No matter how much games may “improve” graphically, there is just something inherently charming about pixelated, retro games. The charming graphics, iconic music, challenging difficulty, and importance in making the games a fun experience places retro games in a league of their own.
And what better era to glorify retro games in than the Game Boy Advance days? It was the peak of retro gaming, improving on the systems and mechanics of the time while still keeping that classic, nostalgic feel to the games that we all know and love.
Take a trip down memory lane with us, or discover new titles that you will soon love more than ever.
The 20 best Game Boy Advance games
Kuru Kuru Kururin
Sporting some of the best music of any game on the GBA, along with some adorable visuals and great diversity in the environments between levels, Kuru Kuru Kururin is a fun title that can also be a great challenge if you are aiming to clear each level without any errors and with the best time achievable. Pick this game up and you’ll be hooked to the array of vibrant, challenging courses in no time.
Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen
Kanto, the region from where it all began, Game Freak took the nostalgia factor from their legendary originals, Pokémon Red and Blue (Green instead of Blue for the Japanese releases), and updated it with third-generation mechanics and well-received overhauls to the gameplay, weaving in abilities, natures, double battles, and more. Nothing more satisfying than playing as iconic Pokémon trainer Red and catching ‘em all, right?
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
What is essentially a spin-off of a spin-off, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance takes the world and beloved characters from Final Fantasy and combines it with a strategic, map-based combat system similar to Fire Emblem. The game improves on the PlayStation version with the introduction of Judges, tons of new jobs, as well a completely new standalone story of its own.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Being one of the launch titles for the Game Boy Advance, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 did not disappoint. Even though the game had to be developed with a static overhead perspective, THPS 2 managed to retain the essence of the original in this remake. Can’t ollie off a ledge or kickflip your skateboard off a flight of stairs in real life, but you really want to? We have a feeling you’ll love Pro Skater 2 then.
Akin to the Final Fantasy series, Fire Emblem used to be a rather niche name in the world of tactical role-playing games (or in just about any world for that matter) and was only the talk of the town for Japanese audiences. That is until it was officially released in the West and claimed huge critical success. With an epic storyline, rich characters, and thrilling boss fights, Fire Emblem is a Game Boy Advance title you do not want to miss.
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land
Bringing that classic Kirby charm to Game Boy Advance, Nightmare in Dream Land takes the magic that makes the Kirby franchise so iconic and puts some exciting new twists on it, such as the array of new sub-games for either solo or multiplayer mode. Face a host of different villains as you control Kirby, setting out on a mission to fix the Star Rod that King Dedede has destroyed.
While the game did not perform well in sales owing to the horrible timing it was released (after the Nintendo DS had launched), the game is innovative and heaps of fun. Using the gyro-sensor present in the game’s cartridge, Twisted! makes you swerve and turn to the whims of the game, while still retaining the appeal of the microgame structure that the original possessed.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Being the first portable installment in the Mario Kart Franchise, Super Circuit was an incredibly well-made game for its time and still holds up in terms of quality today. The game released 20 new tracks in addition to the original ones, while letting you race as the usual racers present in the Mario Kart franchise The gameplay and graphics were stellar for the GBA era, and the icing on top was the ability to connect with friends for its special four-player mode.
Double Dragon Advance
Originally an arcade game, Double Dragon Advance never really had its time to shine, with other popular titles and developers eclipsing any real recognition the game could’ve gotten. Probably one of the best beat-’em-ups for the GBA, Double Dragon Advance improved on the combat of the original while adding in four extra stages to indulge in, even letting a second player join in on the hardcore brawling action. A sad fate for this title.
Think Fire Emblem but even better. Advance Wars is a fairly simple game to dip your toes into, but actually getting good at the game and mastering it meant that players had to get through deep layers of strategy. And for a hardcore tactical RPG, the game looked quite appealing with its charming visuals while flaunting some really cool tunes in the background.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team
Red Rescue Team is one of the many titles in the Mystery Dungeon series that brings a lot of welcomed changes into the monster-catching franchise. You take control of a human-turned-Pokémon to go on an adventure finding out exactly what caused the predicament you are in while saving other Pokémon on your journey. Turn-based fights take place in the overworld with some of the best music in the franchise, along with a plot that is better than what you’d usually expect from a Pokémon game.
With bustling, action-packed levels along with great sound design, Drill Dozer proved that Game Freak can bust out more amazing titles than just ones that contain Pocket Monsters. This action-platformer incorporates the cartridge’s rumble function efficiently, providing a sense of immersion as you track down all the hidden treasures and clear any secret levels present in this drill-based game.
Mega Man Zero 2
Mega Man Zero 2 takes the flawed basis of its predecessor and improves on all its weak points. The sequel reduces the unnecessary grinding, adds in unlockable forms and EX Skills, and improves the game in its visuals and sound while still retaining the immense challenge that the original possessed.
Super Mario Advance
With the ability to choose between four characters from the original game, now able to take them wherever you go with the handheld GBA, Super Mario Advance quickly shot the already-popular Mario franchise into further stardom. Apart from the original gameplay features, you also get to experience an all-new point system, as well as being able to collect various collectibles hidden in each stage.
In addition to Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, Pokémon Emerald was a monumental step in the right direction for the franchise, adding in natures, and abilities, rehauling the EV and IV system and adding in double battles, as well as the weather condition Hail. With an epic story and iconic music for wild Pokémon, boss battles, and the overworld as well, Pokémon Emerald turned out to be a huge milestone for Game Freak’s most prized brainchild.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
An original plot is always appreciated, and The Minish Cap was one of the few titles that aren’t ports or remakes for the GBA. With the ability to shrink down in size to explore through perspectives usually gone unseen and places gone unexplored really heightened the fun of the game when in conjunction with the usual Zelda art style, music, and action-packed gameplay.
Metroid Fusion is the final game in the franchise to be made in the pixelated, 2D style, with Metroid Dread having been released last year. Even though the difference in visuals is very apparent, Fusion still possesses amazing aesthetics, in addition to the compelling storyline, unique setting, and various new powers and suits for players to use.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
For being a game about working on a farm that comes with all the mundane tasks of handling livestock and agriculture, the game is incredibly addictive. The fact that Friends of Mineral Town was released for a portable console like the Game Boy Advance makes it even harder to stop playing since you can take the experience anywhere you go. While newer farming sims are also available for you to play, if you happen to like your virtual farming experiences with a little 16-bit action, then this GBA title is the way to go.
Final Fantasy VI Advance
Spoken of by fans as the best 2D game in the franchise, Final Fantasy VI Advance takes what made the original—Final Fantasy III on the SNES—brilliant, and improves on it, while letting players experience the game on the go. With a fantastic plot, amazing music, and classic Final Fantasy turn-based battling to top it off, FFVI is a must-have title for the GBA.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Unlike other games in the franchise, Aria of Sorrow is set in a futuristic world, letting you don some neat outfits and also equip a gun; a real shakeup for Castlevania. Just like in Symphony of the Night, you are in pursuit of Dracula in a castle, this time being able to collect unique equippable abilities from fallen enemies through the ‘Tactical Soul’ system, letting you personalize your combat style and forge your own path to victory.