Game Boy/Game Boy Color emulators
|Type||Handheld game console|
|Predecessor||Game & Watch|
The Game Boy is an 8-bit, fourth-generation handheld console released by Nintendo in 1989. It had a monochrome display that could show only two colors, black and white (though the white was more green). Nintendo re-released the console as the Game Boy Pocket in 1996, with a more compact body and a better screen. A front light was added to a special edition of the Pocket in Japan called the Game Boy Light, a feature that wouldn't be seen outside of Japan until the Game Boy Advance SP.
Nintendo released a peripheral for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System called Super Game Boy in 1994, which was modelled like a cartridge but included its own cartridge slot for Game Boy games, as well as the hardware needed to translate the games. Many Game Boy emulators offer at least some of the special features it included, such as added borders, colorization, custom button mappings, and other features. It was possible to link, but without the external port, as well as errors in the CPU, it would not be feasible to the end user; these issues would later be corrected in the Japan-exclusive Super Game Boy 2.
The Game Boy's successor, the Game Boy Color (GBC), was released in 1998. It was named such from its color screen, but it also had a larger memory size and a double-clocked CPU. The hardware similarities allow cross-compatibility between the two platforms and they are often treated as one. They would both by succeeded by the backward-compatible Game Boy Advance.
- 1 Emulators
- 2 Comparison
- 3 Emulation issues
- 4 Game Boy features
- 4.1 Hardware
- 4.2 Accessories
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Because of how relatively easy popular 8-bit consoles are to emulate, tons of Game Boy emulators exist. For a list of open-source projects, see this GitHub query. For a list of accuracy tests, see GB/C Tests.
|Name||Operating System(s)||Latest Version||Game Link Support||Libretro Core||Active||Recommended|
|GBE+||Windows, Linux, OS X (untested)||1.2||✗||✗||✓||✗|
|higan||Windows, Linux, OS X||0.106||✗||✗||✓||✗|
|Visual Boy Advance-M (VBA-M)||Multi-platform||2.1.0||✓||✗[N 1]||✓||✗|
|KiGB||Windows, Linux, OS X||2.05||✓||✗||✗||✗|
|TGB Dual||Windows, Linux[N 2]||"L" v1.2||✓||✓[N 2]||✗||✗|
|mGBA||Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PSVita||0.6.3||?||✓||✓||✗|
|GameYob DS||Nintendo DS||Git||✓ (NiFi)||✗||✗||✓|
|GameYob 3DS||Nintendo 3DS||v1.0.8||?||✗||✗||✓|
|Visual Boy Advance-M (VBA-M)||Wii, Gamecube||r1231||✓||✓ (as VBA-Next)||✓||✓|
|GeMP||PlayStation Portable||3.3 Final||✗||✗||✗||✗|
|Virtual Console||Nintendo 3DS||8.10||✓ (Pokemon only)||✗||✓||✓|
- A VBA-M libretro core does exist, but it only emulates GBA.
- As an SDL port (and the libretro core is based on this version).
Game Boy-only emulators
- A relatively new emulator, probably the most accurate Game Boy emulator currently. The UI is simplistic without many options. It includes open source bootroms, although these can be replaced with real ones. Also emulates Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer.
- A closed-source emulator for Windows (and Wine) with excellent Game Boy and Game Boy Color accuracy, as well as near flawless link support. It has a wealth of options for color palettes and even enabling Super Game Boy colors and borders, though it doesn't emulate all of its functions. It also has an advanced debugger.
- Very accurate open-source Game Boy Color emulator. It has a good range of options and features, though not quite as much as some other emulators. It has not been as active lately.
- TGB Dual
- An ancient emulator that supports link cable emulation. It also supports netplay, but it requires a VPN. The libretro port supports local multiplayer using player 2's controls.
- An old and obsolete emulator which boasted its accuracy but was proven to be full of game-specific hacks. It has a wide selection of features, but other emulators have caught up and are already doing much better.
- Pioneered full GB Camera emulation, including webcam support. Aside from that, it's an unfinished emulator with the basics set up, but its promising future currently on hiatus. It has very accurate timing.
Backwards-compatible GBA emulators
- Primarily emulates the Game Boy Advance but it also includes GB/C support much like the original system. It's still in development, but it's already on the level of many other emulators.
- A recently rewritten emulator that has a large effort in preserving the functions of obscure accessories that other emulators don't focus on. It can also load custom tiles in games, including colorized tiles for original Game Boy titles.
- VisualBoy Advance -M (VBA-M)
- Used to be the go-to for Game Boy Advance emulation and even included solid GB/C emulation. It's now behind mGBA on both fronts.
- Because it started out as a SNES emulator (its original name was bsnes), it was the only one that properly emulated all of the Super Game Boy's features, such as SPC sound chip utilization. Versions of bsnes at and before 0.73 used the Gambatte core for its Super Game Boy functionality, but Byuu eventually made his own Game Boy core, which ended up having pretty good accuracy.
- Uses a modified Gambatte core. It provides speedrunning tools.
