Game Boy Advance

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Game Boy Advance
Indigo Game Boy Advance
Also known as
  • CN: iQue Game Boy Advance
DeveloperNintendo R&D
Product familyGame Boy[1]
TypeHandheld game console
Release date
Introductory priceUS$99.99 (equivalent to $170 in 2023)[6]
Units sold81.51 million[7]
System on a chipNintendo CPU AGB
Sharp SM83 @ 4 / 8 MHz
Memory32 KB RAM, 96 KB VRAM
DisplayTFT LCD, 240 × 160 px, 40.8 mm × 61.2 mm (1.61 in × 2.41 in)[8]
Power2 × AA batteries
Dimensions82 mm × 144.5 mm × 24.5 mm (3.23 in × 5.69 in × 0.96 in)
Best-selling gamePokémon Ruby and Sapphire (16.22 million units)[9]
PredecessorGame Boy Color[10]
SuccessorNintendo DS

The Game Boy Advance[a] (GBA) is a 32-bit handheld game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo as the successor to the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21, 2001, in North America on June 11, 2001, in the PAL region on June 22, 2001, and in mainland China as iQue Game Boy Advance on June 8, 2004.

The GBA is part of the sixth generation of video game consoles. The original model was followed in 2003 by the Game Boy Advance SP, a redesigned model with a frontlit screen and clamshell form factor. A newer revision of the SP with a backlit screen was released in 2005. A miniaturized redesign, the Game Boy Micro, was released in September 2005.

As of June 2010, 81.51 million units of the Game Boy Advance series have been sold worldwide.[7] Its successor, the Nintendo DS, was released in November 2004[11] and is backward compatible with Game Boy Advance software.


Unlike the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, which have the "portrait" form factor (designed by Gunpei Yokoi), the Game Boy Advance has a "landscape" form factor, putting the buttons to the sides of the device instead of below the screen. It was designed by the French designer Gwénaël Nicolas and his Tokyo-based design studio Curiosity Inc.[12][13]

News of a successor to the Game Boy Color (GBC) first emerged at the Space World trade show in late August 1999, where it was reported that two new handheld systems were in development: an improved version of the GBC with wireless online connectivity, codenamed the Advanced Game Boy (AGB), and a new 32-bit system set for release the following year.[14] On September 1, 1999, Nintendo officially announced the Game Boy Advance, revealing details about the system's specifications including online connectivity through a cellular device and an improved model of the Game Boy Camera. Nintendo teased that the handheld would first be released in Japan in August 2000, with the North American and European launch dates slated for the end of the same year.[15] Simultaneously, Nintendo announced a partnership with Konami to form Mobile 21, a development studio that would focus on creating technology for the GBA to interact with the GameCube, Nintendo's home console which was also in development at the time with the codename Dolphin.[16] On August 21, 2000, IGN showed images of a GBA development kit running a demonstrational port of Yoshi's Story,[17] and on August 22, pre-production images of the GBA were revealed in Famitsu magazine in Japan.[18] On August 24, Nintendo officially revealed the console to the public, with the Japanese and North American launch dates and 10 launch games.[19] The GBA was then featured at Space World 2000 from August 24 to 26[20] alongside several peripherals for the system, including the GBA Link cable, the GameCube - Game Boy Advance link cable,[21] a rechargeable battery pack for the system, and an infrared communications adaptor which would allow systems to exchange data.[22] In March 2001, Nintendo revealed details about the system's North American launch, including the suggested price of $99.99 and the 15 launch games. Nintendo estimated that around 60 new games would be released by the end of 2001.[23][24]

Project Atlantis[edit]

