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VisualBoyAdvance - Version: 1.1.1


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 donating. See official thread for the paypal link if you're interested.

Installing VBA

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 "visual" (no quotes). VisualBoyAdvance should show up. If not, make sure your feeds are up to date. Click on VBA and then click install. You will probably have to install other services as well (it will tell you if you do).

Now you are ready to add ROMs(games)!

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 via Preware, click on it from the launcher to open it for the first time. This should create the necessary folders for the ROMs.

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", "ringtones", and most importantly, "vba" folders. Click on that and then the "roms" folder. Copy the ROMs from your computer and move them here. DO NOT put the ROMs (.gb, .gbc, .gba) in folders within the "roms" folder.

If you don't see a "vba" folder, but you do see a "wallpapers" and a "ringtones" folder AND you know you installed VBA properly, go ahead and create the necessary folders. Create one at the root called vba (must be lower case). Then make another one inside that called roms (again, no caps).


When viewing the "roms" folder in USB mode, you may also see files for saves (.sav) and screen captures. That's normal.

As of 1.1.0, there is zip file support. Rom files may be stored inside a zip file.


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

Custom Controls


You can now customize the controls!

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

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

To stop the binding and cancel, hit '=' 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.

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.


As of version 1.1.1, there is now skin support. Shipped by default (as of this writing) are skins from VincentLaw, zsoc, nights0223 and crzisme.

All skins go 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


YouTube Videos of VBA (v1.0.1):

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)
    • System keys (redefine save state keys, sound off, etc)
    • Pause emulation key?
  • "Go back to rom chooser" menu
  • Create /save folder for .sav files (battery-backed RAM save info), instead of placing .sav in the /roms folder
  • Better performance on GBA!!
    • See iphone/GP2X ports and their ARM optimizations! (dynarec?)
  • Include a homebrew rom to demo the app?
  • Use GLSL shader to do palette lookup?
    • See if the current cost is worth the bother.
  • options menu? (on the rom selector screen?)
  • system messages, draw them somewhere else and make them legible.
  • custom background for rom selector
  • haptic feedback on touchscreen controls?
  • options from rom selector (separate from menu; just have some way to change them, like sound, before launching).
  • improve d-pad
  • other orientations for touchscreen
  • autoframeskip support! (toggle)
  • If there could be a second delay added to offset the choppiness of loading that occurs visually because of this, that would be great

Known issues

  • Poor performance in GBA. Try disabling sound (press '*'/orange+z)
  • Audio doesn't seem to be fully disabled (you won't hear anything, but Pulseaudio is still doing a little work)
  • Notifications always appear as if in landscape
  • @ Turbo key can have keys bound to it, causing turbo AND the bound key to go at the same time.
  • screenshots are messed up (This is already fixed, will be released in next version)
  • VBA renders so quickly it causes some visual issues while the device presents the card.


  • 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 (as of 1.0.3).

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 VBA Version Notes
Sound No Sound
Advance Wars 48% 68% 1.0.3 Very Playable without Sound!
Astro Boy - Omega Factor 50% 75% 1.0.4
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 56% 80% 1.0.4 Very Playable without Sound!
Chu Chu Rocket! 97% 100% 1.0.4 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 47% 60% 1.0.4
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 44% 64% 1.0.3 Time Trial without Sound is almost Fullspeed (95%)!
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 57% 90% 1.0.3 Runs very good without Sound
PocketNES - NES Emulator 60% 80% 1.0.3
Pokemon - Ruby 90-100% 90-100% 1.1.2 100% without sound. The sound gives a slight noticeable lag.
Pokemon - Fire Red 50% 80-90% 1.1.2 Playable without sound.
Pokemon - Leaf Green 30% 80-90% 1.1.2 1.0.3 Error Loading Savegame, but still works. Saves load fine in 1.1.2. Playable without sound.
Rayman Advance 53% 75% 1.0.3 Without sound very playable!
R-Type 3 70% 90-100% 1.0.3
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 60% 85% 1.0.3
Sonic Advance 2 55% 80% 1.0.3
Sonic Advance 3 49% 72% 1.0.3 too slow for sonic
Super Ghouls'n Ghosts 48% 69% 1.0.3
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% 1.0.3 Slow but Playable!
Zelda - The Minish Cap 50% 85% 1.0.3
Zooo 55% 90% 1.0.3

Using 800MHz patch

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

Title Speed VBA Version Notes
Sound No Sound
Advance Wars 85% 95-100% 1.1.2 Sound is choppy causing a bit of lag but playable both ways
Advance Wars 2 80% 95-100% 1.1.2 Sound is choppy, plays well enough with sound but annoying.
Aladdin 75% 95-100% 1.1.2 Works pretty good a slight delay while playing with sound
Astro Boy - Omega Factor 65-80% 75-100% 1.1.2 Depending how much is happening on the screen at once
Atari Anniversary Advance 100% 75-100% 1.1.2 No sound?
Backyard Football 2006 60% 68-85% 1.1.2
Mario & Luigi - Superstar Saga 75% 90-100% 1.1.2
Metroid Fusion 70% 90-100% 1.1.2 when shooting can cause slow down with sound.
Pokemon - Ruby 90-100% 90-100% 1.1.2 100% without sound. The sound gives a slight noticeable lag.
Pokemon - Fire Red 50% 80-90% 1.1.2 Playable without sound.
Pokemon - Leaf Green 30% 80-90% 1.1.2 1.0.3 Error Loading Savegame, but still works. Saves load fine in 1.1.2. Playable without sound.

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 VBA Version Link
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