The Nintendo GameCube was one of the most popular consoles of its time, with amazing games like Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, and Super Smash Bros Melee. Even though the GameCube is quite an old console now, the games still hold up due to their fantastic gameplay and visuals.
Luckily, thanks to emulators you can relive your favorite GameCube games on modern devices like iPhones and iPads. Emulators allow you to play GameCube games on iOS by mimicking the GameCube hardware and system. There are a few good emulators to choose from, each with its strengths.
In this article, we will count down the 10 best GameCube emulators for iOS, from paid to free options. We’ll also include some tips on how to get started with GameCube emulation on your iPhone or iPad. Let’s dive in!
Dolphin is by far the best and most popular GameCube emulator available. It’s an open-source emulator that receives frequent updates and has stellar game compatibility. Dolphin is available on iOS as a paid app called Dolphin iOS.
Dolphin iOS can run almost every GameCube game at full speed on recent iPhones and iPads. It upscales the graphics to HD resolutions and adds new features like cheats and screenshot support. The only downside is you have to dump GameCube BIOS files yourself before games will run. But it’s worth the effort for Dolphin’s excellent performance.
Provenance is a multi-system emulator focused on 8 and 16-bit classic games. But it also includes support for GameCube and Wii emulation. As a paid emulator, Provenance offers great performance and accuracy. Almost all GameCube games run at full-frame rates.
The GameCube emulation in Provenance is based on the Dolphin code. So while it’s not as customizable, it’s much easier to set up. The automatic BIOS dumping feature makes getting into GameCube games quick and simple. Provenance is best for those seeking an intuitive GameCube emulator without needing lots of tweaking.
RetroArch is an all-in-one emulator frontend that supports a wide range of consoles. For GameCube emulation, it uses the free open-source core called Dolphin. RetroArch provides a sleek interface with advanced features like shaders, netplay, and more.
Performance will depend on the power of your iPhone or iPad. But reasonably new iOS devices should play most GameCube games at good speeds in RetroArch. You’ll have to provide your own BIOS files to use the Dolphin core. While setup takes a bit more effort, RetroArch is an excellent free option.
While not technically a GameCube emulator, iNDS does include experimental support for running GameCube games. It was created as a Nintendo DS emulator for iOS. iNDS uses dynamic recompilation to achieve decent speeds but can be prone to glitches.
Currently, only about 50 GameCube games are playable in iNDS. Performance and compatibility will likely improve as development continues. But right now this free emulator can run some less demanding GameCube games if you’re looking for a basic option. Just temper your expectations compared to dedicated GameCube emulators.
Eclipse is an open-source emulator for iOS focused on handheld game systems. It has support for running Game Boy, GBA, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation Portable games. Unofficially, the app also allows GameCube game files in the latest Testflight beta version.
The GameCube emulator in Eclipse is still in the very early stages of development. Less than 20 games are playable so far, with lots of glitches present. While Eclipse shows promise for eventual GameCube emulation, at the moment it should be considered experimental at best for GameCube games.
GC4iOS is a fork of the Dolphin emulator specifically optimized for iOS devices. It has a slick user interface that makes it easy to import GameCube ROMs and play quickly. GC4iOS utilizes JIT recompilation for smooth performance that improves over time.
The emulator offers good speeds but is prone to crashes and glitches. Less than half of the GameCube library currently works properly in GC4iOS. But it’s still under active development and remains one of the better free options for basic GameCube emulation. Just be prepared for some flaws.
As another fork of Dolphin, MobileGameCube aims to optimize GameCube emulation for mobile devices. It has some nice UI improvements over stock Dolphin, with automatic Pokopom fixes and CheatCodes support. Performance tends to be hit or miss.
Compatibility is decent but lag and crashes will occur in many titles, even on high-end iPhones. But with further development, MobileGameCube has the potential for good GameCube emulation. You’ll have to provide your own BIOS dump to play games currently.
Cubemu is an open-source GameCube and Wii emulator built from scratch for iOS. It uses a recompiler and JIT to optimize performance for mobile devices. The emulator screen stretches to fill the iPhone display for full widescreen gameplay.
