Ever feel like firing up the ‘ol Mario Kart Super Circuit, but can’t bring yourself to stick more AA batteries into your ancient Game Boy Advance? Just because you want to play an older game doesn’t mean you should have to do it on a 5″, non-backlit screen, right?
Just use an emulator!
A Game Boy Advance emulator is a program that mimics the GBA platform, allowing you to play its extensive library of titles on your PC or smartphone. It also allows you to run games at different speeds and even play fan-made variations such as Pokemon Ultra Violet. All you need is the corresponding ROM (the game’s files), and you’re good to go! Not to mention, the Game Boy Advance is backward compatible, so GBA emulators can play original Game Boy games too!
Pretty cool, right? Well, without further ado, here’s our list of the best GBA emulators for various platforms.
Best GBA Emulators for Windows & Mac
Let’s begin the list with a look at the top emulators for desktop computers. All of these support Windows out of the box, and a few even come with macOS support. We’ll let you know which ones you can use and where.
1. Visual Boy Advance (Windows & Mac)
VBA is considered by many to be the best GBA emulator for PC. It’s one of the oldest on the market and easily the most stable.
The Visual Boy Advance provides an easy to use, highly customizable experience with few compromises. You can use it to adjust play speeds, remap controls, and more. All that’s required is a simple installation, and you’re good to go.
- Highly customizable
- Plays Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Color games
- Supports multiple save slots
- Allows the use of cheat codes (not that you would use them)
- Captures screenshots
- Controller and joystick support
- They also make a version for Mac!
The VBA is our top pick for folks seeking a reliable platform with all the bells and whistles.
2. mGBA (Windows)
The mGBA emulator would probably be at the top of this list if the Visual Boy Advance didn’t exist. It doesn’t have quite as many features as the VBA, but it does allow you to save anywhere and use cheat codes.
One thing to its advantage is the fact that it’s simple to set up and simple to use. Not all of us need to control every aspect of our gameplay. Some of us just want the most basic interface we can get our hands on so we can spend less time playing with settings and more time playing the game!
That makes the mGBA very beginner-friendly, and it’s our favorite GBA emulator for new users. Plus, it has patches for some games that don’t run very well on their own and receives more regular updates than its competitors.
3. BizHawk (Windows)
BizHawk is actually a multi-system emulator. It plays everything from Atari to Playstation. It isn’t quite as user friendly as the VBA, but it might be more attractive for someone looking for an all-in-one emulator to play all the classics.
It’s also designed for Tool-Assisted Speedruns, so you can use slow-motion, frame-by-frame advance, and save states to record yourself playing the perfect game.
Although it can do a little bit of everything, it doesn’t excel in any particular arena.
4. No$GBA (Windows)
The No Cash GBA is another strong contender on this list, especially if you’re primarily interested in getting back to the good old days of side-by-side couch gaming. That’s because it’s designed specifically for multiplayer support and was the first emulator to support playing multiplayer games on the same PC.
No$GBA also runs Nintendo DS games, which opens up its library quite a bit. And in terms of features, this emulator allows you to remap keys and is compatible with controllers. Not too shabby.
5. BatGBA (Windows)
The BatGBA emulator might sound like the sort of high-tech emulator Bruce Wayne would build to play Castlevania on a stakeout, but it’s actually pretty simple to use.
That’s because it has a straightforward interface without all the bells or whistles. It only gives you what you need to play the game.
That said, BatGBA is remarkably stable, making it the perfect platform for hardcore gamers seeking a classic experience.
6. Higan (Windows)
The Higan emulates nine different systems but is really specialized for the Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance. In fact, it’s considered to provide the most accurate SNES emulation on the market, meaning this is the way to go if you want your childhood nostalgia to be picture perfect.
Unfortunately, that perfect accuracy comes at the cost of high CPU draw, meaning it should only be used by people with a powerful computer.
Its interface isn’t the easiest to use either. There aren’t any controls configured by default, and people have also reported audio lag when emulating certain titles.
7. BoycottAdvance (Windows & Mac)
BoycottAdvance is available on both Windows and macOS. It’s relatively reliable and is considered one of the best GBA emulators for Mac. It also supports controllers and USB joysticks, but it cannot emulate classic Game Boy games.
