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This tutorial is to help you with mGBA on Windows. mGBA was born in 2014. It's focused on being fast enough to run on lower end hardware than other emulators support. It doesn't want to sacrifice accuracy or portability.
*If you would like to download mGBA, I have it on my emulators page.
Should you use mGBA?
With all the emulator offerings as of 2020, should you use mGBA? Well, it depends. VisualBoyAdv-M (Visual Boy Advance) may not be cycle-accurate, but it offers more features than mGBA. RetroArch, a popular multi-system emulator, is a great option for bundling GBA emulation with 40+ other video game systems.
mGBA still offers practicality and simplicity. As a standalone emulator, it's easy to use. To this day it's still in active development. If you want something that 'just works out of the box', mGBA is still a good option.
mGBA is a standalone program so it does not have an install wizard. Installation is simple: just extract mGBA from its zip file. Not sure how to extract zip files? Here's a video tutorial showing you how: how to unzip files on Windows.
IMPORTANT! mGBA must be placed in a common folder on your computer. I recommend Documents, Downloads, or create a folder on your desktop. If you place mGBA somewhere else on your main C drive, then you may be restricting it to read-only access. Doing so prevents mGBA from saving anything.
To open mGBA, double-click on
Setting up the keyboard
- Click on Tools > Settings, as shown below:
- You'll arrive at the Settings window. Click on Keyboard to arrive at the screen below:
- To reconfigure a keyboard key, click on the white field and press the new keyboard key you want it set to. Repeat the process for all buttons you want to be changed. Click OK when you're done.
- Optionally, you can click on Shortcuts to explore the emulator shortcut keys available for mGBA. You can reconfigure them as well to different keyboard keys (or gamepad buttons).
Setting up a gamepad
- Click on Tools > Settings, as shown below:
- You'll arrive at the Settings window. Click on Controllers to arrive at the screen below:
- To reconfigure a gamepad button, click on the white field and press the new gamepad button you want it set to. Repeat the process for all buttons you want to be changed. Click OK when you're done.
- Optionally, you can click on Shortcuts to explore the emulator shortcut keys available for mGBA. You can reconfigure them as well to different gamepad buttons (or keyboard keys).
Loading a game
Note that you can place your games wherever you want. Typically, people place them in the same folder as mGBA.
To load a game:
- Click on File > Load ROM.
- The “Select ROM” window will pop up. Initially, it'll show the folder where mGBA resides. If you placed your games elsewhere, navigate to that folder. Click on the game you want to play, then click Open - as shown here .
- The game will begin playing immediately.
Once a game is loaded, you can enter/exit fullscreen by pressing Alt+Enter.
Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. You can use this feature manually by going into the File menu or by quick keyboard shortcuts.
There's one detail about save states with mGBA that can be confusing. There are two types of them. You have quick saves and regular save states.
If you want instant gratification, quick saves are the instant saving you want.
- Capturing a quick save: To capture a quick save go to File > Quick save and choose a slot, as shown here . mGBA lets you save up to 9 different quick saves (9 different slots). The keyboard shortcut for saving a quick save in slot 1 is Shift+F1.
- Loading a quick save: To load a quick save that you previously saved, go to File > Quick Load and choose the slot of the save you want to load (if you remember which one it is). The keyboard shortcut for loading a quick save from slot 1 is F1.
Regular save states
These saves require an extra step but provide you with a visual thumbnail gallery of your saves.
- Capturing a save state: To capture a save state go to File > Save state. You'll arrive at the save state thumbnail gallery . Click on the thumbnail square where you want your save to be. That's it; you'll be taken back to your game. The keyboard shortcut for saving a state is Shift+F10.
- Loading a save state: To load a save state that you previously saved, go to File > Load state. The save state thumbnail gallery appears. Click on the thumbnail you want to load. That's it; your game will immediately play from your saved state. The keyboard shortcut for loading a save state is F10.
*All the RPG shrines in my FantasyAnime.com offer complete collections of periodical game saves. With them, you can continue at any significant point in the game. I offer a Game Saves Tutorial where you can learn more about how to use somebody else's saves. You can also learn about how to transfer saves between other emulators.
Fast forward is the feature that speeds up the game. To access it, press the Tab key. Hold it down and let go until you want the fast forwarding to end.
mGBA lets you cheat using your favorite GameShark, Pro Action Replay, or CodeBreaker codes. The process of entering codes can be confusing. Although confusing, a valuable bonus is that mGBA lets you enter multiple codes at once. Most other emulators only let you enter one line at a time.
For these directions I'm going to walk you through entering the 9-line GameShark code that enables the complete Pokedex in Pokemon Emerald:
- Go to Tools > Cheats:
- Click on Add GameShark:
- You'll see an “Untitled” checked item appear in the white area. Double-click on it to enter the name of the code:
- Paste the GameShark code into the box shown below, then click Add.
- The GameShark cheat is added. You can click the drop-down arrow to view the code to ensure it's there. Lastly, close this window and restart your game for the code to take effect.
Finding cheats: GameGenie.com is a good site. The next best source is Google. The best search keywords to use is to type the name of the game then “game genie”. For example: “super mario world game genie”.
Capturing screen shots
Go to Audio/Video > Take screenshot (as shown above), or press the F12 key. By default, mGBA will drop the screen shot into the same directory where your video game ROM resides. It will save the screen shot as a PNG image.
In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download ROMs. If you want to try to find more sites than what's in my collection of links, just Google around. For example, if you want to download Advance Wars just Google “download advance wars gba”.
Patching ROM hacks
Q: Cheat codes aren't working in Pokemon!
People have reported having a great deal of trouble getting cheats to work specifically with the Pokemon games. If you read the section on using cheats and you're still unable to get cheats to work, check out this article at PokemonCoders: How to Fix Not Working and Glitchy Cheats for Pokemon GBA Games.
Q: mGBA isn't saving anything!
If you're using mGBA for the first time and you're finding that you have all these problems:
- Save states aren't working. You save a state, then when you try to reload it nothing happens.
- In an RPG when you save your game at a save point and close/re-open mGBA, you find that the save is lost.
- Emulator configurations that you changed aren't saved. When you close/re-open mGBA, you have to make those configuration changes again.
Then your problem is that you currently have mGBA in a read-only location on your computer. You must move mGBA to a more common location such as Documents, Downloads, or a folder on your desktop.