You'll soon be able to play SNES games on your iPhone

The emulators are coming

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
(Image credit: Future)
Quick Summary

Apple could soon allow retro game emulators on the App Store.

That comes as the latest update in their long-running antitrust saga.

Apple is relaxing one of the most long-standing restrictions it's had in place on the App Store, by allowing retro game emulators to be downloaded.

These apps should let players enjoy older games on Apple's capable new hardware, which has serious modern gaming chops and native versions of some big titles. 

Emulators haven't been allowed on iOS for years and years, making browser games the only real way to access such tools, with a lot of restrictions.

Apple detailed the change in its new App Review Guidelines document, and made a point of mentioning that the emulator apps will need to obey "all applicable laws".

This means that you probably shouldn't expect to see floods of apps that let you simply play any retro game you like, as ownership is a key part of the legality of emulating an older game.

So, it'll be very interesting to see what type of app pops up in response to this change, ranging from the official to the more sketchy, doubtless. How quickly these pop up will also be a variable. 

In theory, though, it means that you could be enjoying SNES, Sega Saturn or any another console's classics pretty soon on iPhone

Speculation abounds that this is part of Apple's response to the major antitrust lawsuit that was filed against Apple by the US Department of Justice a few weeks ago.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple has monopolies in the mobile sector, and one of the things it points to is the restrictions Apple has applied to some types of gaming – specifically cloud gaming. 

Since Apple has also eased the restriction on cloud gaming apps, it's clear that there's a broader attempt going on to make iOS more open to new gaming options.

There are more changes afoot, too - Apple has also just confirmed that in the EU – as a result of the Digital Markets Act – app developers will finally be allowed to point their app users to web links where they can subscribe to services or buy things without Apple taking a cut as an in-app purchase.

That had been the source of real angst between Apple and giants like Spotify, so is another major olive branch. 

Max Freeman-Mills

Max is a freelance writer with years of experience in tech and entertainment. He's also a gaming expert, both with the games themselves and in testing accessories and consoles, having flexed that expertise at Pocket-lint as a features editor. He has tested all manner of tech too, from headphones and speakers to apps and software.