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 interest in playing their old favorites on their phones.
Android phones have greatly increased in sheer power over the years as well – while the earliest Android phones didn’t have the horsepower for reliable emulation, today’s phones can even emulate consoles like the GameCube.
The maturity of the Android platform now means there’s a few good Android GBA emulators out there that are worth using. We’re going to tackle each one of those today but first need to explore what makes a great GBA emulator.
What sets apart a great GBA emulator?
Let’s talk about what sets them apart. A great Android GBA emulator, or really a great emulator in general, will prioritize emulation accuracy while also offering plenty of extra features. The most pressing of these features will include full gamepad support and save state management – especially when you want to be able to pick up, play and put away a GBA emulator at any time.
Why is (insert emulator here) not included?
We’ve listed the best Android GBA emulators we could find, but a few notable options are missing from this list. If you notice that your GBA emulator of choice is missing, there’s one of two reasons for that: it’s either broken as of its latest updates, or it utilizes (un-credited) open-source development.
1. 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 in-built cheats, various options to improve the rendering, and 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).
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
3. My Boy!
My Boy! is a prominent GBA emulator on the Play Store and perhaps the most prominent of the Android GBA emulators. It’s certainly the most popular, and it earned this popularity with great performance, accuracy and emulation features. The Premium version of the application strips away the ads but isn’t strictly necessary for a good experience.
GBA.emu is an incredibly solid, feature-rich GBA emulator for Android. Its free version, linked above, is functionally identical to its paid version. If you’d like to support the developer, you can also 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.
GBAoid is the GBA emulator that I started out with. While it isn’t as up to date as other options on this list, it’s still completely free and offers all the key features you need out of a GBA emulator for Android. If for some reason you don’t opt for one of the higher-ranked free options on this list, GBAoid is a classic that should still serve you well today.
Ultimately, Android GBA emulators are plentiful, but only a few are really worth actually using. If you want to avoid the long setup associated with RetroArch (especially if you’re only interested in GBA titles), then MyBoy! is probably your best option. GBA.emu is another great alternative, especially since it offers all of its features for free. My previous advice about staying away from entries not on this list still applies. If you want to experiment with different Android GBA emulators, stick to these.