In 1996, magazines including Electronic Gaming Monthly and Next Generation featured reports of a successor to the original Game Boy, codenamed Project Atlantis.[25][26] Nintendo's initial target was to release the system in at least one territory by the end of 1996, which would make it appear to most likely refer to the Game Boy Color.[26][25] However, it was described as having a 32-bit ARM processor, a 3-by-2-inch (7.6 cm x 5 cm) color screen, and a link port — a description that more closely matches the Game Boy Advance.[26][25][27] Electronic Gaming Monthly reported the processor to be an ARM710, clocked at 25 MHz, while Next Generation claimed it to be a StrongARM SA-110, possibly supporting 160 MHz.[26][27] Both were designed by Advanced RISC Machines (ARM), which also created the CPU for the Game Boy Advance (and all Nintendo handhelds up to the Switch, which includes ARM engineered cores embedded in an Nvidia SoC). In terms of software, it was announced that Nintendo of Japan was working on a game for the system called Mario's Castle, ultimately unreleased.[26] Nintendo suspended the Atlantis project sometime in 1997, since the original Game Boy's 80% of the handheld market share was considered too high to merit the release of a successor.[28]

During a panel discussion at 2009's Game Developers Conference, a canceled "Game Boy Advance predecessor" was shown on-screen, which looked like a bulky Game Boy Color. Joystiq concluded this unnamed device was most likely Project Atlantis.[29]


Backward compatibility for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games is provided by a custom 4.194/8.388 MHz hybrid Z80 and 8080-based coprocessor (Game Boy Advance software can use the audio tone generators to supplement the primary sound system), while a link port at the top of the unit allows it to be connected to other devices using a Game Link cable or GameCube link cable.[21] When playing Game Boy or Game Boy Color games on the Game Boy Advance, the L and R buttons can be used to toggle between a stretched widescreen format (240×144) and the original screen ratio of the Game Boy (160×144). Game Boy games can be played using the same selectable color palettes as on the Game Boy Color. Every Nintendo handheld system following the release of the Game Boy Advance SP has included a built-in light and rechargeable battery.

The Game Boy Advance 2D graphics hardware has scaling and rotation for traditional tiled backgrounds in its modes 1 and 2, and scaling and rotation for bitmaps in modes 3 through 5 (used less often on the GBA because of technical limitations).[30] On each machine supporting this effect, it is possible to change the scaling and rotation values during the horizontal blanking period of each scanline[clarification needed] to draw a flat plane in a perspective projection. More complex effects such as fuzz are possible by using other equations for the position, scaling, and rotation of each line. The "character mode" supports up to 4 tile map background layers per frame, with each tile being 8x8 pixels in size and having 16 or 256 colors. The "character mode" also supports up to 128 hardware sprites per frame, with any sprite size from 8x8 to 64x64 pixels and with 16 or 256 colors per sprite.[30]

Technical specifications[edit]

Game Boy Advance[31][32][33][34][35][36]
Height 82 mm (3.2 in)
Width 145 mm (5.7 in)
Depth 24 mm (0.94 in)
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz)
Display 2.9-inch (diagonal) reflective thin-film transistor (TFT) color liquid-crystal display (LCD), 40.8 mm × 61.2 mm (1.61 in × 2.41 in)
Resolution 240 (w) × 160 (h) pixels (3:2 aspect ratio)
Frame rate 59.727500569606 Hz[37]
Color support 32,768 colors, up to 511 simultaneously in character mode, all may displayed simultaneously in Bitmap mode
System on a chip (SoC) Nintendo CPU AGB
Battery life Up to 15 hours
  • Channels: Dual 8-bit DAC for stereo sound (called Direct Sound), plus all legacy channels from Game Boy. The DACs can be used to play back streams of wave data, or used to output multiple wave samples processed or mixed in software by the CPU.
  • Outputs: Built-in mono speaker, stereo 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Eight-way control pad
  • Six action buttons (A, B, L, R, Start, Select)
  • Volume slider
  • Power switch

Color variants[edit]

The Game Boy Advance was available in numerous colors and limited editions throughout its production. It was initially available in Arctic, Black, Orange (Japan Only), Fuchsia (translucent pink), Glacier (translucent blue), and Indigo. Later in the system's lifespan, additional colors and special editions were released, including: Red, Clear Orange/Black, Platinum, White, Gold (Japan Only), Hello Kitty edition (pink with Hello Kitty and logo on bezel), The King of Fighters edition (black with images on bezel and buttons), Chobits edition (translucent light blue, with images on bezel and buttons), Battle Network Rockman EXE 2 (light blue with images on bezel), Mario Bros. edition (Glacier with Mario and Luigi on bezel), and Yomiuri Giants edition (Glacier with images on bezel).

