GBA 15th Anniversary | Top 15 Game Boy Advance Games

By Az Elias 27.03.2016 11

After the original Game Boy took the whole world by storm, followed by the more compact Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color, how was Nintendo to follow up this huge success? With the Game Boy Advance - a powerful 32-bit machine that was capable of running much more graphically enhanced titles akin to those on the Super NES. Quickly dominating the handheld market, the GBA played home to an incredible number of high quality games, of which many have started to appear on Wii U's Virtual Console service. Breaking down a list of the best ones on the system is tough, but the Cubed3 team has come up with fifteen entries that made the Game Boy Advance a system worth owning for any gamer.

Sonic Advance 1 / 2 / 3

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History will never forget the Nintendo vs. SEGA console wars of old, but maybe the best lesson to take away is that in video gaming, nothing is impossible. Sonic Advance for the GBA marked the first Nintendo-exclusive Sonic game, as well as a spin-off series of some of the blue hedgehog's best titles. The friendship between SEGA and Nintendo, hedgehog and plumber, is now legendary.
- David

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

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After seven years of waiting for Squaresoft to come back to a Nintendo platform, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance came courtesy of Yasumi Matsuno, who went on to further develop the Ivalice Alliance universe of games, which included FFXII. This title showed how serious Square was in coming back to Nintendo, being an exclusive for the GBA and pushing the system's visual capabilities more than a lot of other companies at the time. It also helped make Final Fantasy Tactics more approachable for the average tactician, broadening the audience of this spin-off series of one of the greatest franchises of all time. Its popularity is also helped by its soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto, which is nothing short of awesome. FFTA marked a historical turning point for the Square-Nintendo relationship, in particular in the West, for which Nintendo fans are still grateful to this day.
- Rudy

Wario Land 4

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Mario's counterpart, Wario, was brought to life on the GBA for the first time in his fourth dastardly adventure, which remains to this day one of the strongest platformers available on GBA, but one that was sorely overlooked in the wake of the Mario remakes that flooded the system. Innovation was the key word throughout, though, and it showed that despite what some people would say, Miyamoto-san is not the only talented person to be found at Nintendo. Wario Land 4 had come on leaps and bounds since the antagonist's first appearance in Super Mario Land 3 on the Game Boy, and it still holds up very well today.
- Adam

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon / Harmony of Dissonance / Aria of Sorrow

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Konami's Castlevania franchise is regarded by many as being one of the most prominent on the scene due to its long-term existence and continually high standards in terms of quality. After the classic Symphony of the Night on PlayStation changed up the way the games played, there was an onslaught of high quality GBA releases in a similar vein. Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow were indeed three of the best adventures on the system, almost reaching the heights of the Metroid entries on the handheld, showing off the mastery of Koji Igarashi and cementing him as one of the best developers around.
- Adam

WarioWare, Inc: Minigame Mania

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Many in the industry complain that gaming is no longer innovative. We simply see the same old genres regurgitated time and time again - racing titles, beat-'em ups, 3D platform adventures…the list goes on. However, there has nearly always been one company that manages to hold its head high in light of all this criticism, and that is Nintendo. Be it the invention of the D-pad or the transition of Mario into the first proper fully 3D platform game, creativity just seems to pour out of its employees. Rather than do yet another platform title, though, it used Wario as the testing ground for a new style of game, with Wario starting up a new and unique business venture…You will certainly be hard-pushed to find a more addictive, more diverse and simply wackier title than WarioWare, Inc: Minigame Mania. Such a simple idea as micro-games turned into a 'Triple A'-quality final product!
- Adam

Pokémon FireRed / LeafGreen

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The GBA saw the introduction of a new tradition in the Pokémon franchise: remaking older generations from the ground up, with new graphics and mechanics in place. This practice continued with HeartGold / SoulSilver for the DS and OmegaRuby / AlphaSapphire for the 3DS, but the GBA's Gen I remakes started it all.
- David

Fire Emblem / The Sacred Stones

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Following the popularity of characters Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Fire Emblem finally made it out of Japan, beginning with the GBA title. For the first time, many fans were introduced to the series' high fantasy setting and turn-based tactics gameplay, and the series has been a Nintendo staple ever since.
- David

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past / Four Swords

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Nintendo made a minor upgrade to the SNES classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and bundled it with a brand new game, Four Swords. While it required multiple players connected via a Link Cable, Four Swords brought multiplayer goodness and randomly generated dungeons to the series, making it one of the most unique titles found throughout.
- David

Metroid: Zero Mission

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After the success of Fusion, it seemed the right time to go back to the origins of the franchise and remake the original NES Metroid. In Zero Mission, the story is rewritten with more emphasis on cinematics to convey the plot, as well as a redesign of most of the world, adding in new areas, items and an extra scenario after defeating the final boss. Gameplay akin to Super Metroid and Fusion enhanced Metroid and elevated it into a much more playable experience.
- Az

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

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Mario had dipped into the RPG world before, but Superstar Saga was a fresh take on the Mushroom Kingdom universe, with both plumbers teaming up to defeat Fawful and Cackletta, who stole Princess Peach's voice. What ensues is a hilarious adventure, featuring a unique battle system and overworld exploration that puts the manic moves of the brothers to comedic effect.
- Az

Pokémon Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald

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Pokémon's third generation introduced some series favourite features, like natures, double battles, and abilities. Emerald features a strong array of changes, mixing the plots and legendary Pokémon of both games, while bringing its own story into the fray, and being the first in the series to feature animated sprites on both sides of a battle.
- David

