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Hands-on: The first PS1 emulator on the iPhone App Store is here

You might want to wait for controller support to be fixed before hopping aboard.

Published onMay 13, 2024

Formula 1 97 on Gamma emulator with game edited
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
  • The first PlayStation One emulator has arrived on the Apple App Store.
  • Gamma offers a barebones emulation experience, but it runs well enough.
  • The emulator does have in-app ads and somewhat questionable permissions, though.

Apple finally relented and allowed emulators on its App Store earlier this year. We’ve already covered the great Delta app for classic Nintendo consoles, but we’ve now got a PlayStation One (PS1) emulator.

Gamma is a full-blown PS1 emulator on the App Store for the iPhone and iPad (via r/iosgaming), allowing you to experience a wide variety of games released for Sony’s debut console.

The emulator comes from long-time iOS app developer Benjamin Stark (also known as ZodTDD). The app is based on the Delta emulator’s codebase (albeit with a PS1 core), but Delta developer Riley Testut told The Verge that Stark had his blessing to use this codebase.

Setting up Gamma for PS1

Getting started is generally easy, as you’re prompted to hit the “plus” icon to import ROMs from the Files app or iTunes/Finder. In saying so, I struggled to get my files off Google Drive for some reason  (the downloads refused to finish for some reason), while Safari annoyingly defaults to downloading files directly to iCloud. But these issues have nothing to do with Gamma itself.

Once you’ve got your ROMs loaded into the app, you’ll find the games listed on the home screen, complete with automatically retrieved cover art. The developer doesn’t explicitly note supported file types, but Redditors report that it doesn’t support the .chd file format. For what it’s worth, .bin and .img files worked just fine in my experience.

The app doesn’t specifically require a PS1 BIOS to run games, although the developer does offer an option to import one to improve compatibility. So you might want to grab a BIOS from your own console if you’re having trouble running specific titles.

Gamma touts Bluetooth/wired/MFi controller support too, but users on Reddit and Twitter have found that the app crashes when using gamepads. Fingers crossed that this issue gets fixed soon, but you might want to play slower-paced games (e.g. RPGs) for now if you absolutely can’t wait for controller support.

It’s also worth noting that Gamma does ask for location and data tracking permissions. It shows some obnoxious ads before starting games too, and occasionally before loading a saved state. Unfortunately, there’s no visible in-app purchase option to get rid of them.

What’s it like to play Gamma on an iPhone?

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 PS1 Gamma emulator edited
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

I tried several PS1 titles on Gamma, namely Dragon Ball Final Bout, Formula 1 97, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. The good news is that these all ran at a playable pace (I used a BIOS). The app supports save-states too, which is expected on virtually all emulators today, but we’ve also got automatic saved states much like Delta.

Unlike PS1 emulators on other platforms, Gamma doesn’t offer much in the way of settings to play with. By comparison, DuckStation for Android lets you scale the resolution by up to an absurd 16x, offers widescreen hacks, and even includes a toggle to reduce the classic PS1 texture warping. These options are missed as texture warping/wobbling and low-resolution visuals are readily apparent here. 

Between the lack of options, the tracker/location permissions, and the full-screen ads, there’s definitely room for Gamma to improve. We’re also hoping controller support gets fixed soon. Then again, it’s not like you’ve got another choice for your iPhone or iPad at the moment, although the acclaimed Retroarch emulator has reportedly been submitted for approval. Still, the developer is a veteran of iOS app development, so we’re hopeful that the emulator will meaningfully improve over time. But if you’ve got access to an Android phone or tablet and want quality PS1 emulation right now, you’re better off with DuckStation or ePSXe.

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