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Game Boy emulator sneaks onto App Store disguised as messaging app

“In GBA Emu, everyone can chat, share about their favorite GBA games.”

What you need to know

  • A Game Boy emulator disguised as a messaging app has made its way onto the App Store.
  • It lets users search for ROMS or directly download titles like Pokémon, Super Mario, and more.

A Game Boy emulator disguised as a messaging app has snuck its way onto Apple’s App Store.

As noted by users on Reddit, the app ‘GBA emu’ is listed on the App Store as an “app for GBA player community.” Screenshots on the apps listing show what appear to be “channels” where players of various Game Boy titles can meet like-minded players and talk to them. As the Reddit post notes, however, this is actually an emulator that lets players access ROMS and direct downloads of titles like Pokémon and Super Mario.

As you can see from our screenshots, the app has an extensive list of Game Boy titles as well as a method to download ROMS directly from the web.

The app itself is actually quite sophisticated with settings for frame skipping, autosave, vibration and haptics, and even AirPlay.

Of course, this is a pretty flagrant breach of App Store guidelines, and the app will likely be removed swiftly by Apple, so if you want the chance to emulate your favorite Game Boy titles on your iPhone you’ll need to be quick about it. As per the App Store guidelines, apps must clearly their functionality, and not have any hidden features that aren’t described in the app’s metadata. Given the app was allowed onto the App Store, it seems pretty clear the app’s true function wasn’t disclosed when it was submitted. Not only that, selecting a game brings up a warning stating that tapping download confirms that a user has a physical copy of the game in question. The app states that “app does not promote pirating in any form”, however, this is pretty open to obvious copyright abuse.

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