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Back in April, Apple reversed course on its longstanding refusal to allow emulators of any kind to be available on their iOS App Store. This lead to a slew of apps getting approved, with some getting delisted fairly quickly, while others have enjoyed great success. Apps like Delta and Retroarch offer users access to emulate several systems on iOS, but before now there hasn’t been a way for people to play 3DS games on their phone.

That changed today, with the Folium emulator releasing on the App Store. Folium, like Delta and Retroarch, is a multi-system emulator and contains emulator cores for Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and most importantly, the Nintendo 3DS. Folium has controller support for all of these emulators as well, allowing players to use controllers like the Backbone or Joy-Con to control games on their iPhone. Folium also values users’ privacy, with the official App Store listing stating that the developer of Folium, Jarrod Norwell, does not collect any user data from the app.

There are a few caveats, however. First and foremost, Folium will cost users $4.99 as a one-time purchase. This makes Folium one of the few emulators we’ve seen on iOS that is not free. Until now people have speculated that developers were offering emulators of Nintendo’s systems for free to avoid Nintendo’s ire, as Nintendo typically doesn’t want people making money off of emulators of their games. Legally, however, Folium should be in the clear as long as they are not using any proprietary code developed and copyrighted by Nintendo. It’s also possible, though not likely in my opinion, that Nintendo simply won’t care about a 3DS emulator at this point in time, as they’ve recently shut down the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS, removing anyone’s ability to legally buy their games digitally.



The second caveat to Folium’s 3DS emulation is that, reportedly, it doesn’t run great depending on what iPhone model you have. Since Apple doesn’t allow apps on the App Store to use just-in-time (JIT) code compilation, which is often used to ease the burden on a computer’s processor by computing one type of code into a type more easily readable by the processor on the fly. Since Folium can’t take advantage of JIT compilation on iOS, 3DS games take a lot of processing power when run on iOS. This means that older devices are going to struggle emulating any 3DS games at all. A user on the MacRumors forum is reporting that the only game they can get to work on their iPhone 13 is Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and even that makes their phone run warm. Other titles they’ve tried, such as Mario Kart 7 and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, won’t open in the emulator at all.


Please keep in mind that downloading ROMs from the internet is illegal in many countries, so if you’d like to legally enjoy 3DS games on Folium, you’ll have to somehow back up copies of the 3DS games you already own and transfer them to your iPhone.


With the current limitations, I don’t think that Folium is necessarily a slam dunk as far as 3DS emulation goes, but it’s definitely a start. A $4.99 fee isn’t a high price to pay, though it remains to be seen if taking money for an emulator will put Folium on Nintendo’s legal radar. If it does, it’s possible Folium will go the way of Yuzu, which was shut down earlier this year after having previously taken “donations” for access to more features of the emulator. The JIT compilation issue, however, could be remedied if Apple ever decides to let third party apps take advantage of the feature on iOS. If that happens, not only will Folium and other potential 3DS emulators benefit, but so will emulators of other higher-powered systems, as JIT has been a barrier to GameCube emulation on the iPhone for some time as well.

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Written by Jaxson Tapp

As a lover of gaming and the written word, Jaxson currently fills his time not only with playing games, but also writing about them. Ready for anything, Jaxson’s passion for puzzle games, JRPGs, tough platformers, and whimsical indies helps him bring a well-rounded opinion to Nintendo Wire’s reporting.