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James Bentley

This App Store alternative could make the iPhone the ultimate emulation smartphone (and it even has Apple’s blessing)

Pips and Pixels Delta.
Pips and Pixels
(Image credit: Future)

Pips and Pixels is a new column from James Bentley, iMore's resident gaming expert, discussing all things gaming in the Apple ecosystem. Pips and Pixels explores the latest news, accessories, and titles you might have missed out on, and brings you commentary from the leading developers in the app market. As recent advancements in the Apple Silicon M processors and the brand new A17 Bionic chip show, Apple is becoming more serious about gaming. James looks to the rest of the games industry to see what could be next for Apple gamers.

The iPhone is an incredible gaming device. When you work your way up to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the best iPhone right now, you have even more power at your fingertips than we’ve ever seen in an Apple mobile device before. However, newer isn’t always better and a resurgence in the desire to play older games proves that. 

Do you wish you could play more retro games on the go but don’t want to buy a dedicated device like the Analogue Pocket? A retro video game emulator is launching on an alternative to the App Store in the EU and Apple has even signed off on it. And if you don’t live in the EU, the App Store will finally start accepting game emulators but with one small caveat

We also got word this week that one of the best indie games of 2019 would be making its way to Apple Arcade, giving me an excuse to replay a game that really got its hooks into me a few years ago. Finally, if you’re looking to play video games on Apple Vision Pro, one of our favorite controller companies has added support for Apple’s spatial headset. 

Read on for the rundown.

This week's Apple gaming news

1. Apple just opened up the App Store to game emulators, but there’s a catch

In an effort to stop customers from going to outside sources like alternative app stores, Apple is finally allowing game emulators on its official App Store. However, Apple has to vet those apps and the app providers are responsible for the software it offers and will be held liable to “all applicable laws”

In the EU, the Delta gaming emulator will be distributed through Alt Store, an App Store alternative. As shared by Riley Testut, the app’s developer, the official Delta application was accepted for distribution by Apple, meaning an Apple representative went through the app and decided it could be supported for publishing. 

This means iPhone users will be able to easily emulate games from the NES all the way up to the Nintendo DS. Perhaps the best part of using Delta is that it has support for external controls, with Bluetooth keyboard support, has custom button mapping and support for the best controllers for iPhone. If you want to play retro games on your mobile device, this will become the best way to do so. 

2. An indie game of the year contender headlines Apple Arcade for May — Sonic Dream Team, Game Room, and Hello Kitty Island Adventure major updates also planned

Dicey Dungeons+ will be coming to Apple Arcade on May 2. It’s a roguelike deck-building game all based around dice. Each turn, dice are rolled and you can play them on cards you assign to your character, effectively making your loadout. There’s an element of luck to it, thanks to those rolls, that you have to account for as you create your build. With six central characters, all more difficult than the last, you must take on Lady Luck, who has transformed you into a walking dice and thrown you into a twisted game show. It’s very fun and is sure to be one of the best Apple Arcade games when it launches. 

3. Some of our favorite 8BitDo iOS game controllers just added support for Apple Vision Pro

We here at iMore are big fans of 8BitDo controllers. As recently announced, controllers like the wonderful 8BitDo Ultimate, 8BitDo Pro 2, and 8BitDo Lite 2 now have Apple Vision Pro support, making them perfect to play Apple Arcade with on that big virtual screen. Not only is this news exciting in itself but it’s a sign of further investment into Apple Vision Pro gaming. 8BitDo is one of the more renowned controller manufacturers and, if other companies see it committing to Apple Vision Pro support, they might follow. 

With users getting more Apple Vision Pro spatial games every few weeks now, we can’t wait to see what the game lineup will look like in just a few months. 

Gaming news from our friends

Baldur’s Gate 3 publishing director says the CRPG’s latest players’ choice win is proof that a “developer is not a dispensable asset” — GamesRadar

Baldur’s Gate is one of the best Mac games right now — a fantastic rendition of one of the best games of the last few years. It’s a huge sprawling choice-driven RPG with characters at the heart of it so it makes sense that the creators of the game care very much about developers.  

Michael Souse, the publishing director claims that its win for players’ choice at the BAFTA Game Awards, and the praise for the game in general, is a “testimony to the fact that a developer is not a dispensable asset.” 

Slay the Spire 2 is happening because fans went “the extra mile” for the original roguelike deck builder: “We love our job” — GamesRadar

Slay the Spire is one of my favorite roguelike games ever and is playable via a native Mac Steam port or as part of Apple Arcade. It’s a wonderful title that you have no excuse not to play. With a sequel announced at the Triple-i showcase, the developers announced that it only exists because of how much support the fans have given it over the last few years. 

Holding the acclaimed “Overwhelmingly Positive” review score on Steam with over 130,977 reviews, it is a huge hit that has managed to inspire many roguelikes since its launch in 2019. Slay the Spire 2 will be launching into early access in 2025, and we hope a Mac port comes right after. 

Calendar: April's Big Game Releases

(Image credit: Wales Interactive)
  • Sker Ritual finally launches out of early access into its 1.0 release on April 18. I played this game on day one of its early access release and quite enjoyed it. A Call of Duty Zombies-like experience, it's a multiplayer round-based shooter where players take on zombies, earn points from successful shots, and use those points to buy new weapons and open doors to get to other parts of the map. It's a simple loop but very fun. Though not natively available on Mac yet, it may work with Parallels Windows emulation. 
  • No Rest for the Wicked is a brand new action RPG from the creators of the Ori franchise. Like Ori, it has a great aesthetic but it's very different in almost every other way. Set in the year 841, you play the role of Cerim, a holy warrior who aims to fight an unholy plague that has returned to their land. Taking from the likes of Diablo, it looks hectic, brutal, and very interesting. 

Level Up — Gaming accessories on our radar

The 8BitDo Ultimate is one of the best controllers for Mac right now, thanks to fantastic buttons, great connectivity, and an excellent battery life. It helps that it also looks rather great. That it now works with Vision Pro just seals the deal.

Hitting the Arcade — What to play on Apple Arcade

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Arcade is filled with tons of exclusive experiences and fantastic games. However, with so many out there, it can be hard to decide what to play. Here are a few choices I've been testing out this week:

As Dicey Dungeons isn’t out on Apple Arcade just yet, I’ve been testing it once again on Steam, which does have a great Mac port. It’s a surprisingly complex game that adds a lot to the roguelike card builder genre whilst relying on ideas that make its competitors just so good. Despite launching five years ago, there’s nothing out there quite like it. 

A new update is also on the way for Outlanders soon, a cute town-builder where you have to build a camp for a town of little villagers. Playing as the leader, you have to place huts, outposts, and buildings next to the right resource tile to keep your city growing as big as it can get. I’ve been testing it out just before the next update and I can’t wait to see what is next.

Have you played any great games this week or seen some interesting Apple gaming news we've missed? Let us know in the comments!

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