The Game Boy Advance is one of the most popular portable game consoles of all time. Android smartphones take up such a large part of the market, that it’s almost inevitable that Android owners would take an interest in playing their old GBA favorites on their phones. The maturity of the OS means there are now more than a few good Game Boy Advance emulators for Android that are worth using. We’ve gathered the best of them here.
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VGBAnext is not only one of the best Game Boy Advance emulators for Android, but it’s also an emulator for Game Boy Color, Game Boy, NES, Famicon, DiskSystem and VS System. You can play some really esoteric stuff here.
However, the real reason to install VGBAnext is the plethora of additional GBA hardware that it offers. The app emulates tilt sensors, rumble packs, and even light guns! In addition, there are a bunch of skin customization options to better suit your personal aesthetic.
In addition, VGBAnext supports modern gamepads, as well as older ones, like Nyko PlayPad and the PS3 Sixaxis controller. Save states can be shared between users, and there is even wireless multiplayer over Wi-Fi. You also get a neat “Rewind” feature that lets you roll back 16 seconds to quickly retry that tricky section. Finally, one of the weirder features of VGBAnext is the ability to record the soundtrack or sound effects of a game and use them as your ringtone! This makes VGBAnext not only an accurate GBA emulator, but a feature-rich one.
2. Pizza Boy
Pizza Boy is one of the more recent GBA emulators and widely regarded as one of the most accurate Game Boy Advance emulators for Android. It consistently scores very high results in emulation accuracy tests.
In fact, enthusiasts have tested Pizza Boy’s accuracy against other emulators, and it’s come out on top. In addition to excellent performance, Pizza Boy employs a number of advanced features, like saving files and configuration data back to Google Drive, box art display for ROMs, local and network multiplayer, and emulation of cartridge features, such as the gyroscope and rumble. Furthermore, there are customizable skins that really make Pizza Boy stand out among the GBA emulator competition.
Since Pizza Boy is one of the newer GBA emulators for Android that we have included on this list, it’s still very actively developed. There is a free version of Pizza Boy available; however, many of the features that make the GBA emulator so good are exclusive to the paid version. Both versions support zipped ROM files. The same developer has made a Pizza Boy emulator for Game Boy Color, which is equally impressive.
Tip: if you want to bring Android apps to Windows or Mac, check out these emulators.
RetroArch is the poster child for the world of emulation, namely because it’s not exactly a GBA emulator. Instead, it is best described as a single, unified application that organizes your games and emulators. The game and its corresponding emulator are launched from within RetroArch, so there is no need to mess around with separate apps.
The front end is compatible with a wide variety of platforms (including Android) and supports a staggering number of systems (including Game Boy Advance).
RetroArch is a very convenient way to play games from a number of consoles; however, there is a significant amount of configuration necessary. For example, you will need to download individual “cores” for each system you wish to emulate, and there are multiple cores for each system. With Game Boy Advance emulators for Android, the VBA-M and mGBA cores are generally regarded as excellent options. Because RetroArch can be intimidating, be sure to read our complete guide for Retroarch on Android to help you get started.
4. John GBAC
John GBAC is a combo Game Boy Advance/Game Boy Color emulator for Android and the successor to two separate apps: John GBA and John GBC. Both are still available on the Google Play Store. However, neither is being actively developed.
Like the earlier apps, the draw of John GBAC is its simplicity. It lacks some more advanced features, but the GBA emulator for Android basics are there: Gamepad support, compatibility with zipped ROM files, and even save file uploading to Dropbox (a separate app called John Datasync is needed to facilitate this). If you’re looking for a fuss-free GBA emulator, John GBAC is a good choice. Furthermore, John GBAC is completely free to use. Although, if you want to get rid of the ads, you’ll need to cough up some cash.
Nostalgia has a number of emulators available, and their Game Boy Advance variant is another solid option. The user interface here is nothing to write home about, but is functional. Since the UI is the same across all of Nostalgia’s family of emulators, you know what you’re getting into. If you can look past the lackluster aesthetics, there’s a solid GBA emulator to be found. Nostalgia.GBA is based on mGBA, one of the most accurate and popular open-source Game Boy Advance emulators for Android.
In addition to accuracy, Nostalgia.GBA enables users to share save states across numerous devices. From within the app, you can send save states via Bluetooth, email, Skype, and more. Nostalgia.GBA also supports Bluetooth gamepads and ROM files in both .GBA and .ZIP formats. In addition, users can implement cheats and even activate a “rewind” feature to retry sections of the game until they “git gud.” The free “Lite” version of Nostalgia.GBA is identical to the “Pro” paid version, only with the inclusion of ads.
