Do All GBA Games Work On GBA SP?

Portable gaming has taken off in the last decade, and many industry pundits see it as an alternative to PC/ console for casual gamers. While the technology and scale of portable gaming have advanced significantly, it is hardly a new concept- Nintendo introduced Game Boy in 1989. With the Game Boy Advance in 2001, Nintendo added more power and refined it even further with the SP revision in 2003.

Do all GBA games work on GBA SP? Yes, GBA SP is fully backward compatible with all Nintendo handhelds that came before it. This includes the original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance- plus GBA SP has a superior display compared to all the aforementioned consoles.

To provide backward compatibility for GB and GBC games, Game Boy Advance has a Sharp LR35902 processor on its motherboard. This is the same 8-bit 4MHz CPU as Game Boy and Game Boy Color. GBA SP and GBA share the same processor, but GBA SP has a backlit screen and a removable lithium-ion battery pack.

Do All GBA Games Work On GBA SP?

As the SP uses a motherboard nearly identical to GBA with the same processor, yes- it can run all GBA games. You will have a better experience too, thanks to the built-in lighting on the LCD panel. Some folks may not like the redesigned layout, with a flip-up screen in the format of a PDA.

But that’s what Nintendo went with, trying to emulate a pocket computer (those were popular back in the early 2000s). If you’re buying a GBA SP on the used market, make sure it’s the later AGS-101 model. AGS 101 has an integrated backlight that provides superior colors and brightness under a wide range of lighting conditions.

AGS-001 uses an older LCD technology with a front-mounted light that can be turned on or off. This is fine if you’re playing in a well-lit room, but the AGS-101 looks better even in its dark mode. Switch the backlight to bright and you can see a massive difference between the two.

There is an easy way to tell which one is the newer model. AGS-001 has light grey buttons while AGS-101 uses black buttons (you can also check the model number at the back). Model 101 GBA SPs are more expensive on the used market as they were quite rare in certain regions, so keep that in mind.

Is GBA SP Backward Compatible?

It is, thanks to dedicated hardware onboard that emulates GB and GBC games. The process of playing Game Boy on GBA SP is really simple- you just slide in the cartridge and power on your console. That’s it, you don’t have to go through special menu options or configure the console in any way.

As Game Boy cartridges are larger than Game Boy Advance cartridges, they activate a physical switch in the cartridge slot. This prompts the GBA SP  to switch into Game Boy mode. In which the Sharp LR35902 processor is used, rather than the main 32-bit ARM7 processor.

Regular Game Boy cartridges stick out below the console, so you know when someone is playing an old game in backward compatibility mode. They also look better, because GBA SP’s display has far less ghosting and lag than the regular Game Boy.

Do Gameboy Cartridges Work In Gameboy Advance SP?

They do, despite being physically larger. Game Boy Color cartridges are the same form factor as Game Boy cartridges. These will also work in GBA SP, thanks to dedicated onboard hardware for backward compatibility.

Why Is GBA SP Better Than GBA?

GBA is a massive upgrade over the regular Game Boy in terms of processing power. It uses a 16.8MHz 32-bit ARM7 processor, rather than a 4MHz 8-bit processor like the original Game Boy. And it has a color screen with a higher resolution than the original Game Boy (capable of displaying 512 colors simultaneously).

GBA SP takes things one step further by introducing a built-in light for the LCD. You don’t have to rely on ambient lighting, and can now play in relatively dark rooms.

The AGS-101 revision of GBA SP is even better. It features an integrated backlight with two different brightness settings rather than the external front-mounted light of the AGS-001 GBA SP.

Is The GBA SP Region Locked?

The entire Game Boy line of consoles from GB to GBA SP is region-unlocked, so you can play games from any region on any console. For example, you can take a Japanese game cartridge and pop it into an American Game Boy. However, be mindful of menus and game dialogue which are likely to be in the native language of that country.

If you want, you can download a flash cartridge mod that lets your Game Boy play ROMs and emulate old consoles such as NES. Using a hacked GBA or GBA SP, you can also get fan-made translations for Japan-only games.

How Much Did Gameboy Advance SP Cost?

At launch in 2003, GBA SP cost $99. The same as a regular GBA at launch, but you could find them at discounted prices when the SP arrived on market. GBA SP is worth it even today, as you can use it to play everything from Game Boy to Game Boy Color (and NES with emulation).


I hope this article helped you understand how backward compatibility on GBA SP works. Long story short, yes- it can play GBA games. It can also play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, which look better on GBA SP.

Not only is GBA SP higher resolution than the original Game Boy, but it can also display more colors on-screen than Game Boy Color. Plus, its display has lower input lag and faster pixel response times compared to GB/ GBC (no ghosting issues). GBA SP also uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.


As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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