Top 10 Gameboy Advance (GBA) Games

The Gameboy reigned supreme in the handheld department throughout the 1990s decade by enduring and surviving against the competitors that offered color and better graphics. The reason why Gameboy dominated was because it had the best library of games a handheld has ever had and it had amazing battery life which all the other consoles lack. 8-Bit graphics were still around in the market for the longest time, but to keep audiences and consumers interested, Nintendo had to take it to the next level for handhelds. There are still gamers around the world that loves 16-bit games from the SNES and Genesis era and it was going to be a dream come true to finally see such technology that right in our hands. In the year 2001, the Gameboy Advance has been released and took all of us by storm. Everything we love about 16-bit gaming is all right here! The Gameboy Advance was the first handheld console to start developing the pattern of handheld technology that we see today. In general, handhelds are about as powerful as the console that came out two generations before it. So, while the Gamecube was entertaining gamers at home, we were getting awesome contemporary remakes of Super Nintendo classics on the Gameboy Advance. This was also one of the first handhelds to feature connectivity with a home console. However the handheld didn’t really satisfy all of their consumers when it left a lot of complaints on the original model’s lack of backlighting. Also, the console was limited to only 4 buttons, limited to the A, B, L, & R buttons, while the likes of the SNES had 6 buttons to play all sort of genres. Speaking of SNES, even though the GBA had the appeal of the SNES, the problem was that they were sucking up to the SNES so much that they had to rerelease ports of the handheld. Look at the Mario Advance series and tell me if they weren’t rehashes from the Super Mario All-Stars and SNES ports. And even worse, some of the GBA ports were inferior to the SNES originals due to the fact that the GBA’s limitations (Donkey Kong Country, Sonic the Hedgehog classics, and many more). Even though it was too late to actually make the GBA technology more advanced to the SNES technology, at least Nintendo responded to the many complaints of the issue of backlighting and released the remodel called the Gameboy Advance SP. It was the first handheld console to close the screen like a laptop to save batteries, put an in game pause, and even protect the screen from scratching and damaging it. And Nintendo yet again, redesigned the handheld to the Gameboy Micro that was small enough to fit in the tightest pocket while offering great backlighting as well. Nowadays the GBA is an easy console to emulate, but it the delivered on a massive scale in what technology can do in playing games out of our living rooms. How many handhelds can you think of that has as much assessors and even a console peripheral that play the GBA like on the Gamecube? And these are the ten games that withstood the GBA’s reputation as one of the best handhelds of all time.

Number 10.  –  The Legend of Zelda:
A Link To The Past & Four Swords

The joys of playing on an over the head view point, sword slashing (and many methods of attacking) so many variety of enemies, finding items and secrets, going through dungeons to solve puzzles, fight bosses that offer different challenges, and go anywhere you want once again is ever so satisfying. I can argue that this single Zelda title has more action and many ways to kill enemies than any other Zelda game to date and it didn’t feel like a waste at all. This port of the A Link to the Past has not only the four swords feature that you can play on the Gamecube, but there were numerous alterations to the game, including a more accurate translation, additional shops and enemies and the addition of a new dungeon and new quest and attack unlocked only by playing through Four Swords. There’s a multitude of so many things to discover that it kept players connected for many years! This is a game that never gets old no matter how many times you played it! But what makes this port inferior to the original SNES port is the fact that we have to endure the annoying Link shouts whenever he swifts his sword that was completely unnecessary. But I’ll still choose this title over the stupidity of Minish Cap that was exclusive for the Gameboy Advance.

