Nintendo's groundbreaking run of handheld consoles makes us look back on our video game-filled childhoods with so much glee. First came the original Game Boy, and then we adopted the slimmer Game Boy Pocket. Right after that, we got introduced to a miniature world full of bright and beautiful splendor with the Game Boy Color. Once the GBC's run came to a satisfying end, Nintendo's fascinating 32-bit handheld wonder arrived on June 11, 2001, to tons of fan adoration. Ladies and gentlemen, we're talking about the legendary Game Boy Advance. With 81.51 million units of the mini console sold worldwide and two impressive redesigns (the Game Boy Advance SP and the Game Boy Micro), it's safe to say that the GBA enjoyed a hell of a run. Join us as we look back on its memorable run as we list the 30 best GBA games of all time!
The 30 Best GBA Games of All Time
Best GBA Games
1. ‘Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2’
The original Super Mario World is considered to be one of the greatest platformers of all time and one of the best games period. Now just imagine how shocked teens were back then when they found out they could play that SNES classic in the palm of their hands. The Super Mario Advance series did just that as it brought Super Mario World to the GBA. Having Luigi actually play much differently from his brother Mario provided a nice change of pace here, plus the inclusion of new items being gifted to players via different colored Yoshi's hatched eggs also freshened up the original game's formula a bit.
2. ‘Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3’
We're going to keep shouting out the Super Mario Advance series on this list of the best GBA games by moving on to the third release. And this time around, the best baby-escorting platformer we've ever played (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island) got brought over to Nintendo's purple handheld powerhouse. At the time of release, we immediately took note of the refreshed visual splendor - the already amazing artwork from the first game shockingly looks even better on the GBA's smaller screen. The added "Secret Stages" gave us more incentive to protect Baby Mario and fling some eggs as Yoshi all over again for this GBA release.
3. ‘Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3’
If you were around for the monumental NES launch of Super Mario Bros. 3, then it should come as no surprise to you to see this GBA re-release of the same game. Super Mario Advance 4 takes one of the best games in Nintendo's platforming catalog, spruces up the color fidelity on its original graphics, and adds in a bunch of cool quality-of-life improvements to make it that much more approachable to gamers of all ages. Taking down Bowser and his troublesome "Koopalings" for the second time around in handheld form was a great gameplay experience back then and is still great right now.
4. ‘Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga’
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Paper Mario set the high standard for spinoff turn-based RPG games featuring the most famous mustachioed plumber in all of gaming. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga kept those side games' streak of quality releases going in the form of one of our favorite GBA RPGs. This game is pure jokes, folks - there are some laugh-out-loud moments that break the fourth wall that would take forever to recount here! On top of a hilarious script is the same classic and clever battle system that involves active button presses that rely on good timing - using two separate buttons to activate Mario and Luigi's attacks is such a cool combat mechanic.
5. ‘Golden Sun’
There is a large contingent of Golden Sun fans that wish Nintendo would bring it back into the fold and give it the proper modern-day series reimagining or big-budget remake it deserves. And that's due to the overall quality attached to the first game in the series, which garnered so much critical acclaim and managed to move a whole lot of copies sold back in the day. The grand adventures of Issac and his fellow band of magic-attuned teenagers called "Adepts" resulted in a game with a strong turn-based combat system that emphasizes epic summonable monster attacks and character class-switching thanks to the presence of elemental "Djinns."
6. ‘Golden Sun: The Lost Age’
The first game got its much-deserved flowers, so it's only right we do the exact same for its sequel. Golden Sun: The Lost Age is admittedly not all that different from what was established in its predecessor, but that's not a bad thing whatsoever. The implementation of "Psynergy" magic, when it came time to solve complex puzzles, provides some clever gameplay sequences in the form of tricky brainteasers outside of combat. And speaking of combat, the fundamentals of the first Golden Sun still work well here. Switching the main protagonist role from Issac to anti-hero turned straight-up good guy Felix ended up offering a likable change in perspective for this top-quality GBA RPG.
7. ‘Mario Kart: Super Circuit’
If you were blessed enough to have a Game Link Cable and three friends with the cart for this mini racer, then you experienced true gaming bliss. Mario Kart: Super Circuit brought the formula of the spinoff racing game series centered within the "Mushroom Kingdom" to the GBA and ended up being one of our favorite time wasters. We can't help but refer to this Mario Kart series entry as one of the best GBA games - arcade kart racing games from Nintendo just don't miss, especially when you get to hit top speeds and fling shells on standout tracks like "Sunset Wilds" and "Sky Garden."
