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VisualBoyAdvance - Version: 1.3.3


VBA Icon.pngVisualBoyAdvance (commonly abbreviated as VBA) is an emulator of the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance handheld game consoles sold by Nintendo.


Ported by Will Dietz Jan 2010.
Thanks to #webos-internals for their feedback throughout testing!
Icon created by Austin (Used with Permission)


All source is under the GPLv2 license. The original source code is available here
And the latest VBA for webOS source is available on git here

Lots of work has gone into making this a great game for you to enjoy!

If you like it please consider purchasing the app App Catalog. A percentage of the proceeds go to WebOS Internals.

Alternatively you might wish to donate. See official thread for the paypal link if you're interested.

Installing VBA

VBA is available in both the official app catalog as well as for *FREE* in preware. Both versions are identical other than packaging.

To purchase this app, just go here: App Catalog.

To get VBA for Free: Install Preware, and then launch it. Click on "Available Packages" then "Applications, or "Available Applications" then "All" depending on the Preware preferences you have chosen. Now type in "visualb" (no quotes). VisualBoyAdvance should show up. If not, make sure your feeds are up to date. Click on VBA and then click install.

As of Version 1.2.X VBA requires WebOS 1.4.5 and up!!!

Now you are ready to add ROMs(games)!


For support, please:

  • Check this wiki for information
  • Check the official VBA thread, and post if you want to. This way your problems are something others can see (and knowledgeable users can help when I'm not available).
  • Email

Adding ROMS

Rom Availability

Many games are available for VBA. Sources of free open source and free homebrew roms are listed at the end of this article.

There exist sources of copyright game ROMS on the interent which webos-internals will not link to. There also exist explanations of how to copy roms you own into files which VBA can use. Those topics are outside the scope of this article.

ROM File definitions

VBA ROMs extensions indicate what device is being emulated. There are three valid extensions:

  • .gba (Game Boy Advance)
  • .gbc (Game Boy Color)
  • .gb (Game Boy)

If you find a ROM image which has a ".bin" extension just rename it to the proper extension (for example, rename a gameboy advance game to end with .gba without quotes).

Installing ROMS to the device

Once you have installed VBA on your Pre, click on it from the launcher to see short instructions on how to install ROMs, which we'll explain in more detail here.

Now connect your Pre to your computer via USB mode. Once the Pre shows up on your computer, open it. You now should be at the "root" of your Pre's storage. If you look at the folders in the root, there should be a few including the "wallpapers", and "ringtones" folders. Create a folder called "vba" (no caps). Click on that and inside that create a folder called "roms" (again, no caps). Copy the ROMs from your computer and move them here. DO NOT put the ROMs (.gb, .gbc, .gba) in folders within the "roms" folder.

VBA cannot create these folders for you due to the 1.4.5 fstab bug.


VBA can also handle rom files stored inside a zip files.


To select a rom, just tap on it in the rom selector.
Note that if you have more roms than fit on the screen, simply scroll to them.
Hit a letter key to jump to that letter in the rom list (useful when you have lots of roms)

These are the current controls (while playing):

Pre Button Emulator Function Notes
WASD Up/left/down/right
k B
l A
q L (trigger)
p R (trigger)
Enter Start
Spacebar Select
@ Turbo
. (period) Screenshot
t Start/Select/a/b All at Once Useful for Resets (or saving in zelda)
orange+s (minus) Toggle Displaying Emulation Speed
orange+l (apostrophe) Change Scaling Filter
orange+@ Change Screen Orientation
orange+z (or y for qwertz pre) Toggle Sound Boosts (GBA) Performance
1,2,3 Save state number 1,2,3 orange + "corresponding letter"
4,5,6 Load state number 1,2,3 orange + "corresponding letter"
orange+ w('+') Toggle overlay (touchscreen) controls Only works in the landscape orientation with keyboard on RIGHT
orange+a (ampersand) Toggle 'autosave'/'autoresume' functionality
orange+q (slash) Cycle skins
back gesture/swipe In-game Menu.

Custom Controls


VBA also allows you to customize the controls to fit what you find most useful!

