Here’s How GameBoy Emulators Work

Gameboy was one of the first if not the first handheld gaming console. It was released to much praise from gamers. As the years have gone by, the console seems to be getting less relevant every day. This does not have to be so depressing because we do have Gameboy emulators, but how do they work?

Gameboy emulators work by using translation. When using an emulator on your android device or PC, your hardware translates all the code and commands. This is what allows them to run on modern devices. There are a few emulators that replicate themselves within a section of your hardware.

There is a lot more to it than that. In today’s article, we will take a deep dive into what makes these emulators work. We are also going to discuss how you can get them to work. Then we will look at the best way to play them, and finally, we will look at a few other emulators. So, for everything that you need to know, keep reading.

How GameBoy Emulators Work On PC

It used to be that you could only use old gaming device emulators on PC. Even with the emergence of mobile emulation, PCs still seem to be the most common place for people to use their Gameboy emulators, but how exactly do they work? That is what this article is about, so; let’s jump into it.

There are two ways of thinking about it. The most common way people imagine how emulation works is that the hardware in your PC uses a small part of it and turns it into an emulation of the Gameboy hardware.

A more accurate way of thinking about it would be to say that your PC’s hardware interprets the code that the game boy uses and can therefore run the games. Basically, the hardware and software on your PC translate each piece of code from the game boy.

The emulation software normally has an “options” or “settings” menu where you can map the controls of either your keyboard or your controller. This is so that they deliver the exact same inputs as the original GameBoy would. You can normally map the controller inputs anyway you like depending on your preference.

When using an emulator on your PC, it is recommended that you use a controller. This is because that is what the GameBoy was designed for. However, because there are so few buttons on a GameBoy, you could use pretty much any input device that you want and still have a great experience.

The Xbox controller has always been the most common controller to use on a PC, but in this article, we will dedicate a section that will explain how to set up a controller on your PC or mobile device. For now, though, let’s take a look at how to use an emulator on your PC.

How To Use GameBoy Emulators On Your PC

When it comes to using a GameBoy Emulator on your PC, you need to make sure that you download the emulator from a trusted site. It is also a good idea to have an antivirus program.

With that out of the way, here is our step by step guide on using GameBoy emulators on your PC.

  • Download an emulator from ROMs download.
  • You can also download the Roms from there.
  • Download your desired ROM.
  • Once the ROM and emulator are both downloaded, Open up the emulator.
  • Most emulators do an automatic scan for games on your machine. If not, you can select “scan,” and the emulator will find all the ROMs (games) on your PC.
  • Play around with the settings until you are happy.
  • Open the game you want to play.
  • Enjoy yourself.

When doing this on your PC, I cannot stress enough to consider your safety. The site that I have linked to is the safest that I know of as of writing this article.

How GameBoy Emulators Work On Android

Mobile gaming is becoming more and more popular every day, and people are starting to learn that they can play their favorite games from when they were young on their cell phones. The younger generation uses it to learn what gaming was like back in the day so let’s see how Android works with Gameboy emulators.

It is the exact same process as running a Gameboy emulator on your PC, and the hardware does exactly the same thing. The hardware translates all the Gameboy code in real-time so that it runs on the device’s hardware. 

There is one exception to cell phones. You have one advantage, and that is touch controls.

With Android, you don’t need any third-party devices. You can simply just install the Android emulator on your phone, and you will be good to go. However, I do recommend using a controller if you can.

How To Use A GameBoy Emulator On Your Android Device

If you download an emulator to your Android device, you do not have to take such strict safety measures. However, I recommend having an antivirus, and I definitely recommend using a trusted site to download everything.

With that out of the way, let us get into it with our step by step guide on how to use a GameBoy emulator on your Android smartphone.

  1. Download an emulator from the play store. Keep reading if you want to see my top picks.
  2. Go to a website called ROMs download or just search google for Gameboy ROMs.
  3. Download your desired ROM.
  4. Once the ROM and emulator are both downloaded, open up the emulator.
  5. Most emulators do an automatic scan of your phone; if not, you can select “scan,” and the emulator will find all the ROMs (games) on your phone.
  6. Play around with the settings until you are happy.
  7. Open the game you want to play.
  8. Enjoy yourself.

With that out of the way, let’s get straight into it with our step-by-step guide on how to use the Gameboy emulator on your Android device.

Why GameBoy Emulators Don’t Work On IOS

Apple phones take up a huge chunk of the mobile market. So that is a lot of people who could be playing old Gameboy games, but emulators do not work on IOS. Let’s take a look at why this is.

Apple is a closed ecosystem, and they keep very tight control of their marketplace. While you could theoretically download a Gameboy emulator from the apple app store, you wouldn’t be able to download the ROMs from the internet. That is where the problem lies.

