How to play GBA games on Android – with the best
Did you know that your Android has the power to play Game Boy Advance games? With a few choice downloads and a little know-how, you can play Fire Emblem, Pokemon, or Mario Kart on your phone.
We scoured Google Play, searched the internet, and tried a handful of GBA emulators for Android. After a lot of testing (and a lot of Advance Wars), we think GBAoid is your best bet.
For one, it’s completely free. Rival Visual Boy Advance has an almost identical set of features, but that one will set you back £2.99. GBAoid also has cheats, configurable controls (including for the Xperia Play), top-notch performance, and even the ability to fast-forward boring cutscenes.
Here’s our guru guide to downloading GBAoid, installing the emulator, and loading up your favourite games.
Note: Pocket Gamer does not condone piracy, and offers this information for entertainment purposes only. Pocket Gamer also takes no responsibility if you follow this guide and manage to bugger up your phone in the process. That’s on you, bro.
First things first, this emulator is not available on Google Play, so you’ll need to give your Android device permission to install apps from outside this marketplace.
To do this, enter the ‘Settings’, tap ‘Applications’, and tick ‘Unknown Sources’.
Download GBAoid. You can find the APK file here. You can either download it on your PC and transfer it across, or download it directly on your phone.
If you download it on your PC, plug your Android in via the USB cable and find the phone’s SD card under ‘My Computer’ on Windows or ‘Devices’ on OS X. Unzip the file and drag the APK file over.
Then, use a file manager app (we recommend AndroZip) on the phone to find the GBAoid APK and tap ‘Install’ to, erm, install it.
If you download it directly to the phone, you’ll need a ZIP file manager (the free AndroZip is the one you want, again) to extract the APK file and install it.
Phew! Done! Okay, the next step is grab a GBA BIOS file. This code is copyrighted to Nintendo, so to avoid getting in a legal bind, the developer makes you find, download, and install it yourself.
For the same reason, we won’t give you an exact location. But, a little Googling for “gba_bios.bin” will point you in the right direction.
Either download directly on the phone, or get it on your PC and transfer it across using USB. Then, load GBAoid. It will ask you to find the BIOS – hit ‘Browse’, and select the file you just acquired.
Almost there. We need a game now. These are called ROMs and are very easy to find. You’ll need to source a file off of the Internet (either on your phone or a PC) – but we won’t be giving you exact locations of any naughty files.
Drop the “.GBA” file in a sensible place on your SD card (we say: make a folder called “GBA Roms” on your card). Now, open GBAoid again, find the ROM, and tap it to play. If all goes well, the game should start playing. Huzzah!
You can control it with the virtual buttons, or hit the ‘Menu’ button and choose ‘input settings’ to configure a gamepad or the Xperia Play’s controls.