Play Nintendo Games on iOS — Courtesy of Programming Loophole
Nintendo's Game Boy Advance console was more powerful than a Super Nintendo.
CREDIT: Public Domain
Nintendo has been staunchly against releasing mobile versions of its iconic games, but there's now a questionably legal way to play them on iOS without jailbreaking your iPhone.
GBA4iOS is, once you parse the alphabet soup of its name, exactly what it sounds like: a Game Boy Advance emulator for Apple's iOS platform. By installing this program on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, you could play any game released on the Game Boy Advance handheld.
Although emulators swarm the Android market (and are actually something of a selling point for the cheap Ouya console), Apple has been considerably more iron-fisted about allowing them on its App Store. While emulators themselves are not illegal, playing any games on them is — at least in theory. Downloading unauthorized copies of games is a form of copyright infringement.
Although iOS users who jailbreak their devices (which is legal) can install emulators, a few enterprising retro gamers have finally discovered a way to install a Game Boy Advance emulator without the extra step. To install GBA4iOS, go to the developer's GitHub page, select "Install app," and follow the instructions. The app will download and install like any other.
Apple would normally clamp down on software like this (and still may), but GBA4iOS takes advantage of a very complicated loophole that keeps it safe, at least for now. Tech blog ReadWrite reports that the developer simply loaded the app's code to GitHub, then handed the information over to MacBuildServer, a company that essentially compiles raw code into functional apps.
MacBuildServer is supposed to acquire proper certificates from Apple that then allow iOS users to download apps directly through GitHub, usually for testing purposes. However, GitHub does not enforce the certificate stipulation very strongly, meaning that any number of users can download GBA4iOS under the pretense of "testing" it. [See also: 10 Great Games You're Missing]
Should you desire to download the emulator, you'll also need games to play, which GBA4iOS does not provide for legal reasons. Users can search for ROMs, which are emulated, downloadable copies of their favorite Game Boy Advance titles. These range from "Super Mario World" to "Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow." When run through the app, these games complete with features like autosaves and toggling game speed.
The trouble is that ROMs exist in a very gray legal area. Technically speaking, it's copyright infringement to download copies of a game without a company's permission, but supporters argue that downloading ROMs for backup purposes is within their rights. Furthermore, most ROMs replicate out-of-print games, from which the publisher cannot accrue profits, anyway.
Whatever the legality of ROMs, it's perfectly legal to get an emulator on stock iOS, at least for the time being. Just don't be surprised if Apple pulls it sooner rather than later.