Number 9.  –  Fire Emblem

I bet when you first played Super Smash Bros. Melee, you were saying to yourself and everyone you know “Ike?! Marth?! Roy?! Who are these characters?!” Well I can’t blame you for not hearing of the Fire Emblem series that never came out of Japan. This game on the GBA is the first Fire Emblem game ever to be released worldwide. As a long time American Nintendo fan, we could never imagine that Nintendo could ever make a turn-based RPG like this since they’re most known for platforming, action adventures, and party games. Thought I am very familiar with the genre through the likes of Shining Force, but what really is surprising is that whoever dies in the battlefield you’re never going to get them back; they’re dead for ever. This brings a lot of intensity of winning each battle of the game. Plot points are permeated with highly detailed backgrounds, attacks are accompanied by full screen animations, not unlike those found in the Shining Force series, and musically, players are treated to a wide variety of tracks, which change according to the flow of battle. Another nice little treat found within the game is the unsettlingly convenient resume feature. While nearly all GBA games have some means for players to quickly save their game for the sake of conserving battery life, Fire Emblem does so automatically and constantly. Should a player spontaneously, shut the system off in the middle of an attack animation, the next time the game is turned on, an option will be present to resume the battle, and watch that attack animation complete. A harder difficulty level is also available after completing the game as an added perk.With luck, the series will find a permanent foothold in North America with this entry as we have been missing out on a good thing for too long.

Number 8.  –  Fire Pro Wrestling A

I say with it with a lot of war scars out of these terrible games that 2D wrestling games sucks, especially on the Gameboy Advance. They have a lot of limitations, controls are awkward, and it’s a series of button mashing that always hurts your hand no matter what you do. But the Fire Pro Wrestling series is an accept ion because they abandoned the button mashing issue present in all 2D wrestling games and the fluidity of feeling like playing a wrestling game in present all in this game. What’s funny is that just like Fire Emblem, there were so many Fire Pro Wrestling games released in Japan on every console imaginable, and this is the first game of the series that actually was released outside of Japan. The customization, the gameplay,  and even the animation of the 100+ moves applied in this game was oh so satisfying. I could never imagine that there would ever be a wrestling game where it can ever be just as good if not better than the wrestling games offer in consoles! That’s how good Fire Pro Wrestling A really is. For those wondering why I didn’t place Fire Pro Wrestling 2 for the GBA is because the American port of the sequel removed the single player storyline that the Japanese port actually had. How disappointing that we didn’t’ get that feature in the west.

Number 7.  –  Mario vs. Donkey Kong

The only thing that I’m upset with the Mario franchise and the Donkey Kong series on the Gameboy Advance is that many of the Mario Advance games really are just separate rehashes from the Super Mario All-Stars complication and ports of the SNES games. I feel that the GBA experience was mostly lacking any original games and lacks in feeling like it’s its own portable entity. There were only a few original Mario games for the GBA and Mario vs. Donkey Kong is one of them. This is a true sequel to Donkey Kong on the Gameboy and it’s a breath of fresh air to see this puzzle-platformer gameplay once again. The premise is a bit different from the arcade and Game Boy games. This time, Mario has started a new toy line with miniature versions of himself and DK, for some reason, loves them so much that he raids Mario’s factory and makes off with the lot of them. Mario then has to give chase in order to get them all back. The Game Boy title had plenty of content, but Mario vs. Donkey Kong takes it up to a whole new level. The game begins with six worlds, each with six levels and a boss, followed by a final boss fight. In each level, your first goal is to find a key and take it to a locked door by solving puzzles and doing some clever platforming, which might seem familiar. Each level, however, also has an entire second “room” after the key/door in which you have to recover the Mini-Mario toy. These secondary segments might seem easier since there’s only one thing you have to reach instead of two, but they can be just as devious. Although initially planned as just a remake, Mario vs. Donkey Kong managed to become a great title in its own right and is a worthy follow-up to the amazing Game Boy original. It’s too bad the series has only had Lemmings-esque instalments since, as the original formula is perfectly worthy of another day in the limelight.

Number 6.  –  Sonic Advance

For a while, there has been a debate over 2D Sonic vs. 3D Sonic gameplay. Part of the appeal of the Gameboy Advance is that they brought back that 16-bit experience that console game evolved from. Not since the Sega Genesis did we ever had another 2D Sonic game until the Gameboy Advance. A lot of people forgotten about the Sonic Advance series for it has some of the best frame rates ever see in a classic Sonic game while maintaining the old school feel. You’re able to play as either Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Amy. It’s an ultimate steal to finally have Knuckles and Tails as playable characters in a singular game and who in the hell wants to even play Amy anyway? The reason why I chose the first Sonic Advance over the rest of the trilogy is because it offered great plaforming challenges while the rest of the games of the series focused on running so fast and forgetting that it’s a platformer at times. Calling Sonic Advance a by-the-books Sonic game might sound like an insult, but anyone who’s played the series knows that when it’s done right, the formula is a winning one. Although it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, Sonic Advance is an enjoyable 2D platformer that will meet players’ expectations.