8. ‘Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire’
The "advanced" generation of "Pocket Monsters" got caught up in more hard-fought battles once they arrived in this new duo of Pokémon games on the GBA. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire pushed the series's 2D visuals to an even higher level, which helped our beloved trio of Sceptile, Blaziken, and Swampert got to look their very best. The debut of tag team battles blew our minds back then and gave us plenty of reasons to strengthen our roster of creatures for the game's tougher 2v2 encounters. The new Pocket Monsters that debuted in this game and the addictive gameplay loops of the series' past are why we still hold these games in high regard.
9. ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’
The neverending war between Mario and Donkey Kong evolved from a classic arcade game structure to a more complex yet still approachable puzzle platformer. Mario vs. Donkey Kong made us put our thinking caps on as we helped Mario find the best paths toward finding keys, unlocking doors, and saving & sometimes leading "Mini-Mario's" to their safe haven within a toy box. The abundance of disparate stage elements and biomes stick out in our memory banks as two of the biggest reasons we played this game to death.
10. ‘Sonic Advance’
Jaws dropped and tears were shed when Sega announced it was leaving the hardware market. which shocked the gaming industry to its core. It's still hard to believe that Sega's superfast blue mascot made an appearance on a Nintendo console soon after. In regards to the GBA, Sonic Advance arrived on that handheld device and ended up being a nice return to form when it came to Sonic’s 2D exploits. The uber-talented development studio Dimps stepped up here to produce a classic Sonic game that included everything that fans loved about the series from the 90s. The anime-inspired sprite art sticks out for all the right reasons, plus the ability to grind on rails produced a new fun approach to speedy on-foot exploration. Sonic Advance is a Sonic series standout for all those aforementioned reasons and more.
11. ‘Sonic Advance 2’
The Sonic Advance series proved just how good 2D platforming with Sonic the Hedgehog is and always will be. And when it came time to deliver a quality sequel, Dimps and Sonic Team delivered another round of awesome handheld running, jumping, grinding, and ring collecting. Like the first game, Sonic Advance 2 featured multiple playable characters. This time around, Cream the Rabbit and her cutesy Chao Cheese joined the fray. Sonic Advance 2 also deserves to be mentioned among the top Sonic games due to its improved character animations, varied approaches to exploring each zone, and incredibly catchy music. This follow-up built upon the already strong foundation set by the amazing first game in the series.
12. ‘Sonic Advance 3’
Nintendo and Sega’s blossoming partnership in the early 2000s worked out so well for the GBA as evidenced by the Sonic Advance trilogy. Sonic Advance 3 sped onto the handheld console and finished off the series on an extremely high note and solidifies its status as one of the best GBA games. The series' strong level design paved the way for a fun co-op mechanic that allows players to bring two characters together. The synergy between each character added a cool new wrinkle to the series as a whole and freshened up its familiar gameplay feel. Sonic Advance 3’s implementation of teamwork between Sonic and his most trustworthy allies ended up being the most beloved feature of this handheld classic.
13. ‘The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords’
You can never go wrong with taking the SNES classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for another spin, especially in the form of a handheld port you can take with you anywhere. The biggest attraction for this version of the game though is its four-player co-op journey Four Swords. Once again, that Game Link Cable came in handy with the three homies who stepped up to take on the role of a clone Link and help you solve some tricky puzzle-laded dungeons. The randomized dungeon presentation gave this game the feel of a "roguelike" before that term was ever created - that points to the innovation of this swell Zelda multiplayer experience.
14. ‘The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap’
We have yet another Legend of Zelda series entry that deserves its placement here among the very best GBA games. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap features the same likable approach to dungeon exploring, puzzle solving, and sword swinging of A Link to the Past. But what helps give this game its own signature callback is the ability to shrink Link down to the smallest size possible, which allows him to dive into small portals and venture to even more interesting locales. Then there are the new items that let you dig through walls, suck up enemies, and flip objects upside down that give this game more interesting elements that Zelda fans remember fondly.
