The Game Boy Advance is one of the most popular portable game consoles of all time, and 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 favorites on their phones.
The maturity of the Android platform means there are now a few good Android GBA emulators that are worth using. We’ve gathered the best of them for you here.
VGBAnext is not only one of the best GBA emulators for Android, 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.
The fact that you can keep all your retro Nintendo console collections in one place is already a big plus, but VGBAnext is actually a great emulator beyond that. It supports modern gamepads as well as older ones like Nyko PlayPad and the PS3 Sixaxis controller. Save states are included as standard, and there’s a neat “Rewind” feature that lets you roll back 16 seconds to quickly retry that tricky section over and over again.
Of the more advanced features, there’s network play, and (our personal favorite) you can record the soundtrack or sound effects of a game you’re playing, then use them as your ringtone! It’s a unique touch that seals this emulator’s place at the start of our list.
At the time of writing, VGBAnext is around 40% off, too, so grab it quick!
2. Pizza Boy
One of the more recent and most accurate GBA emulators out there, Pizza Boy is widely regarded as the best GBA emulator for Android alongside the mGBA core in Retroarch.
What makes it so good? Aside from excellent performance and plenty of tweaks that can make the emulation either more accurate or more “modernized,” it has some very elegant skins that replicate variants of the GBA, really harnessing that nostalgia.
Enthusiasts have even tested Pizza Boy’s accuracy for sound and image against other emulators, and it’s come out on top. To think that this excellent piece of software is so much newer than other entries on this list just makes you wonder how much better it can possibly get!
The same developer has made a Pizza Boy emulator for Game Boy Color, which is equally impressive.
RetroArch is a poster child in the world of emulation, namely because it’s not exactly an emulator. RetroArch is best described as a single, unified application through which you can interact with other emulators. These emulators are represented in “Cores,” and there are multiple RetroArch cores to choose from for each system you want to emulate. In particular, VBA-M and mGBA are excellent options.
RetroArch can be fiddly to set up, so be sure to read our Complete Guide for Retroarch on Android to help you get started.
4. John GBA
A reasonably accurate GBA emulator with plenty of extra features, the no-nonsense John GBA is a great option for those who want to keep things simple. It has built-in cheats and various options to improve the rendering. Particularly useful is the Dropbox support, which allows you to sync your saves and configuration data to the cloud, then continue playing on another Android device.
The default virtual gamepad layout isn’t great, but you can change it at least, and there is Bluetooth controller support, too. (We can’t stress enough how much better it is to play GBA games with a gamepad.)
5. My Boy!
My Boy! is perhaps the most prominent entry on this list. It’s certainly the most popular, and it earned this popularity with great performance, accuracy and emulation features.
There used to be a free version on the Play Store, but that seems to have now been removed – the only one you can get now is the Premium one. It remains a very good app, but the $5 price tag definitely knocks down the pecking order, as it’s hard to justify the price when there are perfectly good free competitors out there.
You can still find the free version at Emuparadise, but it hasn’t been updated for a while so may be a bit outdated compared to the Play Store version.
GBA.emu is an incredibly solid, feature-rich option. Its free version, linked above, is functionally identical to its paid version. If you’d like to support the developer, you ca opt for the paid version instead, but you don’t need to worry about having ads thrown in your face if you can’t. It’s one of few open-source Android GBA emulators and sees regular updates because of that.
Aside from RetroArch, this is definitely our favorite free option on this list.
Android GBA emulators are plentiful, but only a few are really worth actually using. If you’re serious about emulation, then you need to read our guide on how to connect a PS4 controller to your Android device. (We also have a guide for connecting Xbox 360 controllers to Android.)
Image credit: Teenage gamer boy playing video games on smartphone by DepositPhotos