photo (1)If you want to run emulators on your iPhone (or iPad), you've basically got two options: Use this crazy workaround which involves rolling the date of your device back to 2012 and installing old, previously signed emulators. Alternatively, you can just bite the bullet and jailbreak and install any number of emulators that people are actively developing on Cydia. Well, as of this weekend there's a third option. Like the previous two solutions, the third isn't very ideal either, but if you want to play NES games on your iPhone, it's worth checking out.

Thanks to a new open source web app webNES, you can now play NES games on iOS devices without jailbreaking or installing anything. It runs a little slow, even on my iPhone 5s, and sound only works through headphones, but the fact remains: It works.

Here's what you need to do to play any NES ROM:

  • Load up webNES on your iOS device.
  • Optionally, hit the center up arrow icon in the bottom of Safari and add it to your home screen if you want it to behave a bit more like an iOS app.
  • From there, you can play a number of pre-loaded non-Nintendo games just to experiment with how it works.
  • Sign up for Dropbox, if you haven't already, and then install the Dropbox client on your computer.
  • Put .nes ROM files (not zipped ROM files) anywhere you want on your Dropbox, as long as you remember where they are.
  • Go back to webNES, hit the "+" icon in the top right corner, log in to Dropbox, and navigate to where you stored your .nes files.
  • Tap the .nes file you want to play, tap "Choose", and you're ready to roll.
  • Go back to webNES and your game will be there that you can tap to play.

As you can see in the above screenshot, webNES can be played in portrait mode with virtual controls below the game. Alternatively, you can play in landscape mode with controls over the game itself. Considering NES games weren't at all made with the idea that 2/3 of the screen might be covered by your fingers, portrait is definitely the way to go.

photo (2)

Even though webNES isn't an ideal solution for playing NES games, it has one massive benefit over the other ways to play emulated games on iOS devices: It doesn't require jailbreaking, and running in the browser it can never be removed from the App Store by Apple like the previous emulators that have sneaked through the approval process. Also, being an open source project available on github, chances are it'll only get better as it gets more popular and more people get involved in the project.

  • Alexythimia23

    Good news for people who want a bit of nostalgia, i used to have a nintendo, but just could not play the games available now as they are too inferior to where we are now, as games like the ones on the nes are a dime a dozen. Im not bashing it but for me playing old games like this does nothing for me, now if we got more xbox and playstation ports im in all the way, but this aint for me. Anybody else out there that goes put there way to play these games? Is it something thats been wanted by gamers on ios?

    • curtisrshideler

      Yup, I want it. I'd rather install an NES emulator like the GBA4ios one where you roll the date back to 2012. Night end up jail breaking again. But it'd be great to not have to every time I update the ios. I love the old NES games because I grew up on them. And I really want them on my phone. So I may have to give this a go since Nintendo doesn't want to allow me to pay for them on my phone.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Emulators on iOS are ridiculously popular, and articles to do with them are consistently among our hottest stories.

      • JindoFox

        This is neat as a proof of concept. However, there are other, better ways to play NES games, especially with hard buttons, which is a lot more fun-- Ouya, Retron, Dingoo, Nvidia Shield, 3DS, GBA, or ...NES.

        I would think that anyone old enough to care about NES games would have the wherewithal to get one of these other methods.

      • Eli Hodapp

        I own most of the things you listed, but can you guess how many of them I have with me in my pocket? πŸ™‚

      • shieldser99

        Will Moga Ace or Powershell be able to pick up emulators?

      • JindoFox

        Yeah yeah, the best device is the one you have with you, but if you really want to follow that logic, the best games to play on the device with you are the ones that work best on the platform. I'd rather play something optimized for touch than struggle against the controls.

        Besides, I couldn't get the page to recognize my Dropbox password (I have 2-step authentication set up) and can't be bothered to work around the details.

        Are retro sour grapes raisins?

      • Themostunclean

        Agreed. I'd much rather load an emulator on my PC with real buttons. Having them on a touch screen device is only good for one thing- seeing how cool it is to see a NES/GBA/SNES game on your iPhone. That cool factor soon wears off when you realize the play experience is downright awful with touch controls. Especially for games that require multiple input.

      • Alexythimia23

        Quite surprising, im 33 yrs old so i grew up with all the consoles, games, and had some great memories from them, but sadly it seems so bland now which is why i was curious if this was something old school gamers wanted? Good news for the non jailbreaking crowd, im sure in the near future they will tweak it to what it needs to be..

    • VibrantMidwest

      I would guess most emulators go mostly unplayed (that is, they're fooled around with a little, but not played to the end) but they're fired up occasionally for a little nostalgia. Much like watching an old episode of Saved By The Bell, yeah, it's kinda dumb and you could do better but it gives you a momentary feeling of being a kid again.

