9 best Nintendo Game Boy Advance games: From $20 | Finder

9 best Nintendo Game Boy Advance games of all time

Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance put 32-bit gaming into gamer’s hands, and here are the very best games that you must own for it.

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Buy Game Boy Advance games on eBay

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The best Nintendo Game Boy Advance games in Australia

Nintendo's fortunes in home consoles have waxed and waned over the years, but there's one arena where the Japanese gaming giant has dominated for the entire span of video gaming history.

That's in portable gaming. The iconic – and these days, rather expensive – Game & Watch series kicked it all off, but it was with the Game Boy that Nintendo firmly staked its claim as the king of classic gaming.

These days it plays in both camps thanks to the excellent Nintendo Switch, but back in 2001, Nintendo was still pushing along with smaller updates to the classic Game Boy line and its Color follow-up.

Then came the Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo kicked its ambitions into the 32-bit era, first off with a console with great technology but a frankly appalling screen. The later releases – and many third-party backlight hacks – dealt with screen issues while the console was home to a vast array of really fine games, and especially a lot of ports of existing SNES and NES titles that were beyond the technical scope of the earlier Game Boy handhelds.

The Game Boy Advance library is thus home to some great ports as well as fantastic original games, but which ones were the very best?

How did we pick this list?

This list was collated from personal experience – the author was working mainly as a games writer throughout the Game Boy Advance's lifespan – as well as cross-checking with online reviews, both professional and consumer to come up with the definitive list of the best Game Boy Advance games.

One decision we made early on was to very deliberately omit the games that were simple SNES or NES ports. There are some great Mario, Zelda and NES classics that exist in GBA form, but they're not the originators or definitive versions of those games. We'd prefer to focus on the games specifically written for the Game Boy Advance and released within its lifespan.

Read more detail on our methodology below.

Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game overall: Advance Wars

Pros

  • War is hell...ishly fun
  • Multiplayer works well even on just one GBA

Cons

  • Some AI battles can drag on into wars of attrition
  • Best multiplayer needs two GBAs, two copies of the game and a link cable

Price: $40-$100+

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Why we chose it

This was far from an easy pick to make because the Game Boy Advance library really is stuffed full of some truly excellent and highly playable games. Once again, if your budget can run to it, by all means, pick up every single game we've highlighted in this article because you absolutely will not be left wanting by any one of them.

Still, we had to pick one, and in Advance Wars, you'll find a game that can be picked up and played for just a few minutes – a vital part of any mobile game system title that you might just have a few minutes to play while you wait for a bus – with an astonishing level of depth and challenge in single player. Add in multiple players, either over a link cable or by swapping your GBA from player to player, and heated battles can simply eat away the time, providing exceptional value for money. It's been a long while since there was a fresh Advance Wars game, Nintendo. It's not hard to suspect that the reason why is that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems employees are still too busy enjoying this highly original and fun game.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game – Action Adventure: Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand

Pros

  • Sunlight mechanic is genuinely unique
  • Great mix of action and stealth

Cons

  • It's very expensive for a GBA game, especially if you want a boxed copy
  • Significantly trickier if you don't have a ready light source to charge up the cartridge

Price: $100+

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Why we chose it

Mobile game systems are, by their nature, designed to be used while out and about, but very few games really take advantage of that to deliver unique gameplay experiences or mechanisms. You certainly can't accuse Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand of lacking a unique selling point, thanks to the light sensor on the end of the cartridge itself that encourages you to do what your parents used to tell you and head outside. It's just that you won't be playing any sports or going for a walk – instead, you'll use that light sensor to soak up sunlight to charge your solar gun as you take on an army of the undead. Produced by Hideo Kojima – yes, that Hideo Kojima – Boktai provides a sublime mix of action when your gun is charged up with power and stealth sections – not that Kojima specialises in that, naturally – when you're out of power.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game – Platform: Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow

Pros

  • Best Castlevania visuals of any of the GBA titles
  • Souls collecting is fun and very flexible as a gameplay mechanic

Cons

  • Not the best audio for a Castlevania game
  • If you're familiar with the Dracula castle layout from other Castlevania games, it's a lot easier

Price: $30-$100+

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Why we chose it

Given that prior Castlevania games for the Game Boy were all traditional and rather stodgy platform games, the trio of Castlevanias for the GBA are real eye-openers. They take the Metroidvania approach of the sublime Symphony of the Night and run with it, providing expansive adventures with suitably cheesy plots and, of course, plenty of hefty undead killing action. Of the three Castlevanias for the GBA, Aria of Sorrow is the most polished, with a different take on the plot, a smart soul-collecting mechanic that gives the game depth and even the option to trade souls with other players through the GBA link cable.

