The Game Boy Advance was a massive success, although not quite surpassing its predecessor’s combined sales, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, the GBA was a far technically superior handheld, offering SNES-quality games and beyond on a full colour handheld device.
Playing GBA games on a Mac can be even more enjoyable than on the original classic handheld, thanks to how much GBA emulation has evolved in recent years.
Most GBA emulators offer game-enhancing features such as resolution upscaling, shaders, save states, and cheat codes. This means you can now enjoy all the best GBA games on the big screen, instead of squinting your eyes to see that original tiny display!
In this article, we recommend the best GBA emulators for Mac that are guaranteed to reignite your love for classic GBA games.
mGBA is, without doubt, a favourite when it comes to GBA emulation across a number of platforms, with versions for Mac, PC & Linux available, and is considered one of the best GBA emulators.
mGBA is packed with a plethora of tools and features that make it an all-in-one solution for playing and enhancing Game Boy Advance games. It includes cheat codes (including GameShark, Action Replay MAX, and CodeBreaker), rewind, fast-forward, pause functions, BIOS loader, save states and tools to access the game’s assets like sprites, tiles, maps, and palettes, which are just a few examples of what mGBA has to offer.
The developer of mGBA keeps the community updated on their progress by maintaining a development timeline on their website. This timeline outlines the history of mGBA, as well as the future plans for the emulator.
Plans are in place for mGBA to implement online multiplayer support and support for wireless adapters, indicating a bright future for this already excellent GBA emulator.
mGBA Features Include:
- mGBA Emulates Multiple Classic Nintendo Handhelds – Game Boy & Game Boy Color emulation included with mGBA
- Video Filter & Scaling Functions – Enhance the look of GBA games on your Mac
- GBA Peripheral Emulation – mGBA emulates many of the Game Boy Advance and Game Boy add-ons such as the Game Boy Printer, Game Boy Camera the real-time clock.
- Access Game Assets – mGBA has built-in tools that allow you to access game assets such as sprites, palettes, tiles & maps.
- Save States – Save snapshots of the game and instantly recall your position in a game
- Cheat Codes – Use cheat codes to hack games to make them easier to do things that they were never meant to do!
2. RetroArch – mGBA Core
RetroArch fans rejoice! The excellent GBA emulator, mGBA, is available as a Libretro core, combining its superb emulation capabilities with the versatility of RetroArch.
In case you are unfamiliar with RetroArch, it serves as a frontend for a vast collection of emulator cores, providing an effortless experience to users. All you have to do is download the core for the desired system, then load your ROM and start playing.
One of the best things about using RetroArch is its numerous features, such as the wide range of RetroArch shaders, which can add that final touch to the retro experience.
RetroArch shaders offer a range of impressive visual effects, such as replicating the look of handheld LCD screens, CRT TVs, and adding scanline effects. These shaders enhance the appearance of your favorite retro games, making them look more authentic to the original experience.
One of the standout features of RetroArch is its ability to automatically configure controllers. With RetroArch, there’s no need for complex setup processes. Simply connect your controller to your Mac either by USB or Bluetooth, and RetroArch will handle the rest. But if you are still not happy, RetroArch has comprehensive controller mapping settings for you to tweak until your heart is content.
mGBA is an exceptional standalone emulator, but when paired with RetroArch, it becomes a powerful tool that may make you never want to pick up your original GBA again. Check out our RetroArch GBA set up guide to help get you started.
OpenEmu is the premier emulator frontend for macOS. It’s known for being a multi-system emulator, offering emulation for over 30 gaming systems, making it a worthy alternative to RetroArch.
Just like RetroArch, OpenEmu functions as a front-end for emulation and runs emulator cores, providing a diverse range of emulated systems. It uses the highly regarded mGBA core for Game Boy Advance emulation, which offers top-notch performance and an accurate emulation experience.
Not only is OpenEmu powerful, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing, with visually appealing game ROM library management options. It’s one of the most attractive retro game emulators on the market.
OpenEmu Features Include:-
- Video filters to recreate that retro feeling
- Full-screen mode
- Premium Metal API scaling & multithreaded playback
- Real-time 3D effects & image processing
- ROM scanning allows quick location and sorting of all your ROMs
- Cover artwork
- ROM hack compatibility
- Beautiful and easy-to-use UI and library to keep your ROMs in order
- Save states – Save your progress and instantly recall it
- Supports a wide range of controllers
4. VisualBoyAdvance-M (VBA-M)
One of the longest-standing GBA emulators, VisualBoyAdvance has a rich history of quality GBA emulation as well as being one of the best GBA emulators for PC.
VisualBoyAdvance-M (VBA-M) is the latest advancement in the VisualBoyAdvance emulator, derived from the original VisualBoyAdvance and a combination of various VBA development forks, because of this, the ‘M’ in its name stands for ‘merge’!
Compared to the original VBA, which was inactive since 2004, VBA-M offers a number of enhancements and benefits from being regularly maintained to ensure its codebase is more modern and efficient.
VBA-M is still one of the top standalone GBA emulators for Mac, rivaling mGBA. Between these two emulators, you won’t need to look anywhere else for GBA emulation.
VisualBoyAdvance-M Features Include:
- Game Boy Advance, Game Boy & Game Boy Color Emulation
- Save States
- Record Gameplay Video
- Link Cable Emulation
- Video Filters
- Advanced Audio Settings
- Controller Configuration
- Cheat Codes
Recommended Controllers For GBA Emulation On Mac
The GBA has a simple control setup, featuring a d-pad, two main fire buttons, and two shoulder buttons. While these controls worked well on the original hardware, we would certainly recommend investing in a more versatile controller that can maximize the potential of not just GBA emulation, but also other retro systems.
8BitDo offers an excellent range of retro-inspired controllers. These controllers not only look great, but they are also comfortable, durable, and offer a vast array of features for a relatively good price.
Here are some of the best 8BitDo controllers currently available:
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Final Thoughts On The Best GBA Emulators For Mac
As you can see, there are some excellent options for GBA fans searching for the best GBA emulators for Mac.
Our favorite is RetroArch combined with the mGBA core due to its versatility, but if you’re after a more feature-packed experience, standalone emulators like mGBA and VisualBoyAdvance-M are excellent options too, especially if you are looking for dedicated GBA emulation and the extended feature set associated with the standalone emulators.
If you’re looking for Android GBA emulators, check out our article on the best GBA emulators for Android. For more emulator options, take a look at our emulator guide for more gaming inspiration.
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of Retro Gaming experience. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).