      • NinjaKitteh

        I actually play emulators semi-religiously. I have a netbook specifically set up for emulators all the way up to the PSX. I just finished Zelda: Link's Awakening DX for my annual playthrough this weekend on VBA-M. A lot of older games did have flawed gameplay designs as others have mentioned, but there are a ton of really good and engaging games from the past. In fact, people love when I bust out my emus and play co-op games because you don't really see those nearly as much as you did in the pre-32 bit era of gaming. Though I wouldn't want to play any of these older games on a touchscreen, even if they were on my phone, in my pocket.

  • shdwstar2417

    I'll stick with my Jailbreak thank you much .

  • master333

    Choose button doesn't work so can't get any good games to work?

  • webman2k

    It absolutely can be removed with a little safari update.

    • xx99

      It can't be removed "from the App Store". Also, Apple has no incentive to update Safari just to block a single website.

    • Wizard_Mike

      Apple wouldn't waste the time to update safari to block this, because it would just create more incentive for people to use other browsers.

  • OneBagTravel

    I can think of a million better things to be doing than playing NES games on touch controls.

    • jcflyingblade

      ...fighting world poverty, curing cancer - but still no web app for those!

      • Leydz Boomshaka-Irwin

        Google "Play to Cure : Genes in Space" πŸ˜‰

  • thiagovscoelho

    No sound?

    • Jacob Gehman

      Re-read the second paragraph?

      • thiagovscoelho


  • ikari_paul2_FU_Eli

    This is great news... at least it might prevent people from Jailbreaking their devices just to play a NES game or two

  • Devok

    Wonder what apple has to say about this? I guess they would approve this anyway.

    • Wizard of Odyssey

      They don't need to approve web apps.

  • Tomate DiseΓ±o

    I no longer see the point of emulation. Not once have I found the ersatz experience close to the original. The satisfying clicks and crunches of a well worn a d-pad or 8 way digital joystick with big red buttons, the stuff around the games made the experiences worth remembering, not just pixels on the screen.

    I've owned almost every variant of Robotron available since the arcade game and none are equal to shovelling ten pences into a cabinet and battling with those dual joystick controls.

    • AppStoreNinja

      I've got an arcade cabinet in my house, pedestal type with a mall mounted tv (from recroommasters). It's got sticks, enough buttons to play any/all games, side buttons for pinball, a trackball for bowling like games and inside the cab is an old computer running everything. It runs like a dream and my kids love it.

    • Darkenroll

      It depends a lot on the emulator, system, and the game. I've found that the ability to upscale resolution, change speed, and sometimes even savestate can lead to a more enjoyable experience with games I've already played in their original form.

  • Kane

    Remote files was an app in the AppStore which worked like this before it was pulled, ecept it plays SNES without showdown, it included sound..

    • ikari_uncensored

      shame it doesnt feature icade support, though πŸ˜›

  • reminiz

    Best way to play these nostalgic games, Gameboy micro with EZ Flash IV sd card.. Load up all your NES and SNES, even SMS games.. So damn good πŸ™‚ (of course for SNES you miss out on those two extra buttons, Nintendo released a lot of Old SNES games as Advanced games configured for these 4 button controls)..

  • Alan Baldwin

    I thought about doing something along these lines - I'm glad someone with more time on their hands managed to do it for real. I might try to contribute to it by trying to make this offline with ROMs embedded in jpeg metadata. I'm also curious if Chrome for iOS (or the next version of Safari) will have the HTML5 gamepad api built in for iOS7 controllers - then a real controller would work on it and it'd be even more awesome.

  • bernanke

    Super Spike V-Ball!!!!! Still the best volleyball game in existence!

  • camo


  • H4nd0fg0d

    Still nowhere near as smooth as a jailbreak emulator.

  • 5hift

    So this gets a mention yet GBA4iOS doesn't?

    • Kugiro

      They mentioned it long ago good sir.

      • 5hift

        It's on the verge of release. Souls be the talk of the town by now.

      • 5hift

        Should* my bad.

  • Ben Jacobs

    ...or you could just get an android

  • curtneedsaride

    This does not work for me. I open webnes, open dropbox within it, direct it to a ROM.nes tap on it, tap on "choose", and NOTHING happens. Once, it made my screen go black and I had to do a hard reset after 30 minutes of waiting. In your article, you say "Tap the .nes file you want to play, tap "Choose", and you're ready to roll. Go back to webNES and your game will be there that you can tap to play." But I don't know how to "Go back to webNES." Is there a button I'm missing?

    • curtneedsaride

      Found the problem! I had added webNES to my homepage. Evidentally, when you do that and go to dropbox WITHIN the "app" it won't let you go back to the webNES menu. But if you do it within your Safari browser, you can "go back" to the webNES in another tab. So, you just can't load it from the homescreen... at least in my experiences.

      • curtneedsaride

        But now the ROM's screen just goes black. Man, Samus really doesn't want to be on my phone!

      • curtneedsaride

        Screw it. I can't get any of the ROMs.nes files to work. They all go to a black screen, even if they show the title at first. Definitely needs some work before it will actually WORK.

  • Deez_Nutz

    Where can I get the roms

    • Azad Singh

      Google lolz