Several Pokémon-themed limited-edition systems were made available in Pokémon Center stores in Japan. These editions include: Gold Pokémon edition (Gold with Pikachu and Pichu on bezel), Suicune edition (blue/grey with greyscale Pikachu and Pichu on bezel, and a Pokémon Center sticker on the back), Celebi edition (olive green with Celebi images on bezel), and Latias/Latios edition (pink/red and purple, with images of Latias and Latios on bezel).


The Game Boy Advance Game Pak
Game Boy Advance Game Pak disassembled

With hardware performance comparable to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Game Boy Advance represents progress for sprite-based technology. The system's library includes platformers, SNES-like role-playing video games, and games ported from various 8-bit and 16-bit systems of the previous generations. This includes the Super Mario Advance series, and the system's backward compatibility with all earlier Game Boy titles. Though most GBA games primarily employ 2D graphics, developers have ambitiously designed some 3D GBA games that push the limits of the hardware, including first-person shooters like a port of Doom, racing games like V-Rally 3, and even platformers, like Asterix & Obelix XXL.

Some cartridges are colored to resemble the game (usually for the Pokémon series; Pokémon Emerald, for example, being a clear emerald green). Others have special built-in features, including rumble features (Drill Dozer),[38] tilt sensors (WarioWare: Twisted!, Yoshi's Universal Gravitation)[39] and solar sensors (Boktai).[40]

In Japan, the final game to be released on the system was Final Fantasy VI Advance on November 30, 2006, which was also the final game published by Nintendo on the system.[41] In North America, the last game for the system was Samurai Deeper Kyo, released on February 12, 2008. In Europe, the last game for the system is The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night, released on November 2, 2007. The Japan-only Rhythm Tengoku, the first game in what would eventually become known outside Japan as the Rhythm Heaven/Rhythm Paradise series, is the final first-party-developed game for the system, released on August 3, 2006.

Launch games[edit]

Title JP NA EU Notes
Army Men Advance No Yes Yes Top-down shooter
Boku wa Koukuu Kanseikan Yes No No Simulation game
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon Yes Yes Yes Platform game in the Castlevania series
ChuChu Rocket! Yes Yes No Port of the 1999 Sega Dreamcast game
Earthworm Jim No Yes No Port of the 1994 platform game
EZ-Talk Shokyuuhen 1-6 Kan Set Yes No No One of the first games developed by NDCube
Fire Pro Wrestling Yes Yes Yes Top-down wrestler
F-Zero Maximum Velocity Yes Yes Yes Racing game, first F-Zero game to be released on a handheld game console, one of the first games developed by NDCube
Golf Master: Japan Golf Tour Yes No No Sports game
GT Advance Championship Racing Yes Yes Yes Racing game
Iridion 3D No Yes No Quasi-3D rail shooter game
J. League Pocket Yes No No Soccer game
Konami Krazy Racers Yes Yes Yes Kart racing game
Kuru Kuru Kururin Yes No Yes Puzzle game
Mega Man Battle Network Yes No No Real-time tactical RPG
Momotaru Matsuri Yes No No Role-playing game
Monster Guardians Yes No No Role-playing game
Mr. Driller 2 Yes No No Port of the 2000 arcade game
Namco Museum No Yes No Compilation consisting of Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Pole Position, and Dig Dug
Napoleon Yes No No Real-time strategy game
Pinobee: Wings of Adventure Yes Yes Yes First game developed by Artoon
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure No Yes No Port of the 1994 platform game
Play Novel: Silent Hill Yes No No Visual novel based on the 1998 horror game
Power Pro Kun Pocket 3 Yes No No Baseball game
Rayman Advance No Yes Yes Port of the 1995 platform game
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 No Yes Yes Portable version of the 2000 boxing game
Super Dodge Ball Advance Yes Yes No Sports game
Super Mario Advance Yes Yes Yes Remake of Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988) and Mario Bros. (1983)
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 No Yes Yes Portable version of the 2000 skateboarding video game
Top Gear GT Championship Yes No Yes Racing game
Total Soccer Manager No No Yes Soccer manager
Tweety and the Magic Gems Yes No Yes Last Looney Tunes game published by Kemco
Winning Point Yes No No Horse racing game
Yu-Gi-Oh! Dungeon Dice Monsters Yes No No Dice-driven tactics game