Number 5.  –  Pokemon: Emerald Version

Despite the fact that the third generation of Pokemon games are so inferior to the second (because of it’s basic 8 gyms instead of 16, smaller variety of Pokemon, and lack of creativity with this pokemon game) I still have a soft spot for the 3rd Generation. It’s nice to see that after Ruby and Sapphire Nintendo and Gamefreak gave us a the complete Emerald Version, just like they did with Crystal and Yellow version. They featured Team Magma and Team Aqua both as villains, the storyline is pretty much the same and yes you can catch both kyogre and groudon, and  they introduce this new concept of Multi battling where you battle 2 trainers that arent twins or otherwise arent a team.  When compared to Pokémon Crystal, however, Ruby and Sapphire brought a lot to the table. The same goal of battling all eight gym leaders across the region and ultimately defeating the Elite 4 remains the same, but there are some excellent additions to the gameplay that make the world far more interesting. The same battle system from Crystal returns, but with slightly faster pacing and shiny new Pokémon graphics. You can keep up to six Pokémon with you at a time, but battle is typically a one-on-one affair. Each Pokémon has four different attacks to choose from and one ‘type’ such as fire, water, rock, or psychic. Some types are strong or weak against others in a rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay. This tried-and-true game design works well and leaves plenty of room for strategy on your team of six. Defeating opponents gives your Pokémon experience and, as they level up, they become stronger, learn moves, and evolve into new forms. This time around you’ll even have the chance to participate in double battles. Instead of just one-on-one you can battle with two Pokémon at a time. These sorts of fights aren’t especially frequent, but they’re a nice change of pace when they do appear. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are good games and decent entries in the series. Unfortunately, they’re missing some of the spark and excitement of the earlier titles and the refinement seen in later ones.

Number 4.  –  Golden Sun: The Lost Age

This is as good as an RPG can get when you’re talking about JRPGs on the handheld. Golden Sun is one of the first GBA games to show that the system’s software library is venturing into second-generation territory. But the sequel, The Lost Age really dominates the original from it’s scale, epic, and structure. What’s so cool about playing the sequel is that you can transfer all of your saves from the original and continue where you left off in the sequel with all of your items and abilities that you’ve collected. This whole concept of continuing right where you left off from the original predated other RPG series like Mass Effect with this concept and it was revolutionary to see that to happen. Not only that, but the adventure of The Lost Age was epic, even despite the fact that this is the second half of the story. Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a much better game than the original title. The story, characters, and world are all significantly more interesting as the secrets of Weyard are finally revealed. The gameplay, though mostly the same, is heightened by new class options and even more impressive level design. Unfortunately, the series ends abruptly, and there are several questions at the end of The Lost Age that remain unanswered.Golden Sun was already a great game, but The Lost Age is truly excellent. If you happened to overlook this series when it was first released, don’t make that mistake a third time. If Golden Sun DS can live up to The Lost Age, it will be a truly marvelous game. And hopefully it can finally resolve the story that’s remained unfinished for several years. 

Number 3.  –  Metroid Fusion

There are those who didn’t think much of next big Metroid title to succeed well in First-person (Metroid Prime), but just incase if it failed, at least there’s one new installment of the series that succeeded by using the old formula. 2002 was the year of Metroid and it was fantastic to see this forgotten franchise that missed a whole console generation to gain a bigger audience than ever before. It’s great to see this game taken place after Super Metroid and made the adventure/story more intense with your Varia suit stolen by the haunting “SA-X”.  More so than any other Metroid game before it, Fusion was a very story driven game to the point where even the gameplay was affected by it.

