These days, our smartphones can accomplish things that we could only dream of a decade or two ago.
The once-revolutionary Game Boy Advance (GBA), for example, wouldn’t hold a candle to the sheer processing and graphics power of today’s budget-range smartphones.
But, you’ve got to admit, those dedicated little machines gave us some of the best gaming memories ever.
Thanks to its extensive third-party support, numerous exclusive titles, and a plethora of updated versions of classic SNES games, GBA’s title library went up to more than a thousand before all was said and done.
There’s no doubt that each of those thousand titles deserve the time of your day. However, even among GBA’s embarrassment of riches, there are still a handful of titles that stand out.
Today, we decided to pay homage to some of those games.
Below, you’ll find 25 of the best GBA games of all time, fitting for whenever you find yourself wanting to relive the good old days.
Note: There may be affiliate links below.
25. Baseball Advance
There’s a good reason why sports sims very rarely do well on handheld consoles — the lack of graphics power means that a lot of the realism aspect is lost.
Baseball Advance was one of the first to subvert such notions.
Granted licenses for every MLB team and player back then, the game’s developers, Smilebit, who has since gone defunct, featured surprisingly good visuals and mechanics that actually made playing through an entire 162-game season not like a chore.
Outside of the Mario sports titles, Baseball Advance is easily the best sports sim ever to be released on the GBA.
24. Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand
You can’t really call a game that received two sequels — three if you include the Lunar Titles rebrand for the Nintendo DS.
One of the few GBA titles to make use of the console’s portability, Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand literally required you to go and play outside to get some sun.
With in-game weaponry requiring real sunlight to recharge and in-game difficulty dependent on the time of the day — the game was more difficult at night — Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand featured Hideo Kojima at his creative finest.
That last bit is intriguing enough on its own to warrant a playthrough.
23. Mario Golf: Advance Tour
Golf is supposed to be a boring sport.
Is it a subjective opinion? Maybe. Maybe not.
But, most people, especially gamers back in 2000’s would definitely not want to play golf on the go.
At least, not before Mario Golf: Advance Tour came and changed all of that.
Mario Golf: Advance Tour was an rpg-esque sports-sim experience that turned golf in on its head and introduced all of the wacky elements that the Mario franchise often came along with.
Years later, Mario Golf: Advance Tour is still worth playing. This is a testament to just how masterfully Nintendo pulled the game off.
22. Mario vs Donkey Kong
Leave it to Mario to reinvent games, including the genre that it arguably started.
Putting a then-modern twist to the classic puzzle platforming formula, Mario vs Donkey Kong was like Donkey Kong on steroids, featuring far more levels and content than its spiritual predecessor.
The game had 48 levels, not including the secret challenges and other content.
Mario vs Donkey Kong was as frustratingly difficult as it was wildly entertaining and was puzzle platforming at its finest.
While the sequels were definitely no slouch, Mario vs Donkey was an excellent way to kick off an entire new series.
21. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
The GBA was released at a time when studios, developers, and publishers alike weren’t afraid to experiment.
Case in point, Nintendo contracting Flagship of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap fame to create an all-new Kirby title.
The result? Kirby and the Amazing Mirror.
Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is a Metroidvania-esque title that dropped the classic platforming action and introduced multiple kirbies, as well as an expansive game world.
Whether you’re a fan of kirby or Metroidvania games, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is definitely worth playing.
If you’re a fan of both, then that’s even better.
20. Wario Land 4
Received positively by both critics and customers alike, Wario Land 4 was arguably Wario at its absolute best for the GBA.
Praised for its level design and replay value, as well as well-executed graphics, Wario Land 4 pulled off a risky decision to go with a more traditional platforming design as opposed to the more common open-world platforms of its time and absolutely ran away with it.
A vast improvement over Wario Land 3, the game’s heavily-criticized predecessor, Wario Land 4 helped set the bar for Wario titles to come.
19. Mario Tennis: Power Tour
After successfully making golf less boring with Mario Golf: Advance Tour, Nintendo decided to target another “boring” sport in tennis and released Mario Tennis: Power Tour.
Mario Tennis: Power Tour put players in the shoes of an up-and-coming tennis star.
Throughout their travels, they had to progress, become better and improve, all the while encountering classic characters of the Mario franchise.
With an extremely refined core tennis gameplay that was both challenging and entertaining, Mario Tennis: Power Tour was a game that you could literally play over and over again and not get bored.
It’s just a shame that Nintendo decided to drop the RPG elements in recent Mario Tennis games.
18. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was proof that there was a way to port a game to the GBA while still retaining the overall quality. In fact, you could argue that the GBA’s version of the classic Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 title was an improvement.
Using an isometric perspective to hide the limitations of the GBA’s limited hardware, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 hooked players in with a full skateboarding experience, complete with a robust career mode.
