5 of the Best GBA Emulators to Play GameBoy Advance Games


Nintendo’s GameBoy Advance had an extensive library of games, and almost all of them have aged well. If you’re planning on revisiting some of the older GBA titles, the emulators offer an amazing experience that’s both more enhanced and optimized than the original console. In this article, we review the five best free GBA emulators available online.

What are GBA emulators?

GBA or Game Boy Advance was a 32-bit handheld console released in 2001 by Nintendo. Since the console was discontinued, the only way to play these games is through emulators, which are third-party programs. Emulators are software designed to simulate another device on a PC. You can also use GBA emulators on Android.

To play games on a GBA emulator, you must first have a ROM file of the game you want to play and then load it on the emulator. You can also map commands on the emulator for keyboards and gamepads, then continue reliving all your favorite games on your PC without paying for the console or its games.

Let’s review the five best GBA emulators found online.


If you are looking for a GameBoy emulator that does not require a BIOS to play games, the mGBA emulator will not disappoint you. You don’t need to go through a tedious installation: just launch it and load a ROM in ZIP or 7z file format and enjoy all your favorite GBA titles.

The mGBA emulator can run on a wide list of platforms, especially Windows, macOS, Linux, BSD, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Wii, and PlayStation Vita. Moreover, it also supports hardware like USB/Bluetooth controllers and keyboards, so if you have a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller lying around, you can pair it with your mGBA emulator to enjoy old Nintendo games.

Mgba emulator playing legend of Zelda

It is one of the best emulators you can find for GameBoy Advance due to its long list of features and benefits. If you use custom ROMs of GBA games, you get many utilities that traditional consoles don’t provide.

One of the most important features is the ability to save games wherever you want, a feature that was not included in many early portable games. In older games, you could save your games only in certain places in the game. However, mGBA allows you to save anywhere and anytime.

Also, if you want to try some cheat codes, mGBA gives you the option to use them in selected games. This lets you play your childhood games from a completely different perspective. Coupled with the ability to save anywhere, it can turn every playthrough of your favorite games into a unique experience.

Other than that, many previous GameBoy titles had some kind of underlying issue that somewhat marred the experience. To fix these issues, the mGBA emulator allows you to activate custom ROM patches that fix broken parts of these games. Overall mGBA Emulator provides complete service for playing GBA titles.

2. VisualBoyAdvance-M

VisualBoy Advance is the oldest Game Boy Advance emulator. It came out in the early 2000s but was quickly dropped. Recently, the newest version is VisualBoyAdvance-M.

Even though VisualBoyAdvance-M is the most recent version of VisualBoy Advance, it is still much older than all other emulators. The original VBA ran on much older hardware and had a lot of lag due to compatibility issues, but the latest version has all those issues optimized with frequent software updates and patches.

Vba emulator playing pokemon

The age of the software gives it a significant advantage of being able to run on any hardware, old or new, with ease and stability. Apart from being available on Windows, you can also run it on operating systems like Linux, macOS, AmigaOS 4, Wii, GameCube, AROS, webOS, etc. Its download size is a few megabytes and does not require any form of installation.

If you weren’t a fan of how old GBA games looked, VisualBoyAdvance-M lets you tweak graphics settings by changing pixel filters, color saturation, and more. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, tint, and other aspects of your game to make it look the way you want.

Besides that, you also have the option to speed up your games with VisualBoyAdvance-M’s turbo mode. This increases the speed of the game, allowing you to go through tedious sections of the game without spending a lot of time there. Similar to mGBA emulator, VisualBoyAdvance-M also provides flexible save state, so you can save and load your games from any location you want.

3. BatGBA

the BatGBA is perhaps the simplest and easiest to use emulator on this list. It is designed to deliver the original GameBoy experience on a PC and has a simple user interface along with the original GBA color scheme.

In addition to being simple, it is also the lightest and most compact, as it only takes up about 200 kilobytes of storage space. The best part is that it is compatible with slightly outdated systems running Windows XP despite being so compact.

Batgba emulator

However, compared to mGBA emulator which had a large list of features, BatGBA does not offer much. It has a small display size that mirrors how the original GBA typically performed on displays with far fewer pixels than the Full HD displays we see today.

However, you can adjust the screen size by clicking the “Window” tab. Despite its lack of pixels, it still runs at the standard 60 fps. All in all, if you want a compact and easy to use emulator that takes up almost no space on your PC and runs all GBA games in an instant without straining your PC, the BatGBA is your best bet.

4. No $GBA

No $GBA is another free emulator that requires no installation. Just download a zipped folder, extract the contents and run the No$GBA executable file to run it.

The method of loading a game on the emulator is very different from all other emulators. You need to manually access your game’s ROM file and set No$GBA as your default application to launch this file, so playing a game on No$GBA can be a bit tricky if you don’t know this trick.


However, the best part of No$GBA is that it can also run Nintendo DS games. Not only that, but No$GBA also supports gamepads and simple controls with options to customize them according to your preferences.

In an attempt to make this emulator realistic, the default display colors have been set to appear a little duller. In that regard, it remains authentic to the original GameBoy Advance console we all know.

If you’re looking for the vintage GBA feel, the No$GBA is a great emulator that can run a wide range of games. However, if you want a more color-corrected version of the GBA, be sure to check out the other entries on this list.

5. higan

higan is a modern and advanced emulator designed for gamers who like to have full control over the games they play, even if they are over ten years old.

Although it does a great job running GBA games on Windows, higan is not limited to that. It can also emulate games from different vintage consoles like Famicom, Super Famicom, Sega Master System, Gameboy Color, Mega Drive and even Game Gear.

Higan emulator

Whichever console you want to emulate, you must first download the BIOS ROM for that particular console and run it from the emulator software. Then you would load your games into “cartridges” from the higan emulator by importing the ROM files into them.

This whole set up process is pretty hectic. That’s why this emulator is more suitable for users who like to get into the nitty-gritty of the software and are used to dealing with complicated procedures.

However, once the games are loaded, they are saved in the directory of the emulator itself and you never need to import them again, which is one of the many cool features it offers. It also has full button mapping functionality to use whatever commands you want on your keyboard or gamepad.

Apart from the main features, it also has many small advantages such as save states, pixel shaders, debuggers, adaptive synchronization, color correction and much more. If you like messing with all the controls and options when gaming, you might find the Higan emulator worth your time.

However, it should be mentioned that higan does not handle game sounds very well. The audio is slightly muddy and distorted compared to other emulators, which can be a slight drawback.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, GBA emulators or any other emulators are completely legal to download on your PC. Even though Nintendo sells its console at an MSRP, the free emulators available online can be downloaded by Nintendo.

Indeed, emulators are an essential tool for game developers, allowing developers to create games from a computer. This is why there are no restrictions on downloading console emulators online. Just make sure that the emulator you download works well and is well suited to your personal needs.

2. Do I need a high-end PC to run a GBA emulator?

The GameBoy Advance console was released in the early 2000s. As a result, all games ran on much older and slower hardware, so as long as your PC is 21st century, you should have absolutely no problem running a GBA emulator.

3. What features should I look for in a GBA emulator?

Even though most GBA emulators look the same, some options offer additional features that make it easier for new audiences to enjoy older GBA titles. Look for features like fast forward, save and load states, pixel filters, and color correction as they give you full control over your gaming experience.

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