iPhone and iPad now support emulators, so here are some excellent iOS controllers.

Calvin D

Apple has just provided a compelling reason for iPhone, iPad, and Vision Pro users to pair their devices with a gaming controller. As I delved into a session of Mario vs. Donkey Kong on my Vision Pro yesterday—playing through the visionOS testflight iteration of developer Riley Testut's GBA4iOS and using an official Nintendo NES controller designed for the Switch—I pondered over Apple's reluctance to host emulators on its App Store. This contemplation was cut short by the unexpected but welcome news: Apple had decided to permit emulators across its global digital marketplace.

The specifics of how emulators will function on the iPhone remain unclear. However, Apple's decision is poised to heighten the App Store's competitiveness with alternative digital storefronts, especially within the European Union. Assuming this move will allow users to play games from the original consoles emulated, it stands to be a significant win for enthusiasts of retro gaming. The appeal of devices like the Steam Deck and the Switch cannot be underestimated, but the increased size of modern portable consoles has somewhat compromised their portability.

Reflecting on handheld gaming designs, the Game Boy Advance SP, with its clamshell design, and the Nintendo DS Lite rank as exceptional examples of ergonomic and compact gaming devices. The Verge's Andrew Webster echoed a similar sentiment in a nostalgic piece about the PlayStation Vita. Yet, iPhones lack physical face buttons, and their virtual counterparts often fall short in scenarios necessitating quick reflexes. Thankfully, iPhone users have a variety of controller options at their disposal.

The Backbone One controller, for instance, offers an ideal solution by attaching directly to the iPhone in landscape mode, mimicking the Switch Joy-Cons’ functionality. It connects through either Lightning or USB-C, eliminating the need for Bluetooth pairing. This direct connection is both convenient and efficient, though considerations such as the iPhone 14's compatibility and the device's prominent camera bump have prompted the production of specialized adapters. Other noteworthy controller options include those from Xbox and PlayStation, which, though less portable, excel in handling games that benefit from analog triggers, such as F-Zero GX and Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.

Moreover, the 8BitDo Pro 2 controller presents another excellent choice, praised for its superior performance compared to the standard Switch Pro controller and its appealing SNES design. While iPhone’s status as a mobile gaming giant is undisputed, the introduction of emulators to the App Store could revolutionize its potential as a handheld gaming platform, spurred by regulatory pressures in the United States and the European Union.