The Game Boy Advance (GBA) was a handheld game console released by Nintendo in 2001 as the successor to the Game Boy Color. With hardware specs closer to the Super Nintendo, the GBA allowed players to enjoy more advanced 32-bit games with better graphics and sound. The GBA was backward compatible with all previous Game Boy titles as well. Popular GBA games included Super Mario Advance, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare Inc., Pokémon Ruby, and Sapphire.
In 2022, the Game Boy Advance remains a beloved console for many gamers who have nostalgia for the games they grew up with. While the GBA is long discontinued, the console’s legacy lives on through emulators that allow you to play GBA ROMs on modern devices. With GBA emulation, you can easily relive classic GBA experiences on your PC, Mac, Android device, and more.
What is a Game Boy Advance Emulator?
An emulator is a software program that mimics the hardware and features of a video game console or system. Game Boy Advance emulators effectively recreate the GBA system experience on your computer, phone, or tablet. They allow you to load and play GBA ROM files, which are essentially digital copies of game cartridges.
Emulators emulate the full GBA functionality, including graphics, sound, controls, save states, and more. This gives you an authentic playing experience where it feels just like you’re using the real handheld. The only difference is that the emulated games are running on your device’s hardware rather than real GBA hardware.
Advantages of using GBA emulators:
- Play GBA games on modern devices
- Save game progress
- Enhance graphics and sound beyond the original GBA specs
- Add cheats and codes
- Quick load/save state anywhere
- Customize controls for your device
- Free game ROMs available online
- Preserve and relive classic GBA games
Overall, emulators provide a convenient way to enjoy the expansive Game Boy Advance library without needing to own the discontinued handheld and physical game cartridges.
Best GBA Emulators in 2023
There are several great Game Boy Advance emulators available in 2023, each with its strengths. Here are the best GBA emulators for different devices:
mGBA (Windows, Mac, Linux)
mGBA is an excellent all-around emulator that runs smoothly on desktop platforms. It has good game compatibility, speed, and accuracy. The interface is user-friendly with customizable controls and display options. mGBA also supports Link Cable emulation for trading and battling in Pokémon games. Overall, it’s a great choice for those looking for an accurate and hassle-free GBA experience on PC.
RetroArch (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
RetroArch is a powerful emulator front-end that can emulate many consoles, including GBA. It has fast performance, saves states, rewinding, and video filters for enhanced graphics. RetroArch can run GBA games well through various libretro cores. The interface has some complex configurations but offers deep customization and options. It’s ideal for advanced users looking to tweak settings for optimal play.
My Boy! (Android)
My Boy! is considered the best GBA option for Android. It’s feature-packed with fast emulation speed and stability. My Boy! makes it easy to save and load games anywhere. It has good Link Cable support for multiplayer as well. Additional features include turbo buttons, cheat codes, and controller customization. My Boy! provides the most authentic experience for playing GBA games on your mobile.
For simpler GBA emulation on Android, GBCoid is a good alternative. It’s based on VBA-M and runs all GBA titles smoothly. GBCoid allows you to save and load state anywhere with minimal storage space needed. It also supports ZIP file loading. The emulator interface itself is basic but gets the job done well for playing games on your phone.
iOS users have GBA4iOS as the go-to emulator, though it’s not available on the App Store. You need to sideload it through third-party stores. GBA4iOS offers excellent game compatibility along with save states and controller support. The clean interface also makes GBA gaming on your iPhone or iPad smooth. Overall, it’s the best option for on-the-go GBA play on iOS.
VBA-M (Windows, Mac, Linux)
VBA-M accurately emulates GBA games with good speed and compatibility. It has standard emulator features like save/load states, control binding, and video filters. VBA-M is an open-source project that gets frequent updates too. So while the interface is dated, VBA-M remains a solid desktop option for those seeking a lightweight yet capable GBA emulator.
For any platform, make sure you get GBA emulators from trusted sources only to avoid malware risks. Also, remember that while emulators themselves are legal, downloading ROMs of games you don’t own is piracy.
How to Download and Run GBA Games
To start enjoying classic GBA games, follow these steps:
- Choose and Download a GBA Emulator
Pick an emulator for your platform from the list above. For desktop PCs, we recommend mGBA or VBA-M to get started. On mobile, My Boy! for Android and GBA4iOS for iOS are great choices.
