How to make Games for Gameboy

The Nintendo Gameboy may be over 30 years old, but it’s far from dead. This is the master page for my “How to make a gameboy game” tutorial series. I’m going to break down the gameboy game creation process into multiple high-level steps. Each step will have it’s own tutorial page. Also, each step will be included on this master page for easy access. I hope you find this series helpful and interesting.

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Quick Background

In around February of 2021 I started learning how to make a Gameboy game. Major credit goes to GBDK 2020, and Gaming Monsters on YouTube. GBDK 2020 is “An updated version of GBDK, A C compiler, assembler, linker and set of libraries for the Z80 like Nintendo Gameboy.” It allows developers to create Gameboy games in C, rather than Assembly. I do not personally know Gaming Monsters on YouTube, but he produced a very helpful “Learn how to develop your own gameboy games” playlist. I still reference that playlist to date.

NOTE: Jack Tech has an interesting video about the Gameboy on YouTube. In their video, they also go over the complexity of programming in Assembly.

I’m not an guru at how to make a Gameboy game. But I have learned SOME things in my time, that I feel might help others. With that said, let’s get started shall we?

Who else is making Gameboy games?

You might think you’re alone when it comes to making games for the Gameboy. However, that is far from true. There are many individuals who are developing games for retro consoles. Here are a few to start with:

Black Castle

The times were dark and the kingdom was threatened by a black warlock. His evil magic brought disease and destruction to the land, but none of the king’s knights found the courage to fight him. One day a young knight appeared. He set out for the warlock’s black castle to free the kingdom from his tyranny.


It’s Saturday. You’ve survived the work week. Congratulations! Now, before you can kick back and relax for the weekend there are just a few simple things to accomplish on your to-do list.

GB Wordyl

A portable word game that tests your skill! Use strategy and knowledge to guess the hidden word within 6 tries!

If you have made any Gameboy games, please feel free reach out to [email protected] regarding being listed. If you’re looking for physical published games, or want your game published, check out Incube8 Games

Their aim is to facilitate the publishing of retro video game cartridges. They already signed a number of homebrew games, including Genesis, Pine Creek, The Year After, Deadeus, The Machine, Magipanel, IndestructoTank!, Wing Warriors, Gunship, and more!

The Basics of GBDK-2020

These 5 basic tutorials are going to teach you the basics of making gameboy games with GBDK and the C programming language. If you are not familiar with C, there are some basic tutorials here. Also, you can find C Programming books online. A popular book is “C Programming Language, 2nd Edition” by Brian W. Kernighan.

Firstly we’ll get started with a minimal template, and teach you how to compile your gameboy .gb file. Next, you will learn how to use backgrounds, which take up the whole screen and move as a whole. Thirdly, you will learn how to use sprites. These 8×8 or 8×16 objects can move around freely as individuals. Sprites can even be combined to represent bigger objects. Once you have a sprite on screen, you will learn how to move that sprite around using joypad input. Finally, you’ll learn how to play music and sound effects.

Those 5 steps should get you started on the gameboy game development process.

Advanced Topics

Once you’ve got the basics, here are some more advanced topics. Later, full games will be explained, some of these games will utilize these advanced topics. They are very much worth a read.

How to make ACTUAL Games

Everything up until now has been very generic. This is intentional. There is a lot of knowledge that isn’t specific to any one game or genre. However, below will be Sub-Tutorials that build upon this knowledge. These tutorials will focus around specific popular games.

How to test your Gameboy game?

There are tons of gameboy emulators online for testing. Two that i’ve preferred are Emulicious and BGB. Both are free, and easy to use. However, there’s no beating testing on actual hardware. If you want to test out your game on an actual gameboy, you can run your game on a SD-Based Flash Cart like the EZ Flash JR or Everdrive. These both require SD cards , on which you can install multiple different games.

Introducing the “How to make a Gameboy Game in 2021” series

How to make a gameboy game in 2021
In this series I’m going to show you how to make a Gameboy Game from scratch. Specifically, readers will learn how to make a basic “SHMUP” game similar to 1942. Firstly, Knowledge of the C programming language is a prerequisite (Basic tutorials on C will be provided. ) This series will feature the 2020 Gameboy Development Kit (The GBDK 2020).

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