Maybe you’re looking for some feelings of nostalgia. Maybe the (relatively) recent announcement of Pokemon Go has you excited. Either way, if you clicked on this, you’re looking to play Pokemon on your iPhone. Luckily for you, recent developments in the iOS modding community have made it pretty easy to play classic Gameboy or Gameboy Advanced Pokemon titles from your iPhone device! Just follow this tutorial, and I’ll show you the way! I promise, it’s a lot easier than you would think in 2017.
One slight caveat — if you want to play Pokemon on an iDevice running something later than iOS 8.0.3, you’re out of luck. If you’re running something later than that, there is a paid alternative. ($9.99/year) In this tutorial, I’ll just be covering the free version of GBA4IOS. Thanks for the click, though! With that being said, let’s dive right in.
1. Download GBA4IOS
GBA4IOS is going to be your emulator in this instance. What’s an emulator? An emulator plays ROMS. What are ROMS? Game files. With GBA4IOS, you’ll be able to run game files for games for the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, or Gameboy Advance. In this case, we’re going to be playing Pokemon ROMs!
Before we download GBA4IOS, you have to do something kind of weird. Go into your iDevice’s settings, and set the date back 1 day earlier. So, if you’re trying to download GBA4IOS on Christmas, set your date to Christmas Eve. I’m honestly not sure exactly why this has to be done, but I’m pretty sure that it’s because of something to do with Apple’s weird third-party application rules.
To download GBA4IOS, navigate to this link from the iOS device that you want to play Pokemon on. (Although the title of this post says ‘iPhone’, you could easily replicate these results on an iPad, as well.) Then, you’re going to download GBA4IOS by following the on-screen prompts. Don’t be afraid of any permissions that the app asks for — GBA4IOS is a reputable and trusted third-party application. I promise.
Now that the app is downloaded and installed, quickly confirm that you can open it without it crashing. If it crashes, try again with your device set to an earlier date. If it does not crash, congratulations! You’re one step closer to Pokemon. You can set your date back to normal now, and still be able to open GBA4IOS.
2. Acquire ROMs
Whether you’re comfortable with it or not, this next step is going to involve sailing the seven seas. Acquiring ROMs is both a morally gray and legally gray area. I urge you to ONLY acquire a ROM if you own the physical copy of the game. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also the legal thing to do. As you can imagine, being able to download the entirety of a game online means a lot of piracy. If you already own the game, though, you’re okay. There is no other way to own a digital version of the game without downloading it. You’re not really doing anything wrong.
Anyway, there are a lot of ROM websites out there to find your games on. I personally recommend emuParadise and CoolROMS. I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble finding files on either of those websites. (You shouldn’t really have any problem finding the Pokemon games, though, since they’re so popular.) Their mobile interfaces are also really convenient to use, which will come in handy for this next step.
You’re going to want to navigate to your ROM website of choice from Safari, from the iOS device that you have downloaded GBA4IOS onto. Find whichever game you want, and go through the steps listed on the website to download it. (In case you need a refresher, Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow are on Gameboy. Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal are on Gameboy Color. Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald are on Gameboy Advance. GBA4IOS supports all three of the first three generations.) Once the file is download, tap the “Open in…” button on your screen, and select GBA4IOS. This should install the game onto GBA4IOS.
If, for whatever reason, the quality of the ROM is poor, or it doesn’t properly download, try to download a different ROM, or look through a different site.
3. Configure the ROM
Configuring is sort of optional, but I like to do it anyway. GBA4IOS makes it really easy to rename ROMs. If you download a file named “XxSkULLcruSHERXx – POKEMON EMERALD!!!!” that’s how it will show up in your ROM list. You’re able to rename the file to just “Pokemon Emerald”, if you so desire. My GBA4IOS ROM library is full of all kinds of games, so I rename them at the very least for organizational purposes.
GBA4IOS also lets you customize how the game displays on your screen. Do you plan to play in landscape mode or portrait mode? What kind of controller skin do you want? Customizing these options allows you enrich your own experience, and make sure that you’re comfortable with whatever layout you choose. You’re also able to tweak settings for cheats, button sustaining, Dropbox sync, and so on.
Finally, you can play your game! Enjoy the thrill and adventure of exploring the Kanto, Johto and Hoenn regions. To save your game, open the GBA4IOS menu (there is normally a button on the controller skin) and save your save state. GBA4IOS is really cool, because it lets you have multiple save states. Pokemon games usually only have one save file, but this feature makes it to where you can have multiple trainers at once.
Although this guide is mostly geared for Pokemon players, you can run through these steps to play pretty much any game that was hosted on the Gameboy platform. Now that you have a bonafide Gameboy emulator running on your iDevice, the possibilities are pretty much only limited to what you can and can’t find online. Have fun, and don’t forget to (at least try to) catch ’em all!