Make sure to download the emulator from the official site or a trusted source. Many emulators are available in app stores as well.
- Get GBA ROM Files
ROMS are software files containing game data that can be run on emulators. To find GBA ROMs, you’ll need to visit ROM download sites. Popular ones include Vimm’s Lair, CoolROM, and DopeROMs.
Search for your desired GBA game titles and download the ZIP files to your device. Make sure to only get games you legally own physical copies of.
- Load the ROM into Your Emulator
Open your emulator and look for the “load ROM” option. Browse to the ZIP folder containing the game files you downloaded earlier. Select and open the GBA ROM file so it loads into the emulator.
Alternatively, you can simply drag and drop the GBA ROM directly onto the emulator window to load it.
- Start Playing!
Once loaded, the game should start up just like you remember on the original GBA hardware. Have fun revisiting Game Boy Advance classics using your PC or phone as a handheld!
Take advantage of save states and other emulator features to enhance your playing experience.
Top 25 Best GBA Games of All Time
Here are 25 of the greatest and most iconic games that you can play on Game Boy Advance emulators:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords
This classic SNES Zelda game has an enhanced GBA port along with a new multiplayer Four Swords mode. Exploring the kingdom of Hyrule and uncovering dungeon puzzles together make this a must-play GBA experience.
Samus returns to investigate a deadly X parasite infection on a research station in this side-scrolling action-adventure. With tight controls and brilliant level design, Metroid Fusion is considered one of the best in the Metroid series.
Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire
The Hoenn region and hundreds of new Pokemon debuted in these groundbreaking third-generation games. Battle Frontier introduced competitive post-game challenges as well.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Traditional kart racing excitement comes to GBA with new tracks, modes, and multiplayer racing either via link cable or single cartridge play. Mario Kart: Super Circuit remains addictively fun to this day.
Super Mario Advance 2
A superb conversion of the SNES classic Super Mario World comes to GBA with all its challenging and varied platforming intact. This is Mario platforming bliss you can take anywhere.
Wario’s debut on GBA throws you into hundreds of quirky, hilarious, and rapid-fire microgames testing your reflexes. WarioWare’s gameplay variety and multiplayer make it one of the most innovative GBA titles.
Final Fantasy VI Advance
Considered one of the best Final Fantasy games, FFVI gets a stellar GBA port with new dungeons and additional content. The story, settings, and sound still hold up beautifully.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
This Gothic fantasy Castlevania introduces the Tactical Soul system, giving you abilities from defeated enemies. With an engrossing story and atmosphere to match, Aria of Sorrow is a series highlight.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor
A hidden gem GBA beat ’em up based on the manga/anime series with great graphics and combat. Omega Factor’s branching paths also give it awesome replay value.
Emerald represents the pinnacle of Pokemon’s GBA era, with the Battle Frontier expansion and other improvements making it the definitive Hoenn region adventure.
Nintendo’s turn-based military strategy game oozes charm along with its in-depth gameplay. Advance Wars’ campaign, map editing, and PvP battling give this ton of replayability.
A massive epic RPG from Camelot Software Planning with sprawling dungeons, turn-based battles, and psychic powers called Psynergy. Golden Sun’s world-building, puzzles, and story are fantastic.
This tactical RPG masterpiece kicked off Fire Emblem’s popularity in the West. Lead the army of Eliwood in turn-based combat across story-driven maps.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Mario’s GBA debut is this comedic RPG adventure where you control both Mario and Luigi. With timed button commands during battles and hilarious dialogue, it’s incredibly fun.
Metal Slug Advance
SNK’s legendary run-and-gun shooter impresses on GBA with smooth animations and platforming in addition to crazy weapons and enemies.
Super Mario Advance 4
A stellar GBA version of Super Mario Bros. 3 adds e-reader card support for new items and levels. The extra content expands on an already amazing Mario platformer.
Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Shrinking down to explore the tiny Minish world gives this Zelda game a creative twist. The Minish Cap has all the adventure, dungeons, and charm you expect from the series.
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
A standout tactical RPG on GBA with a political story, job system, and choices that impact the narrative. Knight of Lodis has great depth in combat and character growth.
A unique action-platformer where you drill through obstacles as Jill and her drill machine. Drill Dozer’s tight controls and creative-level design make this an underrated gem.