There’s a reason why Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 remains one of the greatest extreme e-sports games of all time.
The GBA version definitely helped solidify the game’s place on top.
17. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
You know how they say that the yesteryears made for simpler times?
Well, here’s Exhibit A.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was a direct sequel to the original Kingdom Hearts title and was released at a time when the series was still at its infancy.
It’s known for convoluted plots that supposedly explains its hodgepodge of characters from Disney and Final Fantasy.
Playing to the GBA’s limitations and switching to real time strategy mechanics, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories had a wonderfully deep battle system that involved building decks and using the right cards.
While the PlayStation 2 remaster is definitely prettier, there’s a certain charm to playing Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories on its original console.
16. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
Released at a time when Final Fantasy’s popularity was at its peak, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis received very little commercial acclaim.
Those who did manage to get their hands on the game, however, knew that they were onto something special.
Arguably the brightest hidden gem of GBA’s treasure trove of classic titles, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis had multiple endings before it was popular. This game was also awarded by GameSpot the “Game Boy Advance RPG of the Year” way back in 2002.
15. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance faced a tall task when it was set to follow-up Final Fantasy Tactics, but it managed to do just as well as the original if not better.
Considered as one of the most complex and deepest titles released of its era (not just on the GBA), Final Fantasy Tactics Advance one-upped its predecessor and serious strategy game buffs a game that would continue to give them their fix until this very day.
Featuring 34 unique jobs, a grid-style battlefield and turn-based tactical combat, the only reason why we ranked Final Fantasy Tactics Advance this “low” is because it’s not for everyone.
But, for those who loved Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, they likely consider the game as one of the best to ever be released.
14. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
Yes, the title is a handful and a mouthful.
That’s okay, though. Because, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 deserves a complete mention.
It is arguably the best Mario game from the good old days of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 brought the game that was the first to introduce many of the franchise’s staples into the GBA era.
13. Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3
Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 gave the then-young gamers a chance to experience multi-colored Yoshis and a crying baby Mario for the first time on a handheld console.
Featuring hand-drawn graphics, it looked just as good on the go as it did with the SNES.
Not to mention, the gameplay translated well too.
Considered as one of the most complex SNES platformers released, Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 served as a fitting introduction for Yoshi’s own adventure for the GBA.
12. Fire Emblem
Fire Emblem served as most gamer’s first introducing into the Fire Emblem franchise, and it certainly did not disappoint.
While the game was and still is not as deep and complex as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, it was challenging in its own way and paired solid writing with a medieval setting that was just brimming with personality.
If not for Fire Emblem’s success, today’s Western gamers probably would have a hard time finding their turn-based tactics fix.
11. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Do you know how to make sure that your console’s launch is successful? Pair it with a Castlevania game on its release.
A launch game for the GBA, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was the perfect amalgamation of the classic SNES and NES Castlevania titles that helped popularize the franchise.
It also solidified Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s place as one of the best of all time.
While Castlevania: Circle of the Moon did very few new things, its overall execution and polish was more than enough to help give the GBA a near-perfect start.
That’s more than what you could ask for in a launch title.
10. Pokemon Emerald
We could have easily listed three separate Pokemon titles in Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, as well as Emerald, on our list and most would agree, but we decided to keep things fair and singled out Pokemon Emerald.
And, why not?
Continuing the tradition with Pokemon Yellow, Pokemon Emerald was the “sequel” to both Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Sapphire, featuring creatures from both games, as well as from Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver.
Just as with any other Pokemon title, your goal in Pokemon Emerald is to be the best trainer in the world.
Once again, you’ll have to battle through eight gyms, as well as the Elite Four, all the while catching various Pokemon to help you on your quest.
Whether it’s your first time playing a Pokemon game or your nth time, Pokemon Emerald is an excellent time-sinker until you finish it and move on to the next Pokemon game that catches your fancy.
9. Final Fantasy VI
Serving as a “thank you” for the franchise’s many fans on the GBA, Final Fantasy VI didn’t come to Nintendo’s handheld console until it was well into its way out.
Even so, Final Fantasy VI drove fans back in droves, and made even more people buy a GBA late in its life cycle.
Why? Because Final Fantasy VI is simply one of the finest RPGs ever made.
Final Fantasy VI was most Western gamer’s first chance to experience the game. Had it been released internationally properly way earlier, there’s a chance that it might have become more memorable than Final Fantasy VII, VIII and XI for the PlayStation 1 was.
That’s how good Final Fantasy VI was.
Featuring a diabolic villain in Kefka and a wonderful soundtrack, plus an epic storyline, Final Fantasy VI was a fitting way to send the GBA out on a bang.
8. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
From platformer to racing to RPGs, what can Mario do wrong?