Compatibility with other systems[edit]

Clockwise from left: A Game Boy Game Pak, a Game Boy Advance Game Pak, and a Nintendo DS Game Card. On the far right is a US nickel (diameter 21.21mm) shown for scale.

An accessory for the GameCube, known as the Game Boy Player, was released in 2003 as the successor to the Super Game Boy peripheral for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The accessory allows Game Boy Advance, Game Boy, and Game Boy Color games to be played on the GameCube. However, some games may have compatibility issues due to certain features requiring extra hardware. For example, playing games with built-in motion sensors, such as Yoshi's Topsy-Turvy, would require players to manipulate the console.

The GBA is the last Nintendo handheld system to bear the Game Boy name. Games developed for it are incompatible with older Game Boy systems, and each game's box carries a label indicating that the game is "not compatible with other Game Boy systems". However, games designed for older Game Boy systems are compatible with the Game Boy Advance, with options to play such games on either their standard aspect ratios or a stretched fullscreen.

Game Boy Advance games are compatible with Nintendo DS models that support them with a dedicated GBA cartridge slot beneath the touch screen (specifically the original model and the Nintendo DS Lite), although they do not support multiplayer or features involving the use of GBA accessories due to the absence of the GBA's external peripheral port on the DS. The Nintendo DSi and Nintendo DSi XL lack a GBA cartridge slot, and do not support backward compatibility with the GBA.


Since the Game Boy Advance was discontinued, many of its games have been re-released on newer Nintendo consoles via its digital distribution services. As part of an Ambassador Program for early adopters of the Nintendo 3DS system, ten GBA games, along with ten Nintendo Entertainment System games, were made available free for players who bought a 3DS system before the price drop on August 12, 2011.[42] Unlike other Virtual Console games for the system, features such as the Home menu or save states are missing, since the games are running natively instead of via emulation.

In January 2014, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata announced that Game Boy Advance games would be released on the Wii U's Virtual Console in April 2014.[43] The first set of GBA games, including Advance Wars, Metroid Fusion, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, were released April 3, 2014.[44] All Virtual Console releases are single-player only, as they do not emulate multiplayer features enabled by Game Link cables.

In February 2023, Nintendo added Game Boy Advance games to its Nintendo Switch Online service, exclusively to those with the Expansion Pack tier.[45]



The Wireless Adapter was packed in with Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen.

