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Play GameBoy and GameBoy Color games on Windows Phone 8 with VGBC8

Classic gaming fans love emulators because they allow us to revisit beloved older games on the hardware we own now. And if you enjoy emulation on Windows Phone 8, you’re probably familiar with the work of indie developer M.k. He has already provided us with two fine emulators: Snes8x (a Super Nintendo emulator) and VBA8 (a GameBoy Advance emulator).

VBA8 is great for dudes and dudettes who want to play GameBoy Advance games on their Windows Phone 8 devices, but it doesn’t run original GameBoy and GameBoy Color games. Well, now we can finally play those games thanks to M.k’s release of VGBC8, the first Windows Phone 8-specific GameBoy/GameBoy Color emulator.

Read on for screenshots and our full impressions or watch the video!

GameBoy on the go

The original GameBoy was a monochrome (essentially black-and-white) portable gaming console that debuted back in 1989. In 1998, Nintendo followed up on the GameBoy’s massive success with the GameBoy Color. The GBC played both original GameBoy games and new titles with color graphics. VGBC8 runs both types of games.

Every emulator needs to come with a quick-and-dirty ROM to make it legal, and VGBC8 is no different. The included ROM here is a black-and-white version of Pong, and you’ll want to delete it posthaste. To get more games, you’ll need to upload your own ROMs to SkyDrive, link your account to the emulator, and then individually download each game. Games can be renamed, deleted, and even pinned to the Start screen once they’re in your library.

The emulator’s main menu uses a vertical orientation, and games can be played from that perspective. The original GameBoy and GameBoy Color used the same orientation, so you might prefer the authenticity it provides. But games can also be played whole holding the phone horizontally, which increases the display size and proves more comfortable on the hands.

The size and transparency of the virtual controls can be adjusted in the Settings menu outside of gameplay. M.k has revamped the appearance and performance of the virtual controls in all of his emulators since we last looked at VBA8. They’re still not beautiful, but they do look and work better than before. During gameplay, tapping the edge of the screen brings up a menu that allows users to save and load at will or exit to the main menu.

The GameBoy experience

Left: Wy not prepare for the Ducktales XBLA remake by playing the GameBoy version? Right: Double Dragon

VGBC8 does a fantastic job of recreating GameBoy and GameBoy Color games on Windows Phone. I tested a variety of games, from platformers to beat-em-ups to RPGs. All ran at a great frame rate on my Lumia 920. I did experience a blank screen the first time I tried Double Dragon, but it worked fine when I returned to it later.

Graphically, original GameBoy games display in black-and-white only. It would be cool if we could select from color filters or customize our own. The original green-ish GameBoy look should be an option at the very least, but many games would benefit from other color options (as they did when played with the Super GameBoy peripheral on Super Nintendo). GameBoy Color games were obviously designed with their own specific and much wider color palettes, and VGBC8 renders them perfectly.

As with other console emulators, touch screens obviously can’t provide exactly the same experience as playing with physical buttons. For instance, pressing the B and A buttons simultaneously (needed for Double Dragon and some other games) requires two fingers on a touch screen. Perhaps an optional B + A button would make up for that. VGBC8 does have a clever option to enable or disable turbo button presses by tapping the phone’s camera button.

Oh, and M.k plans to support the MOGA Pro Controller in all of his emulators, which should definitely make for a fantastic control experience.

Oldies but goodies

Left: Dragon Warrior III. Right: Bomberman Quest

If I was only going to buy one portable gaming emulator for Windows Phone 8, I’d definitely choose VBA8 over VGBC8. The GameBoy Advance is much newer hardware than GameBoy Color, so it provides better graphics and sound as well as a library of more modern games. But the GameBoy and GameBoy Color still had hundreds of fantastic games that Windows Phone gamers can enjoy on the go with VGBC8. (Just don’t ask us where to find those ROMs. You’ll have to search for them on your own.)

If you grew up in the 8-bit era or just have an interest in older games from Nintendo, Capcom, Konami, and other developers, VGBC8 will keep you busy for hours. Instead of picking up just one emulator for Windows Phone 8, why not get them all?

VGBC8 costs $2.49, but there is also a free demo with save states disabled. Windows Phone 8 users can grab it here at the Windows Phone Store.

Thanks to Jorge for the tip!


Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Would it be worth a buy if we already have Purple Cherry since development on that has seemed to hit a standstill and not all games function properly? Everything MK touches seems to be gold.
  • I've given up on Purple Cherry. Though I commend the developer for releasing a working app on WP7 and paid for their work, it had flaws such as slowdown on some games, a poor sound emulation software, and was overall held back by the limitations of developing for WP7 devices also. I know that they're working on an emulator that takes advantage of WP8's hardware, bur as you stated m.k.'s work is topnotch and I would definitely buy it if I were you. I just did right now considering that their work in the past has been pretty great and they're real good about staying up to date with bugs and adding small things to improve the experience.
  • I ended up purchasing right away. Multitude of reasons, namely the developers track record plus the upcoming support of the controller. The fact that it came in at $1.99 and when I checked the PurpleCherry FB page to see it hadn't been updated in 2 months definitely helped though.
  • If there's pokemon, i'll download :D
  • Haha I bought the GBA emulator for that.
  • That's on my list too. Who doesn't love Pokemon? :D
  • Where can one get the Pokemon roms from, every time I do a search the websites seem shady.
  • Coolroms is a great website
  • First Gen is the worst. I'd rather not touch it.
  • Great minds  think alike! Though I bought VBA8 for that...
    Will buy VGBC8 later.
  • That's what I want it for!
  • I'd like to see an N64 emulator on WP8. I have all the rest, I believe.
  • Psh, where's my PS1? I had that on the HD2, perfect frame rate.
  • Runs so well on my 8X. I hope DS emulation is on m.k's next hit list as many of my favourite DS games are optimised for touchscreen. 
  • I don't think you could play DS games because of the two screens plus the buttons and the touch screen.
  • Yes you could. Modern 720p display has sufficient resolution to accomodate both DS screens, and still enough of space for a layer of virtual buttons on the bottom. I could play Animal Crossing Wild World exclusively without buttons.
  • I imagine it'd be pretty cramped though.
  • Exactly.
  • DS emulator? Time for Pokemon Pearl!
  • Well it should be possible. See android and apple allready done it 

