May 28, 2022

Our Top 15 Game Boy Advance Games of All Time

Very few things speak to my inner child and trip my nostalgia trigger like talking about one of Nintendo’s older handheld systems. The Game Boy Advance is one of thegreatest portable gaming systems ever created, due to it’s outstanding features and top notch game library.

While there are hundreds of titles to choose from, fellow editor Thad Dulin and myself sat down to sort out our top 10 games for the Game Boy Advance. Of course, sharp readers will notice that the title of this article is “Our Top 15 Game Boy Advance Games”, not top 10. We tried doing only 10, but there are simply too many amazing games to try to cram into a smaller list. We have excluded direct ports from this list. So while games like the classic NES collection are great in their own right, we feel they are best enjoyed in their original form.

15. Ninja Five-O aka Ninja Cop

Thad: Ninja Five-O, also know as Ninja Cop in PAL regions, truly exemplifies the ninja art of stealth. The game’s title is ludicrous, its covert art is atrocious, and in this it hides some of the most solid platforming gameplay on the handheld. If you enjoyed the Shinobi series, this is a must-play. Swinging around with the grappling hook is loads of fun, taking out enemies is satisfying, and the difficulty curve is superb. Put all that together and you’ve got a wonderful little hidden gem for the system.

14. Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Ages

Lucas: This one is gonna be a two-for-one. Golden Sun and its follow-up the next year, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, are two games telling the same story, but it takes advantage of telling the story from two different vantage points. Definitely a head of its time, splitting and delivering more of an episodic form of storytelling. Golden Sun is a turn based strategy game, perfect for on-the-go play. Though it’s not one hundred percent its own game with its own original ideas, it does borrow from the best. A dash of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and even an aspect of small creature collecting like Pokemon.

13. Sonic Advance 3

Thad: As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy Sonic titles, this game and its predecessors are part of a small list of exceptions. The pacing of other Sonic games always seems so staggered, going from blistering speed to a methodical crawl just felt wrong to me. Sonic Advance 3 finds that perfect middle ground, where it lets you build and keep momentum, without feeling like you have no control over what’s going on. Plus, Sonic and Friends character designs in this game are possibly the best in the series. Way past cool.

12. Metroid: Zero Mission

Lucas: Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the first Metroid game for the NES. Zero Mission builds up the backstory of bounty hunter Samus Aran. This is a great jumping-off point for people looking to get into the Metroid series. This is a much easier way to play, but still complex game to learn what makes the “Metroidvania” genre so great. The original NES version is wonderful, but it’s definitely showing its age nowadays, whereas Zero Mission still looks gorgeous.

11. Warioware, Inc: Mega Microgames

Thad: Warioware, Inc: Mega Microgames was my first video game addiction. I remember my heart racing when I completed Jimmy’s stage for the first time. The frantic nature of trying to find out what the game wants you to do, and then doing it all with only a few seconds to spare is thrilling. This game oozes charm, from the cut-scenes that play between stages, to the absurd mini-games. I just can’t get enough of it.

10. Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

Thad: After holding the reins on the development of Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, Capcom came back to the Zelda franchise with another knockout. Minish Cap is everything that makes a top-down Zelda great, with fresh ideas that set it apart from the rest. Watching Link shrink and see the world from this new perspective is enchanting. The dungeons are fun and never outstay their welcome, and the Final Boss fight is one of the best in the series.

9. Pokemon Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald

Thad: Growing up, the decision on which version of a Pokemon game to get was a big deal. You see, Lucas and I always made sure to get the opposite title to each other. When he decided to buy with Pokemon: Ruby my destiny was sealed.  Pokemon: Sapphire drew me into its world immediately, with a sense of adventure that I feel hasn’t been seen in a Pokemon title since.  Going from one biome to the next felt like I was actually traveling the world, and the story made me feel like the fate of the world was really in my hands.

Lucas: Emerald Version gets thrown into the mix as well due to the fact that its more of the director cut. It takes the some of the fun out of trading around legendaries due to the fact that you can catch all cover Pokemon on this one game, but that’s a small change. These games are the first true sequel to the original games.

8. Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land

Lucas: Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is the second remake to make our list. Originating as Kirby’s Adventure in 1993 (The year we were born!). This game piles in a ton of new features; New graphics and some new animations, four player co-op and even an extra made where Kirby’s rival Meta Knight made his playable debut. It’s almost the best Kirby title on the GBA.