To start customizing, while running a game, hit '=' (orange+p), or '?' (orange+n).

Then follow the on-screen instructions, hitting the keys you want the various buttons bound to.

To stop the binding and cancel, hit '=' or '?' again.

Note Due to the pre's keyboard limitations, some keys cannot be detected when pressed down at same time (j/k is an example of such a pair). Keep this in mind, it is not a bug in VBA.

Community-suggested bindings

If you have a binding you think is great, please share it here!

Alternate D-Pad position: Up-R, Down-F, Left-D, Right-G. Since there is a small bump on the F key, you may find it easier to know where your fingers are on the keyboard this way.

For playing Fire Emblem one-handed in Landscape mode: Up-G, Down-F, Left-R, Right-C, A-X, B-D. For Fire Emblem and other strategy games (and some RPGs) you can play with one hand since there's no need to use the D-pad and the action buttons at the same time.


VBA also supports skins! Shipped by default (as of this writing) are skins from VincentLaw, zsoc, nights0223 and crzisme.

Skins are stored with the app, but if you want to add more from the community, put them in /vba/skins.

Each skin has a folder containing two files:

  • controller.png
  • controller.cfg

For an idea of what controller.cfg should contain, look at the other controller.cfg files, it should be mostly self-explanatory. Hopefully :).


  • The x/y for each control object are the centers of the button.
  • The screen size variables are the maximum in each direction--the game will still scale them according to their aspect ratios.
  • The screens will always be drawn at the x,y indicated--they won't be centered.
  • There is support for turbo buttons, just no skin uses it yet.
  • orange+q (slash) cycles through the skins

Screenshots / Videos

Videos of latest VBA (v1.3.3):

Older Videos of VBA:

Feature Requests/TODO

Here's a list of feature requests I'm aware of and/or things I plan to do.

  • ALSA instead of pulseaudio (hopefully to improve emulation speed with sound enabled)
  • Additional keybinding options, such as:
    • Diagonal keys (up+right, right+down, etc)
    • Pause emulation key? (Minimizing Card works fine)
  • Better performance on GBA!!
    • See iphone/GP2X ports and their ARM optimizations! (dynarec?)
  • Include a homebrew rom to demo the app?
  • system messages, draw them somewhere else and make them legible.
  • custom background for rom selector
  • haptic feedback on touchscreen controls?
  • other orientations for touchscreen

Known issues

  • Poor performance in GBA. Try disabling sound (press '*'/orange+z) or overclocking.
  • Audio doesn't seem to be fully disabled (you won't hear anything, but Pulseaudio is still doing a little work)
  • @ Turbo key can have keys bound to it, causing turbo AND the bound key to go at the same time.
  • Touchscreen Controls slow emulation down. Controlling with Pre Keyboard is faster.