Also, given that the action in Aria of Sorrow allegedly takes place in 2035, it might just prepare you for the future to come.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game - Racing: Mario Kart Super Circuit

Pros

  • Classic Mario Kart action in a portable format
  • Tracks work well on the smaller GBA screen

Cons

  • You'll need a lot of hardware to play multiplayer
  • Later portable Mario Karts are even better

Price: $40-$100+

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Why we chose it

While Nintendo opted for direct ports of its SNES and NES-era Mario games in the Mario Advance series, we didn't just see a straight version of Super Mario Kart on the Game Boy Advance. Instead, we got Mario Kart Super Circuit, a specially designed mix of Mario courses built with a smaller screen and portability in mind. It's still built on the same essentially-2D-but-with-Mode-7-spinning approach as the SNES original, but with snappier tracks that work better in a mobile format, and even multiplayer – if you've got a couple of Game Boy Advance handhelds and a couple of copies of the game.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game – Shooting: Astro Boy: Omega Factor

Pros

  • Astro is beautifully animated
  • Fantastic mix of gameplay styles and challenges

Cons

  • Full boxed copies can get very pricey
  • Requires backtracking to unlock every last secret

Price: $20-$100

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Why we chose it

The recipe for Astro Boy: Omega Factor is a very simple one. Take Osamu Tezuka's classic anime protagonist, add Treasure, one of the very best makers of shoot-em-up games, and stir in just a dab of platforming action to go along with the blasting and you get Astro Boy: Omega Factor.

Astro Boy Omega Factor gets so very much right, and it's a genuine pity that this version is Game Boy Advance only – it's a game that would stand up as a full-priced console release even today, whether you're taking on the many epic boss fights – something Treasure's very good at – or hunting down the hidden characters that enable all of Astro's power-ups to emerge.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game - RPG: The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap

Pros

  • A traditional Zelda game with unique shrinking mechanics
  • Shrunken world visuals are deeply compelling

Cons

  • Far from the longest Zelda adventure
  • Some kinstone quests aren't really worth doing

Price: $30-$100+

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Why we chose it

The Game Boy Advance is home to a lot of great RPGs, including many ports that are well worth owning and quite a few designed specifically for the system. In Nintendo's case, that means that there's a version of Link to The Past – still an excellent game in its own right – but if you want a native GBA Zelda title, then Minish Cap is the game you should buy.

Minish Cap is absolutely a traditional 2D Zelda game, with the key puzzle hook revolving around the eponymous headwear that enables our small green hero to shrink down to minuscule size in order to tackle the game's rolling narrative and dungeons alike.

While Minish Cap essentially grew out of the Four Swords multiplayer section of the GBA Link to The Past game, it's a fully-fledged Zelda adventure – albeit one that's something of a side quest to that classic-but-confusing Ganon-based narrative – it's a very easy game to like that hits all those Zelda sweet spots.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game - Fighting: Fire Pro Wrestling 2

Pros

  • Literally more than 1,000 moves to build your own custom fighter from
  • Satisfying fight model that considers damage, stamina and timing

Cons

  • Not a huge jump over original Fire Pro Wrestling on the GBA
  • Lacks a proper licence, so you'll have to create your own knock-off Undertaker or Orange Cassidy

Price: $30-$60+

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Why we chose it

When you've got a limited set of buttons, making a compelling fighting game is a hard ask. The Game Boy Advance has some solid and interesting versions of games such as Street Fighter II, but if you want something that stands out and works within its limitations, you can't go past Spike's Fire Pro Wrestling 2. Using the venerated Fire Pro engine, which relies on timing and direction to manage complex fighting moves – both pro-wrestling style and MMA – and a huge roster of editable characters gives Fire Pro Wrestling 2 a distinct edge over other fighting games on the Game Boy Advance.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game - Sports: Mario Golf: Advance Tour

