Best Gameboy Emulators for Mac

Looking to play a bit of your childhood Gameboy games on your Mac? It’s a lot easier than you think. What you need is a Gameboy emulator for Mac. Today I’ll walk you through the best emulators for Mac and how to set them up for the best experience. Whether you’re on a new M1 Mac or an older Intel Mac, these emulators should work.


Before we continue, there’s something important I need to mention. You need to be careful when it comes to downloading emulators online because some of them can contain malware.

I only recommend downloading emulators from reputable companies, such as the ones on my list below. Also, be careful with downloading ROMS.

Without further delay, let’s dive in.

Best Gameboy Emulators for Mac:

1 – OpenEMU

OpenEmu is the best Gameboy emulator for Mac out there. OpenEmu is an open-source modular platform that includes additional console emulators (called Cores) on the backend. It has cores for almost every video game platform, including Gameboy.

What I like about OpenEmu is it organizes your ROMS into a library with pixel art cover included, making it very easy to open the game you want to play.

To play Gameboy games on Mac, launch OpenEmu, and drag a ROM file into OpenEmu and it will add the ROMS to your library.

The Gameboy emulator is included in OpenEmu by default, so you shouldn’t need to download any other cores. I recommend connecting a controller and remapping the buttons to Gameboy. From there just launch the game and have fun.

Another cool feature of OpenEmu is you can add a variety of screen filters. An interesting filter is CRT which makes the screen look like an old-school CRT TV, complete with a slightly warped image.

OpenEmu is really the best Gameboy emulator for Mac, but there are some others you can try out too.

Is OpenEmu Safe?

OpenEmu is perfectly safe on Mac OS, it’s an open-source program and anyone can view or even recompile the code. The program passed every virus scan test and it’s safe to download.

However it’s not on the list of Apple’s trusted programs, so you will need to enable installations from unverified programs on your Mac. But don’t worry, OpenEmu is a very safe program and does not contain any malware.

Is OpenEmu Compatible with M1 Macs?

OpenEmu is not natively compatible with M1 Macs (although an update is in the works) but it can run on Rosetta 2 with no issues. Rosetta 2 is Apple’s built-in emulator to run x64 programs on ARM architecture.

When you run OpenEmu on an M1 Mac it will launch using Rosetta 2. The good news is the performance with Rosetta 2 is very good, and you shouldn’t have any issues.

2 – RetroArch

RetroArch is similar to OpenEmu because it includes a number of emulators by default, and you can install more too. The UI is not as good as OpenEmu but it does include a lot of customization options and it’s very straightforward.

What you need to do is download RetroArch for Mac and open the application. Select Online Updater and then Core Updater. Scroll down the list until you find mGBA which is the emulator for Game Boy Advance. The core will install in a matter of seconds, and from there you just need to load a ROM and start playing Gameboy games.

What’s cool about RetroArch is the program is compatible with pretty much every platform. There’s even a web browser version for Chromebooks and you can even install it on a Raspberry Pi.

You can also download the mGBA emulator as a standalone, but it seems to work better when added to Retro Arch. I believe OpenEmu also uses mGBA as their Gameboy emulator.

Is RetroArch Safe?

RetroArch is safe for Macs and every other operating system. The program has passed every virus scan, and it’s open-source, so you can examine the code for malicious entries at any time.

3 – Visual Boy Advance for Mac

Visual Boy Advance is a very lightweight Gameboy emulator for Macs. Visual Boy Advanced was launched in 2005, making it one of the oldest emulators out there. It’s a standalone emulator, so it doesn’t have a library or many configuration options as the emulators above.

The good news is it still receives updates (most recent September 2021) and it works quite well on modern Macs. If you want a super lightweight emulator, this one is for you.

What is the Best GBA Emulator for Mac?

In my opinion, the best GBA emulator for Mac is OpenEmu because it has emulators for almost every video game console, the UI is very friendly, and the games are organized into libraries with digital art covers.

The second best would be RetroArch. Both OpenEmu and RetroArch are compatible with Xbox, Playstation, and generic controllers.

Can You Play Gameboy Pokemon on Mac?

To play Gameboy Pokemon games on a Mac you will need to download a Pokemon ROM and add it to either OpenEMU or RetroArch. The game should launch with no issues, although some tweaks to controllers and graphics might be needed.

Games such as Pokemon Emerald, Pokemon Ruby, and Pokemon Fire, can all be played on a Mac with OpenEmu or RetroArch.

Where Can You Download Gameboy ROMS?

While it’s technically illegal to download Gameboy ROMS, there are plenty of websites that offer free downloads. Search for the game you want, plus “ROM”, on any search engine, and you’ll find plenty of options.

Be careful when downloading ROMS online because some can contain malware.


Even though there are lots of Gameboy emulators for Mac out there, OpenEmu and RetroArch are the best ones.

OpenEmu should have everything that you need to run most Gameboy games on a Mac, and the performance is very good too. The emulator can run most Gameboy games at a stable 60 FPS with resolution upscaling turned on.

So that’s how you can play Gameboy games on a Mac. Just hook up a controller to your Mac and start reliving your childhood with some classic Gameboy games!

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