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Top 10 best Game Boy Advance (GBA) games of all time, ranked

Game Boy's finest hour

All hail the Game Boy Advance, the over-20-year-old and still king of handheld consoles — if you don’t count those with double screens and/or TV-mounting capabilities. Nintendo’s foundational little device improved upon the Game Boy Color considerably in terms of both hardware power and library, with many of its beloved hits carrying over to the publisher’s modern handheld.

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So, while some folks are busy speculating about the Nintendo Switch 2, let’s break off and honor the best of the best, shall we?

Fire Emblem GBA screenshot - Switch Online Expansion Pack
Image via Nintendo

10. Fire Emblem

When you think about Nintendo RPGs in handheld consoles, chances are that the first name that pops up will be Fire Emblem. That is, in part, because the GBA was the first time home for Fire Emblem in the West, sure. But also, it’s because we’re talking about a fantastic RPG that doubles as the perfect Super Smash Bros. characters factory.

The Fire Emblem series has never disappointed, and even though this isn’t the beginning, it’s still a pretty good place to start.

Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, the brothers challenging Goombas
Image via Nintendo

9. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga

Mario RPGs such as Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario tend to get a lot of love and praise, but those aren’t the only greats of the genre starring Nintendo’s favorite child. Even with rave reviews back in the day, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga tends to be a bit overlooked in the grand scheme of things. It’s worth revisiting if you’ve already run the Mario RPG gamut, and it holds a particularly special place in my heart with its witty writing and original RPG mechanics.

game boy advance gunstar
Image via Treasure

8. Gunstar Super Heroes

The original Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis is seen by many as that console’s finest title. And its sequel, Gunstar Super Heroes, doesn’t rank higher on this list simply because the GBA catalog is incredibly strong.

Super Heroes is theoretically just another shooting sidescroller, but it manages to improve upon the gameplay of the Genesis version via brand-new shooting mechanics. If you’re looking for a handheld-based run-and-gunner, consider going with this one.

Legend of Zelda Minish cap key concept art
Image via Nintendo

7. Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

There’s no shortage of great Zelda titles on the GBA, with both the new Four Swords titles and the classic Link To The Past port, but Minish Cap beats them to the punch by via of originality. The gimmick here is that Link can now become tiny, which helps introduce both a bunch of advantages and interesting new challenges for Link to deal with.

Even though it features Toon Link, the most reviled version of the character, as well as a talking bird hat, it’s still the most fun Zelda adventure you can have on the GBA — so long as your nostalgia for A Link To The Past doesn’t get the better of you.

Metroid Fusion, key box art as it appears on Nintendo Switch
Image via Nintendo

6. Metroid Fusion

Metroid Fusion was part of the tag team that, together with GameCube’s Metroid Prime, unleashed what I’d consider the true golden age of the Metroid series back in ’02.

Fusion not only works as one of the best traditional Metroidvanias of all time but also as one of the most innovative ones. It does everything Metroid does well and introduces a bunch of awesome new mechanics courtesy of an alien lifeform that has created a symbiotic bond with Samus.This is 2D Metroid at its best and most inventive.

Aria of Sorrow's artwork
Image via Konami

5. Castlevania Aria Of Sorrow

Handheld consoles have always been perfect for sidescrollers, but you know what’s better than a traditional sidescroller? A Metroidvania.

Luckily, The GBA is somehow home to both one of the best Metroid games as well as one of the best Castlevania games ever in Aria Of Sorrow. The big addition with this one was a mechanic that allows players to absorb the souls of their enemies and learn their abilities, Soul Reaver style, and then even trade them with other players — Pokémon style. It’s wild

This is the culmination of Konami’s GBA Castlevania trilogy and the one you should go with if you find yourself in a strange situation where a grim reaper-like figure forces you to pick one or else.

Golden Sun, the Game-boy era RPG cover art
Image via MobyGames

4. Golden Sun

I must confess that I was originally going to place Final Fantasy VI Advance in this spot, but the voice of a wise outsider had me reconsidering.

Even though VI is a great conversion of an even greater title, Golden Sun is a masterful RPG that was specifically made with this platform in mind. The result is one of the best RPGs ever made. And I’ll do you one better. If you happen to like Golden Sun as much as it deserves, you can move on to its awesome sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, as soon as you’re done.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, the Nintendo DS sequel, is also very good.

Pokemon Ruby Version cover art
Image via Nintendo

3. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire

If Pokémon Red and Blue initially launched for the GBA, it’d still probably land on a high spot in this list. Graphics be damned, the original game is just that good and addicting. Ruby and Sapphire don’t tinker much with the formula, but it’s prettier than the original games, so that’s more than enough to make it one of the best games on the platform.

Advance Wars and its Gameboy era cover art
Image via Nintendo

2. Advance Wars

This one is, admittedly, a guilty pleasure because giving a game about all-out war an overly cutesy makeover should probably raise some eyebrows, but this is still one of the best turn-based strategy games ever made. Without Advance Wars, there likely wouldn’t be Into The Breach.

And if you’re turned off by the cute graphics, then consider playing Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin, the extremely gritty and grim sequel that’s just as good.

Image via Nintendo

1. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

I know that I’ve been favoring games made directly for the GBA on this list, and having Final Fantasy Tactics occupying the top spot might feel like a betrayal, but, this isn’t some straight Tactics port undeserving of all its praises.

This is the best possible version of Square’s tactics genre, forcing players to really exercise that tactical-brained muscle to succeed in sequences upon sequences of turn-based battles. It’s filled to the brim with some of the smartest mechanics in the history of the series. Though it shares many gameplay elements with the original, this is a new game, one of the best in the entire series, and a game that I cannot believe Square Enix hasn’t revived in over twenty years.


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Tiago Manuel
Tiago is a freelancer who used to write about video games, cults, and video game cults. He now writes for Destructoid in an attempt to find himself on the winning side when the robot uprising comes.