Outside of the NES and SNES, the Game Boy is among the rest of the most popular consoles to emulate. Considering how popular the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance were, it only makes sense to use the new-age power of your smartphone to play those classics.
The problem with finding the best Game Boy and Game Boy Advance emulators for Android is that there are so many different options to choose from, which is not the worst problem to have. Thankfully, certain developers have made it easy for our favorites to stand out from the crowd.
The best Game Boy & Game Boy Advance emulators for Android
It should come as no surprise that our pick for the best emulators for Android is also the best Game Boy and Game Boy Advance emulator for Android. ClassicBoy makes it possible to play games from an array of classic consoles, but the various features built into the app make this an easy top choice.
When trying to find emulators for certain games and ROMs, you'll likely find yourself downloading multiple apps based on what you're playing. With John GBAC, you don't have to deal with that. Tis emulator combines both the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance emulators into a single package.
If you're really looking for that kick to the nostalgia bone, then Pizza Boy is going to be the way to go. There are different themes built into these apps that can make your phone look and sound just like the Game Boy that you carried around everywhere.
Whether you're looking for the best Game Boy emulator, or just want to enjoy classics from other consoles, ClassicBoy is a great choice. The app allows you to play ROMs from a myriad of old consoles, including the Game Boy, GBC, and GBA.
Upon your first start up, ClassicBoy presents a list of pre-installed console modules to choose from. The Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Advance are all grouped together, so you'll need to select that one. From there, you'll go into the Game Chooser section and locate the ROM that you're trying to load.
As is the case with many other emulators, you can customize the layout of the on-screen buttons or you can use a Bluetooth controller to play those classics. One of the best things about ClassicBoy is that you don't have to pay for a lot of extra features. There are only a select few features that are locked behind the ClassicBoy Gold in-app purchase, including the ability to automatically load and start a game from a previously saved game state.
2. John GBAC
If you've ever been interested in emulating games on Android in the past, then chances are you've come across John emulators. These are some of the best Game Boy and Game Boy Advance emulators for Android, but you don't have to download two separate apps anymore. Now, there's John GBAC, which combines the best of John GBC and John GBA into a single app.
After giving John GBAC permission to view your emulators folder, you'll be presented with a list of compatible games. At first, the app will show just black backgrounds for each game, but as soon as you start playing one and save your progress, a snapshot of your last position will fill the box.
John GBAC also includes a variety of different themes, some of which match the classic GBA and GBC color options, along with an NES and SNES color option. You can even customize your interface. If you only want to play Game Boy, GBC, or GBA games, it doesn't get much better than this.
3. Pizza Boy Emulators (GBA / GBC)
Another popular set of emulators comes from Pizza Emulators with the Pizza Boy series of apps. However, unlike other options on this list, Pizza Emulators only focuses on Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Color emulators for Android. There are two versions of the app available, one designed for the Game Boy Advance, and another for the Game Boy Color. Then, there are Pro versions also available that unlock even more functionality from the free apps.
What helps Pizza Boy stand out from the crowd is the design of the app and the different themes that are available. Instead of just throwing uninspired, un-themed controls on your screen, Pizza Boy tries to make you feel like you're actually holding one of those old consoles. It works perfectly with third-party controllers, allowing you to easily remap some buttons depending on what games you're playing.
It's great to have an emulator that performs well and handles your ROMs easily, but the added themes are a great touch. The only consideration to keep in mind is that if you opt to use the free versions, you'll have to deal with occasional ads popping up in between the settings menus. But you'll never have to worry about an ad interrupting you in the middle of that boss battle.
Other great options
Though they didn't quite make it into our top three, here are some other excellent Game Boy and Game Boy Advance emulators for you to try out.
GBA.emu and GBC.emu
It's really great when you find a developer (or a team of developers) dedicated to providing fantastic experience across multiple apps. That's what you'll find with both GBA.emu and GBC.emu from Robert Broglia. The developer offers 11 different emulators to download and use, highlighted by GBC.emu and GBA.emu, which support cheat codes, configurable on-screen controls, and external controllers.
However, unlike other emulators on this list, you won't be able to try out the app before deciding to make the plunge. Both of these emulators are paid up front, but we would recommend giving either of them a chance. The apps are regularly updated, and you can even follow along with the development progress over at GitHub.
RetroArch is one of those Swiss Army knife emulators that you can use to emulate up to almost 127 different consoles from years past. There are two versions of RetroArch, with the standard version being designed and optimized for 32-bit devices, while RetroArch Plus is developed specifically for 64-bit devices.
The app is open-source and based on the popular Libretro interface, providing some great features with it. Although the design of the Android version may have a bit of a learning curve, once you get the hang of everything, there's a lot to like. Plus, in addition to playing your favorite Game Boy games, you'll be able to use a single app to dive into other consoles from years past.
If you take RetroArch and give it a better user interface without losing too much functionality, you end up with Lemuroid. The app is relatively new to the Play Store, but is based on the same framework as RetroArch, making it a great alternative. Lemuroid also makes it easy to pair one of the best game controllers to use with Android emulators, so you aren't stuck with using the on-screen controls.
You'll be able to play your favorite classic Game Boy ROMS, along with other select consoles. Lemuroid can be set up to automatically save and restore your game states, while including support for local multiplayer and much more. All of this is done without hiding features behind an in-app purchase or throwing a bunch of ads in your face.
My Boy! Emulators (GBA / GBC)
Just like we've seen with Pizza Boy, the My Boy! series of emulators is only available for those who want to play Game Boy Color or Game Boy Advance games. There are free versions available for each app, along with paid versions that unlock a few additional features and get rid of the ads from the free apps.
The only catch with My Boy! Emulators is that they haven't been actively developed for a few years. We didn't run into any issues with the ROMs we used with the emulators, but don't expect an interface or experience as elaborate as the others on this list.