Game Play Puts Game Boy Games on iPhone 5 Without Jailbreaking

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Have you ever longed for the days of your childhood you spent with your eyes glued to the black and grey screen of the Nintendo Game Boy?  Did you pride yourself on beating Super Mario Land?  I know I did.  I don’t know how many countless AA batteries I drained with that handheld.  Now, with Game Play, you can relive those glory days on your iPhone 5 without jailbreaking your device.

Typically, Apple has frowned upon emulation apps in the App Store.  Though recently, Gridlee, a thinly veiled MAME emulator within a game, has made its way on to the App Store; some fear that once Apple realizes Gridlee’s deeper functionality, it will be removed.  In simple terms, Game Play is a Game Boy emulator that can be played through Safari, so that it is not subject to Apple’s App Store rules.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • An iPhone 5 – For now, this only works on the iPhone 5, but support may be added for other iDevices.
  • A Google Drive account – This is free cloud storage, like Dropbox.  You will store your Game Boy ROMs in your Google Drive and this is where Game Play will read them from.
  • Game Boy ROMs – This is basically a file that acts as a Game Boy cartridge.  These can be acquired online.  You must save the .gb file somewhere in your Google Drive, I made a new folder called GB ROMs.

First, you must open this link on your iPhone 5 in Safari, and then add the page to your home screen.

Next, you’ll have to click your shiny new Game Play icon on your home screen sign in to Google Drive.  Once signed in, you’ll need to exit Safari and reopen Game Play from the home screen icon.

Once restarted, you should see a screen like the one below.

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Then, you’ll tap the Game Play screen and it will bring you to a cartridge selection screen that looks like this.  There is also an option to include game artwork on this screen.  To do this, you must save a JPEG file with the same name as the ROM alongside the .gb file on Google Drive.

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Once you click on one of the cartridges, the game will start up and you’re ready to play!

Game Play is a great way to replay those old, but never forgotten Game Boy cartridges, but it’s not without its faults.  First, Game Play is only available on iPhone 5.  Hopefully support will be expanded to other devices soon.  Second, there doesn’t appear to be any sound functionality.  I tried a few games today and I didn’t hear any music or sound effects from the games.  Third, it appears that only certain Game Boy ROMs can be played.  Out of the five cartridges you see above, I was only able to play Super Mario Land and Kirby’s Dream Land.  The Game Play FAQ says that it does not support Game Boy Color ROMs, but that support will be added in future releases.  I’ve also read that any Game Boy ROM with a built-in Game Boy Color mode will not work currently.   With all of this said, I have a feeling that some of these issues will be fixed soon.

However, if you’ve been itching for a Game Boy fix, then you’ve got to try this!

Also, you can visit InSeven Limited, Game Play’s developer, on Twitter.

Check out this gallery for screenshots of Game Play in action.

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About the Author

Perry Brauner
I'm an architect by trade, but the overarching theme of my life has always been trying to keep up with the newest, coolest technology. Ever since I picked up an NES controller, I've been hooked on the latest and greatest gadgets, gizmos, and toys. Whether it's gaming, mobile phones, and accessories, or PCs and Apple products, I'm interested. I use many Apple products in my daily life, such as the iPhone, iPad, and my MacBook Pro. I've also built a few PCs in my day, so I'd like to say that I'm a pretty well-rounded techie.