In testing, Cubemu has very slow speeds in most games and compatibility is low. Even Super Monkey Ball struggles to be playable. But as an ambitious new emulator, it will be interesting to see how quickly performance improves in future updates. One to keep an eye on.
Gambatte GC is an experimental GameCube emulator core for RetroArch that is still early in development. It can boot some simple homebrew GameCube apps and a small number of commercial games. But most games crash immediately or suffer from major graphical glitches.
While Gambatte GC is far from usable currently, it demonstrates the potential for a GameCube core in RetroArch one day. Given enough development time, it could become a decent mobile option. But there are much better choices currently for GameCube emulation on iOS.
The MasterGear emulator includes various console cores like Genesis, SNES, NES, and Master System. It also has an experimental GameCube core added in a recent update. However, MasterGear’s GameCube support is extremely limited at this time.
Only the homebrew GameCube game DancougaNova will boot currently. Every other game crashes instantly in MasterGear. There are occasional updates, but development seems very slow. Unless major improvements are made, MasterGear should be avoided for GameCube emulation.
How to Setup GameCube Emulators on iOS
Now that you know the best GameCube emulators for iOS, let’s go over how to get them set up on your iPhone or iPad. Here are some tips for the installation process:
For paid emulators like Dolphin iOS, purchase and download them directly from the App Store. Provenance requires adding the developer’s repo.
Free emulators usually require third-party installation from sites like BuildStore or Signulous since they aren’t allowed on the App Store.
BIOS files are required for many emulators to boot games properly. These must be sourced online from GameCube BIOS dumps.
ROM files for GameCube games also have to be downloaded separately online or dumped from your discs.
Bluetooth controllers or MFi gamepads are recommended for proper control since GameCube games require more buttons. The on-screen touch controls are often poor.
Tweak graphics settings in the emulator for optimal performance. Turn off enhancements if your device struggles. Overclocking can help in some emulators.
Look up compatibility lists to see which games work best. Some may require special settings or custom textures to run properly.
Following these tips will help ensure your GameCube emulation experience goes smoothly. While the setup process is a bit involved, it’s worth it to enjoy classic GameCube games on your iPhone or iPad.
10 More GameCube Games to Emulate on iOS
Here are 10 of the absolute best GameCube games to play on your iOS device using emulators:
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – This cel-shaded Zelda adventure still looks gorgeous and plays phenomenally today. Sailing the seas as Link is a joy.
- Super Mario Sunshine – Mario’s tropical vacation has inventive levels and F.L.U.D.D. water pack mechanics that hold up great.
- Metroid Prime – One of the best entries in this revered Nintendo series blends action, adventure, and atmosphere perfectly.
- Resident Evil 4 – The acclaimed horror title revolutionized third-person shooting with its intense action. Still fun and scary.
- F-Zero GX – Running at 60 FPS with tight controls, this super fast futuristic racer is adrenaline-pumping entertainment.
- Super Smash Bros. Melee – The classic Nintendo mascot fighter sets the template for the series with tons of content.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door – This Mario RPG oozes charm with a whimsical story, humorous writing, and fun battles.
- Animal Crossing – Craft your ideal town life in this cozy and relaxing simulator full of personality.
- Pikmin 2 – Strategically grow an army of adorable plant creatures to explore and fight foes.
- Luigi’s Mansion – Bust ghosts and search a haunted manor as the cowardly green brother. Spooky fun.
Emulation opens up iOS devices to a huge library of classic GameCube games. Thanks to excellent emulators like Dolphin, you can revisit timeless Nintendo adventures, platformers, RPGs, and more. With the right emulator installed, GameCube ROMs sourced, and a controller connected, you’ll be gaming on the go just like in the old days.
There are bound to be improvements in GameCube emulation for iOS down the road. But even today most games can be played from start to finish with solid performance. Just keep an eye on emulator updates and compatibility reports as the experience keeps getting better. The GameCube library offers some true gems well worth diving into on your iPhone or iPad.