    I'm trying to contact M.k, so that they maybe could try to make a ds for wp, but I cant find their email or anything .      
  • Snes8x and VBA8 are outstanding, will be getting this as well. Nice write up, by the way!
  • Can't beat a bit of Zelda.
  • By the way, anyone know of a Mega Drive/Genesis emulator? I can't find one anywhere and technically it should be an easier job than a SNES one.
  • I have been thinking how I would love a Genesis emulator. Hopefully that is next on his list since he has become the man with emulation.
  • TOO MANY GAMES TO PLAY, NOT ENOUGH TIME!! (first world problem)
  • So hungry in the 3rd world, at least we have time to play
  • With sticks....
  • This is quite GameBoy Pocket STILL works and I still have the games. But I'll probably check this out anyway since I don't normally take my GameBoy on my pocket. Oh, and this better have Pokémon available.
  • Dont forget vNESlight...The best NES emulator of any OS, works awsome on WP8...
  • +1
  • Dpad sucks on vnes though if m.k did one it would be an instant buy. Also, the best game for nes is almost unplayable on phone without physical buttons(tecmo superbowl).
  • This is rad, but wake me when there's an Apple II emulator. Wizardry!!!
  • Makes me wish I had WP8. I'd love not needing a light on to play
  • Hmm, I'm not really a fan of the developer separating GBA and GBC/GB into two separate paid applications, when the VBA code he presumably ported over for both versions (I mean, it IS in the name) includes both.
    It's great to see more emulators, but I'm very interested in why they had to be separate.
  • Developers gotta eat too! But hey, these are some great applications and the dev is wonderful about updates. Just do what I did and bring your lunch to work for a day instead of grabbing some food on the go, bam, there's your five bucks for the two apps :)
  • It's not the monetary cost that's an issue, it's the fact that it's literally all the same source code (which, by the way, he's porting an open-source app and charging for it, and that doesn't bother me, because it does take work).  It'd be like buying one app to play all of your music from A-M and another app to play all of your music from N-Z.  Sure, it's not that much money, but it doesn't make much sense.
    I'll probably buy it on WinRT anyway since it supports a 360 controller, but it's just plain weird.
  • VBA's license permits the developer to charge for derivative works. If you don't like that jog on.
  • Again.  Zero problem with that.  My problem is with him splitting it into two separate applications.
  • Add GameShark functionality!!
  • Yes! Purple cherry has it and it rocks for Pokemon, started the game with mewtwo, would switch to this one with games hark support.
  • Is Pokemon in the mix!?
  • Good luck with a Dreamcast or Gamecube emulator. Can't have everything.
  • Cool for those who want it, but I'll stick to the 3DS Virtual Console and/or having the actual game carts for my retro portable gaming fix. Playing games designed for a D-pad and buttons with virtual thanks.
  • RPGs.
  • Fair enough. But when I say designed for physical buttons, I mean something that requires precision control. You cannot get the same level of accuracy that a controller offers from a touch screen. In the case of RPGs, you know they're generally much slower paced than something like, say, Mega Man (or even Tetris), so they lend themselves better to touchscreen input. There are games that work well on a touchscreen, of course: strategy, the previously stated RPGs, some puzzle games, etc. I just don't like when a game is shoehorned onto a platform that it doesn't work well on.
    Also: Tetris on a touch an atrocity. Just saying.
  • Moga controller ;)
  • Ah, but if I need a seperate controller to play games on my phone, it kinda defeats the purpose of playing them there. :P
    Also, if I never got to play a game when it originally released, I'm more than happy to give whoever re-released it a few dollars. It's also nice that I'm guaranteed a glitch-free experience for each and every game. The only games I'll play in an emulator are ones that there's no way to legally obtain them. If they ever come to the Virtual Console, though...instant purchase.
  • Thank you. Someone who makes sense.
  • This one is better than VBA8?
  • They are very close in quality.
  • The MOGA controller cant come soon enough! Lets just hope that devs support it and add functionality to their games / emulators. Great post as always Paul!
  • With this one i actually got Duck Tales to work properly :) But Purple Cherry has the nicer interface with the gameboy-like control set up. One thing i always wonder is why the phone gets hot while playing such an grphically simplistic game, i mean i play some xbox Games and the phone stays cool.
  • How about a psp or vita emulator or a Mario kart game
  • Are you for real?
  • Lolz xD
  • It could happen eventually. At the rate mobile hardware is accelerating, we may see a Vita emulator in a few years. I love playing games, but I can't afford them with bills to pay and food to buy.
  • Screw it, why not dream big and bring a "next" Xbox before it even ships, with backwards compatibility and the ability to play used games!
  • well it happend
  • Still waiting on an Amiga 500 emulator. I have a feeling it'll be a long wait, but boy it would be worth it.
  • For all the people "waiting for emulator for X":
    People don't seem to appreciate what it takes to port an emulator from x86 Windows to Windows Phone. SNES8X, VBA8 and VGBC8 are all ports of existing Windows emulators, the key is that the Windows emulators were written completely in C or C++ making them portable to WP8 once the code is migrated into VS2012 and the user interface reworked.
    For example the best Sega Mega Drive/Genesis emulators (e.g. Kega Fusion or Gens) on Windows actually use x86 assembly for their CPU core. Back when they were developed (around 2001) this was the most efficient way to get the required level performance. There aren't many Mega Drive/Genesis emulators that are written in portable C code.
    The other issue with most open source projects is that they are nearly always written for GNU C Compilers (GCC) with its corresponding "make file" project structure, which can only be compiled in a Linux environment. The amount of work to migrate the code into Visual Sudio 2012 (the only thing that can compile for WP8) is often impractical for complex  poorly documented/maintained projects like emulators. Couple this with sometimes restrictive licenses that prevents derivative works from being monetised and you have a poor incentive for emulator development on WP8.
  • Well how are emulators developed for Android and iOS? And why is Apple more restrictive about emulators than Google? I see dozens of emulators on Google Play, yet Apple keeps pulling them off their App Store/iTunes.
  • Android can easily be targetted by GCC. So open source projects can be ported to Android very quickly. iOS isn't as simple but there are many tools available for the jailbreak homebrew scene, just think how long ago the first iPhone was jailbroken. The fact that Apple take down emulators from the app store doesn't stop them being ported and installed through Cydia.
    Again WP8 is the exception because it is still locked down and all developers are required to use VS2012 on a Windows 8 platform. While the walled garden is good news for developers who are sick of their apps being pirated, I believe the combination of these factors has stifled homebrew development for WP8.
  • Lol whose gonna play this game xD this is 2013 never not 1999
  • People who were born in the 1980's or 1990's. It's called childhood memories/nostalgia. It's one of the reasons why I bought a Wii and 3DS (for Nintendo's "Virtual Console" service).
  • You'll understand when you grow up, kid. ;)
  • Lol im 18 so your comment pretty much failed right there :D
  • I weep for you, never having experienced the gems of that era and being ignorant to their greatness :c
  • Also plays GBA roms!!!!!!
  • So you guys promote piracy now? I thought Microsoft and Apple banned emulators for this very reason? And I have a 3DS to play these games. Nintendo's "Virtual Console" service is awesome.
  • No, we don't promote piracy. And please don't mention it again.
  • +5
  • Good luck getting Oracle of Ages/Seasons on their. As great as the Virtual Console service is, Nintendo takes ridiculously long to launch games on it. I would happily pay for Metal Gear Solid GBC and the Zelda Oracle games but until Nintendo releases them I'll make due with emulation!