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Hands-on with Delta: The first Nintendo emulator available on the Apple App Store

Is this the first good console emulator on the App Store? Here's what to expect.

Published onApril 18, 2024

Delta for iOS emulator with N64 cartridges on table
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
  • The Delta app has just arrived on the Apple App Store.
  • This is one of the first console emulators on Apple’s app market.
  • Our first impressions reveal it’s a pretty solid app, although it could do with a few more features.

It’s only taken Apple well over a decade, but the company finally allowed video game emulators on the App Store this month. This means the iPhone maker is catching up to Android by offering easy access to emulators.

It didn’t take long for developers to bring the first emulators to the App Store, and arguably the most high-profile (and legitimate) addition so far is the Delta app. The brainchild of the popular GBA4iOS app, Delta emulates NES, SNES, N64, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and the Nintendo DS. The app was first released roughly five years ago and required users to sideload it, but the App Store availability means it’s finally available for all.

Setting things up

The new app has relatively lax requirements, only requiring an iOS device running iOS 14 or later. That means all iPhone SE models and the iPhone 6s series or later can run the emulator. It’s also worth noting that the emulator has no egregious permissions (only requiring access to Siri and Search and the ability to store data on the phone or in iCloud). According to the listing, the emulator doesn’t collect your data either, and there are no in-app ads here.

Setting up Delta is pretty simple once downloaded from the App Store. You’ll need to transfer your game ROMs via iTunes or the Files app. I transferred a few ROMs to the emulator by first uploading them to Google Drive and then downloading them to the Files app.

The transfer process isn’t nearly as simple or fast as on Android phones, where you can just transfer your files by plugging your phone into a PC, but this method gets the job done just fine. At least newer iPhones come with USB-C, allowing you to copy over ROMs from a flash drive or external drive. 

You’ll also need Nintendo DS firmware files to run the DS emulator (which uses the MelonDS core). You’ll need to grab them from your own DS and transfer them to Delta via the Files app. But the other emulated consoles don’t require extra firmware files, allowing you to play games from the get-go.

Games get added to the app’s main screens, and there is a screen for each console’s games rather than one screen for all ROMs regardless of console.

What about actually playing games?

Delta for iOS emulator playing GBA game
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

Getting started is easy: Tap the desired game to get up and running. Delta defaults to touchscreen controls (with different skins on offer), but you can also use a Bluetooth controller if that tickles your fancy. We’d definitely recommend this option for the N64 titles or any games requiring precise/fast inputs.

The app specifically supports Nintendo Switch controllers, the Nintendo Switch retro controllers, PS4/PS5 gamepads, Xbox One S and Series controllers, MFi controllers, and Bluetooth/wired keyboards. And I found that my Xbox One S gamepad worked just fine, with no need to remap buttons out of the gate (although the option is there anyway).

I only tried about half a dozen Nintendo 64 and GBA games so far, and performance in compatible games seemed smooth enough. Just don’t expect games that ran poorly on the N64, like Perfect Dark, to run at a much smoother pace here. I also noticed some visual glitches in a couple of games, namely Conker’s Bad Fur Day and F1 World Grand Prix. World Driver Championship failed to actually run too, although this likely is a game-specific issue as it’s demanding on other emulators too.

There isn’t an FPS (frames-per-second) counter, though, and those expecting a resolution scaler for sharper visuals will be disappointed too. There’s no filter for GBA or NES/SNES titles, either. So, you might want to wait for console-specific emulators if you want to tinker with settings. But there are a few extras worth knowing, such as Delta Sync to import your save data from other devices, local multiplayer support, save states (both manual and automatic), and AirPlay support.

Is Delta worth a shot?

Delta for iOS with Xbox controller
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

It’s clear that we’re still in the very early days of emulators on the Apple App Store, but Delta is definitely as close as we’ve got to a RetroArch-style experience on the platform. That is, an (almost) all-in-one app capable of running games from multiple consoles.

Delta is a winner by default, really, owing to it being the first Nintendo emulator on the App Store. But it still compares favorably to emulators on Android.

The app only supports Nintendo games up to and including the N64 for now, though. However, the developer noted that more consoles are coming. Furthermore, a reference in the app points to Sega Mega Drive support. So fans of classic Sega games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, and Golden Axe should keep an eye on this development.

It’s also worth reiterating the somewhat barebones nature of this emulator compared to rival emulators that give you loads of options. However, the major features that actually matter are present and accounted for, such as controller support and save states, making it well worth a look.

In the meantime, you can download Delta for free from the App Store by clicking the button below. The one downside is that EU users will have to download it via the AltStore alternative app market.

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