  • 1.3.3
    • Center screen in skin virtual screen
    • Fix scaling code (broken GB in previous release!)
    • Added Sonic-NKTs transparent_small skin
    • Better handling of small amount of ROMs
    • Force correct orientation when skin is on
    • Fix performance regression introduced in previous release
    • Fix crash from Rom selector
    • Be sure to show user the highlighted ROM before loading it
  • 1.3.2
    • Transparent skin support (calling all skin creators!)
    • Kinetic scrolling+scrollbar in rom selector
    • Added reset option
    • Added 'stretch' option.
    • Fix notification orientation when in menus
    • Display skin count
  • 1.3.1
    • Added skin preview in when changing skins in the menu.
    • Fixed initial screen not launching help.
    • Fixed actually disabling autoframeskip when user turns it off.
  • 1.3.0
    • Improved UI, new menu. Menu includes save states, settings, skins, and in-game help!
    • Turbo toggle (see the settings menu). When activated the turbo button toggles turbo instead of only being on while the button is down.
    • Autosave defaults to being on. Your existing settings should stay in tact, but new users I think this is useful.
    • Support saving in Tactics Ogre. Note that you'll have to delete the corresponding *.sav and *.sgm files (aka START OVER) to see this in effect. Sorry.
    • Misc minor bug fixes, including one in the rom selector.
  • 1.2.4
    • Added two skins (Wiimote2 and cfbauer2!)
    • Fix loading of duplicate skins
    • Changed default skin to have a/b buttons
    • Removed unused GBA debugger code
    • Small performance tweaks
  • 1.2.1
    • Internal optimizations in rendering, faster on some games.
    • Portrait rom selector.
    • Swipe to return to rom selector while playing
    • WebOS 1.4.5 support!
  • 1.1.2
    • Better d-pad behavior.
    • Notifications appear appropriately depending on orientation.
    • Better experience for new users -- link to wiki is now clickable
    • Updated skins (thanks to everyone who contributed!)
    • Skins no longer appear in photos
  • 1.1.1
    • Skin support! Thanks to VincentLaw, zsoc, crzisme, and nights0223 for their work!
    • Support for turbo/capture bindings in custom controls!
  • 1.1.0
    • New ARM assembly implementation of emulated instructions. (small speed boost, about 5% on average in GBA games)
    • touchscreen controls!
      • NOTE: just touching the screen (regardless of touch controls enabled) slows things down. I'm working on why, but it seems to be the same code that draws the ripple. This is a known issue.
      • toggle is '+' (orange+w)
      • 0 (orange+@) will rotate the window for those used to the old layout/keyboard controls.
    • new 'autosave' feature (toggle enabled with '&' (orange+a))
      • saves to a special state when you quit, when you load the rom resumes there immediately
    • zip file support
    • options are now saved across sessions (orientation, mute, displaying emulation speed, etc)
    • rom selector strips file extensions, and cleans up rom names
    • rom selector doesn't show hidden files
  • 1.0.6
    • Fixed crash when creating custom configs (permissions issue)
  • 1.0.5
    • Fixed saving issues
    • Added ability to create custom keybindings (see wiki)
    • Removed annoying battery messages
    • Updated icon (thanks Spyral!) (might need to restart to see it)
    • Fixed name for hopefully better word-wrap in launcher
  • 1.0.4
    • Remove dependence on upstart, should fix problem with VBA not launching.
    • backported sound fixes for (slight) speed, also added code to hopefully fix freezing on pause
    • save/load state support
    • jump-to-letter functionality in rom selector for better management of large libraries
    • sort roms case insensitively
  • 1.0.3 Added toggle for displaying emulation speed to help compatability reports
  • 1.0.2 Small metadata fix.
  • 1.0.1 Small performance boost, public release!
  • 1.0.0 Initial release (testing feed). Reimplemented rendering engine, rom selector.

Compatibility List

This is a list of games and how well they run. PLEASE include a version number (on rom selector) when adding entries! To see the emulation speed percentage, hit orange+s while playing.
All Entries please in Portrait Mode without Touchscreen Control!

Gameboy/Gameboy Color

All GB/GBC Games should be compatible (99.9%) at 100% Speed, please just report those NOT working.

Title Works Version Notes
... ... ... ...