Seriously, the franchise has been through most genres and walked away with a winner.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is easily one of those said winners, and arguably the best Mario title ever released for the GBA.
Essentially a turn-based role-playing game, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga helped set the bar for Mario spinoff games to come on the GBA.
However, none of the subsequent titles could ever come close to matching its surprisingly multi-layered combat mechanics and a large world that puts the entire Mushroom Kingdom to shame.
Plus, as an added bonus, the game let players control both Mario and Luigi at the same time to help solve the game’s many puzzles.
7. Metroid: Zero Mission
How do you retell a classic title without a total graphics overhaul and making it feel dated?
That was probably the question that the developers of Metroid: Zero Mission faced during the game’s development.
Their answer? Do a modern reimagining of Samus Aran’s first adventure.
Metroid: Zero Mission did not change the story much from the 1986 classic. Instead, the game introduced the refined combat that fans loved from Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.
Paired with slight graphics improvement, Metroid: Zero Mission made revisiting Planet Zebes feel like a first-time experience.
6. Advance Wars
Easily the best turn-based strategy game on the GBA, Advance Wars did away with the complex mechanics of both Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
What the game lacked in complexity, it more than made up for in strategic gameplay, a robust map creator, and an engrossing campaign.
Advance Wars was and still is everything that you could ever ask for in a strategy game.
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords
The GBA had a way of making developers come up with ways to reintroduce classic titles and make them feel fresh.
For Metroid: Zero Mission, it was a slight graphics improvement and a huge gameplay overhaul.
With the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords, the same thing worked. Except, there was no huge gameplay overhaul.
Instead, the game introduced a cooperative mode in Four Swords that let multiple players solve puzzles and defeat bosses together in dungeons.
While The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords would have made the top of our list based on its story alone, the Four Swords mode helped it land a spot in the top five.
4. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow proved that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was not untouchable.
A vast improvement over the already-excellent launch title, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, the third and final Castlevania game to launch on the GBA launched the series far into the future storywise.
In terms of gameplay, it played pretty much like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Where it differs, however, is with the Tactical Souls mechanic, which changes the entire game altogether by letting players gain their enemy’s abilities by defeating them.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is considered by many as the richest Castlevania title ever released, high praise that it definitely deserves.
3. Metroid Fusion
You would be forgiven if you thought that Metroid Fusion was an expansion title (remember when DLC’s were called that?) for Super Metroid.
Both games felt very similar. Both featured the same expansive open-world for players to discover and explore at their own discretion. Both even had nearly the same mechanics.
The only difference? Metroid Fusion took what Super Metroid did well and improve on it.
Introducing power-ups and mechanics that were never seen before, Metroid Fusion upped the ante for the Metroid franchise.
To say that Metroid Fusion is the best Metroid title ever made might feel like blasphemy for some, but it’s a hill we’re willing to die on.
2. Golden Sun
When you hope to try and achieve the same gaming experience that Final Fantasy provided, you best hope to give it your all and not miss.
Back in 2001, Camelot Software Planning definitely did not drop the ball.
Starring four adventurers on a quest to save their world, Golden Sun had everything that you would expect from a premiere RPG title, but added a bit more of its own flavor by introducing unique puzzles, as well as an intricate and deep storyline.
Not to mention, Golden Sun: The Lost Age was the ideal sequel, told through the lenses of the antagonists.
If you can find a way to play both games today, you’d definitely be doing yourself a favor. But, if you were just to choose one, we’d recommend playing the original Golden Sun.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Developed by Capcom instead of Nintendo, The Minish Cap was a fresh take on the still-excellent The Legend of Zelda formula.
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that The Minish Cap felt and played differently, in a good way, compared to its predecessors and successors.
Now, most people would probably not rank The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap over The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and rightfully so.
There’s definitely a strong argument to be made for that.
Unfortunately, this is a list for the best GBA titles ever released.
While A Link to the Past definitely deserves its place among the upper echelons of video game’s best titles, The Minish Cap was a unique experience for the GBA alone that helps vault it past its predecessor on our list.
From the original bulky GBA released in 2001 to the more svelte, flip-screen GBA SP released a couple of years later, the GBA was and still is a special console.
The last of its kind, it was a fitting swan song for a line of products that many of today’s gamers grew up with.
Considering that the world is big on nostalgia these days, it might be a good idea to pick that GBA back up. Or, you know, you could easily just snag one off of Ebay for a much lower price than when the handheld console first launched.
Either way, regardless of how you decide to procure your handheld console, be sure to take a look at our list of best GBA games first.
You owe it to yourself and your childhood to relive some of your best gaming memories, or create new ones, by playing the classic video games that rounded up.
This article was written by a freelance writer.
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