Get that GBA on the NSO ASAP
If there is one thing I’m going to miss when the Wii U and 3DS eShops finally close their doors for good, it’s being able to actually buy the old games I remember from my childhood from the Virtual Console. Nintendo has the richest back catalog of any developer in the industry today and it’s just a shame that going forward, the only way we might be able to experience some of these titles is with Nintendo Switch Online. Don’t get me wrong. I like the service, and I think the selection of NES and SNES titles is pretty solid. But considering how much of Nintendo’s history is tied to portable devices that are currently not available on the subscription service, fans are missing out on a part of the company’s and the industry’s legacy.
That might be changing, though. Recently, reports surfaced online that Nintendo’s emulator for the Game Boy Advance had leaked with a handful of notable titles leaking alongside it. Whether or not this is legit remains to be seen, but if this is what’s next for the Nintendo Switch Online service, consider me excited (certainly a lot more excited than I am for those N64 games it’s slowly adding to the Expansion Pass tier). I wanted to share my excitement with the rest of the writers here at Destructoid, so I asked them to name the GBA title they’d most like to see appear on NSO should this leak prove legit.
The number one GBA game I’d love to play on my Nintendo Switch will always be Ninja Five-O. Developed by Hudson Soft and published by Konami, the action platformer flew way under the radar in 2003, releasing right around the same time as Golden Sun: The Lost Age and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. Reviews were great but sales were dismal. The game faded from the market as quietly as it came in, only to resurge in popularity when people start writing articles about the best GBA games. Unfortunately, that surge was far too small to warrant a second printing of the game, and prices for original copies skyrocketed. I have never played Ninja Five-O, but I’ve wanted to for many years because of all the love it’s received from the lucky few who did manage to give the game a chance way back when.
Here’s the catch, though. Ninja Five-O is one of the listed titles in the GBA Emulator leak, and it, along with a few others, actually has me thinking this leak might not be legit. Because it’s almost too perfect for an obscure yet beloved GBA game that costs a fortune to purchase these days to appear on the list of compatible games for this emulator. It’s entirely possible, I’ll admit. After all, NSO has seen some pretty obscure games before. But I just don’t think we’re that lucky or that this timeline is that generous. – CJ Andriessen
Nobody likes to be wrong, but I would love it if everything I’ve heard over the past 5 years about Mother 3‘s chances of being brought overseas turned out to be outdated information. If you haven’t heard of the game before, well, you have a lot to catch up on. First released in Japan 16 years ago, Mother 3 is a comedic, tragic tale. With heart-wrenching deaths, multiple gender-nonconforming characters, and messages of anti-capitalism and anti-television(!), an unaltered release of Mother 3 on the western Switch Online service would be sure to make headlines. Fans who have demanded it for years would go bananas. Others would demand boycotts of Nintendo for being (gasp!) “too woke.”
It’s hard to imagine that Nintendo wants to deal with all this controversy, but again, I’d love to be wrong if it meant getting to play the best RPG of the GBA era on my Switch. – Jonathan Holmes
Gunstar Super Heroes
An oft-forgotten gem in the Treasure catalog, Gunstar Super Heroes (also known as Gunstar Future Heroes) was released on Game Boy Advance in 2005 and serves as a direct sequel to the beloved Sega Mega Drive classic of 1993. Once again, the color-coded Team Gunstar goes into battle against the reformed “Empire”, on a mission to prevent the resurrection of the terrifying overlord, Golden Silver.
Gunstar Super Heroes takes the explosive, pixelated, run ‘n’ gun chaos of its predecessor and scales it down to the handheld console’s diminutive form. While the wide arsenal of weapons, creative boss battles, and dynamic combat are all present and correct, Gunstar Super Heroes includes funky fresh maneuvers, fun new characters and bosses, and even a new gender for protagonist Red — now a gun-toting gal.
While rated highly by critics, even winning “Best GBA Game” at E3 2005, Gunstar Super Heroes did not, sadly, see sales success. And while it is hardly a five-star release, this pocket-sized blaster, much like the entire Gunstar Heroes franchise, deserves better than to languish in the “Where Are They Now?” file. – Chris Moyse
This might be shocking to hear, but I am just now embarking on my Pokémon journey for the first time as an adult after I was banned from playing any of the games as a kid. There was a lot of debate amongst my Pokémon-loving friends about which game I should start with, but we finally decided that LeafGreen was the best option — and I don’t think there could have been a better choice.
