The Game Boy Advance is the quintessential handheld game console of the early 2000s, offering stellar gameplay in an exceptionally portable fashion. The release of the Game Boy Advance SP model in 2003 saw increased popularity, while the Game Boy Micro closed out the handheld family in a fun way 2005. In the decades since its release, the Game Boy Advance has been beloved by gamers around the world, both for its ease of play and incredible library of games.
There’s a lot of nostalgia tied to this amazing system, whether fueled by gaming on the school bus or during work breaks. That’s mostly due to the 1,500+ games available for the Game Boy Advance, some far more immersive than others. In a continuing effort to pledge my love for Nintendo’s classic handheld, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 Game Boy Advance games of all time. If you don’t see your favorite on this list, fret not, as a multitude of excellent games didn’t make the cut. Listed in no particular order, these are the top 10 best Game Boy Advance games!
The Top 10 Game Boy Advance Games of All Time
1. Metroid Fusion
The day after Metroid Prime came out on the Nintendo GameCube, the Game Boy Advance also received a timeless sci-fi adventure in the form of Metroid Fusion. Set after the events of Super Metroid, this adventure sees bounty hunter Samus Aran battling a deadly parasite on the planet of SR388. Like the other games in the franchise, Fusion offers intense sidescrolling action, satisfying exploration, and a decent dose of challenge.
Despite being released on a handheld, Fusion felt just as immersive and rewarding as the Metroid games on home consoles, further refining the formula into portable perfection. Many consider Metroid Fusion to be the best Game Boy Advance game of all time, and while I’m not ready to make a personal verdict yet, it’s definitely one of the front-runners.
2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
After seeing some success with other RPG-style Mario games like Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG, Nintendo rolled the dice and released Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Game Boy Advance. This exceptionally goofy and lighthearted adventure follows the iconic plumber brothers as they venture to the mysterious Beanbean Kingdom in an effort to restore Princess Peach’s voice. Along the way, you meet tons of zany characters while completing interesting puzzles and participating in simple but strategic turn-based battles.
In addition to its hilarious dialogue and uplifting narrative, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga introduced a new generation to turn-based RPGs in a way that was approachable, entertaining, and lived up to the quality of a Super Mario title.
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
As was the case with Metroid, The Legend of Zelda had already made the jump to 3D graphics by the time the Game Boy Advance rolled around, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from rooting to the series’ roots and releasing an absolute masterpiece. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a top-down adventure calling back to the NES and SNES games, which sees our hero Link embarking on a bite-sized journey to a miniature world.
Playing out like an ultra fantastical version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, this wonderful adventure did an excellent job toying with the player’s sense of scale, while introducing new weapons and items to spice up the formula. Not only is it one of the top 10 Game Boy Advance games of all time, but The Minish Cap is also one of the most unique and enjoyable Zelda games of the bunch!
4. Pokemon Emerald
Pokemon was already an international sensation by 2001, and the release of Pokemon Emerald proved that there was no sign of the franchise slowing down. Essentially, Emerald is the “ultimate” version of Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Sapphire combined, offering everything those two GBA classics had but with even more content.
This fantastic entry in the RPG franchise tasks players with exploring the colorful region of Hoenn, catching Pokemon, and defeating the eight challenging Gym Leaders to earn their crown as the ultimate Pokemon Trainer. Emerald added new story content, more Pokemon to catch, and a slew of other new features, making it the definitive Pokemon experience on the Game Boy Advance.
5. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Aria of Sorrow kind of flipped the script on the Castlevania formula, offering familiar gameplay but lacking a vampire-hunting protagonist from the Belmont clan. Despite this radical change in narrative, this GBA-exclusive action is considered one of the best in the entire Castlevania franchise, with its tight combat, inventive features, and significant replayability.
Like in previous Castlevania games, Aria of Sorrow puts you in control of a brave hero exploring Dracula’s castle, slaying supernatural beings and all manner of macabre monsters. With the game’s new Tactical Soul feature, you can absorb the souls of different enemies, replicating their abilities and giving baddies a taste of their own medicine. Through and through, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is an engrossing game packed with dark-fantasy action, and it was one of my most played Game Boy Advance games for years and years.
6. Advance Wars
For players who wanted to take a gentle step into the world of tactical turn-based strategy games but weren’t interested in fantasy storytelling, Advance Wars was a perfect choice. In both the solo story campaign and multiplayer modes, Advance Wars offers straightforward combat with very little frills, excelling in its simplicity. Commanding any of the four available armies in the game, it’s your objective to destroy the entire enemy army or capture their base, granting multiple paths to success.
When played at the highest level of competition, Advance Wars can feel just as complex as a tense game of chess, with its grid-like structure and varied unit abilities. It might not have the flashiest graphics or craziest gameplay, but Advance Wars is undeniably addictive and perfect for quick play sessions throughout the day.
7. Mario Golf: Advance Tour
While the home console Nintendo sports games like Mario Tennis and Mario Strikers are tons of fun, Mario Golf: Advance Tour offers a slightly more in-depth experience, despite being a Game Boy Advance title. This casual sports title is part arcade-style golfing simulator and part top-down RPG, adding a narrative arc to your putting progression.
It’s a blast to drive, chip, and putt your way through a variety of courses as you level up your player character, facing off against classic characters from the Super Mario franchise. While it’s easy enough to find modern golf RPGs on the Switch like Golf Story and RPGolf Legends, Mario Golf: Advance Tour was a sequel that elevated both the quality and popularity of the sub-genre.
8. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!
This first entry in the quirky and fast-paced WarioWare franchise was a perfect fit for the Game Boy Advance, pitting players against a flurry of microgames to test their skills, most only lasting a few seconds. Each microgame is over-the-top and absolutely bonkers, including dodging a hot dog car or spraying graffiti around ghosts. There are also some microgames that have you playing a few seconds of classic Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda, which are tons of fun.
Overall, WarioWare Inc presents a vast variety of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it experiences that scratch every type of gaming itch. Although there aren’t many modes, the eclectic library of over 200 microgames provides hours of entertainment, seemingly tailor-made for quick play sessions while on the go.
9. Fire Emblem
While the series had already been popular in Japan for some time, Fire Emblem eventually made it to Western audiences with this seminal Game Boy Advance release. Like Advance Wars, Fire Emblem features grid-based strategy gameplay with turn-based battles, but differs with its extensive narrative, simplistic combat cycle, and perma-death mechanic.
Even if you’re not a fan of strategy games, it’s hard not to become addicted to Fire Emblem‘s rock-paper-scissors-esque combat. Combined with a solid story of war and triumph, this tactical RPG turned the franchise into a worldwide hit, leading to plenty of sequels and spin-offs. If you’re wondering why there are so many Fire Emblem characters in games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you can thank this GBA gem for that.
10. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
There are lots of ports and remakes on the GBA, and for the most part, we chose to leave those off of this list of the top 10 Game Boy Advance games. However, we must make an exception for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, which was both a technical marvel and a blast to play. Like its home console counterparts, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on Game Boy Advance features smooth skateboarding gameplay, an intuitive trick system, and an addictive score-based progression system.
While the GBA version has an altered isometric perspective, it’s still amazing that the developers managed to produce such impressive graphics on the limited hardware. If you can excuse the lackluster soundtrack and skewed camera, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is just as much fun on Game Boy Advance as it is on PlayStation and Nintendo 64.