Lockdown is taking its toll on everyone, which is why we’ve made a list of the best GBA emulators for your phone, laptop, and PC!
The Gameboy Advance is my favourite portable console of all time. It literally flipped the way we thought about games; 90 degrees, in fact!
The shoulder buttons, the colour screen; this console felt revolutionary and would go on to influence pretty much every one of the best retro handhelds on the market today.
Add in the GBA SP AGS-101 and the Gameboy Micro, and you’ve got a trio of terrific handhelds on your… well, hands.
But what happens when you can’t pull a GBA out in the office? Not everyone can afford a backlit-modded console, and some of the snazziest Retropie handhelds are still out of reach for many.
That’s where the best GBA emulators come into play. Like Gandalf learning about the One Ring’s true power, so too shall you learn about the best emulators for killing time at work, home, or while travelling.
**PLEASE NOTE – This article is purely for theoretical, scientific, and brain-enhancing**
purposes only and should be treated in the same way as a highly exciting novel, mythical text, or legendary scroll. Retro Dodo does not condone illegal downloading or any other dark arts that might get anyone (namely us) into trouble. Please check the legality of ROM downloading in your region and always follow government guidelines on both internet safety and copyright laws.
1. VisualBoy Advance
- Windows, Mac, Linux
VisualBoy Advance is the best of the best GBA emulators for users looking to recreate Gameboy titles on their PC or laptop. It’s one of the oldest Gameboy emulators on the internet, but don’t let it’s age put you off.
This emulator constantly receives new updates that keep it current and fresh. As its an old favourite of emulator users, it works perfectly on older and newer machines alike.
As stability and game compatibility go, this is one rock solid program. Games work perfectly on it and there are lots to choose from. From Castlevania to Pokemon, all the classics are available.
Written in C and C++, the VisualBoy Advance comes with tonnes of exciting features such as Joystick support, Game Boy Printer emulation, full save state functions, and the ability to capture your favourite gaming moments on film.
This is without a doubt one of the bet GBA emulators of all time and a real legendary piece of kit.
2. Pizza Boy
- Free App
As a child of Italian descent, I had to include the Pizza Boy on this list of the best GBA emulators. This is also one of the best looking emulators on our list too!
Pizza Boy provides Android users with a flawless gaming experience. It’s a new contender in the portable console emulation market, but it has won over lots of fans thanks to the free price tag and lack of adverts.
I know; no adverts on a free emulator? It’s too good to be true!
There are a couple of bugs here and there, but nothing as annoying as the jumpy camera angle on the Gameboy 1UP XL while playing Donkey Kong 64.
So what makes Pizza Boy so special apart from the fact that it’s named after my favourite food? Well, this emulator can kick out 60FPS and has both fast-forward and slo-mo modes. Save state slots come as standard, and external controllers link up to it pretty easily.
Bored of Words With Friends? Check out this program and relive your favourite Pokemon adventures from the DMG, GBC, and the GBA!
RetroArch is one of my all-time favourite emulators to write about as it’s one of the cleverest programs on the internet.
Many Retro Dodo fans may well have discovered RetroArch through our list of the best N64 emulators. It’s an emulator that doesn’t just replicate one console; it replicates them all!
But how can it possibly do that?
Well, instead of replicating one specific set of chips and plugins used by a particular games console, it contains multiple ‘cores’. These cores allow users to tap into thousands of games for multiple consoles on pretty much any device!
The GBSP and mGBA cores work perfectly for GBA games, and RetroArch has a high compatibility list with lots of games working perfectly. It’s stable, it looks good, and it also houses all of your other favourite consoles in the same place!
Speaking of mGBA, the emulator takes the fourth place in this list of the best GBA emulators!
Working as a stand alone emulator for multiple devices from Android smartphones and Macs to modified consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, mGBA is a solid choice for GBA game emulation.
mGBA is simple to use, boasts cheat code functions and save states, and has a pleasing interface. The collection of playable ROMs is vast and it works well on old and new devices.
While some emulators are no longer being looked after, mGBA receives regular updates from the developers. It’s last available update dropped in October 2020, and the open-source code is available for anyone to have a play with.
- Freeware with paid upgrades
Finally, No$GBA, takes the 5th place in this list of the best GBA emulators. Despite its ‘spam email’ sounding name, this is one of the most revered GBA emulators on the internet.
No$GBA is regarded by many as the best GBA emulator for having the biggest ROM compatibility list. Designed as a means of letting people with ‘no cash’ play GBA games, this emulator is a solid choice for Windows laptop and PC users.
Multiplayer compatibility and save states are all desirable features, as is having the ability to set up an external controller. What’s more, this thing can even play some of the best Nintendo DS games on the market too!
Not all of the DS games work very well, though the ones that do are a joy to play. All GBA games play as though they were on the console itself, providing bored office workers and tired technicians a chance to play Mario Kart on the job! Result!
What Are Emulators?
Emulators provide a means of playing retro games on devices such as phones, computers, and Raspberry Pi devices. They are downloadable programs, often open-sourced, whose code can be modified by others.
To give a brief overview, they make other devices act as though they were a games console. By virtually recreating the inner workings of our favourite consoles such as the Sega Mega Drive and the Nintendo 64, players can access all of their favourite games from yesteryear.
On their own, emulators are just programs that can open other files, a little like the VLC player or a torrent client. They are a conduit for ROMs.
ROMs are digital images of games, the pulled data from carts and discs used to play games on home consoles.
We’re law-abiding citizens, after all!
What confuses many people is the legality behind sharing and downloading games for consoles no longer in production. Is it illegal if the game can’t be bought? Is the uploader or the downloader to blame? Many people disagree on these subjects, though Nintendo has a ZERO tolerance policy on the whole thing.
Great news for an article on the best GBA emulators, right?
What Are The Benefits Of Using The Best GBA Emulators?
The best GBA emulators allow users to play the best Gameboy Advance games from their collection without actually using their portable handheld console.
For some, having a Gameboy on their phone as an alternative to playing Candy Crush is a must have, while others enjoy seeing their favourite titles on their laptop screen. If anything, it’s a sure fire way of killing time on the office computer while the boss drivels on about profit loss and cleaning rotas.
Some emulators boast extra features such as having the ability to save games at any time and graphic upgrades. Not bad, eh?
Are There Downsides To Emulating Games?
Having Doug Bowser and Lord Bowser knocking on your door with a Chain Chomp. No one wants that kind of confrontation!
Apart from the obvious legal ramifications and Nintendo’s all-out-war on ROMs, some emulators are just poorly made and plain awful to use. Some clone consoles and emulator programs produce terrible lag, and the ones that aren’t made properly are about as enjoyable as poking ones eyes out with a rusty nail, don’t you know!
It all comes down to the problem that computers are computers and not games consoles. They’re wired differently, like an uptight city boy and an easy-going country girl. One can pretend to be like the other, but they probably won’t do it very well.
Newer computers with faster processors are better at recreating a wider range of consoles, and some programs like the best Nintendo Switch emulator downloads are now running pretty smoothly on many devices!
How Do I Download The Best GBA Emulators?
Listen, I’ve not been so careful with the legal aspects of this article to then go and throw it all away by linking you to the emulators and ROMs themselves. What do you take me for?
All I’ll say is this; search engines are great, aren’t they? They tell you pretty much everything these days and are a great place to start searching for stuff.
That was a loud knock on the door. Who is it? Oh, Lord Bowser… how are you… ROMs? Not here. Wait… ARGGGHH NOOOO!
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.