- Has solid Game Boy emulation through its
gameboydriver despite the sound being imperfect, as well as slightly worse GBC compatibility through its
gbcolordriver (where both the graphics and sound are imperfect). Despite its setbacks, it aims to feature compatibility with obscure mappers that other emulators usually ignore, like Wisdom Tree games or MMM01 multicarts. Accuracy was improved upon with contributions by Judge_.
- Its Game Boy Advance core is forked from an old version of VisualBoy Advance.
The Game Boy Color's screen is undersaturated. Game developers often work around this by using brighter colors knowing it'll be compensated for on hardware. This does not translate well in emulation, because standard LCD screens don't account for this sort of issue. Many emulators attempt to combat this issue with options that adjust accordingly; if not directly, then shader functionality may be implemented.
This issue also affects Game Boy Advance emulation.
Game Boy features
The Game Boy Color had an infrared transmitter and receiver. Generation II Pokémon games made use of this feature through Mystery Gift. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe could send high scores to another cartridge. GBE+ had basic IR emulation back in July 2016 but it then only worked with Pokémon games. Now, as of April 2018, it has full IR emulation for most IR-enabled games (Hudson Soft's HuC-1's IR capabilities need to be emulated for Japanese Pokémon TCG).
Game Boy Camera
|Name||Operating System(s)||Build to Use||Recommended|
|mGBA||Multi-platform||Dev builds post 0.6.0||✓|
The Game Boy Camera is an official Nintendo accessory for the Game Boy and was released in 1998. Users can take pictures and modify them with stickers and frames, as well as play several included minigames. In addition to the original model, there was a US-exclusive Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time edition that included different stamps.
The first emulator to have some capability of emulating the Game Boy Camera was a modified version of an old emulator called Hash. This version, named Hashcam, can still be found on the author's website. While there were some efforts to run the Game Boy Camera ROM in BGB unofficially, the author didn't show much interest in it. However, it is fully emulated with webcam support in a lesser-known emulator called GiiBiiAdvance.
The latest dev builds of mGBA post 0.6.0 release can emulate the accessory by either using the PC's webcam or send a BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, or other image format to the game, as if it was coming from the camera itself. To enable the PC webcam, go to
Game Boy under
settings and switch the
camera driver to
Qt Multimedia, or by editing
qt.ini and setting
Two Game Boy Color games featured a built-in tilt sensor: Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble and Command Master. These games cannot be played without support for this feature. While VBA and KiGB have a "Motion Sensor" option to map four directional keys to emulate the cartridge tilting, BGB can emulate the tilting features with the use of the mouse.
Rumble Enhanced Games
Some cartridges came with a built-in rumble that required an AAA battery to power, such as Pokémon Pinball, but the feature is optional. It is unknown if any emulator supports this feature.
Game Boy Pocket Sonar
Japan only cartridge released by Bandai. It is a sonar-enabled device used for fishing with a fishing game included. Only GBE+ supports this feature.
There are a few accessories that the Game Boy and Game Boy Color had.
BGB, KiGB, some versions of VBA-M and TGB-Dual supports link cable.
Currently only GBE+ supports it.
Game Boy Printer
VisualBoy Advance 1.8.0-beta 3 and GBE+ had Game Boy Printer support that turned the signals into a bitmap form of the image. Some notable games and accessories to make use of this feature are the RPG Pokémon games, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, and Game Boy Camera. mGBA plans to support this feature but it is unknown if other emulators support or have plans to support it.
An obscure Japan-only barcode-scanning device released by Namcot (then-Namco's consumer division) in 1992. A total of 4 games were released to utilize this accessory. KiGB and GEST claim support for this device, but they only feed random data to Game Boy until the game accepts it as a valid barcode. GBE+ has proper emulation with the ability to read barcodes from binary files.
Barcode Taisen Bardigun
Another Japan only barcode-scanning device with the dedicated game. GBE+ supports this accessory.
Mobile Game Boy Adapter
There is a Japan-only accessory that communicates with Mobile Golf and Japanese Pokémon Crystal. It was bundled with Mobile Trainer cartridge which allowed the player to use e-mail as well as browse Nintendo's website. It is possible to partially emulate its feature for Pokémon Crystal by using BGB's scripting capability, and GBE+ can at least reach the title screen of Mobile Trainer, but otherwise, no emulators properly support this accessory.
Singer Sewing Machine
There is link cable support for the Singer IZEK Digital Sewing Machine. The IZEK was unique in that it came bundled with a specially coloured Game Boy and a cartridge for interfacing with the machine. No emulator supports this, mostly due to the IZEK being a rare item, along with the complexity of implementing a similarly automated sewing machine.
Hudsonsoft KISS Link
This accessory allowed users to download exclusive content by them from Hudsonsoft's website. No emulator supports this.
- Game Boy Camera in mGBA dev builds. Twitter (2017-07-28)
- Game Boy Part 2 - Did You Know Gaming? Feat. Jake of Vsauce3. Youtube (2014-05-24)
- Singer IZEK Digital Sewing Machine - Gameboy Color Controller (GameBoy Color) Review. Youtube (2014-06-24)
- Game Boy Development Wiki – Information about the Game Boy
- Emulating Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer in BGB (work in progress) – Game Boy Camera ROM running in bgb unofficially by exploiting linking capabilities