15. ‘Mario Tennis Power Tour’
We can't wait for the day when Nintendo gets back to making Mario Tennis games with full-fledged RPG modes. We feel that way because that exact format was pulled off extremely well in the likes of the first one released on Game Boy Color and this GBA sequel. Mario Tennis Power Hour remains a fun sports-themed detour for Mario and his fellow Mushroom Kingdom denizens - nabbing the win via "Offensive Power Shots" or negating your rival's "Defensive Power Shots" will always make us feel like a beast on the handheld tennis court. And of course, the deep RPG mode featured in this game gave players more incentive to play it beyond your usual array of AI single and doubles matches.
16. ‘Metroid: Zero Mission’
The GBA got a bunch of top-tier remakes of classic NES and SNES games. Thankfully, the space-faring bounty hunter wasn't excluded from that series of new and improved retro games - her defining NES adventure that pretty much kickstarted the "Metroidvania" sub-genre returned in the form of Metroid: Zero Mission. The upgraded graphics are on par with Super Metroid, plus the newly added weapons, items, areas, and mini-bosses do a lot to freshen up the entire experience and inject some noteworthy changes to Samus Aran's initial space mission on "Planet Zebes." The "Metroidvania" goodness fans have become used to playing feels like a dream in this standout Nintendo remake.
17. ‘Metroid Fusion’
Samus Aran has the toughest job in the galaxy as a bounty hunter that's always given seemingly impossible tasks to fulfill. In Metroid Fusion, her life/dangerous profession changes for the worst when she becomes afflicted by "X Parasites." With a new vaccine to free her of her debilitating status and a slick suit of armor called the "Fusion Suit" powering her, players take Samus through a new space station full of new alien dangers to wipe out. SA-X, which is the unrelenting X Parasite that mimics Samus' original "Power Suit," is the biggest threat in this game and will always be remembered for being one of the scariest antagonists in franchise history. The Metroidvania formula excels here, especially since climbing ladders and grabbing ledges make their welcome debut here as new navigation mechanics.
18. ‘WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!’
The traditional 2D platforming games featuring Mario's evil doppelganger gave us so much to enjoy during their initial run. At first, we found ourselves shocked and a bit let down by the fact that he become relegated to the frontman for a new series focusing on playing silly seconds-long minigames. But once we got our hands on WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!, we quickly became believers in Wario's newest endeavors. The bite-sized "microgames" that pop up in quick succession here entertained us way more than we thought they would - playing short bursts of classic Nintendo games, trying to avoid someone's oversized stomping foot, and squirting an eye drop into a random person's eye are just some of the memorable minigames this first batch of WarioWare has to offer.
19. ‘WarioWare: Twisted!’
Once the Game Boy Advance SP came out, we had no choice but to grab one since its clamshell design and brighter backlit screen appealed to us more in comparison to the regular GBA model. Another one of the best GBA games we're about to mention here marks a time when we played on the SP to death because of it. WarioWare: Twisted! retained the wild microgames formula introduced in the first game, made sure to add in a whole bunch of brand new hysterical bite-sized games to play, and even included a gyro sensor that actually implemented real spinning & twisting maneuvers of the GBA itself.
20. ‘Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2’
Expectations were lower than low when we learned that the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series was set to get its very own line of handheld Game Boy Color and GBA ports. Imagine how pleasantly surprised most gamers were when they gave the GBA port of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 a chance and ended up loving the hell out of it! We felt that exact same way when we hopped onto the digital halfpipe of this top-down skateboarding simulator - its intuitive control scheme led to so many good times when we pulled off the sickest tricks, collected the letters for "S-K-A-T-E," knocked down random barrels, discovered & collected "Secret Tapes," etc.
21. ‘Mario Golf: Advance Tour'
The GBC version of Mario Golf surprisingly captured our attention, so it made all the sense in the world for us to take a few swings in the handheld GBA follow-up. Mario Golf: Advance Tour followed the winning ways of the RPG-flavored mode in Mario Tennis, which was implemented with the clever title of "Role-Playing Golf." Rising up the golf club ranks as either Neil or Ella and participating in some fun rounds around the green with them & the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom's famous characters are fun enough activities to grab even non-golfing fans.
22. ‘Final Fantasy Tactics Advance’
Final Fantasy Tactics first landed on the PS1 and marked another watershed moment for the series as it pointed to its ability to produce quality spinoffs. For some reason, we become a million times more involved and locked in whenever we dive into a turn-based strategy game on a handheld or mobile device. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a spinoff of a spinoff (whoa...that's actually pretty cool when you say it out loud!) that entangles a young group of kids in an adventure centered on battling within dream worlds. Speaking of battles, this game's utilization of a unique "Laws" system, an intriguing "Jobs" system, and the thrill that comes from winning a hard-fought battle are all high points for this game.
