How To Play Gameboy, GBC & GBA On Steam Deck

We’ve recently been playing a lot of our favourite Gameboy games on the Switch thanks to Nintendo Switch online, but if you’re a Steam Deck user, then you might be hankering after discovering how to play Gameboy games on Steam Deck.

And if you are, then you’ve definitely come to the right place!

When you think of handheld systems, you think of Nintendo.

They’re the king of handhelds, with the Nintendo Switch absolutely dominating the market currently, and the Nintendo DS previously having the world in a vice grip.

But every company has to start somewhere, and their first foray into the market was a little machine called the Gameboy.

The Gameboy was such an incredibly successful system that it resulted in two successors, the Gameboy Color and the Gameboy Advance. All are remembered as classic systems to this day, and are beloved by the gaming community.

Some of the best Gameboy Advance games of all time are on that system, such as Pokemon Fire Red, but a lot of the games on that system also haven’t been ported to other systems.

Thanks to this, Gameboy emulation is extremely popular, and you can even emulate the system on your Steam Deck!

So, join us as we go over the best settings for Gameboy emulation on your Steam Deck, the best Gameboy emulator to actually use on the Steam Deck, how to set up an emulator, and how to play Gameboy games on Steam Deck! 

1. The EmuDeck Method

The EmuDeck Method is great if you want to install a wide variety of emulators and not just those that play Gameboy games. Use this if you want to play the following consoles on your Steam Deck:

  • Sega Genesis
  • SegaCD
  • Sega32X
  • PC Engine
  • WonderSwan
  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Mame
  • FBNeo
  • Master System
  • Dreamcast
  • Neo Geo
  • Super NES Widescreen
  • Genesis Widescreen
  • Gameboy
  • Gameboy Color
  • Gameboy Advance
  • Neo Geo Pocket
  • GameGear
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • PSP
  • Nintendo 64
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo GameCube
  • PlayStation 1
  • PlayStation 2
  • PlayStation 3
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • Nintendo Switch

Installing EmuDeck

You don’t need a Neuroscience degree to install EmuDeck onto your Steam Deck. The Steam Deck works on an open source principal, and you’re able to install whatever you want on it as long as you don’t mind putting in the time to find workarounds if you come across any compatibility issues.

In order to get EmuDeck on your Steam Deck, all you need to do is:

  1. Format one of your SD cards to ext4 or btrfs if you’re planning on gathering ROMs on your SD card.
  2. Download the EmuDeck installer using the Steam Deck browser 
  3. Drag and drop the EmuDeck installer from your downloads folder onto your desktop.
  4. Run the file.
  5. Then, run through the steps provided onscreen, including picking each of the emulators that you want to install on your Steam Deck. It’s not too much of an extra effort to install every single emulator, but if you want you can only install RetroArch.

When you’ve finished, all you need to do is dump your ROMs and firmware onto the Steam Deck itself. We’ll go further into how to do this later in the article.

2. The Alternative Method

How To Play Gameboy Games On Steam Deck - The Linux RetroArch Discover page

You can also install RetroArch through the Discover Store on Linux, but doing it through this way will mean that you need to set up everything yourself.

EmuDeck actually installs all of the cores that you could possibly need for RetroArch, whereas doing it through the Discover store means you have to find the cores yourself.

This also means that you need to set up all of the settings yourself, but we’ll run you through the best settings for RetroArch on Steam Deck so that you don’t need to mess around trying to work out what you need. 

What’s The Best Gameboy Emulator?

There’s a few other options for Gameboy Emulation on the Steam Deck, but RetroArch is the best by far.

It comes with a lot of extra ‘cores’ (which are what the entire emulator runs on) and more than a few of those are directly related to the Gameboy family of systems.

Through RetroArch you can mess around with a whole host of settings in an incredibly easy method, and play all of your Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance games in one place.

RetroArch Best Settings For Gameboy Emulation

These are the best settings for RetroArch:

  • Menu: ozone
  • Video: Vulkan
  • Audio: Pulse
  • GPU Index: 0- AMD Custom GPU 0404

In terms of the best settings for your Gameboy core, you’ll want to set them as follows:

  • GB Colorization: Auto

RetroArch will attempt to emulate the system as best it can, which means you’ll have every single quirk that the Gameboy had, but you can actually turn all this off by messing around in the settings. It’s a pretty cool element of the emulator that adds to the feeling that you’re actually playing on a Gameboy, despite actually playing on a system that is about sixteen thousand times as powerful as that system was. 

If you want to play a Gameboy game on your TV, which you can do thanks to the various different Steam Deck docks that are out there, then you can also mess around with these settings in order to actually make sure it looks crisp and beautiful on a 4K TV. 

How Do You Get Gameboy Roms For Your Steam Deck?

Thanks to the age of the system, you can find basically any ROM that you want for the Gameboy family of systems online.

For obvious reasons (namely the fact that we don’t want to we can’t link to them here, but all you need to do is search for the game that you want followed by the word ‘ROM’ and you should be fine).

People are wary of the fact that Nintendo likes to make games just disappear, so efforts are constantly underway to make sure that you can actually still access these games.

Brilliantly, since you can just find these ROMS online, you can also play any ROM hack that you want on your Steam Deck.

That means that you can play the very best Pokemon ROM hacks on an incredibly powerful system, and it means that you can really give games like Pokemon Unbound the level of attention they deserve.

Just be wary because once you start playing Pokemon ROM hacks you’ll never stop, and your backlog will just grow and grow and grow as you keep playing Gameboy titles. 

Through RetroArch, you can play games such as: 

  • Metroid 2: Return Of Samus
  • Harvest Moon GB 
  • Contra 3: Alien Wars
  • Pokemon Red/Blue
  • Tetris
  • Dragon Warrior Monsters
  • Pokemon Trading Card Game
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Of Ages
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
  • Metroid: Zero Mission
  • Pokemon: Emerald
  • Advance Wars
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past With Four Swords
  • Wario Ware Twisted

How To Have ROMS Appear On Your Steam Deck Home Screen

How To Play Gameboy Games On Steam Deck - Roms on Steam Deck

If you’re wanting ROMs to magically appear on your Steam Deck home screen, then we’ve got good news for you.

If you’ve installed EmuDeck, then you already have Steam ROM Manager on there ready for you to use.

Otherwise, you first have to grab this super useful tool in the Discover store.

Run the application once you’ve got it and then just toggle the systems that you want the ROM Manager to cycle through as it finds your games.

Then, just click preview, then then select generate app list.

When this is all done, just hang fire while the application finds all your artwork for the games and click ‘save app list’. And there you have it; you can now access ROMs from your Steam Deck menu, and you now know how to play Gameboy games on Steam Deck!

Let us know how you’re using your Steam Deck by joining the conversation over on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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