The Dolphin Emulator isn’t coming to iOS App Store – Here’s why

A strange rule is preventing the Dolphin emulator from coming to the iOS App Store

Earlier this month, Apple changed their app store rules to allow retro game emulators onto their iOS platform. Being one of the most popular emulators available, many fans were excited to see the Dolphin Wii/GameCube emulator come to the iOS App Store. Sadly, this isn’t happening, and you can thank Apple’s strange rules.

The Dolphin Emulator is a software tool that allows gamers to run Wii and GameCube software on other hardware. This includes PCs, macs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. A vital part of this software is the recompiler that is used to translate PowerPC code to something that other PCs can work with. For ARM-based CPUs, the JIT recompiler is vital for achieving playable levels of performance using the Dolphin emulator. Unfortunately, it is this exact compiler that Apple doesn’t want software to use on iOS.

Right now, the Dolphin emulator can be used to play over 97% of Wii and GameCube games. This makes the vast majority of the console’s library playable on non-Nintendo hardware. Better still, this emulator can be used to play these games at higher framerates and resolutions, making emulation the best way to play many classic Nintendo titles.

JIT matters

While the Dolphin emulator technically works without JIT, it runs too slowly to be usable. The videos above and below showcase Mario Kart running with and without JIT on iOS. As you can see, only the version with JIT is playable. These clips were recorded using an iPhone 15 Pro Max. This is the newest/fastest iPhone available.

Unless Apple loosens their restrictions on JIT, a usable version of Dolphin cannot be released on iOS.

Dolphin isn’t coming to the iOS App Store anytime soon

Unless Apple changes their rules, there is no way that Dolphin can launch on the Apple app store. Yes, a JIT-free version could be released, but it wouldn’t be performant enough to be usable. What’s the point in releasing an emulator that doesn’t run fast enough to be usable? As such, we don’t expect an official version of Dolphin on the Apple App Store anytime soon.

You can join the discussion on why the Dolphin Emulator isn’t coming to iOS on the OC3D Forums.

Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell

A Northern Irish father, husband, and techie that works to turn tea and coffee into articles when he isn’t painting his extensive minis collection or using things to make other things.

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