up to 60 frames per second in some games with the right hardware. The app supports save states and auto save features, customizable on-screen controls, compressed ROMs, over 100,000 cheats, and use of the microphone in games that support or require it.

Dual-screen emulation isn’t terrible, but controls tend to get in the way and the experience left me thinking that I’d rather just dust off the old DS and carry that around with me if I felt the need to play.

See also: NDS4iOS — active development ceased in 2014, and NDS4iOS has a few known issues with Pokemon Black and White, but it has a lot of interesting features including auto-saves, Dropbox support, and customizable controller positioning — so it might be worth a try.

Other Emulators

For non-Pokémon gamers, there are a variety of other emulators that are worth a look:

  • Gearsystem emulates Master System and GameGear games, with accurate emulation, and support for external RAM and compressed ROMs. Performance is good on account of the platform’s age and simple controls.
  • MeSNEmu formerly known as SIOS, this SNES emulator provides great performance and features like save states, but feels like it needs a physical controller to really make the most of it. Fortunately there is support for external gamepads, though only a few are listed in the app’s settings.
  • PPSSPP is the platform’s only Sony PSP emulator. It has support for many games, but performance will entirely depend on the age of your device (and non-jailbroken performance takes a tumble due to Apple’s restrictions).
  • MAME4iOS provides arcade emulation, and it works surprisingly well. Newer games will definitely struggle on account of their high system requirements, and your mileage will vary accordingly.

Other Build Store Apps

You won’t just find games on Build Store, but many apps that Apple forbids on the App Store end up there too. At the time of writing here’s a selection of other apps and games available:

Finally: ROMs

No, we can’t help you find ROMs. While backing up your cartridges and other games media is perfectly legal, downloading ROMs for games that you do not own is piracy, and thus illegal. There’s nothing inherently illegal about emulators, and nor is there anything wrong with installing iOS apps from a source like Build Store. Apple might not like it, but you’re not breaking any laws.

Making your own backups of ROMs is costly and time-consuming, so we suggest you search the Internet for games you already own.

You can also play classic titles without dealing with ROMs at all. Nintendo isn’t yet keen on porting its collection, but Sega has revived many old games for iOS 10 Classic Sega Games You Can Play on Your Smartphone 10 Classic Sega Games You Can Play on Your Smartphone In this article we round up our pick of the best classic Sega games you can play on your smartphone. Read More . If you just want to have some fun, try these iPhone party games 6 Fun iPhone Party Games for Your Next Group Gathering 6 Fun iPhone Party Games for Your Next Group Gathering There are many iPhone games available that are perfect for parties. Here are some fun iPhone party games to play! Read More . And if you have signed up for Apple’s video game subscription service, you might want to try these top Apple Arcade games The 5 Best Games to Play on Apple Arcade The 5 Best Games to Play on Apple Arcade Here are the best games on Apple Arcade that make the gaming subscription service worth its price tag. Read More .

Explore more about: Emulation, Game Controller, iPhone Game, Pokémon, Pokemon GO.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. T-yee
    October 19, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Dope article & new subscriber, I cannot wait to feel the nostlgia with these emulators on my 6s+. I appreciate the article bruh keep doing your thing peace!