7. Kirby & the Amazing Mirror

Thad: Kirby and the Amazing Mirror holds the title for the first game I ever 100% completed. It switched up the traditional Kirby formula for a more Metroidvania-style approach. Different stages have passages between them and skipped over each other and made navigating the world a breeze. The collectibles were well hidden, and some required a fair bit of thought to find. This is thanks to the ability to call in a team of Kirby clones to assist you with puzzles and enemies. And trust me, once you get that first Spray Can, you’ll be hooked. This is our choice for best Kirby title on the GBA.

6. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Lucas: Now we know what you’re thinking; “You said no ports!” We hear you, and while this technically a port, the addition of the Four Swords multiplayer adventure counts in our book as making it different enough. Not to mention several graphical and gameplay improvements over the original, being able to play the best top down Zelda game anywhere you want is great. To not be tied to a TV and console to enjoy a well made adventure is rare. So rare, that this is a must play.

5. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Lucas: Fire Emblem on the Game boy Advance was the first western release of a Fire Emblem game. Like most Final Fantasy titles in the series, each Fire Emblem builds its own world and backstory. This means that the previous game isn’t required to play before picking this gem up. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, as an introduction to the series, is fantastic. Bright, colorful graphics and a kicking soundtrack make this a joy to boot up. The Sacred Stones improves mechanically from the previous titles classes, items, storytelling, and character building. The game does a full conversion to a more open-world style verses a linear approachand small encounters make this a perfect game to play on the go.

4. Mother 3

Thad: It’s difficult to put into words what makes this game so special. It could be the wonderful sprites and animations.It could be the humor that pervades the title. Or it could be the story that tugs at your heartstrings. I think most of all, it’s the legacy of this game that makes it truly unique. This is a game that only exists in English because of the passion of a few select people. A group that found this game so incredible they had to find a way to share it with their peers. And it truly does deserve to be shared. Mother 3 is a narrative experience that is unrivaled on the system, and is one of the greatest RPG’s ever to exist, period. Do yourself a favor, and play this game if you haven’t already.

3. Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2

Thad: I still argue that this is the best way to experience Super Mario World. Despite the screen crunch from technical limitations, and the removal of a two-player mode, the Game Boy Advance version packs in a bunch of variations in gameplay from the original, and transcends the Super Nintendo version. The biggest change is making Luigi a playable character, with his own unique control. Luigi is slower and has less traction then Mario, but jumps higher, and hitting a coin block causes all the coins to spill out onto the ground. Other small changes include adding Dragon Coins to levels that didn’t have them before, and making the color of Yoshi you get dependent on your power up. All this along with being able to play Mario’s greatest 2D outing on the go? Masterpiece, plain and simple.

2. Metroid Fusion

Thad: When you talk about atmosphere in a game, you have to bring up Metroid Fusion. Its world lets you know that you aren’t welcome in it. The soundtrack is ominous and foreboding, and some of the enemies in this game are quite gruesome, like the Nightmare boss battle. Add onto this a story about an infection slowly killing off the game’s hero. Add in a parasitic clone stalking her throughout makes for a dark, suspenseful, and at times legitimately horrifying game. It’s excellent.

1. Pokemon FireRed / LeafGreen

Lucas: To be the number one game for the Game Boy Advance, it has to be something special. It has to be iconic and virtually timeless. It has to be charming, easy to pick up and hard to put down. Pokemon: FireRed and LeafGreen represents all these attributes.

Thad: Where Pokemon: Sapphire succeeded in bringing a sense of adventure, LeafGreen and FireRed brought something much more fundamental to the system; game play. This is what every Pokemon game should aspire to; solid mechanics, balanced battles, and just enough variety to keep it interesting. The story isn’t a grand, save the world endeavor, and it doesn’t need to be. The game is absolutely rock solid and is still the benchmark for Pokemon titles to this day.

Lucas: Throw in the fact that most of the early boxes shipped with a wireless adapter that allowed you to battle and trade with your friends from across the room. At the time, this was a big deal. Many a good battle or trade in progress has been ruined due to a physical link cable being accidentally pulled out mid-activity.

How do you become the best, like no one ever was? You take the top series on the previous system and improve on the formula. I walked into 3 separate local used game stores. I was looking for any Pokemon game I could get my hands on, but there were none to find. That speaks volumes to the demand and that fact that people are still holding on to these great games.

In conclusion

The Game Boy Advance played a huge part during the formative years of our gaming careers, and it still holds a very special place in our hearts. The games we placed on this list go above and beyond being simple handheld games, and stand on their own.

What was your favorite game to play on the go with the Game Boy Advance? Let us know if you think we picked a good list in the comment section below.

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