Apple won’t allow you to install any ROMs into the emulator, making it pretty much useless. It is not just Gameboy emulators that won’t work on Apple. Microsoft is busy arguing with Apple because Apple will not allow the Xcloud streaming service on their devices.

Fortnite has also just pulled out of the Apple App store, and because you cannot install any software from outside of the App Store, you can’t play Fortnite at all on an IOS device.

You can use one method to get emulators to work on your IOS device, but I do not recommend this at all.

Using A GameBoy Emulator On IOS

To use emulators on your IOS device, you need to jailbreak your phone. I do not encourage people to do so at all. If you do have an IOS device that has been jailbroken for some reason, the process for playing emulated games on it is the same as on Android devices.

GameBoy Emulators: How To Use A Controller On Your PC

Using a controller is the best way to play any console emulator on your PC. It just offers an experience that is more true to what it was like to play those games back in the day. There are two main controllers that are used for PCs, and the first one and most common one is Xbox and then PlayStation 4.

In this section, we will look at how to set up both of those controllers on your PC so let’s get into it.

Xbox USB

  • Connect the controller to your PC via USB.
  • The drivers will download automatically.

Xbox Wireless

For wireless, you will need an adapter. Some PCs do have this adapter installed internally, so you might have to check. The steps in this guide come from Microsoft itself.

  • Turn on your PC and sign in.
  • Plug the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows into your PC. For more info, see Setup the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows.
  • Turn on your controller by pressing the Xbox button. When you turn on the controller, the Xbox button will start flashing.
  • Press and hold the Pair button on the Xbox Wireless Adapter. A small light will flash for several seconds.
  • Press and hold the Pair button on the top of the controller (the raised button). The Xbox button on the controller will flash more rapidly—this means your controller is searching for the Xbox Wireless Adapter. When connected, the Xbox button on the controller will stay lit.

If you’re using built-in Xbox Wireless:

  • Turn on your PC and sign in.
  • Turn on your controller by pressing the Xbox button for 3 seconds. When you turn on the controller, the Xbox button will start flashing.
  • Press and hold the Pair button on the top of the controller (the raised button). The Xbox button on the controller will flash more rapidly—this means your controller is searching for a PC.
  • On your PC, press the Start button, then select Settings > Devices.
  • Choose Add Bluetooth or other devices, then select Everything else.
  • Choose Xbox Wireless Controller or Xbox Elite Wireless Controller from the list. When connected, the Xbox button on the controller will stay lit.

PS4 And PS5 Controller

For this to work you will need to have Bluetooth on your PC.

  • On your controller, make sure it is off.
  • Now put it into pairing mode by holding down PS and “Share” buttons until the controller flashes white.
  • Now you are ready to do everything on your PC. Go to “Start” on your PC.
  • From there, you need to go to settings. A popup window will appear.
  • Select the “Devices” Option.
  • Select “Add Bluetooth device.”
  • Select the “Bluetooth” option.
  • Choose the “Dualshock 4” option.
  • You are done.

Now you should be ready to use your PS4 controller on the PC. Not all games allow this, but most do.

Why Do People Still Play GameBoy Emulators?

This is a great question, and it is one that I would love to answer because it is something that I feel quite strongly about. So let’s take a look at why people still play Gameboy emulators on their phone and PC, especially when you consider all the other premium current-gen gaming options that we have on mobile, console, and PC.

The two main reasons why people still play Gameboy games via an emulator on their phone or on their PC are simply because of nostalgia. Many people grew up playing those games, and they developed an attachment to them through the memories that it gave them. Another reason is that the younger generation is curious about what gaming was like back in those days.

You could just boil it down because people have a love of those games and want to play them. I think a lot of the younger generation will play Gameboy emulators for a few hours and then put it down because they have more premium options available to them.

It still gives them sort of a feel for what it was like to be a gamer growing up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s because it is not just available Gameboy emulators. Pretty much all older generation consoles are available to be emulated, but we will take a look at that a bit later in this article.

Are GameBoy Emulators Legal

There are people who like to follow the law, and there is nothing wrong with that. So, if you are one of those people but you want to download a Gameboy emulator, and you are not sure whether or not Gameboy emulators are illegal, this section is for you. So, let’s take a look

Gameboy emulators are nowhere near being illegal; actually, quite the opposite, they are legal, and they do not break any terms and conditions or rules. That being said, the Roms that you use in your Gameboy emulator is illegal to distribute or to download without owning the game.

So, in a sense, if you don’t own any Gameboy games and you download an emulator, it would be pretty much useless if you don’t download the ROMs. However, if you do own some games You could image them onto your PC or download them. This is because you own the original.

Why Are GameBoy Roms Illegal?

