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The Nintendo DS has one of the best libraries of any Nintendo handheld, but due to the system’s unique physical structure, emulation isn’t easy. The good news is that there’s a Nintendo DS emulator for your iPhone, so you can play your favorite DS games on the go.
The bad news is that the majority of DS emulators on iOS are at best sketchy and at worst blatant malware. Apple has somewhat draconian requirements for the App Store, which makes the emulator scene a constant race to get new software before Apple revokes its certificate.
Therefore, you will not find any emulators in the official App Store. They all come from third-party sources that often claim to bypass the security protocols on your iOS device. Keep that in mind, and download any of these emulators at your own risk—especially since emulators are illegal.
RetroArch is one of the most famous emulators today and one of the best supported. It works on almost any platform and even has an official Steam version for download. Out of any DS emulator on iOS, RetroArch is your best bet, even if you have to download it through third-party sources.
RetroArch is not a Nintendo DS emulator at all. It allows you to emulate almost any console thanks to many different cores. It is especially useful because it will automatically recognize most gamepads. All you have to do is connect your gamepad and you can start playing without the complicated setup process.
You can find RetroArch for download through TweakBox or through the official RetroArch website.
iNDS is another Nintendo DS emulator available on iOS. It requires iOS 9 or later, but it also requires your device to be jailbroken to run it. If you don’t have a jailbroken iPhone or iPad, you’ll need to find another emulator.
iNDS has a lot to offer thanks to its ability to emulate titles at 60fps. It is the successor of the popular NDS4iOS emulator and includes features like video filters, haptic shake, autosave and more. You can also disable the touchscreen if you prefer to use the gamepad rather than the on-screen controls.
If you’re playing a game with lots of non-skippable cutscenes, you can speed up the simulation to get back into the action faster. This can save a lot of time for titles with long cutscenes right before a tough boss fight.
iNDS can be downloaded through TweakBox or transmitted via Cydia Impactor.
NDS4iOS is one of the oldest options for emulating Nintendo DS on iOS that is still available. There’s a lot to love about the emulator, including the ability to sync files directly from Dropbox. This means you don’t have to load the ROM directly into your phone, which saves a lot of time during the setup process.
NDS4iOS also allows auto-save function, making it possible to save scum in more difficult games. You can also skip frames to speed up the gameplay. There are on-screen controls, but the NDS4iOS has controller support to give you better control over the game.
Users can even sync the emulator between their mobile device and the TV via AirPlay, allowing your iPhone or iPad to act as the bottom display of the Nintendo DS while the TV acts as the top display. together. Thanks to this feature, the emulator has fixed one of the major problems that the DS emulator has.
Unfortunately, NDS4iOS may not be available for a long time. iNDS has become more popular and has many of the same features, which has led many users to switch to newer emulators. If you want to try it out, you can download it from the NDS4iOS website.
Why are there so few DS emulators on iOS
Apple is extremely strict about the apps they allow on iOS, and the built-in security protocols are significantly harder to circumvent than on Android. While Android is a true paradise of emulators and classic gaming, iPhone is a much more extreme environment.
Developers have little incentive to create emulators for iOS as most require a jailbroken device to work. Even apps that pass the jailbreak requirement only work about half the time.
If you are determined to emulate Nintendo DS on iOS, it is completely possible, but it will not be easy. In many cases, you should buy a used DS from eBay. They are available for under $50 and you can then invest in a flash cart to store dozens of ROMS. That’s the easier option.
These three Nintendo DS emulators are the best choices for iOS. While other emulators still exist, most require an older iOS version and won’t work on the latest (14.3 at time of writing.)
Competition, for all intents and purposes, is illegal. While downloading and using an emulator itself doesn’t break any laws (and there’s precedent to suggest it’s legal), an emulator is useless without a ROM.
Downloading ROMs is against copyright law and is illegal. While it’s unlikely that a company will actively sue someone for emulating a game, there’s always a chance. Users should take this risk and know that they are breaking the law when downloading ROMS, with some rare exceptions such as open source games that are not officially licensed.