Getting started in GBAdev

Welcome to GBAdev! If you have decided to try to develop something for the GBA and you're completely lost, this guide is for you. Note that this will only mention the most popular and recommended options. Check gbadev resources for a long list about many relevant toolkits and libraries you can use!

Developing your game

Broadly speaking there are 3 paths you can take to get started. Which one you choose depends on your previous knowledge about programming, and how much of your game you want to create yourself.

High level development

This is ideal if you just want to get a game done, without worrying too much about how the hardware works. Unfortunately, there is nothing similar to PC engines like Unity, Godot, and the GBA doesn't support languages like C#, Python or Java.

Our recommendation is to use butanoopen in new window, a C++ library that simplifies GBA development a lot. It has become quite popular, so you will easily get support for it. You should follow the getting startedopen in new window instructions. It comes with a lot of examples of how to use all its features, check them out!

If you prefer something higher level, BPCore-Engineopen in new window is an engine that allows you to develop games using Lua as a language.

Low level development

If you're comfortable writing to I/O registers and reading low level documentation like GBATEKopen in new window there are a few options:

C and C++

The most popular option is to use devkitARM and libtoncopen in new window. Follow the instructions in the getting started guideopen in new window to install devkitARM and check the examplesopen in new window and the templateopen in new window. Once you have verified that you can compile the examples read the tutorial Toncopen in new window (by the author of libtonc) to understand how GBA development goes.

libgba is another library provided by devkitPro, but it isn't as recommended as using libtonc. Both of them fulfill the same role, the main difference of the codebase is that libtonc has a text engine with lots of features. However, libtonc has way better documentation (libgba doesn't have almost any example or documentation).

If you want to use a completely different library than libtonc or libgba, you can try sdk-sevenopen in new window.

If you don't want to use devkitARM, there are some alternatives. For example, check gba-toolchainopen in new window, which also supports libtonc and libgba, and it uses CMake instead of Makefiles.

meson-gbaopen in new window is another option. It uses the Meson build system, it integrates many of the libraries mentioned before (with bugfixes that devkitPro doesn't have), and it supports different compilers and runtime libraries. If you're using sdk-seven, you should really consider using this.

Some tutorials out there mention DevKit Advanceopen in new window. This is a very outdated toolchain (the last release was in 2003!), don't use it! Use devkitARM instead, which is updated regularly.


Even though you don't need to use assembly to develop for GBA, it is still an option, and you will need it if you're creating things like a 3D game, or an audio mixer.

All of the C and C++ options also support assembly, so you can use them without any issues.

There is also gvasmopen in new window if you want an option that only focuses on assembly.


Check Natuopen in new window. It provides a library to write games and tooling to convert assets.


Check the agb libraryopen in new window.

Development from scratch

If you don't want to use any libraries to create your game, it's possible to ignore all of them and create everything yourself. This is only recommended if you're very comfortable with low level development. It will be hard to get other people to help you if you're not using any of the popular libraries that other people use.

One example of how to build a GBA ROM from scratch with a regular ARM GCC toolchain can be found in GBA bootstrapopen in new window.


Toncopen in new window is currently the best tutorial for GBA development.


The recommended emulators are:

Note: VisualBoyAdvance is a very outdated emulator, and not very accurate. Prefer mGBA over VBA.


Join us in discord! This linkopen in new window has an up-to-date invitation to the gbadev discord server were most of the GBA devs hang out nowadays. There is also a forumopen in new window, if you prefer that.

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