GBA 15th Anniversary | Top 15 Overlooked Game Boy Advance Games

By Az Elias 08.04.2016 4

Following our list of fifteen of the best titles on the Game Boy Advance in celebration of its fifteenth anniversary, the Cubed3 team has come together to highlight some of those that are just as good as the well-known ones, but generally go overlooked by many when thinking about the top games on the system. With such a huge library, it's no wonder people would look past some of these GBA releases, so it's time to give them the recognition they deserve in our overlooked list of fifteen.

It's Mr. Pants

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Having gone through a number of name changes, including Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers - and thus, intended as a spin-off in the DK series at one point - Rare's GBA puzzler finally settled on It's Mr. Pants following the buy-out from Microsoft and the developer losing the DK rights. What was birthed was a solid puzzle game with a cheeky and immature theme to add a little humour to the proceedings of trying to create and clear rectangles using different coloured shapes. A simple, yet very playable, idea.
- Az

Crash Bandicoot XS / N-Tranced

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A PlayStation icon for many years, Crash Bandicoot's transition to the GBA resulted in what were evidently cheaper versions of his superior PS1 glory days. It mattered not, though, because classic Crash was best Crash, and these two smaller handheld outings crammed in a variety of mostly 2D side-scrolling platforming stages right out of the original trilogy textbook, complete with traditional box breaking and speedrunning for the gem and relic hunting fans.
- Az

Mega Man Battle Network Series

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A shift away from the 2D platforming and shooting mechanics of the original Mega Man games saw a completely new type of game arise: the Battle Network series. Set in a modern-like universe where the Internet is a huge part of everyday lives, a young boy named Lan is able to explore the inside worlds of electronic devices using his MegaMan.EXE network navigator. This Mega Man cyber character participates in tactical battles, defeating the viruses within the Net. Praised for its unique battle system, the RPG series spawned a further five titles on the GBA.
- Az

Sigma Star Saga

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WayForward Technologies is perhaps better known for its 2D platformers and successful Shantae series, but the team blended an interesting mix of role-playing and 2D shoot 'em up for its GBA release Sigma Star Saga. A complex story featuring the undercover Recker, captured by the alien Krill species, sees him exploring overworlds of planets and being transported into various ships to fight off enemies in space battles, putting various combinations of weapons to use that affect the direction, type and impact of bullets.
- Az

Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand / Solar Boy Django

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Imagine a portable game where you have to play outside in order to make progress in it! Designed by master Hideo Kojima himself of Metal Gear fame, Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand used a peculiar solar sensor built into the cartridge to transform actual solar energy into energy for the solar gun of the hero within the game. That sensor would have to be exposed in bright daylight whilst the game is being played for it to work, and it actually does work, for better or worse. In the quest to defeat the vampire lords known as Immortals, the result is a good isometric 3D action RPG, with stealth elements borrowed straight from Metal Gear, and a solid soundtrack and visuals. Two sequels came out that greatly improved the concept and corrected some of its inherent flaws, but only Solar Boy Django came out of Japan. Lunar Knights on the DS is part of the same franchise, but since then, Konami has stopped developing more games in the series.
- Rudy

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity / GP Legend

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Nintendo seems to go through phases of putting its franchises in the limelight, and the era of the GBA saw a handful of F-Zero releases that satisfied a certain superspeed racing itch. Using Mode 7 effects to create rotation, depth and an impression of 3D, the F-Zero games had a very similar design to the original SNES title, complete with the usual Grand Prix and Time Attack modes expected. GP Legend, based on the Japanese anime, packed a heavier story element into the range of features.
- Az

Iridion II

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The GBA was not exactly known for its selection of shoot 'em ups. They were few and far between, and among those that were actually worthwhile, few were unique games built for the system, instead being ports of mostly SNES titles that didn't play as well as their original counterparts. German developer Shin'en, however, known nowadays for such great titles like the recent Fast Racing Neo on Wii U, released the first original shmup for the GBA in the form of Iridion 3D. Although visually impressive, it was not a resounding success in terms of gameplay. Iridion II fixed those problems by placing the view at an angle above and behind the ship and used the same kind of technology to provide an illusion of a 3D field. It is simply the best shoot 'em up on the system. It's an outstanding technical achievement, and the music by Manfred Linzner is still a blast to relisten to even today.
- Rudy

Mario vs. Donkey Kong

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The age-old rivalry returned, but instead of kidnapping the lovely Pauline, Donkey Kong was after dolls - specifically ones crafted after Mario himself. Mario vs. Donkey Kong is an almost-classic; a game that if done with careful attention on the GameCube (as originally planned) would have been a killer app, no doubt. This is one heck of an addictive puzzle-platformer that exudes creativeness, and fans of previous DK outings (pre-Rare) lapped it up.
- Adam

