The Game Boy and Game Boy Color were revolutionary handheld gaming systems released by Nintendo in the late 1980s and 1990s. With amazing games like Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Super Mario Land 2, the Game Boy lineup defined portable gaming for a generation of gamers.
These days, the best way to play classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color games is through emulation. Emulators allow you to play GB and GBC games on modern systems like Windows PCs. But with so many emulators out there, which one is right for you?
Our Top Picks for the Best GB and GBC Emulators
In this article, we’ll highlight the best GB and GBC emulators for PC based on factors like emulation accuracy, features, and ease of use. Here are our top picks:
- RetroArch – The most accurate and customizable emulator
- mGBA – Excellent accuracy with a clean interface
- Gambatte – Lightweight and optimized for speed
- BGB – Solid performance and robust debugging tools
- TGB Dual – Good for multiplayer link cable gaming
We’ll dive into more details on each of these emulators below. Keep reading to find the best option for your needs!
RetroArch is an open-source emulator frontend that supports tons of systems, including GB and GBC. It uses “cores” like Gambatte and SameBoy to provide cycle-accurate emulation for different consoles.
- Very accurate emulation for GB and GBC
- Tons of options for tweaking performance and visuals
- Save states and rewind features
- Active development community
- Dated interface can be unintuitive
- Requires more setup compared to standalone emulators
RetroArch is great for enthusiasts who want pixel perfect emulation and are willing to tinker with settings. It can take some effort to configure, but provides the most customizable experience.
mGBA focuses solely on emulating Game Boy and Game Boy Advance systems. It provides excellent accuracy and performance along with a streamlined interface.
- Very accurate Game Boy emulation
- Save states and screen filtering
- Controller support and key mapping
- Cleaner UI than RetroArch
- Lacks some advanced options found in RetroArch
- Doesn’t support as many systems overall
mGBA is a great option if you want accurate Game Boy emulation in a lightweight package. It’s easy to set up and use for both casual and hardcore gamers.
Gambatte focuses on speed and performance while still providing solid accuracy. It’s an open-source, cross-platform option built specifically for Game Boy emulation.
- Very fast, full speed emulation
- Clean and simple interface
- Widely used and trusted for accuracy
- Open source and available across platforms
- Fewer features than RetroArch or mGBA
- May require BIOS files for best compatibility
Gambatte is great for low-end hardware or for players who value speed. It’s lightweight, fast, and accurate.
BGB is a long-running Game Boy emulator noted for its debugging tools and solid performance. It helped pioneer emulation features we now take for granted.
- Robust debugging tools and options
- Good selection of performance tweaks
- Solid game compatibility and accuracy
- DOS-based interface is outdated
- Development stalled, lacks recent improvements
BGB helped define Game Boy emulation in the early 2000s. While it’s not as pretty or advanced as newer options, its debugging toolkit makes it valuable for devs and ROM hackers.
TGB Dual focuses on Game Boy local multiplayer features. It supports linking two Game Boy emulators for multiplayer and trade cable gaming.
- Link cable support for multiplayer
- Accurate emulation for popular multiplayer titles
- Limited features outside of multiplayer
- Development stalled, lacks recent improvements
For gamers focused on the Game Boy’s legendary local multiplayer, TGB Dual is hard to beat. It delivers great link cable emulation for games like Pokemon and Tetris.
There are lots of other Game Boy emulators for Windows worth considering:
- SameBoy – Focuses on high accuracy over performance
- emuDownload Center – All-in-one launcher with support for many systems
- GBE+ – Built for simplicity and ease of use
- KiGB – Highlights Game Boy Printer emulation
- GEST – Prized for its debugging tools
Less common options like KiGB can be great for specific use cases like development, hacking or printing. But the emulators we highlighted earlier provide the best combination of features for most gamers.
Choosing the Best Emulator for You
With so many great options, choosing the best Game Boy emulator depends on your needs:
- Casual gamers may prefer mGBA or Gambatte for their simplicity and clean UIs.
- Power users can wring every last drop of performance out of RetroArch.
- Developers may leverage BGB or GEST’s debugging tools.
- Multiplayer fans need TGB Dual for link cable gaming.
Consider the following to choose the ideal emulator:
- Game compatibility – Some emulators run certain titles better than others. Check compatibility lists to make sure your favorite games work.
- Emulation accuracy – If authenticity is important, lean towards cycle-accurate options like RetroArch and mGBA.
- Features – Evaluate emulators based on your must-have features like save states, cheats, netplay, etc.
- System resources – Lower powered machines may need lightweight options like Gambatte.
- User interface – Pick a clean intuitive UI or advanced customization options to suit your needs.
Here is a comparison table highlighting key differences between some popular GB and GBC emulators:
|Great link support
There is no definitively “best” Game Boy emulator, but we hope this overview gives insight into the leading options. All of the emulators discussed here are great choices for playing GB and GBC games on your PC.
Getting Set Up with Game Boy Emulation on PC
Once you’ve chosen the right emulator, getting set up is straightforward:
- Download your emulator of choice – Visit the official website and download the Windows version. Make sure to get the latest stable release.
- Install the emulator – Run the installer .exe file and follow the prompts to install on your PC.
- Get Game Boy ROM files – You’ll need .gb or .gbc files for your games. These can often be found online, but beware of malware and use trusted sources.
- Configure controls – Set up your keyboard, gamepad or other controller in the emulator settings.
- Start playing! – Add your ROMs to the emulator library and you’re good to go!
From there you can boost performance, tweak visuals, and dive into features like save states, cheats, and taking screenshots. The emulators here all have detailed documentation on their options and advanced usage.
Is Game Boy Emulation Legal?
When using Game Boy emulators, it’s important to keep legal considerations in mind:
- Downloading and using copyrighted ROM files you don’t own is generally illegal.
- You must own a legal copy of the game to use a downloaded ROM file.
- Emulator developers discourage piracy and often forbid ROM links.
- Obtain ROM files responsibly and avoid shady sites at all costs.
While Game Boy classics aren’t available digitally, you can play ROMs legally if you dump games you physically own. Some emulators support playing games right from a Game Boy cartridge.
Overall, emulators themselves are legal, as long as you take care to own the games you’re playing. Be smart, avoid pirating games, and make sure to support developers for quality emulators.
Relive Classic Game Boy Gaming on PC
Game Boy emulation opens up Nintendo’s legendary handheld to modern gamers. With phenomenal emulators like RetroArch, mGBA, Gambatte, BGB, and TGB Dual, you can experience the best of Game Boy and Game Boy Color gaming right on your desktop.
Which emulator do you recommend most? Let us know in the comments about your favorite GB and GBC emulators to play Pokemon, Zelda, Mario, Tetris and more Game Boy classics!