A stealth action game with impressive wire-fu acrobatic ninja platforming. Use shurikens, swords, and more weapons to take down foes across vertical levels.
Rebelstar: Tactical Command
Turn-based strategy with 70+ missions to complete by leading a team of soldiers through varying objectives. Rebelstar has in-depth combat and customization options.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
A faithful handheld version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 with smooth skateboarding gameplay. Perform combos and tricks across all the classic levels.
Super Dodge Ball Advance
Technos’ beloved arcade sports game returns on GBA with colorful graphics and addicting dodgeball gameplay. Play against friends or the CPU.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
This sequel RPG to Kingdom Hearts on PS2 brings an original card-based battle system. The story bridges KH1 and KH2 nicely.
Mega Man Battle Network
The Mega Man Battle Network series kicked off on GBA by reinventing the franchise into an RPG with collectible chips, net battles, and exploration.
Frequently Asked Questions About GBA Emulation
Here are answers to some common questions about using Game Boy Advance emulators:
Are GBA emulators legal to use?
Yes, emulators themselves are perfectly legal to download and use. However, you should own physical copies of any games you play on them. Downloading ROMs of games you don’t already own is illegal piracy.
Where can I find GBA emulator apps?
Popular emulator apps like My Boy! for Android are available on the Google Play Store. For iOS devices, GBA4iOS needs to be sideloaded. On desktop PCs, you can download emulators directly from developer sites or portals like Emuparadise or Emulator Games.
How do I add games to emulators?
GBA ROM files need to be loaded individually into your emulator app to play them. Drag and drop the ROM onto the emulator window, or use the “Load ROM” option and browse to the downloaded ZIP folder containing the ROM.
Do emulators support trading and battling?
Yes, through Link Cable emulation you can trade Pokemon and battle with other players using emulators. Both players need to connect via wifi or Bluetooth for it to work properly.
Can I play multiplayer GBA games?
GBA games that support multiplayer either through single cartridge mode or link cable can be played with other people using emulators. Set up the connection using wifi or Bluetooth depending on your emulator.
Are there risks to using emulators?
Downloading emulators from shady sites risks getting malware. Be sure to use trusted sources. And remember not to download ROM files for games you don’t own. As long as you obtain and use emulators legally, they are safe to use.
How do I set controls on emulator apps?
Most emulators allow you to customize the touchscreen buttons and triggers to suit your device. You can also connect external controllers via Bluetooth or cable to use with emulators on mobile and desktop.
Why are some games slow or glitchy on emulators?
Try configuring the emulator settings for optimal performance. If issues persist, the emulator may be outdated or struggling to run that particular ROM. Try a different emulator app in this case. Popular games generally run smoothly.
Can I use cheats and Gameshark codes?
Yes, most emulators support cheat codes that you can enable for things like infinite lives, items, etc. Look up codes online and add them to your emulator app through the menu.
That covers the basics of using Game Boy Advance emulators. With the ability to play GBA classics on modern devices and enhance them in ways not originally possible, emulation helps preserve these great games for old and new fans alike to enjoy. Just be sure to stay on the right side of the law. Now go relive your favorite GBA memories!
The Game Boy Advance remains one of Nintendo’s most beloved handheld systems. It represents a unique era with many iconic games that shaped people’s childhoods in the early 2000s. From Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire to Metroid Fusion, the GBA library contains numerous all-time classics.
Thanks to emulation, these great games can be easily played today on your PC, phone, tablet, or other modern devices. GBA emulators effectively recreate the hardware experience conveniently, letting you get your nostalgia fix wherever you are.
Top emulators like mGBA, RetroArch, My Boy!, and GBA4iOS all offer smooth performance and good game compatibility. Once you download ROM files for titles you own, you can load them up and enjoy the authentic GBA experience once again.
Revisit the wonders of the GBA library and make use of helpful emulator features like save states, control customization, and graphics options to optimize your gameplay experience. GBA emulation helps preserve handheld gaming history while also letting old fans relive fond memories and introduce new audiences to these great games. So fire up that emulator and take a wonderful stroll down Game Boy Advance memory lane. It’s time to catch ’em all again!
Mustafa Al Mahmud is the Founder of Best Emulators and also a professional Blogger, SEO Professional as well as Entrepreneur. He loves to travel and enjoy his free moment with family members and friends.