I will never forget my tenth birthday. My mom woke me up and drove me to Circuit City (back when those still existed), and I couldn’t have been more excited because I knew exactly why we were there. I had been begging my mother for a Game Boy Advance for a long time and that year in 2003 the Game Boy Advance SP had been released. The newest clam shell design of the handheld that featured a front-lit screen. That day I got a Game Boy Advance SP with a copy of Metroid Fusion and it began my love for Nintendo’s 32-bit handheld.
The Game Boy Advance may have only been a handheld, but it is a very important part of Nintendo’s history. In many ways, it marked the first stage of Nintendo playing on their nostalgia. Several ports of SNES games made it to the handheld as well as the NES Classics line, which featured games like the original Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong for the first time since their original release. We would also see Nintendo branching out of their comfort zone by bringing Fire Emblem to the States and creating a new tactical RPG series Advance Wars.
On top of a huge library of great games, the Game Boy Advance’s backwards compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color only made its library even more expansive. The 32-bit graphical style was a complete throwback to the SNES and in some ways, it really was the spiritual successor to that great console. However, the greatest advantage to the Game Boy Advance was its portability. There was absolutely no competing with that kind of power on the go.
Now Or Never
So why is now the best time to give this classic handheld another go? Well, the world of retro collecting has gotten pretty big lately. It seems like everyday prices are rising higher and higher on SNES, NES, PS1, and other classic games. Its gotten to the point where many retro collectors have really had to slow down on their collecting and ask themselves if it’s really worth it to them. However, the next best alternative is to start collecting classic games that haven’t spiked in price yet and if you are a loose cartridge collector or a complete, in-box kinda person then the Game Boy Advance might be the system for you.
Nintendo has some amazing first party titles for the Game Boy Advance and there are several ways to play them on the go or even on your big screen. And one of the best things about the 32-bit graphics is that much like SNES many of the games aged very well. So if you’re a fan of awesome sprite work or just enjoy the simplicity of platformers and RPGs of the classic era, then there is plenty of reasons that you should consider getting back into the Game Boy Advance.
Must Own Games
Like I stated earlier this system was Nintendo’s first experiment of creating nostalgia for the brand, and as a result there are lots of great ports of classic games on the handheld. However, I think the Game Boy Advance has lots of original and exclusive titles that are worth your time. So I am not including any ports in this list.
While the tactical role-playing series Fire Emblem, had been well established in Japan at this point, the only knowledge we had of it in the States was the inclusion of two of the series protagonists in Super Smash Bros. Melee. It wouldn’t be until two years later that we got our first Fire Emblem game and it was exclusive to the Game Boy Advance. Fire Emblem is a very special series for not only Nintendo fans, but tactical RPG fans and no Game Boy Advance collection would be complete without a copy of this game.
Wario Land 4
If Nintendo has become known for one thing it is platforming. The Mario games literally made the genre what it is today, but Wario Land 4 may just be one of the best 2D platformers Nintendo has ever made. Wario Land 4 combines action and platforming in unique and beautiful levels that are trademarked with that Wario weirdness that we have come to expect from the character’s games. You’ll use portals to travel to other worlds full of treasure, but once you reach the end of a level you will reopen the portal and be forced to speed run the entire level backwards before the portal closes and leaves you stranded for good. It’s frantic, it’s fun, and it is an absolute must own game for the system.
Metroid Zero Mission
I know I said earlier I wouldn’t put any ports of classic games on this list, and Metroid Zero Mission is no port. This game is a ground-up remake of the original NES Metroid with new abilities, better graphics, cut scenes, and new areas. All of which makes this game not only leaps and bounds better than the original Metroid, but one of the best games in the franchise. If you haven’t played a Metroid game then this is a great place to start, but even if you have you owe to yourself to experience Metroid Zero Mission.
The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap
I wouldn’t say there is such thing as an underrated Zelda game, but if there was one it would probably be The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Developed by Capcom, yes Capcom not Nintendo, The Minish Cap brings an interesting twist to the Zelda formula by giving Link one of the series’ best companion characters Ezlo, a hat that resembles a bird and allows Link to shrink to microscopic size and explore dungeons in the most unlikely places. Exploring miniature dungeons inside of trees and holes in the ground is really fun and Ezlo’s sarcastic sense of humor makes this game quite funny at times as well. The only downside to The Minish Cap is that it is quite a short game, especially when compared to others in the series. However, the short run time and awesome characters make this game one worth revisiting more than once.
WarioWare Inc.: Mega Micro Games is an absolute classic for the Game Boy Advance, but every once in a while a sequel to a game comes out and it is even better than the original. WarioWare Twisted is a prime example of that. The WarioWare series takes simple, but often very strange mini games and chains them together at breakneck speeds. Where WarioWare Twisted stands out is the cartridge’s gyro sensor that requires the player to twist and turn the Game Boy Advance to complete the micro tasks in time. As always with this series, 9-Volt’s games really stand out as they’ll have players spinning the system around to complete a level of Mario Bros. or tilting and turning to help Link block Octorock projectiles. It is truly a unique experience that you can only get on the Game Boy Advance.
As with any great console games tend to get overlooked. They may receive great critical ratings and even garner up a bit of ground swell from a loyal group of fans, but it is almost impossible to play everything that comes out. These are some great games that maybe you missed on the Game Boy Advance and are definitely worth pursuing on your new journey with the handheld.