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

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This GBA edition of Nintendo's classic Mario racer is still one of the best entries in the series, successfully brought to portable format, and the first to introduce the idea of retro courses that have become the norm in Mario Kart. Star rankings and the variety in tracks upped the replay value dramatically.
- Az

Golden Sun / The Lost Age

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Veterans of SEGA's classic Shining series came together to deliver Golden Sun and The Lost Age, instant classics in the RPG world. With features like elements, classes, Djinni, and psynergy, Golden Sun was a combination of the classic top-down, turn-based JRPG style and modern gaming mechanics, with an epic story full of rich characters to back it up.
- David

Metroid Fusion

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In Fusion, Metroid does what it does best, presenting a somewhat open, space-themed world full of body-horror-influenced enemies, and objectives and threats that challenge players to critical thinking to achieve and use new pieces of equipment and tech. Here, Samus faces her greatest enemy in SA-X, a fully-upgraded, relentless clone of herself.
- David

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

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Many Zeldas feature a duality in light world/dark world, but The Minish Cap brought in a new concept, with a regular-sized world and a miniature one literally lying beneath it. The game was creative in a number of ways, and Ezlo remains a favourite among Link's faithful series companions.
- David

Do you agree with our list? What other Game Boy Advance games are your favourites? The Cubed3 team will be back soon with a selection of some of the more overlooked and underrated titles on the system, so be sure to keep an eye out.

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Comments

For me, GBA is only second to the SNES in terms of my favourite Nintendo console, with DS coming a close third. So many amazing games that picking just 15 was a massive undertaking. There are so many greats that never got localised, as well!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Looking back, GBA has an incredible selection of original and ported games. I still think the first model GBA is one of the comfiest handhelds out there, as well. Rounded and smooth, unlike later Nintendo handhelds that dig into your hands horribly.

I miss all these sprite-styled 2D games. Metroid, Zelda, Sonic Advance, Castlevania, Golden Sun, Mario & Luigi, FFTA... It had just about everything. It baffles me that companies like Nintendo, SEGA, Square, Konami etc don't just make dedicated classic 2D sprite games that can go up on both handheld and home console eShops. I'd like to see this happen with cross-buy next gen (assuming the NX isn't a portable-home console hybrid).

Instead, either the franchises are abandoned completely (Metroid, Golden Sun, FFT, Castlevania, 2D Sonic), or we get fake 2D games with 3D graphics that aren't anywhere near as good (that said, I'm hoping Bloodstained lives up to the Castlevanias of old, even if it isn't stricly 2D sprites).

Never really cared much for GBA, personally. It wasn't till DS when I enjoyed handheld consoles much more. I do love the Gameboy though, but even then, it was mainly just for Pokémon and Gameboy Camera. 3DS is my favourite handheld.

( Edited 27.03.2016 16:32 by Marzy )

Fusion FTW!

A lot of quotes in the Internet are attributed to the wrong person
                                -Georgios Karaiskakis

 

Ofisil said:
Fusion FTW!

I used to speedrun the hell out of Fusion. I'm sure I was consistently getting around the 1 hour mark. Might dig it out again some time.

Let's see... the game that stood out for me on this list was WarioWare.
It was unique and a lot of fun.

Two other games that stood out for me not on the list were non-standard cartridges.

​Boktai, with the light sensor...
I remember being at my grandma's house and going outside to get some sun for the game.

Drill Dozer with the rumble motor...
There was just something so cool about using that drill to destroy stuff.
I feel like this was a situation where the rumble motor was a perfect match for the on-screen drill.

Our member of the week

Azuardo said:
 
Ofisil said:
Fusion FTW!

I used to speedrun the hell out of Fusion. I'm sure I was consistently getting around the 1 hour mark. Might dig it out again some time.

Damn Smilie ! That wasn't with 100% items collected then right? I never used to speedrun on any%, it was never my thing, but with 100%, I usually got just under the two hour mark. Here below is what's left on my GBA cart, but I'm pretty sure I got into the 1:40s once, maybe 1:48.

IMG 20160327 225255

( Edited 27.03.2016 22:10 by RudyC3 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Yeah, would have been any%. Don't think I ever speedran 100%. It's one of the few games I actually speedran tho. And makes sense that it was a Metroid game lol.

Azuardo said:
Yeah, would have been any%. Don't think I ever speedran 100%. It's one of the few games I actually speedran tho. And makes sense that it was a Metroid game lol.

Super Metroid and Fusion are, without a single doubt, the only games that I've spend so much time speedrunning them...

I don't regret a single minute Smilie

A lot of quotes in the Internet are attributed to the wrong person
                                -Georgios Karaiskakis

-sigh- It makes me so upset what's happened to 2D Metroid. I don't understand it. If I had more time, I'd defo replay SM and Fusion.

Can't argue with this list even if there are notable omissions of games like Advance Wars, Super Mario Bros 3 and brilliant ports of Street Fighter 2 and 3. With that said I don't know what you'd take off in place.

My GBmicro is a prized possession of mine. It's useful for a commute into London as it's not as bulky as a 3DS and doesn't draw as much shame for playing games in public.

Sonic Advance 2 and Mario Kart Super Circuit are easily two of my most played GBA games of all time! 

However despite my high praise I have to say the 3DS is my favourite. Plus I now have the original 4 Metroid games on my 3DS although I really wish they'd put Zero mission on the eShop as the original is torture to go back to after playing Zero mission.

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