Nintendo’s 32-bit handheld console the Game Boy Advance (aka the GBA), its successor to the legendary Game Boy, went on to sell 82 million units and spawned a slew of now classic games. Some believed the Game Boy Advance was a portable Super Famicom, but actually it was way more powerful than that. Sporting bright graphics and a great sound chip, the Game Boy Advance was everything a gamer would want in a portable console back in 2001. For those gamers who didn’t quite like the Playstation or Saturn’s 3D-heavy emphasis, or those who needed great portable gaming on the go, the Game Boy Advance offered a little something for everyone.
The top 10 titles reflect this, with a lot of JRPGs in the mix – an interesting feature given the system’s portable status and role-playing games’ penchant for requiring you to read tons of text and pay attention. In many ways, the Game Boy Advance signals portable games growth and change. From its nascent beginnings with the Game Boy, to its advanced, more adult appeal in the Game Boy Advance, things had certainly changed a lot for the industry in between that time.
10. Final Fantasy VI Advance
This release of the Super Famicom classic is considered by many fans to be a definitive release. Gone are the translation errors and most massive gameplay glitches and in their place is a thoroughly classic romp in a fantasy world filled with intrigue and danger. The production values on this game are second to none and withstand the test of time unlike any other game. Final Fantasy VI simultaneously feels retro and modern, and its storyline never fails to engage and reward that engagement. If you’re looking for a solid title on any system, Final Fantasy VI Advance is an amazing JRPG for a great portable system.
9. Mega Man Zero
Mega Man’s ability to adapt and survive really cannot be discredited. This entry on the Game Boy Advance changes up the traditional formula enough to be interesting without doing so much as to be isolating to long-time players of the series. Mega Man Zero follows a different tact than other games and, like the Mega Man X series, places the player in a more dark, dystopian environment than those found in Mega Man’s 8-bit outings. A definite must for fans of Mega Man, Mega Man Zero also offers enough new to bring back old players who may have left the series behind because they felt it did not offer enough new content in each iteration to deserve purchase. Mega Man Zero also shows off how powerful the Game Boy Advance can be for a portable system, with tons of on-screen action and a thrilling soundtrack, Mega Man Zero is the perfect addition to any portable software collection.
8. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
Another remake of a classic NES game released on the SNES and then brought to the Game Boy Advance, Super Mario Advance 4 distills the classic Mario 3 experience into a portable gaming format and delivers in spades. Some consider Super Mario Bros. 3 to be the best game in the entire series, and it is not hard to see why. Without a multitude of power ups at his disposal and a variety of stages that would make Disney World call BS, Super Mario Bros. 3 is literally the kitchen sink of the Mario universe and it can’t help but thrill and delight. The Game Body Advance edition of the game is no different, taking updated graphics from the refurbished compilation released for the Super Nintendo and wearing that same classic, increasingly difficult gameplay that made the Famicom original so beloved.
7. Fire Emblem
Deep strategy games need not be confined to home systems and PCs. Fire Emblem is Nintendo’s answer to hardcore JRPG and strategy games, and what a response it is. Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance was a surprise when it first dropped because no one expected the system to have strategy offerings quite this deep nor narrative storylines this engaging. While the series went on to iterate on multiple Nintendo systems, this entry on the Game Boy Advance stands out because it brought a whole new gaming segment into the fold. Bright graphics inspired by anime and gameplay that is both rich and accessible make this game one of the best on the GBA.
6. Mario Kart: Super Circuit
If you need Mario Kart on the go back in the day, you turned to Mario Kart: Super Circuit. An amazingly fun game that felt like a direct sequel to the Super Famicom entry, Super Circuit gave players the option of selecting a racer and karting across tracks ripped from various locales scattered across the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. Its tweaks to the Mario Kart formula are just enough to keep it familiar and innovative enough to merit mention. The game does not rely on gimmicks to succeed nor does it become unfairly challenging. It delivers a consistent experience that is underpinned by 16-bit graphical fidelity and sound that will transport you right back to the magic of the original.
5. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy Tactics was a classic game when it dropped on the PSX. It’s considered one of the deepest, most challenging tactical RPGs ever made. No one would have thought that the GBA would get its own version, but it did. And it’s not watered down in the least. Considered a sequel of sorts to the Playstation entry, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of the best games on the GBA and is a must-play for fans of tactical RPGs and Final Fantasy fans alike.
4. Astro Boy: The Omega Factor
Gamers in the West may not be familiar with Astro Boy but they should be. He’s one of the most iconic figures around and is, indeed, the inspiration for Mega Man’s design. This game doesn’t break any rules and is a solid action game through and through. The best part is you don’t need to know anything about Astro Boy to enjoy his game, and, indeed, the game is of such high caliber that you won’t even consider this notion beyond the initial start. Gamers that wanted something different but still high-quality and challenging got this with Astro Boy.
3. Mario and Luigi: Super Star Saga
The two titular plumbers star in an RPG game together – sounds strange, right? At the time, Super Star Saga was developed in the vein of the classic Super Mario RPG for the Super Famicom, but the game changes enough and delivers enough new gameplay to be its own thing entirely. If you’ve ever wanted to have a more narrative engagement with the two plumbers, this game helps in that department with one of the more detailed stories to hit the Mario universe. Super Star Saga also holds up in the challenge department, offering players one of the most robust RPG experiences on the Game Boy Advance.
2. Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald
What more can be said about Pokemon that has not been said before and in a more eloquent way? While the originals on the Game Boy breathed new life into that system, these entries for the GBA were expected and that’s what made the trepidation surrounding their release all the more interesting. No one know quite where the Game Boy Advance’s more sophisticated hardware would take the series, and many worried that the simplicity that had made the game a smash hit on the Game Boy would be lost. They were wrong, and these games are beyond classics that both demonstrate a deep, engaging gameplay but also offering a level of accessibility akin to the original games. Collecting, trading, and fighting pokemon has never seen such beautiful graphical fidelity, and the GBA pushes itself to deliver an iconic experience. Easily some of the best games on the system, they are must-plays for fans of the series or for retro gamers that want to see the best the Game Boy Advance has to offer.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
One of the more underappreciated entries in the long-running Zelda series, The Minish Cap is Link’s outing on the Game Boy Advance and features beautiful graphics that give the game a very distinct look when compared to its brethren. Colorful, orchestral, and magical, The Minish Cap, like most Zelda games, keeps the story vague enough to be intriguing without being nonexistent and the gameplay exciting and challenging without becoming overwhelming. Representing the perfect balance of so many things Zelda, The Minish Cap is often overlooked because it does stand out graphically and is somewhat offbeat when compared to more traditional Zelda games. This should not deter you, especially if you like the Zelda series. While not as long as you might like it to be, this game truly pushes the system and offers the best gaming experience to be had on it.