For a long time, GameBoy and it’s exquisite catalog of games have held a special place in the hearts of gamers all over the world. It’s not always about the latest and greatest graphics or immersing yourself in overwhelming realism when it comes to gaming.
Sometimes you just wanna take a break from the run and gun action of games like Call of Duty: Mobile and return to the 32-bit playground we all know and love or want to experience for the first time.
That is entirely possible today thanks to a little thing we like to call retro emulation. Thanks to the use of an emulator, you will be able to play GameBoy games right there on your smartphone. But, with such little information about them available, it can be a daunting task trying to get the right software and start playing.
That’s why today, I thought we’d take a look at how you can start reliving the good old days and start playing GameBoy games on your Android device.
The Right Emulator
There are many GameBoy emulators on the market right now and a quick search on the Google Play Store will have you drowning in results, with each one claiming to do it better than the last.
There are Multi-Platform emulators too that can emulate other consoles as well, such as the Super Nintendo or NEO-GEO, but today we’re going to focus on Stand-Alone emulators that are dedicated to only running GameBoy Advanced (GBA).
There are 2 in particular that I would recommend that I’ve personally used and continue to use to this day.
- John GBA Lite: This emulator is available completely for free on the Google Play Store. There is a paid version as well that simply removes ads and works as a way to donate to the developer.
- My Boy! – GBA Emulator: This emulator is no longer free and can be purchased from the Google Play store. It’s one of the oldest and most trusted GBA emulators for Android and does support a lot of premium features like multiplayer as well
I would personally recommend the John GBA Lite if you’re just starting out with retro emulation. The free version contains all the same features and the ads are very minimal. In fact, I only encountered an ad when I accessed the emulator menu to adjust some settings or minimized the game to, for example, respond to a text and then returned to the game.
Not a single ad appeared while I was playing and any ad that appeared could be closed almost immediately so it’s a really good choice.
Installing The Games
The thing about an emulator is that, until you install the games yourself, it’s nothing but an empty program. Games are played using ROMS, a digital “image” of what was once a cartridge or DVD/CD about 10 to 20 years ago and there is an abundance of websites where this fantastic library of old games is available for download.
I use a site called ROMSMODE and it’s where I’ve gotten most of the ROMS I use, but there are many others out there and a quick google search of the specific game you want will get you numerous results to choose from.
Once the ROM is downloaded, I suggest relocating the zip folder to a folder on your SD card that you have labeled as “GBA Games”, for example, to make it easier to organize all your ROMS. Once you have unzipped the file it will be ready for installation.
When you start up John GBA Lite, it will automatically scan your SD card for any new ROMS and immediately install them and make them ready to be played.
Take It To The Next Level
Mobile Gaming Controller
Here at mobilegamertech.com, we’re all about taking the mobile gaming experience to the next level and that is entirely possible in GBA emulation with the use of a mobile gaming controller.
It is true that the GameBoy was designed as a single portable handheld unit and not meant to work with a controller but that’s the beauty of emulation, you can really have it your way.
I personally prefer keeping my hand and controller closer to my body but I like to keep the screen I’m using at a distance, so it’s a perfect match to use my mobile gaming controller when I go retro with games like Pokémon FireRed and even Castlevania.
Not to mention the added benefit of not seeing the touch controls cluttering the screen.
Even if you still want the handheld feel but with physical buttons, you can get telescopic controllers as well, like the iPega Red Knight, that stretch out and hug your phone, turning it into one solid piece of gaming equipment.
How to set it up
Many retro GBA emulators come with Bluetooth controller support, including the John GBA Lite. All it takes is a few easy steps to set-up:
- Connect your controller to your phone via the Bluetooth connection and open the app as normal
- Open the menu in the top right hand corner
- Select Settings then scroll down and select Gamepad Settings
- Press the ‘+’ symbol in the top right-hand corner to create a new Key-Map
- Select each button one at a time and then press the corresponding button on the controller to Map the key
The game will save the preset for your controller and will now be able to run without needing to press or even see any of the touch screen buttons.
Let’s Go Retro
So, there you have it. A quick and easy (and also very cheap) way to start playing GameBoy games on your Android device and, as always on mobilegamertech.com, a way to take your mobile gaming experience to the next level.
Do you play GameBoy Advanced games? Have you used a controller as well? Let us know in the comments section below!
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