How to enjoy retro Nintendo games on your iPad

How to enjoy retro Nintendo games on your iPad
Tony Hawk 1 for the N64 running on my iPad

The Delta game emulator was recently released for the iPhone and it's pretty great. But it takes some setting up to get it working best on an iPad, so I wanted to cover how to do that here, so others don't have to make the same mistakes I first did.

1: Download Delta from the App Store

I found various unofficial sites online still pushing people to jailbreak their phones to get the Delta app, but it's on the Apple App Store and is the only place you should download it:

2: Where do I find games for it?

There are a lot of options for where to track down ROMs but I found on my phone or iPad the easiest one was emulator games dot net. Jump into the NES, SNES, N64, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Gamecube, or Nintendo DS categories and look for a game you'd like to play.

It's not super comprehensive and there are probably emulation porting reasons for that, but all the NES and N64 games I played worked well and were fun. GameCube titles ran a bit choppy, controls were weird on GBA titles.

3: How to get them on your device

Download the game ROMs as their zip files to your device and save them into the Files app in your iCloud account (I threw all mine in my Downloads directory). Grab as many games as you want from any of the supported Nintendo platforms (ignore the Dreamcast and Playstation games, they won't work (yet?)).

4: How to add games to the Delta app

Tap the plus sign in the upper right, and select an import from your Files app on your phone or iPad. Surf to your downloads directory and you should see a bunch of nintendo zip files. Select all the game files you downloaded and then give the app a few seconds to add them all to your app. Boom!

You should see a screen for each emulated Nintendo platform with the games you uploaded in the correct one. Just swipe left and right to change video game platforms if you are looking for a specific downloaded game you wanted to play.

5: Pair a game controller with bluetooth

Playing with the onscreen "buttons" or via iPad keyboard isn't nearly as fun as using a real game controller. I bought an extra PlayStation 5 controller and put it into pairing mode (hold down PS button and create button until the lights begin blinking) then I paired the controller in the bluetooth settings of my iPad.

6: Set Delta to use your controller, then max out your screen output for iPads

This is kind of annoying, but every time you start the app, you need to jump into Delta's settings via the gear icon in the upper left, then set your Player 1 controls to use your connected gamepad. If I don't do this, it always defaults to my iPad keyboard as the primary controller.

Since Delta was written as an iPhone-only app, you have to maximize the app view and also change the aspect with the landscape button if you're playing it in landscape mode. Then your UI will look like the one above on your iPad, properly running as fullscreen as it can.

7: Play some games anywhere you want

Mario Kart 64 running on my iPad with a PS5 controller

Finally, you just tap the game icon of the title you want to play from the Delta menus and let it load up and hit start to play. When you're done with a game, hit the menu button on your controller to "escape out" of any game to try another.

I played Mario Kart for the N64 on a long airplane flight and it was pretty incredible and smooth and worked just like the old days when the console was new.

I've heard there are various emulators coming soon to the AppleTV, so that means that soon you'll be able to repeat this process to play games on your home TV, which is going to be even more amazing when all the bugs get worked out.