Game Boy/Game Boy Color emulators

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The Game Boy handheld console

The Game Boy is an 8-bit, fourth-generation handheld console released by Nintendo in 1989. The original model has a monochrome display. A revision called the Game Boy Pocket was released in 1996, offering a more compact body and a better screen. In Japan, a special edition of Game Boy Pocket, called the Game Boy Light, added a front light to the screen. This feature would not be seen in Nintendo handhelds outside Japan until the Game Boy Advance SP.

Many Game Boy emulators offer at least some of the special features of the Super Game Boy, a special cartridge for the SNES released in 1994. It allows playback of original Game Boy games with added borders, colorization and custom button mappings. A Japan-exclusive revision called the Super Game Boy 2 would add link cable support, new borders and more accurate CPU timing.

The Game Boy's successor, the Game Boy Color (GBC), was released in 1998. It features a color screen and a CPU clocked at double the speed of the original. Otherwise, the hardware similarities allow cross-compatibility between the two platforms.

Emulators[edit]

PC
Name Operating System(s) Latest Version GB/GBC Game Link Support Libretro Core Recommended
BGB Windows 1.5.3
Gambatte Multi-platform r571
Gearboy Multi-platform 2.3.1
BizHawk Windows 1.12.0
GBE+ Windows, Linux, OS X (untested) SVN 30.5.2016
higan Windows, Linux, OS X 0.102
KiGB Windows, Linux, OS X 2.05
MAME Multi-platform 0.183 ?
mGBA Multi-platform 0.5.2 ?
Visual Boy Advance-M (VBA-M) Multi-platform SVN ✗*
GiiBiiAdvance Windows, Linux 0.2.0
TGB Dual Windows, Linux** "L" v1.2 ✓**

* A VBA-M libretro core does exist, but it only emulates GBA.
** As an SDL port (libretro core is based on this version)

Consoles
Name Operating System(s) Latest Version GB/GBC Game Link Support Libretro Core Recommended
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)
MasterBoy PlayStation Portable 2.10
GeMP PlayStation Portable 3.3 Final
RIN PlayStation Portable 1.32
Virtual Console Nintendo 3DS 8.10

Comparison[edit]

Game Boy-only emulators[edit]

  • BGB has 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 Gameboy colors and borders, though it doesn't emulate all of its functions. It also has an advanced debugger.
  • Gambatte is probably the most accurate Game Boy Color emulator. It has a good range of options and features, though not quite as much as some other emulators. It's open source, but there is no activity lately.
  • Visual Boy Advance-M (VBA-M) has solid GB/C emulation as well as GBA.
  • mGBA recently added GB/C support. It's still in development, but it's already on the level of many other emulators.
  • GBE+ is a recently rewritten emulator that can load custom tiles in games, including colorized tiles for Game Boy games.
  • GiiBiiAdvance has full GB Camera emulation, including webcam support. Otherwise, it's an unfinished emulator with the basics set up, but it's promising future currently on hiatus.
  • TGB Dual is an ancient emulator that supports link cable emulation. It supports Netplay, though it requires a VPN. The libretro port supports local multiplayer using player 2's controls.
  • KiGB is an old and obsolete emulator which boasted of accuracy but was proven to be full of game-specific hacks.[1][2][3] It has a wide selection of features, but there are emulators which do much better now.

Multi-system emulators[edit]

  • higan is the only emulator that properly emulates all of the Super Game Boy's features, such as utilizing the SPC sound chip, due to having a separate SNES core. Older version of bsnes used the Gambatte core for its Super Game Boy functionality, but later Byuu made his own Game Boy core, which has quite average accuracy. The last version of bsnes to use Gambatte as its SGB core is version 0.73.
  • BizHawk uses a modified Gambatte core. It provides speedrunning tools.
  • MAME has solid Game Boy emulation, albeit with worse GBC compatibility. However, it features compatibility with obscure mappers, which other emulators usually ignore, like Wisdom Tree games or MMM01 multicarts.

Issues[edit]

Comparison of saturation levels in VBA-M and Gambatte.

Oversaturation[edit]

Emulators tend to oversaturate the colors that would have been seen on the GBC's screen. This can often be fixed with emulator-specific options or shaders.

Game Boy Features[edit]

Hardware[edit]

Tilt sensor[edit]

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.

IR Transmitter[edit]

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. It is unknown if this feature is implemented in any emulator or there are plans to.

Accessories[edit]

There are a few accessories that the Game Boy and Game Boy Color had.

Link Cable[edit]

BGB supports link cable.

Game Boy Camera[edit]

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.

Game Boy Printer[edit]

VisualBoy Advance 1.8.0-beta 3 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.

Mobile Game Boy Adapter[edit]

There is a Japan only accessory that communicates with Mobile Golf and Japanese Pokémon Crystal. No emulator supports this feature.

Game Boy Pocket Sonar[edit]

Another Japan only accessory exists released by Bandai. It is a sonar-enabled device used for fishing. No emulator supports this feature.

Singer Sewing Machine[edit]

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.[4][5] No emulator supports this, mostly due to the IZEK being a rare item, along with the complexity of implementing a similarly automated sewing machine.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Accuracy tests[edit]