Nintendo released various addons for the Game Boy Advance, which include:

  • Wireless Adapter: Released in 2004, this adapter hooks up to the back of the Game Boy Advance. It replaces link cables and allows many people to link together. It was marketed for US$20 and came included with Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen. Because it was released so late in the Game Boy Advance's life, fewer than 20 games support this hardware. FireRed/LeafGreen and Emerald feature a "Union Room" where up to forty people can connect via the adapter to battle or trade Pokémon. A special version was released for the Game Boy Micro, which has full compatibility with other models of the Wireless Adapter.
  • Game Boy Advance Infra-Red Adapter: This adapter is only compatible with Cyberdrive Zoids, and was not sold separately. It is not compatible with the Game Boy Micro.
  • Nintendo GameCube – Game Boy Advance link cable: The link cable is used to connect the Game Boy Advance to the GameCube for interoperability between corresponding games, such as are Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Pac-Man Vs., and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.[21] The cable enables functionality such as allowing up to 4 players to use their Advance or SP handheld as a controller that has additional information on the screen, unlocking additional content in compatible GameCube games, or transferring content between GameCube and Game Boy Advance titles.
  • Play-Yan: The Play-Yan is an MP3/MPEG4 player for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. The cartridge is slightly broader than a normal Game Boy Advance cartridge and includes a built-in headphone port as well as an SD card slot. Music or videos that users have downloaded from the Internet can be transferred onto an SD card and slotted into the Play-Yan device. Nintendo released several mini-games for the Play-Yan that could be downloaded from their website, although this functionality was later removed through a firmware update. The Play-Yan was initially available in Japan only but was released in Europe as the Nintendo MP3 Player on December 8, 2006, with the MPEG4 functionality removed. The Play-Yan was never released in North America.
  • e-Reader: The e-Reader is a scanning device that plugs into the game cartridge slot of the Game Boy Advance. It was released in Japan in December 2001, and North America in September 2002. Specialized cards with codes along the side and bottom are slid through the slot, scanning the card into the Game Boy Advance. e-Reader cards include classic games like Donkey Kong and Excitebike that can be scanned for play on the handheld. Other cards were released that unlock in-game content in compatible GBA titles such as Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and in GameCube games like Animal Crossing. The Pokémon Trading Card Game playing cards also adopt the e-Reader codes. The e-Reader works with the Game Boy Player and Game Boy Advance SP, but cannot fit into the Nintendo DS's Game Boy slot (however it can fit into the Nintendo DS Lite's Game Boy slot).
  • Game Boy Advance Video: First released in North America in May 2004, these cartridges included two episodes of thirty-minute cartoon programs such as Dragon Ball GT, Pokémon, SpongeBob SquarePants, Sonic X, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Three feature-length movies, Shrek (2001), Shrek 2 (2004), and Shark Tale (2004) were also released for the format. These cartridges display an error when inserted into a GameCube via a Game Boy Player, to prevent users from attempting to record the episodes onto other media.
  • Cleaning cartridge: A white cartridge that has a soft cloth inside to clean the cartridge slot of the Game Boy Advance or Nintendo DS when inserted.
  • Mobile Adapter: The device works with Game Boy and Game Boy Advance systems to connect to mobile phones for remote play. It was released in Japan and was compatible with Pokémon Crystal.[46][47][48]


Other accessories for the Game Boy Advance include:

  • Afterburner: The Afterburner is an internal front-lighting system manufactured by Triton Labs and released in mid-2002.[49] The installation consists of disassembling the system, removing some plastic from the interior of the case, attaching the lighting mechanism to the screen, and soldering two wires to the motherboard for power. Optionally, a potentiometer or an integrated circuit could be added to allow adjusting the brightness of the light. When the initial version of the Game Boy Advance SP was released, it included a very similar integrated lighting system. This was replaced in the subsequent version of the Game Boy Advance SP with a backlit display. According to Triton Labs, the Afterburner achieved considerable success during the lifespan of the GBA, with many gamers buying it. Though the kit voids the system's warranty, the company had minor trouble keeping up with demand for the accessory during the 2002 holiday season.[49]
  • WormCam: This camera by Nyko attaches to the top of the Game Boy Advance and connects to the link port. The snapshots can then be uploaded to a computer with the USB cable and software.[50][51]
  • Glucoboy: This is a blood glucose monitor with built-in games released in Australia in 2007 for children with diabetes.[52][53]


Game Boy Advance SP[edit]

