I thought this day would never come, but MAME—the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator that would let you play retro games—is now available for free in the Apple app store. Not only that, but it's compatible with iCade.
My life is now complete.
Of course, MAME doesn't come with any retro game. Those are copyrighted, so that would be illegal. And this app only comes with free games, which is perfectly LEGAL. There's no reason to ban it (Apple, please take note and don't remove this app from the store).
If you want retro games, you will have to download those and copy them to your iPad or iPhone using an utility that allows you to browse the file system, like Phoneview. Provided you own the original arcade game that is. Or at least sunk on it a hundred quarters in the past. That would be fair game.
It's very easy, just locate your favorite game, select iMame in iPhone view, drag and drop the zipped ROM file into the iMame documents folder. No jailbreaking required.
If you have an iCade, this will turn your iPad into an arcade mini-me, complete with hardcore ball joystick and buttons. It's a joy to play these games on this thing, instead of being limited to just dreadful Atari games and a handful of indy games.
But this... this works perfectly. Now, excuse me when I go back to play Burger Time. [iTunes]