Guide to GBA4ios: Game Boy emulator 2017

July 10, 2017 5:57 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Pokemon, SuperMario, Need for Speed, Mortal Kombat, Naruto and Dragon Ball Z are just few of the games us millenials have grown up playing on our Nintendo devices. Be it the Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color or the Original Game Boy, these are games which we have loved and obsessed over throughout our childhood, and for some even when they’re adults! However considering we now live in 2017, with the change of trends in technology, we’ve shifted from these handheld game consoles to Apple-lead consumer electronics like the iPhone and the iPad.

A blast to the past! All the Ninetendo Game Boy games we enjoyed.But the company, which has left its mark as the largest videogame company, did not stop when faced with some competition. In fact, it launched the GBA4IOS which is a Game Boy emulator for iOS in brief. Created by developer Riley Testut and graphic designer Paul Thorsen two years ago, released the successful emulator app, and this is your guide to it. In the following article we would be celebrating the app’s second year anniversary, which it marked in 2017 by covering what exactly the GBA4ios is, the secret behind the Gam Boy emulator’s success, how to download the app and how the app works.


Twenty-five years ago today, the Game Boy was born. With it came a wide array of exciting new games—including the first of many incredible Pokemon games—and the ability to play them wherever you were, because the system was small enough to fit in your pocket. Now, twenty-five years later, the gaming landscape has changed dramatically. Not only has Nintendo’s own products evolved to essentially science-fiction levels of sophistication by 1989 standards, but other companies have found themselves achieving tremendous success in the video game market, even those who originally had no intention of competing, and Apple is one of them. I’m sure no one predicted that a mobile phone could disrupt the portable video game market as much as it did, but today it’s becoming more and more difficult to develop a game for dedicated game consoles when people are choosing to pay only a couple of bucks for a game on a device they already have with them at all times.

However, these classic Nintendo games still hold a place in many of our hearts, if only for the nostalgia we get from playing them and the countless hours spent trying to perfect our skills. It was because of this that Testut and Thorsen set out to develop the best Game Boy emulator for iOS, and with the release of GBA4iOS 2.0

But, the readers for this article should know that this isn’t the first time that an emulator for iOS was released; in fact iOS has a rich history of emulators finding their way to perform on the platform. However, because of Apple’s somewhat strict (or, as some might say, limiting) guidelines, these apps never had a chance of being approved for the App Store. Considering that such guidelines would limit the potential consumer base for an app that emulates the Game Boy, some would turn to jailbreak to install the apps. But keeping the psychology of the masses in mind, a very few would resort to jailbreaking for such a minute gain.

Sigh, if only there was a way to install apps not allowed in the App Store without having to jailbreak a device first. Such a dilemma is a contributing factor for the success of GBA4ios, especially with the tech savvy 2017 generation. GBA4ios found so much success despite not being the first (or even necessarily the best) Game Boy Advance emulator for iOS, and this was because it was a jailbreak app, but for non-jailbroken devices! But, how is al of this possible when one has to play safe and not break the rules? The answer is simples.

GBA4ios broke the rules:

Apple iOS distributes any app through not one but three official ways;

  1. Apple manually reviews the app.
  2. AdHoc Distributions pre-releases the app to 100 registered devices.
  3. Enterprise Program which distributes the app internally to as many devices as one wishes to do so.

So what did Testut and Thorsen do when it came to GBA4ios? Because Apple would never allow GBA4iOS into the App Store, and because they knew 100 devices wasn’t nearly enough, they opted for the third option. Of course, they always knew at any time Apple could shut down distribution of GBA4iOS by revoking their signing certificate (all apps on iOS have to be “signed” in a secure manner in order to be run to prevent malicious apps from being installed), but they decided, for old times sake, that it would be worth it, so that people could enjoy playing their old Game Boy games on their iPhones and iPads, even if it was just for a little while apprehended it to be it for.


