It doesn't look like GameCube and Wii emulators are coming to the App Store

A close view of the Nintendo Wii console
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In the last week, the iOS world has shifted. Retro game emulators have started launching and actually sticking around thanks to an Apple policy change. 

The launch and subsequent success of the Delta emulator have led people to wonder whether the beloved GameCube and Wii emulator DolphiniOS (a popular fork of Dolphin) could make its way to Apple's mobile platform. Unfortunately, according to the app's developer (via 9To5Mac), it doesn't look like it will happen. 

"Apple still does not allow us to use a vital technology that is necessary for Dolphin to run with good performance: JIT," said the developer in a blog post.

The developer continued, "The GameCube and Wii have a PowerPC-based CPU inside them. All modern Apple devices use an ARM-based CPU. It isn't possible to directly run PowerPC code on an ARM CPU, and vice versa. Therefore, if we want to run a GameCube or Wii game on an iPhone, it is necessary to translate the game's PowerPC code to ARM so that the CPU can understand it." 

Just-in-Time (JIT) is required to get around the PowerPC-based to ARM-based CPU translation. Without it, it appears to be impossible to run DolphiniOS. Unless another developer can come up with a miraculous solution, it's unlikely that we'll see other GameCube or Wii emulators make their way to the App Store. 

"Dolphin uses something called a Just-in-Time (JIT) recompiler to achieve this. Whenever the emulated console wants to run game code, Dolphin will use its JIT to translate the PowerPC code to ARM, and then execute the results," explained the developer.

It's not due to a lack of effort on the DolphiniOS team, either. "We submitted a DMA interoperability request to Apple for JIT support, but Apple denied the request a few weeks ago," said the team regarding its attempt to get access to JIT support.

At this point, without direct comment from Apple, it's hard to know why the company doesn't allow JIT. "It's possible that they consider it to be a security risk," said the DolphiniOS developer.

The developer did acknowledge that it is technically possible to run DolphiniOS without JIT, thanks to an interpreter that runs the PowerPC code. However, performance suffers substantially. In fact, the performance is so bad that the games are almost unplayable, even on a top-of-the-line iPhone 15 Pro Max, as shown in the videos below.

"While we could submit DolphiniOS to the App Store with just the interpreter, we would likely get endless complaints from users about the poor performance. App Review might also just reject us anyway because the app is unusable," said the developer to round out the blog post, killing the hopes of GameCube and Wii fans everywhere.

Another potential issue could come from Apple's requirement that the emulators on the App Store be considered retro. You could argue that the GameCube is a retro console, but saying the Wii, which came out in 2006, is retro would be a stretch.

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Dave LeClair
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Dave LeClair is the Senior News Editor for Tom's Guide, keeping his finger on the pulse of all things technology. He loves taking the complicated happenings in the tech world and explaining why they matter. Whether Apple is announcing the next big thing in the mobile space or a small startup advancing generative AI, Dave will apply his experience to help you figure out what's happening and why it's relevant to your life.