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6. My Boy!
My Boy! is one of the most well-known Game Boy Advance emulators for Android on this list. It has earned this popularity with great performance, accuracy, and features. My Boy! boasts high efficiency, ensuring better battery life while using the app. Additionally, the My Boy! GBA emulator features BIOS emulation, meaning that games are emulated with incredibly high accuracy. The app can also emulate various cartridge features, like the gyroscope, rumble, and solar sensor.
In addition, My Boy! includes some other useful features, like local and network multiplayer, fast-forward, and slo-mo, as well as save file syncing via Google Drive. There is a free version available; however, it is ad-supported and lacks some of the features in the paid version. One last thing to note: while My Boy! is an accurate and popular Game Boy Advance emulator for Android, it hasn’t seen any major updates in a number of years. Therefore, if you’re looking for tweaks in performance or additional features, you may want to look elsewhere.
GBA.emu is an incredibly solid, feature-rich GBA emulator created by Robert Broglia, the developer behind one of the most popular SNES emulators of all time. Based on VBA-M, GBA.emu is a Game Boy Advance emulator for Android that focuses on low audio/visual latency. It achieves this by offering quality BIOS emulation, meaning games run with high accuracy.
Focusing on performance, GBA.emu employs a very minimalist user interface. In addition, because of the GBA emulator’s focus on performance, you won’t find any flashy extra features. GBA.emu offers controller support, cheat codes, and customizable on-screen controls. And that’s about it. While GBA.emu does what it sets out to do, the price tag is a bit steep – especially for a GBA emulator that doesn’t offer some of the more advanced features seen in some of the other Game Boy Advance emulators for Android.
If you’re planning on running more than just Game Boy Advance on your Android device, you’ll want to check out Lemuroid, an all-in-one GBA emulator solution that runs games from a large number of consoles (including the Game Boy Advance), stretching all the way back to the Atari 2600 to more recent consoles, like the Nintendo 3DS. Lemuroid also supports controllers, customization of the touch controls in terms of size and position on the screen, and syncing save files to the cloud. In addition, there is local multiplayer support through the use of multiple controllers on a single device and compatibility with zipped ROMs. To top it all off, Lemuroid is a free GBA emulator, without a single ad in sight.
Like Retroarch, Lemuroid is based on the open-source Libretro. However, the big difference between these GBA emulators is their ease of use. Lemuroid is ready to go, straight out of the box: simply install the app, scan for your ROMs and start playing. On the other hand, Retroarch requires a bit of fiddling around to get everything to work. If you want to bypass the configuration and just jump straight into gaming, Lemuroid is the GBA emulator you’re after.
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9. VinaBoy Advance
One of the more barebones Game Boy Advance emulators on the Google Play Store, VinaBoy Advance does what it says it will. You won’t find any advanced features here: no rewinding, transferring save states between devices, and no tweaks. However, what you do get is a simple and easy-to-use GBA emulator for Android that plays .GBA, .7z, and .ZIP GBA ROM files.
VinaBoy Advance does have one major advantage over the competition: it’s totally free. There are no annoying ads, nor are there features hidden behind a paywall. Of course, you’re sacrificing even some of the more basic features present in other GBA emulators, but free is free, and that’s a strong argument in itself. Even so, be aware that VinaBoy Advance’s last significant update was in 2018. Despite that, the app is compatible back to Android 4.0, so if you have an older, low-power device, VinaBoy Advance may be worth an install.
One of the newer options on the list, EmuBox is one of those jack-of-all-trades apps that emulates multiple retro gaming consoles, including the Game Boy Advance, all under one roof. Unfortunately, this GBA emulator is pretty bare-bones, even its user interface for Android is pretty spartan. It works, but don’t expect any advanced features beyond save states and cheats. If you’re interested in tweaking various settings, look elsewhere.
The upside to EmuBox is that the app is completely free, although you’ll need to tolerate a few ads now and then. Furthermore, EmuBox is capable of emulating consoles like the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation 1, provided your Android device has the necessary power. It’s also important to remember that while EmuBox may not have the same number of features as other apps, it is still being actively developed. Fingers crossed that in the future we’ll see added functionality.
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Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance has gone down in gaming history as one of the best handheld consoles ever made, thanks to excellent design and a stellar game library. Because of its popularity, both gamers who fondly remember unfolding the clamshell console and those too young to experience it in real time, can enjoy the GBA thanks to emulation. In addition, the sheer processing power of today’s modern phones means you don’t have to own a flagship device to run them smoothly. Gamers are spoiled with choice when it comes to Game Boy Advance emulators for Android.
Image credit: Unsplash
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