It has received criticism for not supporting sound on a lot of titles, though some users report this has been fixed in recent months.
Best GBA Emulators for Android
More of a mobile gamer? Let’s take a look at a few of the top GBA emulators for Android.
My Boy is probably the best GBA emulator on Android. It is stable, with top of the line BIOS emulation.
It not only provides players with an on-screen keypad but also allows them to customize it with a screen layout editor. Not to mention, having shortcuts for things like save and load game can be really handy.
My Boy also supports controllers, cheat codes, and “cable link” over Bluetooth or WiFi. It even has rumble, so you can feel your phone vibrate whenever Donkey Kong crushes you with a barrel! There is a free version and an ad-free version for $4.99 on Google Play.
GBA.emu was the first GBA emulator for Android. Like My Boy, it also offers excellent BIOS emulation, quick saves, and supports cheat codes and controllers.
One of the best perks that it offers is that it allows you to save your progress and export your save file to the PC version of Visual Boy Advance. That means you can start playing a game on your phone and then plug it into your PC and keep playing!
GBA.emu retails at $4.99 on Google Play. There is no free version currently.
Some people name buildings or cities after themselves. Heck, Julius Caesar named an entire month after himself (July). So why not a Game Boy Advance emulator? Introducing John GBA.
John GBA is rich in features and has high-quality graphics rendering. It can slow down game speed to x.25 or speed it up to x16, features controller support, and has the ability to take screenshots. It can also play zipped files, saving precious space on your device.
Like My Boy, there is a free version and an ad-free version for $4.99 on Google Play.
EmuBox supports Nintendo DS, Playstation, SNES, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games, just in case you need to add Crash Bandicoot to the mix.
It also supports a few advanced features. For instance, you can speed up gameplay, use cheats, and save/load independently from the game.
It’s free on Google Play, though there are some ads.
The ClassicBoy is another jack-of-all-trades emulator. It supports games from Playstation, Sega Genesis, NES, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance.
It has a lot of the same features as the EmuBox. You can speed up gameplay, use cheats, and save/load independently from the game. The app is starting to get a little old, and it hasn’t been updated in a while. But it’s still pretty solid, nonetheless.
There is a free version that’s missing a few features, and then there’s the $3.99 full version. Both are available on Google Play.
Best GBA Emulators for iOS
Lastly, let’s check out the best GBA emulators for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple aficionados can sometimes feel burnt by the operating system’s stranglehold on what apps are allowed on their devices. And rightfully so!
Unless you want to jailbreak your costly phone/tablet, you’re usually stuck with whatever apps are available in Apple’s store. But that limitation is precisely what makes GBA4iOS the clear choice as best GBA emulator for iPhone, since it can be downloaded for free on any iPhone or iPad running iOS 8.0.3 or below without needing to jailbreak.
It has many great features like separate save states, multiplayer via WiFi or Bluetooth, and faster play-speed. It also offers you the choice between playing in portrait mode like a classic Game Boy or landscape, which is more like the Game Boy Advance. The best part? You can customize the skins of the on-screen controller and even use Airplay to use your iPhone as a controller while you broadcast gameplay to a second screen!
As for file support, GBA4iOS supports games in ZIP format, saving you precious megabytes of space.
Note: If you’re running a more recent version of iOS, you’ll need to utilize the paid service, Buildstore.
2. Delta Emulator
The Delta Emulator was created by the same developer as the GBA4iOS. As you might expect, then, it’s a top-notch emulator with loads of features.
Not just that, but it’s entirely free. Use it to play all your Nintendo favorites, including games from the SNES, N64, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance.
Best of all? You don’t need to jailbreak your phone for this one, either.
It fully supports Dropbox and Google Drive for sharing games and save data between devices. It can also use cheat codes and has customizable gamepads, just like the GBA4iOS.
The only downsides to using the Delta Emulator over the GBA4iOS are the app’s larger file size and the fact that this much newer software may not have all the bugs worked out quite yet. As of now, GBA4iOS is considered the more stable of the two.