Prolific emulators RetroArch and PPSSPP now available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV

RetroArch and PPSSPP on iPad and Apple TV
(Image credit: Future)

RetroArch, a multi-system emulator, and PPSSPP, a Sony PlayStation Portable emulator, are now available to download for free on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

Libretro, creators of RetroArch, announced the news on May 15, and confirmed that a future update is coming that will support macOS. You can download the multi-system emulator from the App Store. Around the same time, Henrik Rydgård, creator of the PlayStation Portable emulator PPSSPP, announced in a blog post that his emulator was also available to download on the App Store. There’s a paid ‘Gold’ version of PPSSPP available too, which doesn’t offer exclusive features but is instead a way of supporting Rydgård’s efforts.

While PPSSPP only emulates the PlayStation Portable, RetroArch can emulate over 30 systems. Consoles such as SEGA Saturn, NEO GEO CD, PC Engine, Commodore Amiga, and MSX can all be emulated through RetroArch, and it also offers plenty of great features. Netplay support means you can play an emulated game over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Additionally, RetroArch supports cheats for many games, shaders that change how certain graphics look, and lots more.

Like previously released emulators such as Delta and Gamma, you can play plenty of independent games on PPSSPP and RetroArch instead of downloading others protected by copyright law. If you’re unsure how to use these new emulators, we recommend looking at the starter guides for PPSSPP and RetroArch to get you started.


Be ready for a steep learning curve with RetroArch — iMore’s take

RetroArch on iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve been a user of both PPSSPP and RetroArch for several years because I’ve owned several devices that could run them, way before Apple’s rule change in April that allows retro gaming emulators on its devices.

On one hand, PPSSPP has always been great to use, thanks to its simple user interface and great features, such as saving anywhere and being able to upscale games to a 4K resolution. RetroArch, on the other hand, is a powerful emulator with lots of great features, but its user interface is not good. It’s a high bar to entry for new users and those with accessibility needs as the app doesn't offer guidance on how to run and play a game for first-time users. That’s not to say that I’m unhappy overall. I’m very glad that I can now use RetroArch, as well as PPSSPP, on my iPad and Apple TV by simply going to the App Store and downloading them. However, I should mention why RetroArch’s user interface will likely confuse you the first time you see it.

You’re essentially plonked onto the main screen and you’re left to fend for yourself to figure out how to run a game. You can use Apple’s Files app when using the emulator on an iPhone and iPad to transfer files over. When it comes to Apple TV, you need to use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client to transfer files to RetroArch. This means you need to have a separate device nearby that has an FTP app installed, like Filezilla. After installing RetroArch on my Apple TV, I posted my frustrations over on Threads, and many agreed that they have had similar experiences in fiddling with the settings. I hope Libretro, makers of RetroArch, are aware of these potential challenges for new users, and that there are plans to make the onboarding process easier.

Overall though, I’m happy that the floodgates of emulation have opened up on the App Store. Using RetroArch and PPSSPP, as well as Delta and Gamma, has made me play games on my iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV more than ever. Emulation is a good thing, as it showcases how good certain consoles and handheld devices were back in their day.

It’s only been a month since Apple changed its rule for retro gaming emulators on the App Store, and I’m excited about what the future holds for other emulators yet to be made available on Apple’s devices.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.