What is the best way to play GameBoy games? In this article, I will be listing the best way to play your collection of GameBoy, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance games in the modern-day. I hope you find this guide useful and please let me know if there are any methods I have left off this list!
The original hardware, if you don’t mind the drawbacks of the older hardware this may be a good nostalgia hit for you, Afterall, this is the way the developers intended the games to be played in the first place.
GameBoy: This model will play GameBoy games and nothing else, while nostalgic, it’s a pain to see what’s on-screen. Even though the original GameBoy takes 4 x AA batteries, the battery does last for a really long time. If you really need to use an original model GameBoy I recommend installing a Bivert mod or an IPS screen.
GameBoy Pocket: This revision of the GameBoy has several improvements over the original including, smaller form factor, only needing 2 x AAA batteries and a much nicer screen. The screen is still not backlit, but instead of being 4 colours of green, the GameBoy Pocket features a more monochromatic screen. This screen is a VAST improvement over the original and minimizes some of the Ghosting issues the original model suffered from, especially in faster-paced games like the Super Mario Land series. Much like the original model, the Pocket only plays original GameBoy games.
GameBoy Light: This Japanese exclusive console is essentially a slightly redesigned GameBoy Pocket. The Light in its name comes from the fact that this console has an Electro-Luminescent Backlight screen! You can finally play your GameBoy games with slightly less eyestrain. Getting your hands on one of these can prove to be expensive.
GameBoy Color: The color variant of the GameBoy was released 9 years after the original GameBoy and this time wasn’t just a simple revision. The GameBoy Color was brand new hardware, featuring a colour screen, an IR port for data sharing and 4 times the amount of ram. Sadly, the GameBoy Color still lacked a backlit screen. The Color can run both standard GameBoy games in addition to the new GameBoy Color games. This is actually a great option if you just want to play GameBoy and GameBoy Color games as the console are very comfortable to hold, however, I would highly recommend installing a backlight mod.
Super GameBoy and Super GameBoy 2
Super GameBoy is a Super Nintendo Cartridge that contains actual GameBoy Hardware and a Cartridge Slot. This can be used to play GameBoy games on your TV. In my opinion, GameBoy games feel great using a SNES controller. This is a great option if you already have a Super Nintendo and a line doubler like the OSSC. GameBoy games look great on the big screen and some even feature special borders that are a nice touch, however, do note that the Super GameBoy will NOT play GameBoy Color games.
Some games are enhanced for Super GameBoy which can unlock addition colours and content for the games, Donkey Kong is an example along with Spacer Invaders, which actually has a Super Nintendo Style rom contained on the cartridge.
Super GameBoy 2: This is an updated version of the Super GameBoy and a Japanese exclusive. This comes in a cool translucent shell and now features link cable support via a port on the cartridge. The original Super GameBoy actually ran GameBoy games a few percentages faster than an actual GameBoy, this was fixed here via the use of a crystal oscillator installed onto the cartridge board. To play cart you will need a Super Famicom or a converter.
Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak
It is possible to play The GameBoy and GameBoy Color Pokémon games if you have an N64, Transfer Pak and Pokémon Stadium. The Transfer Pak slots into the back of the N64 controller and has a GameBoy cartridge slot. This is one of the worst ways to play your GameBoy games on your TV. The games run via emulation and that emulation is shoddy and you are limited only to the Pokémon games. I would avoid it.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s a rather strange cartridge developed by intelligent systems called the Wide-Boy 64. This allowed GameBoy and GameBoy Color games to run on your N64 and was accurate as it was crammed with GameBoy Color hardware. They are super elusive as there were intended only for press to grab screenshots for magazines.
GameBoy Advance Series
GameBoy Advance is great, the systems natively support GameBoy, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance games.
GameBoy Advance: The original GameBoy Advance was quite the departure from the original models being horizontal instead of portrait. You have your screen in the middle and buttons either side. The Game Boy Advance has one of the most desirable form factors as it’s the most comfortable of all the consoles in my opinion. Being able to play all previous games is a nice touch but sadly, it lacks a backlit screen making playing on one difficult. Thankfully its relatively easy to mod your GameBoy advance to be Backlit and even install a USB-C rechargeable battery mod.
GameBoy Advance SP: This revision of the GameBoy Advance is one of the easiest ways to play all GameBoy games. This time around Nintendo made the handheld a clam-shell design and featured a rechargeable battery, which was a first for the GameBoy family. The most important upgrade was the screen, Nintendo finally added a front-lit screen. This meant that you could actually see the game you are playing!
There are actually two different models of the GameBoy Advance SP, the original model AGS-001 with the front-lit screen and a slightly rarer version that shipped out later in the SP’s lifespan, this revision was called the AGS-101 and featured a really beautiful, fully backlit screen. This is probably one of the most sought after GameBoy variants as it plays all games and looks stunning. Luckily, there are mods you can do to install IPS backlit screens into the original AGS-001 model, as well as easy modifications to allow AGS-101 backlit screens to run the originals motherboard.
Overall, I would highly recommend the SP as it is the last handheld to allow you to play all GB, GBC and GBA games.
GameBoy Micro: A very tiny GameBoy Advance. This model is nice, but the screen is too small. It uses the same screen technology as the AGS-101, but unfortunately, can only play GameBoy Advance games. I would stick with the SP personally.
GameCube GameBoy Player
The GameBoy Player is the best way to play GameBoy, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance cartridges on your TV. The GameBoy Player is hardware that sits of the bottom of your GameCube, it has a slot that accepts all GameBoy games and is essentially a GameBoy Advance stuffed into a plastic shell.
To run the GameBoy Player you’ll need an official start-up disc for the GameCube, this can be a little elusive and quite frankly, contains terrible software. The image output is a little soft and the software has input lag. This is easily fixed using some homebrew called the GameBoy Interface, it’s very easy to do and I have a full guide here.
I use a Raphnet Classic controller to GameCube converter so I can use my SNES Classic controller with the GameBoy Player and it almost feels like GameBoy Advance games were made with a SNES controller in mind, it feels great, there’s something about the low profile SNES controller buttons which feel like a great fit.
The Nintendo DS and DS Lite have a GameBoy Advance cartridge slot. These support GameBoy Advance cartridges only, so no GameBoy support here. You could get pretty good GameBoy emulation using the EZ-flash Omega, which is pretty good, as emulation goes. The DS and DS Lite are also readily available online and you can pick one up at relatively cheap price on eBay.
FPGA based Emulation
The Analogue Pocket features support for all GameBoy, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance games. The Pocket essentially mimics the hardware of the console meaning almost 100% accuracy, it features an IPS screen out of the box, so the screen looks great but preorders have sold out fast! More are coming, so keep an eye out.
The Analogue pocket along with its dock is a great way to play and output your games to your TV.
So, what is the best way to play GameBoy games? I would use a mix of the GameCube with GameBoy Player and a Raphnet classic controller adapter for play on the TV with either an AGS-101 SP or IPS screen modded GameBoy Advance to play your game portably. This would allow you to enjoy your GameBoy, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance games on both your TV and handheld on official hardware.
If you don’t mind FPGA options, the Analogue pocket and dock are the most up to date way to experience your games in HD. Personally, I prefer the GameCube method as real, official Nintendo hardware has a place in my heart.