On June 11th, 2001, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance, the 32-bit successor to the company’s original handheld. In terms of historical significance, the Game Boy Advance is a bit of an odd system. It didn’t change the industry the way its predecessor did, and it wasn’t nearly as groundbreaking as its successor, the Nintendo DS. Despite this, the system offered terrific gameplay experiences that charmed audiences of all ages. In an era where 3D gaming was king, the Game Boy Advance played host to some incredible 2D experiences. From platformers to RPGs, the system’s library was quite impressive.
In honor of the Game Boy Advance’s 20th anniversary, ComicBook.com decided to compile some of the very best games available on the system. Given the massive number of titles that released on the GBA, it would have been impossible to cover everything, but below, you’ll find a few of the handheld’s highlights!
Time flies! On this day 20 years ago, the Game Boy Advance was released. What was your first & favorite memory with the portable system? pic.twitter.com/G8PhbmdhTQ
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) June 11, 2021
Metroid: Zero Mission/Metroid Fusio
Metroid fans were eating well in the Game Boy Advance days. While the GameCube brought Metroid into the modern era, Nintendo was busy looking back to the franchise’s roots on GBA. Metroid Fusion is a full-fledged sequel to Super Metroid, while Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the NES original. Of the two games, Zero Mission might be slightly better, but both are unquestionable classics, and they represent the finest games the GBA has to offer. These are two games every Metroid fan should play.
If Metroid fans were eating well in the GBA days, Castlevania fans were treated to a buffet. Circle of the Moon was easily one of the system’s best launch titles, but during the GBA’s lifespan, players were also treated to Aria of Sorrow and Harmony of Dissonance. Like Metroid, it’s tough to say which game is the best; Circle of the Moon gets less love these days, but all three games are quite good.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
The first in now-defunct developer AlphaDream’s Mario & Luigi series of RPGs, Superstar Saga was an incredible treat when it launched in 2003. Weird, hilarious, and a joy to play, Superstar Saga represents one of Mario’s best RPG outings. The game’s “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo by Geno even gave it some connective tissue with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. If there’s one show-stealer, however, it’s Fawful, a villain that proved an instant classic.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Link’s quirkier adventures are often the best ones, and Minish Cap is unquestionably quirky. Developed by Capcom, the game introduced Ezlo, a talking cap that allows Link to shrink. The shrinking mechanic makes for some great puzzles, and the sprites are simply gorgeous. It might not be as highly-regarded as Link’s Awakening, but it’s a must-play for fans of 2D Zelda games.
Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire
The third Pokemon generation, Ruby and Sapphire gave the franchise a graphic makeover while adding a number of new monsters. The game has some warts, like a bizarre setup involving two different types of bikes, and an inability to transfer Pokemon from previous games, but it has a lot of highlights, as well. Gen III gave us compelling new foes in Team Magma and Team Aqua, plus tons of great new Pokemon, including Blaziken, Rayquaza, and Salamence. The game also got a spin-off in the form of the excellent Pokemon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire.
When Super Smash Bros. Melee released in 2001, gamers outside of Japan collectively asked “who?” upon unlocking Marth and Roy. The Fire Emblem stars hadn’t appeared in a game outside the region, but Melee proved to be the perfect springboard for the characters. Nintendo released Fire Emblem in 2003 and, less than 20 years later, the franchise is now a global phenomenon.
The GBA was a terrific system for RPG fans, and Golden Sun is one of its biggest highlights. Developed by Camelot and published by Nintendo, Golden Sun is a gorgeous 2D RPG. The title received a sequel on the system, but the franchise has mostly been forgotten by Nintendo in recent years. As a result, Golden Sun often tops lists of dormant franchises in need of a revival. Perhaps we’ll finally see a remake in the Switch era!
Every once in a while, Game Freak likes to remind gamers that it can do more than just Pokemon, and that’s exactly what it did with Drill Dozer. A unique little platformer with a built-in rumble feature, Drill Dozer is a highly-underrated gem.
In the days before there was such a thing as a Virtual Console or Nintendo Switch Online, video game ports were fairly uncommon. In the GBA days, however, Nintendo took full advantage of the 32-bit hardware and re-released a plethora of classic SNES games. Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Donkey Country are just a handful of the SNES classics that got a second chance at finding an audience on the system. They even got some great extra features and bonus modes, as well. Third parties like Capcom even got in on the trend with ports like Breath of Fire. The SNES remains one of the best systems ever made, and the GBA helped a whole new generation realize why!
Of course, these are just a few of the great games that released in the Game Boy Advance’s lifespan. There are a plethora of other beloved games that appeared on the system, including Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Mega Man Zero, Advance Wars, and more. Sadly, the majority of these games aren’t available on modern consoles. Hopefully Nintendo will honor the anniversary by giving these games a second life!
What’s your favorite GBA game? Are you a fan of the handheld? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!