Program for the Game Boy Advance

Make your own portable playthings.

What budding game programmer doesn’t fantasize about seeing one of his own creations on a console or portable gaming device? Thanks to extensive game development communities and the efforts of independent programmers, this fantasy is no longer such a pipe dream.

In addition to being the prime platform for game companies to re-release their classic 8 and 16-bit titles, the Game Boy Advance has also become a major center for independent, amateur, and homebrew development. The relatively low cost and ease of development for the Game Boy Advance (GBA) has made it a common entry point into console-based programming. In this hack, I’ll show you what tools you’ll need for development and show you the first steps in writing a program that will use some of the GBA’s video modes.

Welcome to the GBA Dev World

To develop games for a console, you typically need a development license from the console vendor and the accompanying software development kit, or SDK. Often the prices for such licenses run into the several thousands of dollars or more. Luckily for hobbyist GBA developers, there is a free alternative available for those who do not have that sort of spare cash lying around. DevKit Advance is a free GBA development kit developed by volunteer programmers. It allows you to compile and link source code into a format understandable to a Game Boy Advance.

Most programming for a GBA is done in C/C++, with some assembly thrown in ...

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