Traditionally Metroid had always been a series about exploration and navigation but Fusion opted to have a computer (Adam) tell players where to go which pissed off some of the more die hard fans of the series. It still allowed players to branch off but there’s no denying that this element was downplayed heavily so the game could tell the story it wanted to tell. So the game guides you where to go, big deal, it’s still a fantastic Metroid game and some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a handheld. There’s still a fair amount of exploration, memorable boss battles, interesting environments and a very atmospheric tone alongside the inclusion of SA-X.  When discussing what the very best games in the series are, Metroid Fusion isn’t likely to get mentioned and may in fact be the victim of some hate thanks to it’s linearity approach but don’t be fooled. Metroid Fusion is every bit as good as Samus’ other 2D offerings and SA-X is an absolute show stealer. Grab a pair of headphones and play this one late at night, you won’t be disappointed.

 Number 2.  –  Castlevania:
Aria of Sorrow

It’s been seven long years since we’ve had another Castlevania game that was used the metroidvania formula since Symphony of the Night. We’ve that gameplay style will be on consoles once again, but Konami instead pushed the limits of the GBA and made just as much of a fulfilling experience. Instead of Belmonts or magicians, Aria of Sorrow lets you play as an incarnation of Dracula himself! The year is 2035 (a huge change for the series). While visiting the Hakuba shrine, Soma Cruz witnesses a solar eclipse, only to find him and his girlfriend pulled into the eclipse and landing in Dracula’s castle. We find out that Julius Belmont, the Belnades and Alucard have vanquished Dracula permanently in 1999 but Drac’s soul is trying to reincarnate itself 36 years later, with Soma being a potential vessel for it to hot-wire. The Tactical Soul System is considered by many to be one of the best magic systems in the series (i.e. you collect souls from fallen foes or special candles. When you gain dominance over their soul, you can use their abilities in battle). The game’s carefully crafted complexity, which guarantees a level of depth and longevity typically absent from the majority of platform titles. But it’s the immediacy of the action at the core of the Castlevaniaexperience that should engross you in your newfound digital demon slaying duties – to the point of not registering the ring of your door bell, should unexpected family suddenly turn up. Soma uses a combination of both modern and vintage weaponry and is able to collect the souls of his enemies due to his Draculaic inheritance. The resulting effect is a sequel worthy to SOTN, measuring up to its predecessors and left us hoping for a Castlevania game telling the 1999 storyline.

Number 1.  –  Mother 3

And speaking of unfinished stories, there’s one long awaited video game series that finally hasn’t had a new installment since the SNES by the end of the GBA lifespan. I have to admit that I’m not that much of a fan of Mother or Earthbound but to finally play a game that is this well crafted and passionated, I can say that this is one of Nintendo’s best games they’ve ever made. Mother 3 had a very long development cycle; it began development in 1994 as a Super Famicom title, but development transitioned to the 64DD, then to the Nintendo 64, and finally to the Game Boy Advance… unfortunately it’s never released in North America. Thankfully, there are fan made translations for ROM that actually given it’s Nintendo fans what they’ve waited for. For a game that uses 16-bit graphics at it’s fullest somehow is more impressive than the best graphics in the console department. After so many years, this game lived up to its hype.

More than anything else, Mother 3 is an exploration about the loss of a mother and how that one act topples the lives of all those connected like a series of dominoes. The young boy Claus ventures into the wild to kill the T-Rex-like creatures he feels are responsible for killing his mother; and then he disappears. With the loss of a wife and son, Flint spends his days in the wild looking for his missing son. And the remaining son, Lucas, grows up shy and alone—yet self-sufficient. Mother 3 is an excellent RPG. It has a deep emotional plot, crazy comedic aspects, and an excellent battle system. The exploration of the “loss of a mother” theme is handled amazingly well, though the plot twists and humor can serve to somewhat undercut the game’s more serious aspects. Mother 3 is a game that looks like it could have come out in the early ’90s, yet it sits high at the top of a list of the best games that came out in the new millennium. Despite all the advanced technology, it just goes to show you that, as long as a videogame has a strong story and great gameplay, it doesn’t matter how many polygons can be displayed on the screen at one time. Mother 3 may be the last game of its kind to ever be released. It truly is something special.

The Top Rated Gameboy Advance Games

10)        9)        8)   

7)        6)        5)   

4)        3)        2)   


Related Article