Top Ten Tuesday 37

My Top Ten Game Boy Advance Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists but this one is mine, if you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

The Game Boy Advance released in 2001, and was the first major upgrade to the incredibly aging but successful Game Boy. Sure Nintendo had created the slimmer Game Boy Pocket and the nifty Game Boy Color, but it wasn't until the GBA that we really saw an increase in hand held gaming power. Turns out that would lead to lots of Super Nintendo ports, but seeing as how the SNES considered one of the greatest systems of all time, nobody complained. I don't remember much of the original GBA, but I know I traded it in as fast as I could once the super sexy redesigned SP was released in 2003, with an alluring snap shut screen and all important back light.


Top Ten Game Boy Advance Games



10) Golden Sun

The GBA would actually sport very few traditional RPGs, so any fans of the genre greeted this early title with much anticipation. I found it very traditional to a fault as it tread the very safe road of random turn based battles and epic world saving storylines. It did manage a few innovations and at the time was considered one of the best RPGs around, and I ultimately found it fun but forgettable.


9) Pokemon Emerald (Ruby/Sapphire)

My love of Pokémon could be represented by a giant V-shaped graph; in the beginning I was obsessed with the original Red/Blue, but dropped off with both Generation 2 (Gold/Silver) and Gen 3 (Ruby/Sapphire) as I went through high school and on to college. I never finished Gold, and attempted to jump back in at the last minute of Gen 3 using the established final, director's cut type version of Ruby/Sapphire - Emerald. I enjoyed the familiar formula along with the subtle iterations and improvements but ultimately left Gen 3 unfinished about 1/3 of the way through as well (to be fair pokemon games are easily 50 hr games). It wouldn't be until Gen 4 that I would fully absorb myself back into the world of pokemon (hence the V-shape) but more on that when I do my top top DS games!


8) Metroid Fusion

At the time of its release the Metroid franchise had just been given a giant adrenaline shot thanks to the crazy hyped release of Metroid Prime on the Nintendo GameCube, giving Samus her first big 3D action game. While that game was pretty great, I've always been a stickler for traditional 2D Action-Platformer games (or Metroidvanias - see my top ten list!). Nintendo made the brilliant move of releasing a "traditional" Metroid game on the GBA at the same time as Prime, and Metroid fans had the best of both worlds. Fusion combined the awesome gameplay of Super Metroid with a surprisingly cool storyline involving an evil parasite that cloned Samus and all her abilities.


7) Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World

Some folks list Super Mario World as the best platformer and Mario title, and I'm convinced those people were too young to have played Super Mario Bros. 3. Not to take anything way from the marquee SNES title, however, SMW is an amazing Mario platformer and should be considered one of the greatest games ever made. Nintendo smartly began porting over their number one franchise back in the Game Boy Color days with Super Mario Deluxe, but switched to the Super Mario Advance naming convention to release Super Mario Bros. 2 as a launch title for the GBA. In confusing fashion, Nintendo would randomly pick a Mario game and stick it under the Super Mario Advance title heading, with the second game being the grand SNES platformer. One of the best SNES games easily translates to one of the best GBA games.


6) Advance Wars

One of the games on my list that should be on everyone's list, Advance Wars became one of the most memorable new franchises that first appeared on the Game Boy Advance. A turn based strategy game involving cartoony military vehicles was right up my alley, despite my constant cringing at the young people waging war ridiculousness and heavily anime-influenced flavors (I'm just not a fan, sorry). Still the actual gameplay was unlike anything I'd played on most consoles (usually reserved for PC games), and I loved that I could play a true tactical turn based strategy game on a hand held.


5) Mario Kart Super Circuit

Super Mario Kart was pretty damn incredible, and a hand held port was equally amazing. Combine the unique fact that you could play it multiplayer with a single cartridge and suddenly you could play Super Mario Kart without the need for sectioned off split screen on a TV, but each have your own hand held screen! The trend of awesome SNES games on the GBA continued unabated.


4) Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3

I always give the edge to SMB3 as the best Mario title; feel free to read my gushing entry in my Top Ten NES Games list. I'm not sure why it took four damn games for Nintendo to finally give GBA owners their beloved SMB3 port, but we were happy to finally have it, and I could play one of my favorite games all over again.


3) Fire Emblem

The amazing turn based tactical RPG series Shining Force on the Sega Genesis are some of my favorite all time RPGs (Cough TopTenList cough), but sadly I've yet to find any series that takes that same combination of RPG gameplay with turn based tactical combat. The closest series is Fire Emblem, which eschews most of the RPG gameplay elements and distills them down to the awesome tactical combat with some story bits in between. The first GBA version was mine and many Westerners first glimpse of the Fire Emblem series, and though I've only played about half the games released since in the series, I've loved them all for their tactical combat and brutal permanent death consequences. I really, really need to get a 3DS!


2) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

I'd never been much of a Castlevania fan, other than Symphony of the Night which I found absolutely incredible. Suddenly I realized I wasn't alone in my new found love of this venerable franchise, and Konami reacted by releasing a series of three similar-veined Castlevania titles on the GBA. I played all three and enjoyed them, but Aria of Sorrow was head and shoulders the best of the bunch, and one of my favorite games on the Game Boy Advance. AoS used the now traditional Metroidvania style gameplay but added a lot of cool innovations - namely the new Soul system that allowed new protagonist Soma Cruz to absorb the souls of defeated enemies and use them as spells, passive abilities, and stat boosts in a slew of cool customizable ways. The story was also surprisingly memorable and interesting, involving a near future world where Dracula's castle suddenly appears, and Soma may or may not be the reincarnation of the dark lord himself. Thankfully Konami continued to pump out great 2D Castlevania titles on the Nintendo DS and will hopefully never stop.


1) Final Fantasy VI Advance

Seems kind of lame to put another SNES port as my top GBA title, but the GBA did SNES ports so damn well and, well, FF6 was my favorite SNES game of all time. Final Fantasy VI Advance was released extremely late in the systems life cycle (well after the Nintendo DS came out) but I played it religiously, and it's fitting that it still rests snugly in my GBA SP, tucked away in a drawer to this day. The port gave us better graphics and improved localization, which was very nice considering translations back in the day ranged from decent to abysmal. Replaying this masterpiece on the GBA was a major proponent to why it frequently appears on my top ten lists as FF6 has solidified as one of my all time favorite games.



Wrap Up

For a hand held aficionado that had owned a Game Boy since 1991, I was super excited for the Game Boy Advance. Ultimately looking at the library and my own top ten list, however, I now realize that the system's library wasn't all that impressive. Half of my list are ports from previous Nintendo systems, and the original GBA was somewhat bulky and plagued with lighting issues, forcing me to play many early titles under a lamp (especially darker games like Castlevania). The sleek and sexy SP was pretty awesome, however, and I did really enjoy being able to play some of my favorite SNES titles on the go or sitting outside. The GBA's lifespan was also astonishingly short with the Nintendo DS releasing just three years later, though I wouldn't jump on until the DS Lite's release two years later. Thankfully Nintendo's library of hand held games and the system's themselves have improved exponentially ever since - stay tuned for my Top Ten DS Games sometime next month!