Gameboy Advance

Orange: Not Playable/Very Slow
Yellow: Semi-Playable
Green: Playable

Title Speed @500 Mhz Speed @800 Mhz Speed @1.0 Ghz VBA Version Notes
Sound No Sound Sound No Sound Sound No Sound
Advance Wars 45-55% 66-71% 85-100% 100% 1.2.4 Fullspeed ingame with Sound @800Mhz!
Astro Boy - Omega Factor % % 100% 100% 1.2.4
Backyard Football 35% 55% % % 1.0.3 Menus work near 100% but gameplay is slow.
Breath of Fire II 60-67% 80-100% % % 1.0.3 Runs at 100% walking around. Battles haven't been tested.
Castlevania - Aria of Sorrow % % 100% 100% 1.2.4 Very Playable without Sound!
Chu Chu Rocket! 100% 100% 100% 100% 1.2.4 Plays perfekt with or without sound :)
Double Dragon Advanced 90-100% 100% % % 1.01 Plays well even with sound on
Duke Nukem 3D Advanced 40% 50% % % 1.0.4
Drill Dozer % % 75-100% 100% 1.2.4 While drilling there are some slowdowns with sound on!
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 40% 60% % % 1.0.3 Semi-Playable without Sound
Fire Emblem 60% 90-100% % % 1.0.3 Takes a bit to load. Extremely Playable without Sound!
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones 60-70% 90-100% % % 1.0.3 Extremely Playable without Sound!
F-Zero - GP Legend 43% 55% % % 1.0.3
Golden Sun: The Lost Age 35% 50% % % 1.0.3 Semi-Playable without sound if you have a lot patience.
Gunstar Super Heroes 44% 65% % % 1.0.4 playable without sound
Harvest Moon - Friends of Mineral Town 60% 95% % % 1.0.3
Iridion II 43% 57% % % 1.0.3
Kirby and the Amazing Mirror 50-65% 80-100% % % 1.1.1 Usually is 86% without sound. It is very responsive and works flawlessly.
Kuru Kuru Kururin 40% 65% % % 1.0.3
Lord of the Rings, Return of the King 45% 63% % % 1.0.3 Playable, but a little slow.
Mario & Luigi - Superstar Saga 65-70% 80-100% % % 1.0.3 Menu 100% with Sound ;), ingame mostly fullspeed without.
Mario Kart - Super Circuit 45% 68% 96% 100% 1.2.4 Playable without Sound @500Mhz, overlock!! ;)
Metal Slug Advance 48% 68% % % 1.0.3
Metroid Fusion 68% 92% % % 1.0.3
Mortal Kombat Advance 50% 70% % % 1.0.3 Playable without sound
Ninja Five-0 % % 97% 100% 1.2.4 Runs very good without Sound
PocketNES - NES Emulator 60% 80% % % 1.0.3
Pokemon - Ruby % % 100% 100% 1.2.4
Pokemon - Fire Red 50% 80-90% % % 1.1.2 Playable without sound.
Pokemon - Leaf Green % % 88-98% 100% 1.2.4
Rayman Advance 48% 60% 97% 100% 1.2.4
R-Type 3 75-95% 90-100% 100% 100% 1.2.4
SMA2 - Super Mario World 45% 62% % % 1.0.3
SMA3 - Yoshi's Island 43% 58% % % 1.0.3
SMA4 - Mario Bros. 3 51% 72% % % 1.0.3 Takes a bit time to Load.
Sonic Advance 1 % % 100% 100% 1.2.4
Sonic Advance 2 55% 80% % % 1.0.3
Sonic Advance 3 49% 72% % % 1.0.3 too slow for sonic
Super Ghouls'n Ghosts % % 80-100% 100% 1.2.4
Tactics Ogre 90% 95% % % 1.0.3 Does not save, runs pretty well without sound.
V-Rally 3 37% 48% % % 1.0.3
Wario Land 4 60% 85% % % 1.0.3
Wario Ware Inc. 60% 70-80% % % 1.0.3
Zelda - A Link to the Past 45% 62% 80-90% 90-100% 1.2.4 Slow without Overlocking
Zelda - The Minish Cap % % 98% 100% 1.2.4
Zooo % % 100% 100% 1.2.4

Free Roms

There are several places where you can get free homebrew games for the GB and GBA that are 100% legal to download and try on the emulator.
The best source for homebrew games for any console is but there are several other homebrew sites around that offer something similar such as this site specifically for gameboy advance:
Here is a small list of free games that are worth trying, if you have more add them to the list!

Free GBA Roms links and playability

If the downloaded game has a ".bin" extension just rename it to ".gba"
Title Speed @500 Mhz Speed @800 Mhz Speed @1.0 Ghz VBA Version Notes Link
Sound No Sound Sound No Sound Sound No Sound
Anguna 80% 100% 1.0.3
Another World 60% 85% 1.0.3
Arkanoid Clone 70% 100% 1.0.3
BulletGBA 80% 100% 1.0.4
Bust-A-Move Clone 100% 100% 1.0.3
Dangerous XMAS 95% 100% 1.0.3
Hergs Solitaire 100% 100% 1.0.3
The Last Seal % % 1.0.3
Motocross Challange 58% 80% 1.0.3