DK King of Swing
Donkey Kong has never looked more adorable in this action platforming game. And maybe that’s what turned some people away thinking that it was just another kids game, but as someone who has played it, let me tell you the challenge is real. For starters, you will really only use the L and R shoulder buttons in this game, which makes it sound simple, but it is ingenious as each of the buttons controls one of DK’s hands. You will use his hands to grip and release pegs to try and reach the end of a level. Levels are littered with baddies and obstacles such as switches and barrels and only holding onto one peg will cause you to constantly spin, allowing you to move forward and grab onto another peg, but also putting you at risk of hitting enemies. The later levels of the game become quite challenging and the character designs and level aesthetics all have that Nintendo polish. This is a game that is really worth checking out.
Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure
Where the Game Boy Advance often failed was with games that implemented 3D graphics. It usually came off very blurry looking and unimpressive. However, Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure is most certainly an exception to this. The graphics in this game are very impressive considering the hardware they are on and for this game not being developed by Naughty Dog, it nails the feel and aesthetic of classic Crash Bandicoot. I would even venture to say that it is the best Crash game not developed by Naughty Dog. So if you are a Crash Bandicoot fan you will not be disappointed with what this game has to offer. In fact, you should also check out the sequel Crash Bandicoot 2: N Tranced.
Advance Wars is a tactical RPG that plays much like Fire Emblem. However, there are quite a few differences between the two as Advance Wars is a little more accessible without the permadeath mode featured in the Fire Emblem games. Also, many of the maps allow for several different ways to claim victory over your opponent. I would say that they are both great games and if you like Fire Emblem you will definitely find enjoyment in Advance Wars. Hopefully one day Nintendo will resurrect the franchise. Until then we will always have the classics.
Godzilla Domination was released on the Game Boy Advance alongside the console Godzilla fighter Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Melee. While the two are both fighting games featuring everyone’s favorite Kaiju, Godzilla Domination has an awesome old school feel to it. SNK’s King of the Monsters certainly comes to mind whenever playing this game and they are very similar, but Godzilla Domination feels a lot less clunky and each fighter controls differently enough to give the game some variety. There are even some nice additions to the roster that weren’t in Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Melee, like Mothra. For a system with not a lot of great fighting games, Godzilla Domination stands out and provides a lot of fun in quick bursts which is good for any handheld gaming experience.
Mario Tennis: Power Tour
Mario Tennis and Mario Golf on the Game Boy Color featured awesome story modes that were lacking from their console counterparts. And Mario Tennis: Power Tour is a worthy sequel featuring a very in depth story mode with RPG-lite elements that really make this more than your average tennis game. I am not usually one for sports games, but this one is absolutely addicting. If the story mode doesn’t sound like your thing then you can always jump straight into a match and play as some of the classic Mario characters. Games are quick and always leave you wanting to come back for more. Even if you aren’t into sports titles you should really check this out, as you might be surprised how much depth this game really does have.
For the hardcore collectors out there, there is a lot of awesome rarities and fun stuff to hunt down. The systems themselves come in all sorts of colors and there are some pretty neat collectible ones as well. The NES classic edition Game Boy Advance SP is a really cool throwback to the original Nintendo console design. And since the Game Boy Advance is region free, Japanese exclusive collector’s editions like the Famicom edition SP can play all your US games. The most sought after designs by far are the yellow Pikachu console and gold triforce design, but tracking down an unrestored original one can be quite tough.
If collecting the games is more your thing then you might want to be on the lookout for the holy grail of Game Boy Advance games, Ninja Five-0. Developed by Konami, Ninja Five-0 is an action platformer that closely resembles the Ninja Gaiden series. However, due to low print runs tracking down a copy of this game is near impossible without paying a hefty price. There are also some great reproduction carts of games that didn’t make it to the States, like Mother 3. The fan translation of Mother 3 may not be official, but you can pick up a copy in a nicely made case and being able to play it on the system it was made for is a really cool experience.
Best Ways To Play
The Game Boy Advance had three different models the original battery powered version with the wide body, the SP model that featured a rechargeable battery with a clam shell design, and finally the Game Boy Micro which is almost as small as the game cartridges themselves. However, if you want the best experience for playing your Game Boy Advance game you are going to want the SP, but there are two different models of the SP. The AGS-001 is the original model with the front lit screen and that can be a tad bit dark still. You are going to want to look for the AGS-101 model. This is the one that features a backlit screen. You can find the model number on the bottom of the system in the top corner next to the bar code.
Another option would be to get either an original Nintendo DS or DS Lite as both of those allow you to play your Game Boy Advance games and feature the backlit screen. In my opinion, though the absolute best way to play your Game Boy Advance games is the Game Boy Player attachment for the Gamecube. This allows you to play your games on your TV via your Gamecube. There are some neat features too like the ability to change the color of the border on your TV screen. It really is my favorite way to play these games. If you’re thinking about picking up one be sure that you not only get the attachment itself but the start up disc that goes with it. It doesn’t work without it and unfortunately finding the disc can often be hard as many people lose it and just have the attachment.
If you want to stream your gameplay then the best option for you is probably the RetroN 5. The RetroN 5 is a 10 in one system that plays all kinds of games including Game Boy Advance. It has some pretty great features too like HDMI and the ability to create save states. There are plenty of options to play Game Boy Advance games and that is one of the reasons it is such a good system to come back to.
So are you ready to get back into the Game Boy Advance? Be sure to comment on our social media pages and let us know what games for the Game Boy Advance you are most excited to play again. And be sure to check out our blog for more great gaming articles.