23. ‘Advance Wars’
Nintendo's series of Wars games started out as Japanese-only Famicon and Game Boy titles. Gamers in the West finally got their first piece of military warfare-themed games with the first installment in the Advance Wars series. Like Fire Emblem, this introduction to the series features turn-based clashes. The rock-paper-scissors mechanics that play out during explosive skirmishes between mechs, infantry, and helicopters, plus the strategic fulfillment that comes from mapping out your movements & successfully eliminating the competition point to why Advance Wars is placed on nearly everyone's list of the best GBA games.
24. ‘Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising’
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is one of those games that stick to that old saying - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" The gameplay underpinning of the first game remains intact and largely unchanged here, but we actually preferred it that way when this game first hit the GBA. On the added content front, we love the fact that there are even more outlandish "Commanding Officers" to bring into battle, the debut of devastating "Super CO Power" moves, and more terrain types to take advantage of while moving around each map expanded Advance Wars' already strong mechanics for the better.
25. ‘Wario Land 4’
The Super Mario Bros. games are considered the best of the best, no doubt. But we'd love it if the Wario Land games received the same amount of fanfare since Mario's wicked replica is featured in some pretty dope platformers. Wario Land 4 not only focuses on hopping to and fro - it incorporates some very quirky mechanics where taking damage from certain enemies results in Wario gaining new abilities in the process. Got stung by a bee? Wario's swollen cheeks now allow him to take flight? Smashing bricks and clearing out smaller enemies with Wario's overpowered tackle still soothes our souls.
26. ‘Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis’
Another strategy RPG that commanded a whole lot of attention on GBA is this one. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is a cool spinoff game in the Tactics Ogre, which in itself is derived from the Ogre Battle franchise. Humans, demi-humans, dragons, and a bunch more categories of playable units converge in a game where the very best presentation of turn-based strategy battles is front and center. It felt so good to build up our simple six-person party into an intimidating 30+ unit force that could withstand the toughest of opposition.
27. ‘Fire Emblem’
Adding Roy and Marth to the Super Smash Bros. Melee roster was such a smart move as it led to international audiences becoming more keen on playing the game both sword wielders hail from. Fire Emblem is that game and it marked the first time non-Japanese audiences got to see what all the hype is about. This classic GBA tactical role-playing game features all the series trademarks that still lift up recent entries to greatness - the "Weapons Triangle" system, impactful weather and terrain effects that play a huge part in how units use them to their advantage, and the threat of permanent death always kept us on our toes in this one.
28. ‘Final Fantasy VI Advance’
Old-school JRPG fanatics regularly point to Final Fantasy VI as one of the greatest games in the franchise and most definitely a top 10 pick for the sub-genre as a whole. Playing it on the GBA ends up being one of the best ways to get all caught up in Terra Branford and her fellow heroes' crusade against the maniacal Kefka Palazzo (who gets our pick for one of the top Final Fantasy villains of all time!). The throwback "Active Time Battle" (ATB) system still feels fun enough to push players to make quick decisions during combat and clutch out a victory with a well-timed "Desperation Attack."
29. ‘Castlevania: Circle of the Moon’
For the last two best GBA games on this list, we're going steer you all towards Konami's classic demon-hunting series. The GBA got some of the best games in the series and they all got their start via Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, which came out during the first year of Nintendo's incredible handheld machine. Instead of tracking down and attempting to kill Dracula as a member of the Belmont clan, this game sets up Nathan Graves as its main protagonist. Traversing a massive castle full of demons as Mr. Graves remains unforgettable to us thanks to the fun "Dual Set-up System" (DSS) magical card system that made us feel like a true threat against Dracuala's army of fiends.
30. ‘Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow’
Two years after the smasching success of Circle of the Moon, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow made its presence felt as worthy successor to the awesomess that came before it. The occult power master known as Soma Cruz pops up as a modern-day hero in a bid to bring down a group that seeks to inheirt Dracula's dark powers. His jounrye results in deep exploration throught Dracula's infamous castle and a combat system held up by the fascinating "Tactical Soul" system. It always felt good to kill an enemy, finally acquire their signature ability, and use it to Soma's benefit during future combat encounters against deadly beasts and daunting bosses.
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