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The Best GBA Emulators For PC

The Game Boy Advance was a huge hit and followed up its predecessors, the Game Boy & Game Boy Color rather successfully, bringing SNES quality games and beyond to a tiny handheld console.

Whilst it may not recreate the handheld experience 1:1, playing GBA games on your PC can actually be more enjoyable thanks to the excellent range of emulators that offer functionality such as resolution upscaling, shaders, and other graphical refinements, allowing GBA games to make the jump from handheld to the big screen with ease.

Here we recommend the best GBA emulators for PC that offer are easy to use, offer great functionality, and will make you want to play the huge library of classic Game Boy Advance games again.

1. mGBA

mGBA is the tried and tested emulator when it comes to GBA emulation and features in first place in our best GBA emulator article. First released in 2014, mGBA has received regular updates and has a huge fanbase in the emulation and GBA community, and is considered one of the best GBA emulators for PC.

mGBA is feature rich with loads of tools including GBA cheat codes (Using GameShark, Action Replay MAX, and CodeBreaker), rewind/fast-forward/pause functions, BIOS loader, save state functionality as well as some really cool tools to access the games assets such as sprites, tiles, maps & palettes.

The developer of mGBA hosts a development timeline on their website, which details the background of where mGBA has come from, as well as what they are aiming to implement over the coming months and years.

At the time of writing, this includes online multiplayer support and wireless adapter support. So, the future continues to look promising for mGBA.

mGBA
mGBA Running Super Mario Advance 2

mGBA Features Include:

  • mGBA Emulates Multiple Classic Nintendo Handhelds – Play Game Boy & Game Boy Color games with mGBA
  • Video Filter & Scaling Functions – Upscale GBA games so they look better on the big screen
  • GBA Peripheral Emulation – With mGBA you can emulate 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 – Instantly save and 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

Great news for RetroArch fans, mGBA is available as a Libretro core, meaning you get to benefit from the excellent emulation mGBA has to offer, but also all the bells and whistles that come with using RetroArch also!

If you didn’t already know about the joy that is RetroArch, it is a front end for a huge selection of emulator ‘cores’. It’s actually very easy to use, simply download the core for the system you wish to emulate with RetroArch, then load your game ROM, that’s all there is to it!

The great thing about using RetroArch is that you can also benefit from all of the additional features that it beings, such as my favorite, the ability to play around with a large number of RetroArch shaders.

RetroArch mGBA With LCD Shader
RetroArch mGBA Using An LCD Screen Effect Shader

Shaders provide many effects, often recreating classic retro displays such as handheld LCD screens, CRT TVs, scanline effects, and many other upscaling effects, perfect if you want to polish up the appearance of your favourite retro games.

Another thing that makes RetroArch great is its automatic configuration of controllers. With RetroArch, there is often very little configuration required, simply plug in or wirelessly connect your controller to your PC, then RetroArch will take care of the configuration for you.

mGBA is an excellent standalone emulator, but the mGBA core paired with RetroArch makes it a formidable case for not picking up your original GBA ever again! Check out our RetroArch GBA set up guide to help get you started!

3. NanoBoyAdvance

NanoBoyAdvance is very much one of the new kids in town, but it’s off to a good start with its high-accuracy emulation, high compatibility rate, and delivers cycle-accurate emulation where possible.

It is not as feature-rich as mGBA as it is still in its relatively early development, but if you are all about a simple emulation experience with high accuracy performance, then NanoBoyAdvance is worth having as part of your GBA emulator collection.

NanoBoyAdvance running Castlevania Aria Of Sorrow
NanoBoyAdvance running Castlevania Aria Of Sorrow

It is worth noting that you will need a Game Boy Advance BIOS file to use NanoBoyAdvance. You can either use a dump of a real GBA BIOS, or an unofficial BIOS file, which can then mean game emulation may be less accurate.

NanoBoyAdvance Features Include:

  • High Level Of Game Compatibility And Emulation Accuracy
  • HQ Audio Mixer – Intended for games that utilise Nintendo’s MusicPlayer 2000 sound engine
  • Post-processing Video Effects – Color correction, upscaling modes, and simulated LCD screen ghosting
  • Save States
  • Solar Sensor Emulation
  • Controller Support – With remappable controls
  • ROMs Bootable From Archive Files – You can launch game ROMs directly from archives such as Zip, Tar, 7z as well as limited RAR support

4. VisualBoyAdvance-M (VBA-M)

VisualBoyAdvance-M is the latest development from derived from the original VisualBoyAdvance GBA emulator as well as a merge of a number of VBA development forks, hence the name, VBA-M (The ‘M’ stands for merge!).

VBA-M adds a number of features to the original VBA as well as the codebase being maintained to ensure it is more modern and efficient than the original VBA which became inactive back in 2004.

VBA M
VBA-M Running Super Mario Advance 2

VBA-M is one of the best standalone GBA emulators for PC, alongside mGBA, there is not much these emulators are not able to do 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

The GBA has a fairly basic set of controls, with a d-pad, two primary fire buttons, and two shoulder buttons.

Whilst this was excellent on the original hardware, we find that investing in a controller that allows you to get the most from not just GBA emulators, but also many other systems is the way forward.

With this in mind, you can not do much better than choosing a controller from 8BitDo. Their range of retro-inspired controllers is not just great looking, they are comfortable, robust and offer a huge amount of function for their low cost.

Take a look at some of the best controllers available currently:-

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

  • Highly configurable and compatible with many systems
  • Perfect for playing retro and modern games
View on Amazon
8Bitdo SN30 Pro Bluetooth Controller

8Bitdo SN30 Pro Bluetooth Controller

  • SNES controller form factor but includes analogue sticks, perfect for retro & modern gaming
  • High compatibility across a number of systems
View on Amazon
8Bitdo Arcade Stick

8Bitdo Arcade Stick

  • Perfect for Arcade & Fighting game fans
  • Ultra-moddable Arcade Stick - Universal mounting plate supports parts from Sanwa, Seimitsu & more
View on Amazon
8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth & Wireless Controller

8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth & Wireless Controller

  • Modern form factor & functionality - Perfect for both retro & modern gaming
  • Includes charging dock
View on Amazon
8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Controller

8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Controller

  • Impressively comfortable and responsive d-pad
  • Perfect for Sega Genesis / Mega Drive & Saturn emulation
View on Amazon
8Bitdo Zero 2 Bluetooth Controller

8Bitdo Zero 2 Bluetooth Controller

  • Totally unique tiny, but usable Bluetooth controller
  • Fits in your pocket - Be ready to game anywhere and anytime!
View on Amazon

Final Thoughts On The Best GBA Emulators For PC

So as you can see, there are many great options for GBA fans for are looking for the best GBA emulators for PC.

We will love using RetroArch with mGBA because of the versatility that RetroArch offers, but if you are looking for a much more feature rich experience, then you can’t substitute the standalone emulators of mGBA & VisualBoyAdvance-M, both are great applications. Also with the development of NanoBoyAdvance, the future of PC GBA emulation is looking bright.

If you are looking for the Android GBA emulators and Mac GBA emulators, then take a look at our respective best GBA emulators for Android and best GBA emulators for Mac articles. For more emulators.