Kirby & the Amazing Mirror / Nightmare in Dream Land

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Beginning with a remake of Kirby's first NES outing, Nightmare in Dream Land saw the pink puffball hit GBA in updated graphics and sound, and working together with other coloured Kirbys in a co-op mode. Meta Knight also joined in on the fun, as his special mode required blasting through each main game level in the fastest time in one sitting. The Amazing Mirror changed it up with a Metroidvania-like experience, allowing Kirby to tackle nine worlds in any order he liked.
- Az

WarioWare Twisted!

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WarioWare Twisted! is a great game and, technically, pretty unique, being a GBA title with both motion control and force feedback (a rather satisfying "click"-style sensation as you spin it). The diversity of mini-games is also impressive, with a particularly memorable example being playing the first level of Super Mario Bros. on a circle.
- Thomas

Mario Power Tennis / Mario Golf: Advance Tour

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Two of the most acclaimed games in the Mario sports series, these tennis and golf titles are most notable for their involving RPG modes that take the focus away from the Mushroom Kingdom crew. A story, character building and customisation made these more than just another couple of sports titles; the heavy single-player content, on top of the excellent gameplay, cemented them in GBAs everywhere.
- Az

Sword of Mana

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Sword of Mana is a remake of the Game Boy's Mystic Quest (Final Fantasy Adventure in NA) and brought the classic back to life in gorgeous colour graphics that even trumped its two brilliant sequels, Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3. It was a very exciting feeling when it came to the GBA, since this is a fantastic and beautiful game, and pretty much the last in the series to be true to its roots, even though the lack of multiplayer support came as a disappointment and there were some light graphical bugs that held it back slightly.
- Rudy

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge

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It was always going to be difficult to replicate the vast 3D worlds and fun platforming of the N64 Banjo adventures, but Rare managed a respectable job with Grunty's Revenge, the developer's first release after the Microsoft takeover. An isometric viewpoint provided an alternative (and sometimes tricky) take on the action, but the same basic premise applied - collect Jiggies and musical notes by putting Banjo and Kazooie's crazy moves to use, beating mini-games and rescuing the Jinjos.
- Az

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

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Fresh off the phenomenal success of the Square and Disney crossover Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2, Tetsuya Nomura and company threw the world a curveball and released a sequel for the Game Boy Advance. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories utilises a card-based battle system to tell its story, taking place between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2. Players use collected cards to create the game world as they advance the plot, which is assisted by specially-rendered cutscenes that pushed the GBA to its limits, and features a "second story" where players play as Riku, effectively doubling the size of the base game and story.
- David

Advance Wars / Black Hole Rising

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Fans will be thanking their lucky stars that Nintendo didn't follow through with its initial decision to not bring the Advance Wars series to the West, for these may just be some of the finest turn-based strategy games in the genre, and certainly the two GBA titles are in amongst the best on the system. With a younger audience in mind, the cartoony look blended well with the humour in the plot, but the challenge proved Advance Wars was more than just a kids' game.
- Az

Do you own or have played any other games on the Game Boy Advance that you feel have gone overlooked or are underrated by the majority? Share them below, as well as your thoughts on the games we have picked out. Continuing the anniversary celebrations, Cubed3 will be back soon with a Japanese hidden gems list, highlighting the best games of the system that were only available in Japan.

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Comments

That Banjo Kazooie game was surprisingly good! Much better than Nuts & Bolts, in my opinion and felt more in-line with what the series did best. Pretty amazing stuff, considering it was on a GBA.

I liked Banjo, too. Been a long time since I went through that, but seemed very good for the sacrifices it had to make. Some tricky sections because of the isometric viewpoint, but it compensated well enough.

Had to give special mention to the Crash games here. I adored the trilogy on PS1 (as well as CTR and Bash, tbh), and although the GBA games would never match up to that, they were still fun Crash games all around.

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Wow..... ok so this was the beggining of the series. Cool I have to check this game out. Is it any good ???

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curtiscdragon said:
Image for

Wow..... ok so this was the beggining of the series. Cool I have to check this game out. Is it any good ???


It was indeed, though it strays a little bit from the story of the original and takes some liberties. Like for example the chocobo present in the original isn't present in this version. The version for Mobiles and Playstation Vita (as far as I know it's not out yet) is a more faithful recreation of the original.


 

 

But Sword of Mana is really meant to play, look, sound and feel more like Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 which are more sophisticated titles.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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