Game Boy Advance SP

In early 2003, Nintendo introduced a new form-factor for the handheld, known as the Game Boy Advance SP (model AGS-001). The redesigned unit features a clamshell design that resembles a pocket-size laptop computer, including a folding case approximately one-half the size of the original unit. It has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a significantly brighter LCD screen, and an internal front-light that can be toggled on and off. The redesign was intended to address some common complaints about the original Game Boy Advance, which had been criticized for being somewhat uncomfortable to use, especially due to a dark screen.[54][55]

Backlit model (AGS-101)[edit]

On September 19, 2005, Nintendo released a new version of the SP, model AGS-101, that features a brighter backlit display. The switch that controls the backlight now toggles between two brightness levels.[56]

Game Boy Micro[edit]

Game Boy Micro

In September 2005, Nintendo released a second redesign of the Game Boy Advance. This model, dubbed the Game Boy Micro, is similar in style to the original Game Boy Advance's horizontal orientation, but is much smaller and sleeker. The Game Boy Micro allows the user to switch between several colored faceplates to allow customization, a feature which Nintendo advertised heavily around the Game Boy Micro's launch. Nintendo also hoped that this "fashion" feature would help target audiences outside of typical video game players. Unlike the previous Game Boy Advance models, the Game Boy Micro is unable to support Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles. The Game Boy Micro did not make much of an impact in the video game market, as it was overshadowed by the Nintendo DS, which also played Game Boy Advance games through the GBA cartridge slot.[57]


Upon its North American release, IGN praised the Game Boy Advance's graphical capabilities and battery life, but criticized the system's shoulder button placement and noted the system's high price tag which "may be a tad bit too high to swallow", ultimately scoring the system with an "8.0" out of 10. They also pointed out the system's lack of a backlight which occasionally got in the way of playing games.[58] ABC News praised the Game Boy Advance's graphics, grip, and larger screen, stating that "You've never had as much fun playing old games."[59]

Reviewing for CNET, Darren Gladstone scored the system with a 7.0 out of 10, praising its graphical performance and backward compatibility, but being considerably critical of the system's lack of a backlit screen, noting that it makes it "nearly impossible" to play in normal lighting conditions. Gladstone ultimately recommended the sleeker and backlit Game Boy Advance SP instead, despite noting that the cheaper price of the original model may "appeal to gamers on a lower budget."[60]

ROM hacks, fan games, and Homebrew games are developed for the GBA.


Nintendo hoped to sell 1.1 million Game Boy Advance units by the end of March with the system's Japanese debut, and anticipated sales of 24 million units before the end of 2001; many marketing analysts believed this to be a realistic goal due to the company's lack of major competition in the handheld video game market.[61] Within the first week of its North American launch in June, the Game Boy Advance sold 500,000 units, making it the fastest-selling video game console in the United States at the time. In response to strong sales, Nintendo ordered 100,000 units to ship to retail stores, hoping to ship another half million of them by the end of June.[62] The Game Boy Advance also became the fastest-selling system in the United Kingdom, selling 81,000 units in its first week of release and beating the PlayStation 2's previous record of 20,000 units.[63] In 2004, the system's sales in the United Kingdom surpassed one million units.[64]

On December 1, 2006, Nintendo of America released launch-to-date information indicating that the company had sold 33.6 million units of the Game Boy Advance series in the United States.[65] In a Kotaku article published on January 18, 2008, Nintendo revealed that the Game Boy Advance series had sold 36.2 million units in the United States, as of January 1, 2008.[66] As of December 31, 2009, 81.51 million units of the Game Boy Advance series have been sold worldwide, 43.57 million of which are Game Boy Advance SP units and 2.42 million of which are Game Boy Micro units.[67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Japanese: ゲームボーイアドバンス, Hepburn: Gēmu Bōi Adobansu
  2. ^ 4.194304 MHz for Game Boy backward compatibility, 8.388608 MHz for Game Boy Color backward compatibility.


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