As I’m playing it, I keep imagining myself at 10 years old, embarking on this adventure for the first time, and it rules. It may be a simple game, but it’s so well designed I find its gameplay loop engaging, entrancing even.
So, with as much fun as I’ve been having, the only downside is that because I’m playing it on a ROM on my friend’s computer, I can only play it when I go over to his place. Having it on a handheld console would not only be convenient, but I think it would also be another great way to emulate the original LeafGreen experience for myself, even if I missed that boat fifteen years ago. I’d definitely be looking forward to the other games on the leaked list that I haven’t played yet (of which there are many), but I think I’d wanna start with this one if it were included. – Noelle Warner
Wario Land 4
Hand me a Nintendo Switch with Wario Land 4 loaded on it, and I’m going to play it — all of it. Right then and there. I’ll collect every jewel and even do the baseball mini-game.
This ended up being the very first Game Boy Advance game I was able to play, and it wowed me in person. It felt like a huge leap, visually. Heck, looking over random screenshots today, the crisp, colorful, gnarly-looking pixel art holds up so well — the bosses and Wario transformations, especially. I wish more games looked like this!
While I haven’t gone back to play all of the prior Wario games (and I probably never will, if I’m being honest), there’s something about Wario Land 4 that resonates with me to this day. It has that “Wow, this is immediately fun” factor going for it, as well as memorable art, animation, and music. Dashing into blocks and weirdos just feels right. And even though the game is accessible to me on Wii U and 3DS, it deserves a spot on Switch, too. – Jordan Devore
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 1 & 2
The GBA had a great many unforgettable games but of all of them (except maybe Final Fantasy Tactics Advance), I want to see Atlus’ ports of Super Robot Wars OG and OG2. Back then they were so unsure about its appeal in the west that they went by the untranslated Super Robot Taisen title, even! I like Super Robot Wars, but even after the frankly miraculous overseas release of Super Robot Wars 30, my favorites are still the “Original Generation” titles, which use the various game-exclusive characters and designs as the stars of their own setting. So rather than a funky excuse to have Char from Gundam hang out with Shinji from Evangelion and what-have-you, I’ve always felt that the OG series has operated under more pressure to stand on its own, with interesting arcs and fun characters that don’t lean on the extreme brand recognition a classic mecha gets you.
Of course, at this point, the ideal situation would be for Bandai Namco to enhance and port over the PS3-era Super Robot Wars OGS, but if we’re talking GBA games that exist and that I’d like to see more people play, these are the ones. – Josh Tolentino
Astro Boy: Omega Factor
Everything I’ve ever seen, watched, or read related to Astro Boy has been extremely disjointed and weird, making it a perfect fit for legendary developer Treasure (so amazing, they’ve already been featured on this list with Gunstar Super Heroes). Astro Boy: Omega Factor was an easy title to overlook back in 2004, and the only reason I picked it out of a bargain bin was its pedigree. It lives up to those papers by showing off ridiculous attacks, over-the-top gameplay, and tight graphics. Frankly, I think Treasure’s library should always be, er, treasured, so it would be great to see this cult classic be given another chance.
What are the chances someone will work through all the licensing needed to make this happen? About as likely as someone going to the effort of re-releasing McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure, it should be done, but I’ll believe it when I see it. – Zoey Handley
Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand
There is no shortage of excellent GBA games that could go on here because the GBA is a pretty fantastic little device. It’s got RPGs, platformers, and even some of its fighting games ain’t half bad. But if we’re doing a dream Switch Online lineup, I want to see some swings for the fences. Let’s the oft-forgotten Hideo Kojima handheld classic Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand.
Boktai infamously used a detector to capture sunlight as part of its core mechanic. So much like extremely two-screen Nintendo DS games, this makes it a bit more of a conundrum to port-forward. But Boktai is also an interesting piece of the Game Boy Advance’s library; it’s an action RPG with some cool mechanics and an intriguing setting. The sunlight isn’t just a gameplay feature, but lore too. I’d love to see this persevere in some updated way to at least showcase the stranger experiments in the GBA’s library. – Eric Van Allen
So many great games named above and so many more that didn’t make the cut, including Drill Dozer, Golden Sun, and Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. But as Eric says, the GBA is a pretty fantastic device with a solid library of great games across multiple genres that I can’t wait to have very slowly rolled out onto the Nintendo Switch Online service. That’s our list. What are the games you most want to see make an appearance?