25 best GBA games of all time

25 best GBA games of all time

The best Game Boy Advance games harken back to the heyday of portable gaming.

The best GBA games are a look back in time. The Game Boy Advance was a wise continuation of what Nintendo accomplished with the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, transforming our perceptions of what portable gaming could be. Unsurprisingly, Nintendo and its partners crammed this console with some truly incredible experiences – the best Game Boy Advance games span a dizzying array of genres.

This handheld truly had something for everyone, whether you were playing classic SNES games like Zelda: A Link to the Past, enjoying modern updates to legacy franchises like The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and Metroid Fusion, or diving into legendary RPGs like Golden Sun and Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. So keep reading for our list of the top 25 GBA games of all time.

Best GBA games, ranked

25. Double Dragon Advance

(Image credit: Atlus)

Developer: Million
Released: 2003

Million’s remake of the classic arcade game is not only one of the series’ best games, but also the best brawler on Nintendo’s handheld. While it includes updated versions of the original four stages of the arcade hit, it also adds four new ones, greatly expanding the fun. Combat mechanics are also improved, with Million drawing inspiration from later games in the series and introducing new weapons to spice up the already robust gameplay. As with many scrolling fighters, Double Dragon Advance comes to life with a second player, but given the game’s current high price, that may be difficult to achieve.

24. Gunstar Future Heroes

(Image credit: Sega)

Developer: Treasure
Released: 2005

Treasure’s fantastic run-and-gun is as much a throwback to classic Sega games as it is a remake of the Mega Drive original. While its combat mechanics have been simplified, it still manages to provide plenty of tactical action as you switch between your available weapons and shoot your way through numerous levels, destroying gigantic, often spectacular-looking bosses along the way. Many of the levels will be instantly familiar to fans of the original game, but there are also plenty of new sections that pay homage to a variety of classic Sega hits, from After Burner to Thunder Blade. The only real criticism is that it is far too short, with only six levels.

23. Kirby And The Amazing Mirror

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released: 2004

While Kirby’s first appearance on the GBA was an improved remake of his first NES adventure, his second was far more ambitious. Traveling through Mirror World is essentially like navigating a massive maze, and Kirby will frequently have to summon three other Kirbies (via a cute mobile phone) to solve puzzles and continue his quest. It’s an interesting concept, but it works better when you team up with three other human opponents. Mechanically, it’s just like any other Kirby game, but it’s boosted by Metroidvania nods and some very entertaining mini-games.

22. Sonic Advance

(Image credit: Sega)

Developer: Dimps
Released: 2001

In the eyes of some, Sega’s hedgehog committed heresy by switching to Nintendo’s handheld, but everyone else discovered that Sonic had lost none of his trademark speed or flair in the previously unthinkable move. Dimps and Sonic Team’s platformer effortlessly recaptures the fast pace and clever level layouts of the earlier Mega Drive games, and the stages have a tightness that the two sequels lack. Best of all, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose all play differently, giving you plenty of reasons to return once you’ve finished the game’s six zones.

21. Rhythm Tengoku

(Image credit: Sega)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2006

Nintendo’s final first-party GBA game never made it to the west, but it’s an absolute blast to play and requires very little Japanese knowledge to enjoy. It’s a collection of quirky mini-games with a distinct visual style, similar to WarioWare, but the focus of each crazy task is on keeping your rhythm as much as possible. Mini-games include punching objects, plucking whiskers from hairy vegetables, and jumping to the moon using sea animals. It’s completely insane, but the well-crafted controls and excellent tunes will have your feet tapping as much as your fingers.

20. Harvest Moon: Friends Of Mineral Town

(Image credit: Natsume)

Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Released: 2003

While they are classified as RPGs, the Harvest Moon games are more about resource management, and none will put your skills to the test like this one. Back To Nature is essentially a portable remake of the PlayStation game, and it’s a ruddy good one at that. You quickly realise that the most difficult challenge you face is simply finding time to tend to your crops, feed your livestock, and woo the girl of your dreams. Harvest Moon: More Friends Of Mineral Town is a sequel that replaces the main character with a female.

19. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2001

Despite the fact that Nintendo’s console had a number of polygon-based racers in its later years, the games that attempted to replicate the SNES’s Mode 7 stylings fared the best. Maximum Velocity is a perfect example of this, as it wowed gamers right away with its slick racing and snazzy-looking tracks. While it takes place many years after the original game (there are no regulars like Captain Falcon or Samurai Goroh), it retains many of the same mechanics, such as progress-based speed boosts and F-elimination-based Zero’s format. It works flawlessly, and the end result is one of the system’s best racers. Both sequels, particularly the Japanese exclusive F-Zero: Climax, are prohibitively expensive.

18. Kuru Kuru Kururin

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Eighting
Released: 2001

Nintendo’s handheld was a haven for puzzlers, but few will raise your blood pressure like this maddeningly difficult gem from Eighting. Kururin’s brothers and sisters have gone missing, and it’s up to the brave duck to jump into his helicopter and navigate some incredibly difficult levels in order to find them. Unfortunately, many of the areas Kururin must enter have little room for his helicopter blades, so careful timing and deft speed manipulation are required to keep Kururin from collapsing into nearby walls. Sequels were released for the GBA and GameCube, but, unlike the original, they were only available in Japan.