But no one anticipated the success of the GBA4ios on the app store, in fact at first it was relatively obscure (considering that for the creators it was just a hobby app for which they did zero marketing). But soon enough, people started finding out about it and within a month of its release it was making headlines. But breaking the rules comes with a price, which is why the moment the app peaked its popularity, Apple got aware and which is why it revoked Testut’s and Thorsen’s signing certificate, and GBA4ios was dead Or so the creators thought it to be.

Now, let us pause the past and GBA4ios success’s story and resume to the present where, for instance, you were to download the app. The app has seen a lot of changes, it has been redesigned, rewritten, updated and even modified for different versions of the iOS. However when it comes to downloading the app on the app store, one thing remains the same. What is being referred to here is the crucial step one has to do before downloading the app, that is going to settings on your Apple device, then to general and finally onto date and time, in order to set the date back at least one day in the past. Once GBA4iOS has downloaded, the date can be set back to normal.

A peek into the Date Trick

But why is the user to follow such steps? The answer lies in the past, the success story of the app. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that people who want to play Game Boy games on their phones will try almost anything to accomplish this goal. And sure enough, one crazy enough idea turned out to work, which is named as the “Date Trick” that the above paragraph refers to. After using the Date Trick, it was discovered that by setting the date of the device back a day, certain security checks in launching GBA4iOS would fail, and allow it to be installed. It seemed like such a crazy idea, but it worked, and that’s all that mattered to the success of the app.

[NOTE: The Date Trick does NOT work for Apple devices updated for iOS 10 and further. The creators are currently working towards a solution for this problem]

Now, downloading and installing the emulator is free, and there are copies of any game you could imagine available online. The GBA4iOS installation process on iOS is straightforward, and only requires you to change the date on your device. It will work on iOS 9.3.1, 9.3.2, 9.3.3, 9.3.4, and 9.3.5.

How To Download Games By Using GBA4IOS

The article till now has covered the steps involved in downloading the app. The following paragraph would be your guide to downloading games on your device, which could be operated on the app. Following are the steps broken down:

  1. Open Safari on your Apple device.
  2. Visit a ROM site (e.g.;,,
  3. Open the Game Boy Advance section on the site, where you can browse through all the games that are available for downloading.
  4. Find the game you want to download and start the downloading process by looking for the links that say “Direct Download (do not be fooled by any other links)
  5. Once downloaded, tap the “Open in..” button and select GBA4iOS from the menu.
  6. Tap the game on the app so that it can be loaded and start playing!

Shifting from discussing the apps success to how it can be downloaded on your Apple device, we now talk about its features.

If you’ve been using the app prior to reading this article, and that too regularly, the first thing you’ll notice about the app is how completely different it looks. GBA4iOS 2.0 was designed from the ground up for iOS 7, with the goal of making everything not only look better, but simpler to use. However, looks aren’t the only things that changed; 2.0 brings with it a slew of new features, such as Sustain Button, Controller Vibration, and the ability to play your own music during games. Finally, 2.0 has been fully optimized for iPads, giving Apple’s tablet a first class emulation experience.

To make the app consumer friendly, customizability is key, which is what the creators have improved upon. GBA4iOS 2.0 comes with a set of beautiful controller skins for both Game Boy Advance and Game Boy (Color) games. However, with thousands of games available to play, the creators wanted to give users just as many options for the skins they use to play the games with. Unlike previous versions of GBA4iOS, 2.0 has the ability to use an unlimited number of 3rd party controller skins. Want to have a Mario skin when you rescue the princess, or a Pokemon skin while you catch them all? With customizable controller skins, the possibilities are endless.

Just a few of the hundred skins the app offers

To conclude with, the article has summed up somewhat of a brief guide for GBA4ios and makes us realize that this app is an ode to all the games we fantasized about and played through out our childhood. The groundbreaking app not only lets us relive those times, but helps us venture onto the last level (and the most tough) of SuperMario Bros!


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This post was written by 795MBTOV

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