Gameboy ROMs are illegal because downloading movies, TV series, and music on illegal streaming sites is illegal. The distribution of those ROMs takes away from the original owners and developers of those games.

So downloading a Rom for a Gameboy takes away from the developer where they could have sold that game to you.

Other Types Of Emulators

If you have just got a taste for what it is like to play some of these older games and are curious about what else is out there, well, you are in luck. It is well known that most older consoles have multiple emulators that you can download. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones.


The PlayStation 2 is regarded as one of the greatest consoles of all time, and I don’t think that is an exaggeration at all. I remember going for a surf, and even while sitting out waiting for waves, I would just start thinking about getting home to play games like “Black,” GTA, Tony Hawk, and Kelly Slater Pro Surf.

All of that being said, the PlayStation 2 is one of the hardest game consoles to emulate because of the hardware and the architecture of that hardware. It is extremely difficult to replicate that, but one emulator is doing an excellent job at it.

The PCSX2 emulator is free to download, but it is still in beta, and they are constantly working on getting new games to work and games that are already working to be optimized. The emulator is more of a replication of the PS2. So, instead of your PC translating the code only, the PS2 emulator tries to replicate itself onto the hardware of your PC.

This should not alarm you because once you close the application, everything goes back to normal.


The PPSSPP is a PlayStation portable emulator, and it is an incredible piece of technology that is primarily installed on mobile phones. The emulator has two versions; one is free, and the other one is premium, which gives you a few extra options and settings to make the games run better on your device.

The emulator has started really taking off as mobile phones have become better suited to running these resource-intensive games. The emulator also has a “Homebrew” section for non-PlayStation games. Basically, “Homebrew” games are “Homemade” games.

It works in the same way that a Gameboy works in that it uses your hardware to translate the code in real-time. You also have to have ROMs that you can install via the method we discussed for Gameboy or download them.

Project 64

The Nintendo 64 was a breakthrough console for Nintendo. It allowed us to play games like Tony Hawk, and it brought the Mario characters to life. Many people have fun memories of those consoles, and even if you weren’t around during those times, I Most definitely recommended at least giving the emulator a try.

The project 64 emulator is free to use on your mobile device or on your PC. You can use it in the same way that you use a Gameboy or any other emulator.

The developers behind project64 are constantly working on the emulator to optimize it to run games seamlessly. They are also constantly adding to the library of games available.


One of the lesser-known game consoles out there was the Nintendo GameCube. I have to admit that although I did own one at some stage, I didn’t really use it that much because I had other consoles that I enjoyed using.

The GameCube still has its fans, though. These are people who swear that the console was the greatest made during that era. That is why the developers behind the dolphin emulator created the emulator in the first place.

The dolphin emulator is available on your Android smartphone or on your PC. Much like the other emulators on this list, the developers are constantly working on their product to optimize games and ensure that it has a large library of games.

Atari Emulators

One of the best things about running emulators for Atari on your PC is that they don’t take much in terms of system requirements. This means that almost all modern computers can run Atari emulators. The only thing that I would recommend is having a controller, but this is not necessary as a keyboard and mouse can work just fine.

Best Atari Emulators

Here is a list of the best Atari Emulators for PC:

  • Steem: Free
  • Hatari: Open Source and Free.
  • Altirra: Free

Top GameBoy Emulators

There are so many Gameboy emulators out there for PC and Android. There are so many that it actually becomes hard to keep track of. Some emulators are obviously much better than others, and in this section, we will be taking a look at our favorite Gameboy emulators for PC and Android.

  • My Boy-GBA Emulator (Paid)
  • John GBA lite (Free)
  • My OldBoy GBC emulator

What Is A GameBoy?

The GameBoy is a handheld gaming console that was released in April of 1989. It was a revolutionary gaming console as it was fully portable. The GameBoy is made by Nintendo, who has been a household name in gaming for decades now.

There have been many different GameBoy consoles, and each one is designed to improve upon the previous one.


Whew, that was a lengthy article. As promised, we took a seriously deep, deep-dive into this topic, and I hope that you walk away from this article with no more questions.

In my opinion, emulators for all these older consoles are fantastic pieces of software. Even though realistically, most of us don’t spend much time playing any other older games, especially on older consoles, there are times when we start to feel a little bit nostalgic.

It is times like those where we decide to turn on our old consoles and play old games, but those consoles and games do not have an indefinite lifespan, and many of us have already lost our old beloved consoles. Being able to turn on the PC and play any game that we used to play or even on your Android device just makes getting older a little bit easier, especially during those nostalgic moments.

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David Sacks

I have worked in the IT industry since 2011 and have been an avid gamer my whole life. My first consoles were the sega genesis and the Nintendo SNES. I play both console and PC games, I love both. I decided to become combine my passion for gaming with my passion for writing.

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