Best GBA Emulators for PC: The Game Boy Advance, also known as GBA, is one of the most beloved handheld gaming consoles ever made.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Released in 2001, the GBA improved on the technology of the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color to provide 32-bit graphics and more powerful hardware.
This allowed the GBA to play games that were more advanced than previous Game Boy titles.
The GBA was a massive success, selling over 80 million units worldwide during its lifespan.
Even though the GBA has been discontinued, the love for its games lives on. Thanks to GBA emulators, it’s possible to play all your favorite GBA titles on your PC.
With emulation, you can relive classics like Pokemon, Mario, Zelda, and so much more. But which GBA emulator is the best for PC gaming?
With so many options out there, it can be tricky to determine which GBA emulators will offer the best performance and accuracy for PC.
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!
Top 6 Best GBA Emulators for PC
Here are our picks for the top 6 best GBA emulators for PC:
VisualBoyAdvance, also known as VBA, is considered by many to be the gold standard when it comes to GBA emulation.
It was one of the first GBA emulators made after the console’s release and has been under constant development ever since. Even the GBA’s Nintendo-licensed emulator used VBA code!
VBA is super accurate and can run pretty much every GBA title without issues. It also has a ton of handy features like save states, controller customization, cheat codes, and artwork/border options.
There’s a good reason VBA has remained a fan-favorite emulator for over 15 years! The only downsides are the slightly outdated UI and lack of online connectivity features that some newer emulators have.
But in terms of pure emulation accuracy and performance, VBA is hard to beat even to this day. It’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Dreamcast!
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern and full-featured than VBA, check out mGBA. This emulator focuses on accuracy, speed, and portability.
It started as a Game Boy Color emulator and eventually expanded to include GBA support.
mGBA has all the standard features you’d expect like save states, controller mapping, and video/audio recording.
It also offers additional functions like online multiplayer support via Wi-Fi or LAN connection and cheat code support. mGBA receives frequent updates and has a spotless, intuitive interface.
Performance and game compatibility are excellent on mGBA. It uses the newer OpenGL rendering backend, which allows for enhanced graphics and effects processing.
mGBA is great for folks who want a user-friendly emulator that balances accuracy with more modern conveniences.
There are builds available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even your browser!
Now we move onto the extremely accurate side of emulation. Higan was created by Byuu, a well-known developer in the emulation scene.
Their goal was perfect accuracy with no compromises. As a result, Higan can play GBA games down to the last bug and glitch.
This makes it ideal for fans who want to experience GBA titles precisely as they would on original hardware.
The catch is that Higan requires a reasonably powerful PC to achieve full-speed emulation. You’ll need a 3Ghz dual core processor or better to run GBA games smoothly.
But if you want perfect accuracy above all else, Higan is as good as it gets. It can play many other systems too like NES, SNES, Genesis, etc.
Just keep in mind that the interface is a bit dated and the emulator lacks certain features like cheat support.
However, Higan represents the pinnacle of GBA emulation accuracy. Give it a go if you have a capable PC!
RetroArch is a unique open-source emulator. Rather than emulating systems itself, RetroArch acts as a front-end that utilizes “cores” to emulate platforms like the GBA.
This modular, multi-system approach has made RetroArch the preferred option for many emulator enthusiasts.
In terms of GBA, RetroArch can use various cores like VBA-M or mGBA. This means you can get the accuracy of VBA-M combined with RetroArch’s robust feature set and beautiful UI.
RetroArch includes useful tools like save state management, rewinding, video recording, and extensive graphics customization.
There is a learning curve due to the huge amount of options and settings. However, RetroArch is worth mastering thanks to the convenience of having one slick interface for all your emulation needs.
If you enjoy tinkering and customization, grab RetroArch and your choice of the available GBA cores!
NO$GBA is a lesser-known but powerful GBA emulator for Windows. Originally starting as a Game Boy Color emulator, NO$GBA eventually expanded to cover the GBA as well.
Accuracy is excellent overall in NO$GBA. It handles advanced GBA functions like rotation/tilting accurately with very high compatibility.
The emulator gets frequent updates and has some nifty extras like GBA ROM hacking and debugging tools for developers.
There’s even an add-on to connect emulated GameCubes and GBAs for link cable features!
Of course, it’s not perfect. The interface has some quirks and can be unintuitive at times. Certain graphics effects and audio can be hit or miss.
But beyond that, NO$GBA is a solid choice that offers robust GBA emulation and unique extras you won’t find elsewhere. Just be prepared for the odd interface issue.
Last but not least, we have GBE+. This emulator is based on VBA-M but adds a variety of enhancements and new features. GBE+ cleans up the interface for a slicker look and nicer flow.
It also adds Wi-Fi linking so you can play old GBA multiplayer games online. The emulator expands on cheat support and includes some additional rendering options.
Performance is quite solid too, especially if your PC supports the OpenGL rendering path. Overall accuracy is excellent since GBE+ builds on the strong foundation of VBA-M.
Some may argue GBE+ strays too far from being a “pure” emulator. But the extras are nice for those wanting modern conveniences. GBE+ is shaping up to be a quality emulator moving forward.
It’s another alternative if you want something between VBA’s simplicity and RetroArch’s complexity.
While the above emulators are our top recommendations, here are a few other GBA emulators worth looking into:
- Mednafen – Accurate multi-system emulator with GBA support via the VBAM core. More demanding on hardware.
- BatGBA – Web-based emulator you can play right in your browser. Great for casual GBA gaming.
- RIN – Newer emulator focused on high accuracy. Early in development but promising.
- GBE – Active fork of VBA-M with continued enhancements and fixes.
What To Look For in a GBA Emulator
So those are our picks for the best GBA emulators around. But what makes a good emulator? Here are a few key things to evaluate:
- Accuracy – How faithfully does the emulator reproduce the performance of real GBA hardware? Higher accuracy means games play like they would on the original console.
- Performance – Can the emulator maintain full speed on your PC hardware? You want smooth gameplay without lag or stuttering.
- Game Compatibility – Check if the emulator can play your desired games. Most should handle the GBA library but verify it works with your favorites.
- Features – Look for useful extras like save states, control binding, video recording, online connectivity, and other enhancements you may want.
- User Interface – Is the emulator accessible and easy to use? While not essential, a clean intuitive UI improves the overall experience.
- Support – Make sure there is active development in case bugs pop up or games don’t work. Abandoned emulators tend to be problematic.
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To Sum Up
The Game Boy Advance has one of the greatest gaming libraries ever seen on handhelds. Now you can play those amazing GBA titles from yesteryear on your Windows PC.
Simply pick any of the excellent emulators we covered, get your favorite ROMs, and enjoy blast processing on the big screen!
Relive golden GBA memories like battling through Pokemon FireRed, slashing through Zelda: The Minish Cap, racing in Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and conquering Final Fantasy VI Advance.
The possibilities are endless with the power of emulation.
We hope our guide has helped shed some light on which GBA emulator may be right for you.
Each has their own pros, cons, and special features that appeal to certain gamers. Take your time, evaluate your options, and you’ll be playing GBA classics in no time.
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