Against the odds, there’s a 3DS emulator on iPhone now (2024)

While it was initially thought to be too taxing for iPhones, it appears that newer iPhones and iPads are able to run Nintendo 3DS games with minor issues using the recently released Folium emulator.

In my brief tests, I’ve been able to get a few titles running smoothly on my iPhone 15 Pro, but older devices may want to stay away from this one since it is a lot more power hungry than Delta. It’s also not as user friendly, but if you really want to play a 3DS title on your phone, you can finally do it. I would recommend scanning the emulator’s subreddit to see if anyone with the same phone as you is able to play games at full speed. Generally, on other platforms like Android, developers are able to use a programming compiling method known as Just In Time (JIT) that allows modern hardware to emulate older stuff more efficiently. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t allow apps to use JIT in the App Store, so you need to have a powerful phone to brute force through the code instead. This is the reason the ever-popular Wii/Gamecube emulator, Dolphin, can’t run on iPhones.

Folium is $6.99 on the Canadian App Store, but since it doesn’t run that great, I’d suggest trying out the AltStore version if you’re feeling technical. You can also test the emulator for free using the AltStore method, but as I covered with Delta prior to launch, there can be a few hurdles there that make setting it up a pain.

Against the odds, there’s a 3DS emulator on iPhone now (1)

While I was testing it, I was able to play Pokémon: Alpha Sapphire, but after trying a few different versions, I was unable to get Pokémon: X or Y to even appear within the Folium app. To further this, I tried a few other games and while I was able to load them in, it would crash Folium back to the iOS Home Screen. Then, when I went back into the emulator, the games were there. This worked for three or four titles, but when I tried to load in Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome Amiibo, it crashed the app so badly that I needed to delete it and reinstall Folium.

The second time I tried Animal Crossing,it worked, but since I had to delete the emulator, I did lose my Pokemon save files. Unlike Delta, there are no built-in options for managing your saved data. You can go into your Files app and dig around, but since I’m not familiar with this emulator, I wasn’t able to find my 3DS saves. On another occasion, the app kept crashing, but I kept tapping on it to re-open, and after about seven tries, it worked again. All that said, I would only load in the game(s) you want to play right now and focus on those. This app is still pretty new, so I think the fewer files you pack into it, the better.

Improvements needed

The touchscreen control layout needs a ton of work. For some reason, the buttons are all squished together, which makes pressing the wrong action quite easy. The Start and Select buttons are also tucked weirdly into the face button array and the D-Pad. Beyond that, at least when you’re playing with your phone vertically, the controls are also bunched up at the bottom of the screen, while both the controls and the game screens could be moved further up the phone to make it more comfortable to play. The vertical controls are similarly placed in cramped areas. To cap all this off, there’s also no way to play with a virtual joystick, which is annoying since the 3DS had one. You can use a controller, but the emulator still shows the virtual controls on screen, so you don’t get any extra screen real estate when doing so.

Overall, when it works, it’s really awesome to see 3DS games being played on my iPhone. The AMOLED display contrast ratio really helps the graphics pop. I’m also a really big fan of the 3DS family of systems in general, and I’d be really happy to see those games playable on the go with my phone, but as of right now, Folium feels too janky to use it full-time. At this point, I’d still rather dig out my old 2DS and play my games on it since I have more faith it will work and the controls are a lot more comfortable. If the developers can continue to hone Folium, I think they’ll have a hit on their hands, but in its current iteration, it’s geared toward people that really want to play 3DS on the go and don’t have any other options.

If you want to give more feedback to the devs and learn more about the app you can join its Discord channel here.

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Against the odds, there’s a 3DS emulator on iPhone now (2024)

FAQs

Will there be a 3DS emulator for iPhone? ›

Folium has become the first Nintendo 3DS emulator for the iPhone available in the App Store, although there are some caveats to be aware of. Foremost, this is the first Nintendo emulator on the App Store that costs money.

Can you run 3DS games on an iPhone? ›

To play 3DS games on your iPhone, you'll need an emulator. Emulators are software that mimic the hardware of another device, allowing you to run games designed for that platform on your phone.

Are emulators allowed on iPhone now? ›

Apple opens the App Store to retro game emulators

Apple is loosening its App Store restrictions and opening the marketplace up to retro game emulators. In an update on Friday, Apple announced that game emulators can come to the App Store globally and offer downloadable games.

Does a working 3DS emulator exist? ›

Citra - Nintendo 3DS Emulator.

Are 3DS emulators legal? ›

While emulation software itself are legal as long as they don't infringe copyright protections on the console, emulating games is only so when legitimately purchasing the game physically and ripping the contents.

Are iOS emulators illegal? ›

Emulators themselves are legal, but they are commonly used for illegal purposes, primarily for the piracy of video games.

Why did Apple ban emulators? ›

Comically, the first Apple-approved emulator to launch under the relaxed rules, called iGBA, was banned by Apple just days after its launch due to copyright infringement. The emulator, iGBA, was a knockoff of GBA4iOS, an open-source Game Boy Advance emulator for iOS that the developer created over 10 years ago.

Do any iOS emulators exist? ›

Do iPhone Emulators Exist? Yes, The availability of iPhone emulators permits the simulation of the iPhone's operating system and facilitates testing of apps on a computer.

Are 3DS ROMs legal? ›

Emulators are legal to download and use, however, sharing copyrighted ROMs online is illegal. There is no legal precedent for ripping and downloading ROMs for games you own, though an argument could be made for fair use.

Do 3DS still exist? ›

Please note: The manufacturing of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems has ended.

Why was Citra shut down? ›

In a message on Discord, developer Davide Berra writes that he's shutting down the emulators “to prioritize my family over the development of my apps.” The move follows Yuzu's $2.4 million settlement with Nintendo and the shutdown of 3DS emulator Citra.

Can you get a Nintendo DS emulator for iPhone? ›

Play DS Games on iPhone with Delta Emulator | Step-by-Step Tutorial. Learn how to download and play DS games on your iPhone using Delta Emulator. Follow our step-by-step tutorial and start playing your favorite games today!

Can you play 3DS Pokemon games on iPhone? ›

The Apple Store is now allowing emulation. so you can play Pokemon games. Emulation is now on your iOS device.

Is there a Pokemon emulator for iOS? ›

GBA4iOS is one of the top emulators known for its excellent features, making it the top choice for Pokémon games on iPhone.

Can you get a Nintendo emulator on iPhone? ›

Delta is an all-in-one emulator for iOS. Delta builds upon the strengths of its predecessor, GBA4iOS, while expanding to include support for more game systems such as NES, SNES, N64, and DS.

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