17. Golden Sun 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Camelot
Released: 2001

The Lost Age of Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age Camelot’s breathtaking RPGs are so inextricably linked that they’re essentially two sides of the same coin, and both are truly fantastic RPGs. While the decisions you make along the way aren’t as significant as Camelot would have you believe, there’s no denying the richness of the story or the many entertaining characters you meet. Mechanically, it’s also excellent, with combat revolving around the capture of the Pokémon-like Djinn, which you can find via exploration or defeat in battle and then use to boost your party’s combat prowess. All of this is topped off by some of the best pixel art ever seen in a GBA game.

16. Drill Dozer

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Game Freak
Released: 2005

During the 2000s, Game Freak was almost entirely focused on Pokémon games, but it did find time to create this gem of a platformer. Drill Dozer works because of its sharp localization, challenging and exotic bosses, and inventive mechanics that revolve around the use of the titular drill that protagonist Jill uses. The GBA’s often-overlooked rumble capabilities are cleverly used to highlight the intensity of your drill’s power, while the inventive level design and well-thought-out puzzles ensure you’ll always be finding new ways to maximise the performance of your hydraulic tool.

15. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

(Image credit: Activision)

Developer: Neversoft
Released: 2001

We’re still trying to figure out how Vicarious Visions did it on Nintendo’s tiny handheld two decades later. Yes, there are obvious concessions (the licenced soundtracks are short instrumental renditions) and the dinky visuals can strain the eyes at times, but this doesn’t detract from the excellent pickup and play gameplay, which is just as addictive here as it was on the larger home console versions. Despite the new isometric perspective, all of the original levels have been perfectly captured and are instantly recognisable. Mechanically, it’s also excellent, and while the move set has been reduced slightly, racking up insane scores remains just as enjoyable.

14. Mario Vs Donkey Kong

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2004

This endearing 2004 release is essentially a spiritual successor to Donkey Kong, a 1994 Game Boy game. Many stages typically consist of Mario attempting to retrieve a key in order to open a checkpoint and then rescuing a stolen toy Mario against a strict time limit, but the brave plumber must also guide the retrieved toy Marios to safety in a separate stage before facing an inventive battle against Donkey Kong. It’s a cool concept with a fantastic presentation that will put both your platforming skills and your old grey matter to the test. Several sequels were released on subsequent systems, but the original remains our favourite.

13. Metroid: Zero Mission

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2004

Along with Capcom’s magnificent GameCube remake of Resident Evil, this is one of the generation’s best remasters. Rather than simply remaking the original NES classic (which is included as an unlockable extra), Nintendo R&D1 subtly retooled the core of the pioneering 8-bit game. Samus’ journey is retold with brand-new cutscenes, and the game’s already atmospheric atmosphere is greatly improved by improved aesthetics. Best of all, even when you reach the game’s conclusion, Nintendo has one last trick up its sleeve that allows you to relive Samus’ battle against the space pirates like never before.

12. Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2001

While we prefer to limit these lists to system exclusives, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge a portable version of the greatest 2D platformer of all time. This is essentially the same slice of exceptional platforming excellence that appeared on the SNES, but various changes have been made, such as brightening characters to make them easier to see and adding new Dragon Coins in stages that didn’t originally feature them. Luigi, meanwhile, is now a playable character. It’s not the most ambitious update, but as the recent Super Mario 3D All-Stars Switch collection demonstrated, improving on platform perfection is extremely difficult.

11. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Square
Released: 2003

We’re not lying when we say we’ve put nearly 300 hours into Square’s superb strategy hit. Rather than being a direct sequel to the PlayStation original, Square’s portable isometric epic is a standalone story set in the world of Ivalice that follows a group of young children as they try to find their way home. Within Square’s tiny cartridge is a massive adventure, with many improvements over the original PlayStation hit, including a much larger roster of jobs and improved mechanics for learning new abilities. The most significant (and many would argue best) change is the addition of Judges who force players to follow strict new laws that can instantly turn the tide of battle.

10. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Game Freak
Released: 2002

While Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen are excellent Pokemon games in their own right, we’ve spent even more time with this RPG trilogy. Many Pokemon fans were dissatisfied with Game Freak’s decision not to import your previous Pokemon (meaning this was the first time you couldn’t actually catch ’em all), but with a new engine and no need to rely on previous games, the series could move in new directions, including adding dramatic new double battles and bestowing new Innate Abilities and Natures that further distinguished the cute critters you were feverishly trying to collect.

9. Mario Kart: Super Circuit

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Released: 2001

While the pre-rendered graphical style hasn’t really held up over time, the polished karting mechanics have. The beauty of Nintendo’s portable racer is that it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but instead builds on the previous two games. There are no new power-ups or characters, but there are 20 brilliantly designed tracks, challenging difficulty levels, and excellent multiplayer options. In a stroke of genius, it also unlocks all 20 Super Mario Kart tracks, a move that proved so popular that the franchise continues to revisit classic tracks to this day.

8. Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Released: 2003

This is the seventh instalment in Intelligent Systems’ fantastic strategy series, and it serves as an excellent introduction to the well-regarded franchise. Fire Emblem, like its strategy stablemate Advance Wars, appears cute on the surface but is actually a surprisingly difficult game, thanks to its challenging AI, beautifully designed maps, and triangle weapon system that powers each combat encounter. Things are complicated further by the fact that you are constantly losing members as they die in battle, which has a double impact because the strong writing and engaging personalities make each character easy to connect with. The sequel, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, is also well worth your time and money.

7. Astro Boy: Omega Factor

(Image credit: Sega)

Developer: Teasure
Released: 2003

Treasure and Hitmakers’ wonderfully chaotic collaboration is both a love letter to Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga series and an overview of his entire canon of work. At its core, Omega Factor is a beat-’em-up, but it takes pride in dishing out as much damage as possible so you can quickly fill up Astro Boy’s EX gauge and flatten your opponents with insane special attacks. It’s a truly fantastic game, made even better by technically insane boss encounters, a surprisingly strong storyline, and light platform and shooting sections that highlight Treasure’s technical prowess.

6. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: AlphaDream
Released: 2003

The GBA certainly isn’t lacking in RPGs, but few can compete with this wonderfully witty adventure. While the outrageously funny story will keep you interested, it is the finely crafted combat mechanics that make AlphaDream’s adventure so enjoyable to play. Anyone who has played Mario’s previous RPGs will recognise the flow of battle, but fights are cleverly enhanced by the inclusion of Luigi. This brotherly love extends throughout the game, and the pair has a number of special moves that will help them navigate BeanBean Kingdom on their quest to rescue Princess Peach.

5. Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow

(Image credit: Konami)

Developer: Konami
Released: 2003

All three GBA Castlevania games should be in your collection, but if you can only get one, get Sorrow. It’s not only the most visually appealing of the three games, but it’s also the most mechanically advanced, thanks to the brand-new Tactical Soul system, which allows you to absorb defeated foes’ souls and use them to improve the abilities of protagonist Soma Cruz. There is no inverse castle here, but there are spectacular bosses, an excellent soundtrack, and a ridiculous amount of weaponry to experiment with. Soma’s adventures continue on the DS with Dawn Of Sorrow.

4. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2003

Few games achieve the absurd heights of silliness that this collection of potty mini-games does. Wario Ware Inc’s brilliance stems from its sheer accessibility and simple control system – you’re usually given a single word instruction and then a few seconds to complete the required absurd task, which can range from balancing a set of tiles while riding a unicycle to sniffing a bogey back into a girl’s nose. Over 200 absurd games are spread across nine themed levels, including one dedicated to classic Nintendo franchises, and the entire package is held together by a very abstract art style that elevates Nintendo’s game to even higher levels of strangeness.

3. Advance Wars 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Released: 2001

Although the series’ ancestors can be traced back to the Famicom, Nintendo’s portable system feels like its true home. The small troops and vehicles make Intelligent System’s game appear cute, but they’re just a fun front for some incredibly complex maps that will require a true tactical genius to master. Fortunately, the task is made much easier by a selection of commanders who are full of personality and have unique powers to master. Even if you finish the lengthy campaign, the war is far from over, and the engaging multiplayer maps will keep you playing until your batteries die. The sequel (Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising) was released in 2003 and continues the story of the first game – and it is just as good, introducing eight more commanders, new powers, a brand-new Neotank, and a slew of other gameplay improvements.

2. The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Capcom
Released: 2004

While it lacks the guiding hand of Eiji Aonuma, who has shepherded the series since Ocarina of Time, The Minish Cap remains a traditional Zelda game. Flagship had previously done excellent work with the Oracle series on the Game Boy Color, and The Minish Cap expands on those strengths by improving elements like dungeon design and teaching Link brand-new sword techniques. The masterstroke of The Minish Cap, on the other hand, is Link’s new ability to shrink down in size, which greatly improves the series’ puzzle aspects because you need to flip back and forth between forms to find new routes and solve various tasks. Ezlo, the game’s titular talking hat, is also a welcome addition, with his scathing remarks providing plenty of amusement as you navigate Flagship’s ambitiously designed world. It doesn’t get much better than this for handheld Zelda games.

1. Metroid Fusion

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2002

Many expected Super Metroid to be converted to Nintendo’s portable 32-bit powerhouse in the same way that previous Super Mario games had, but series stalwart Yoshio Sakamoto had other plans. The result is Metroid Fusion, a fantastic adventure that takes the series in interesting new directions. While it lacks the freedom of its older siblings, its more linear structure leads to a far stronger narrative than previous Metroid games and explores Samus’ personality in a way that later games would embrace. The introduction of Samus’ nemesis SA-X, a deadly parasite formed from her old Power Suit, is another of its strengths. Samus is attempting to reclaim her lost abilities, which means she is constantly pursued by a far more powerful foe. It’s a deadly game of cat and mouse, made more so by the atmospheric graphics and the claustrophobic nature of the GBA’s small screen. It’s simply the best game you can play on Nintendo’s handheld.

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