Pros

  • Nice course variety and skills progression
  • Works well even on the GBA's smaller screen

Cons

  • The going is slow if you don't like the RPG elements
  • Some of the gameplay variants are a tad too wacky if you're a golfing purist

Price: $40-$100+

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

For such a tiny machine, the Game Boy Advance has quite a wide range of really good sports titles. The Tony Hawks' games are a particular standout, even as they flip the game to an isometric perspective, Virtua Tennis is highly satisfying, and Fire Pro Wrestling, as noted above, is a top-notch way to beat somebody senseless without getting arrested for it.

Still, it's to the world of golf we turn for the Game Boy Advance's finest sporting moment, with Mario Golf: Advance Tour, a golfing sim that combines that traditional and satisfying three-tap-and-swing metric with an RPG that sees you slowly building up your skills in order to take on the world's finest golfer – who is, naturally, enough Mario, although we're not sure when he's had the time to perfect his golf game what with the busy plumbing and princess-rescuing businesses, really.


Best Nintendo Game Boy Advance game - Puzzle: Advance Wars

Pros

  • War is hell...ishly fun
  • Multiplayer works well even on just one GBA

Cons

  • Some AI battles can drag on into wars of attrition
  • Best multiplayer needs two GBAs, two copies of the game and a link cable

Price: $40-$100+

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

The big standard puzzle games – your Tetrises, Puyo Puyos and so on – can be found on the Game Boy Advance, and they're a fine way to stretch both your brain and your gaming muscles, but if we want to think and blow things up, there's only one game we'd be reaching for. That's Intelligent Systems' Advance Wars, a turn-based strategy war game with heavy puzzle elements. Every troop in the game has its strengths and weaknesses, and combining that with terrain advantages and clever map placement mean that the game's single-player mode is, in essence, a series of mind-bending but highly satisfying puzzles to solve. If you've got multiple GBA units and copies of the game, you can also indulge in linked play across machines or indulge in a little swap and wait for gameplay on a single system, too.


Buying Nintendo Game Boy Advance games

What to consider when buying Nintendo Game Boy Advance games:

  • Piracy abounds: The Game Boy Advance was, sadly, one of the first cartridge systems to be widely pirated in cartridge form while it was still a currently sold system. The end result is that there are a LOT of sellers shifting old fake copies of games – or in some cases, new fakes – rather than the legitimate article. They're worthless on the collectable front, obviously, but fakes can often omit features such as battery backup saves, making them considerably less playable too. If you spot a seller offering "hundreds" of cartridges to pick from with seemingly endless quantities, odds are exceptionally good that they're hawking fake GBA games.
  • Good boxes are hard to find: The Game Boy Advance was Nintendo's last system to ship with cardboard boxes only as standard. That saved on weight and made them a little cheaper, but it also means that by now, finding a good copy of a game in a mint box can be a pricey proposition. Again, pirate boxes are also pretty common these days, so pay close attention to what you're buying to ensure you're getting what you expect.
  • Lots of Game Boy Advance models to pick from: If you're looking to buy Game Boy Advance hardware as well as games, you're spoilt for choice. The original models have a cute look, but terrible screens unless you buy one with a pre-modded backlight. The GBA SP is the go-to for a more affordable option, and some of the special editions – especially the Japan-only variants – have great designs, but bear in mind that you'll need an adaptor for headphones if you want to use them. The best model, in our view, is the super-cute, super-compact Game Boy Micro, which, despite its name is a tiny Game Boy Advance. Bear in mind also that the Nintendo DS can play Game Boy Advance games, although that's not true of the 3DS, and you can't play multiplayer GBA games with a DS.

Methodology

1
Brands considered
200+
Products compared
9
Best products chosen
  • Our picks are based on price, game ratings, availability and user and professional reviews.
  • The writer has 30+ years of game collecting and curating experience.
  • The products on this list are chosen by our editorial team and are not selected based on commercial relationships.

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