There was something magical about the Game Boy Advance. It wasn’t the prettiest console ever and it certainly wasn’t the most powerful. But it was the right machine in the right place, at the right time with the right games. Despite being 15 years old, the GBA still has an avid following and many of those original games are available online.
Apparently there are almost 1,100 GBA games available. The Game Boy Advance (GBA) console itself sold over 85 million units so perhaps it isn’t surprising that so many developers wanted a piece of that action. Here are ten of the best GBA games that are still worth playing today.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is typical of the franchise in that it delivers an almost visceral skating experience. Pro Skater 2 had larger levels, more combos and a cleverly coded graphical system that worked fast enough to keep up.
Despite not having 3D like the original, the game did exceptionally well to be controllable, challenging and fun. No wonder it was one of the most popular games on GBA.
No top ten list of anything Nintendo would be complete without mentioning two game characters. One of them being Mario in Mario Kart Super Circuit. This version recreated the 20 tracks of the original series and brought them to life in 2D. The game is as fast-paced as ever with the usual tight, tough racing.
All the usual ingredients are there, a decent soundtrack, a real element of fun, banana peels and racing. Definitely one to revisit when you’re feeling nostalgic.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
The other Nintendo character of note is of course Zelda. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap follows Link as he finds his hat, explores Picori and gets up to the usual tricks. Mini Link is great fun and the ability to use hook shots and boomerangs added a whole new element to tackling each level.
While it didn’t get quite the accolades it deserved at the time, it remains one of the most popular portable Zelda games for the soundtrack alone but the gameplay is pretty good too.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was the third installment of the franchise and did very well on GBA. It’s an RPG where you gain abilities from absorbing the souls of vanquished enemies. Those souls allow you to use Guardian, Bullet, Enchant and Ability powers to supercharge your play.
The game builds on Symphony of the Night in all the right ways while pushing forward in all the others. It has a deserved place in this list of ten GBA games that are still worth playing.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
The Final Fantasy series has to be one of the longest running game franchises around and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance does it credit. This wasn’t a port but an entirely new game designed especially for the GBA.
You play as a group of kids transported to a land at war. You need to raise an army and fight the bad guys before returning home. With the usual turn-based RPG elements, 34 character roles and judge enforcement to make sure you play by the rules. A great addition to the list and a GBA game well worth playing.
Grand Theft Auto Advance
Grand Theft Auto Advance is pure retro mayhem. With the familiar top down view of Grand Theft Auto, you get to drive, shoot, rob and do pretty much whatever you like. Even when set beside the glory that is GTA V, this version still holds its own in terms of fun, great level design and accessibility.
Grand Theft Auto Advance is a personal favorite of mine, as is the entire series of games. This GBA GTA sites rightfully on this list.
Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand
Before making his name with the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima made Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand for the GBA. It is a genius game that has a light sensor in the cartridge. During daylight you have to charge your weapons to use against the vampires in the game. When it’s dark and vampires traditionally become stronger, the game becomes harder.
It’s a game design element that forces you to think about your approach and forces you to innovate instead of just immolate. It’s a shame nothing like it has been made since.
Mortal Kombat Advance
Portable game consoles work perfectly for beat-em ups and Mortal Kombat Advance is one of the best. With the familiar characters, combos and moves, the series gives us a solid game for venting frustration or just beating people up. It wasn’t without its bugs, namely in the AI difficulty, but that delivered extra challenge.
While not as revolutionary as some of the games on this list, Mortal Kombat Advance took an established formula and recreated it for the GBA. That’s why it is on this list.
Metroid: Zero Mission and Fusion were both released on the GBA but for some reason, I always preferred the latter. Fusion took more risks, had some cool abilities, lots of power-ups to find and completes the series nicely. The inclusion of Adam, the computer was a neat touch and Samus’ new look was cool too.
The game centers around Samus exploring a research station in space and battling the usual mix of creatures. Only this time round Samus can absorb their energy to take on new abilities. A neat game.
Fire Emblem wasn’t originally designed for Western audiences but the conversion did well. It’s a fantasy turn-based strategy with permadeath which made for very compelling gameplay. Fire Emblem was already an established series in Japan so we were late to the party, but the challenge of this game made it well worth the wait.
With a mixture of team abilities, enemies and the threat of permadeath hanging over you, this was one of the best strategies on GBA bar none.
Do you still play your GBA? Think another game should be on this list? Tell us about it below if you do!