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Feature: Staff Memories of the Game Boy Advance

Posted by Nintendo Life Staff

Remembering the last ever Game Boy

This week we have been celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Game Boy Advance. It was the last handheld of the Game Boy era, and is fondly remembered for vivid graphics, multiplayer gameplay and for the portable gaming experience that it offered.

To round off our GBA celebrations, we’ve invited some of our writers to share their memories of the handheld.

Ron DelVillano

Growing up on handheld gaming, I can remember how excited I was when the Game Boy Advance launched. The detailed graphics, the alluring colour spectrum that it was capable of displaying, the promise of great games: it was all perfect. Thankfully, and this isn’t often the case, I was never let down by that little purple machine. Through its entire lifespan (and even beyond that) the GBA has been, in my humble opinion, one of the best gaming consoles of all time.

The one thing that I specifically remember about purchasing the GBA at launch was how fascinated I was with the startup screen. That’s right, the display when you turn the GBA on and the words “GAME BOY” fly onto the screen and reflect an arching rainbow at you. It may seem like absolutely nothing now, but the idea that so much care and effort was put into crafting a simple startup screen was a mark of the quality that Nintendo had put into this handheld. Like most Nintendo products, the Game Boy Advance was a device of pure excellence.

I spent uncountable hours with the GBA, exploring dungeons, training Pokémon and winning races. The shape was a little awkward, but that didn’t stop me from pocketing it wherever I went (later on I switched to a Game Boy Micro for extra portability, but that’s beside the point). All through high school and even into my college years, well after the DS had launched, I still played my GBA regularly. Between the Golden Sun series, Pokémon, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, I became a pretty big fan of RPGs. I literally clocked over 200 hours into FFTA between my Junior and Senior years of high school, and it’s still one of my favourite games to this day. I’m not overly proud to admit this, but there were even certain college lecture courses that I would sneak my GBA into and play on some of the more boring days. Like I said, it literally went everywhere with me.

"It may seem like absolutely nothing now, but the idea that so much care and effort was put into crafting a simple startup screen was a mark of the quality that Nintendo had put into this handheld"

More than anything, the Game Boy Advance is a symbol of independence for me. It was the first gaming console (handheld or otherwise) that I actually purchased by myself without the help of my parents or anyone else. I pre-ordered it at the local toy store and stood outside waiting for the shop to open on launch day. It wasn’t just about getting the gaming console though; it was about sharing the experience with fellow gamers. I spent that time talking to complete strangers about what colour console we were getting, which launch titles we would pick up, other favourite games, and speculating about the approaching launch of the GameCube.

It’s odd to think about, but the Game Boy Advance has had a pretty big impact on my life. While I don’t play it too often anymore, I still consider the GBA to be one of my favourite gaming consoles of all time. From its variety of games, to the console itself, the Game Boy Advance was a great piece of gaming history that should not be dismissed or overlooked.

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User Comments (38)

James

#1

James said:

I remember buying an Arctic White console from my friend a little while after launch, but he didn't tell me about the terrible screen that meant I needed to play it with a spotlight over my shoulder. I still spent hundreds of hours on that little machine though. Good console.

kdognumba1

#2

kdognumba1 said:

Great article. I remember when I got my GBA. I nabbed Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced, Metroid Fusion, and Sword of Mana only to have the system and all 3 games stolen. >.<

I'm so glad to be part of the 3DS ambassador program, it now gives me a chance to play all those games I missed :D

belmont

#3

belmont said:

I also wanted a backlit GBA SP but couldn't find one in stores.
Great article!

Link79

#4

Link79 said:

It does seem strange that Gameboy is no longer the name used for Nintendo's handhelds. When the DS came out I still sometimes called it a Gameboy out of habit.
That was sorta a bad name if ya think about it.
Like only boys play videogames right?
GBA might still be my favorite Nintendo handheld.

citizenerased

#5

citizenerased said:

I played on my friend's original GBA and remember hating the screen/design, but loving the games. Then the GBA SP came around and I bought it along with Metroid Fusion, my first Metroid.

Needless to say, If I could go back in time, I'd pat myself on the back.

Rensch

#6

Rensch said:

I still can't decide if this or the DS is the better handheld, but the GBA, the SP in particular, was the best of the Game Boy systems.

LordJumpMad

#7

LordJumpMad said:

This is the most underrated yet most enjoyble fighting game on the GBA
And I'm talking about Sonic Battle
Untitled

pikku

#8

pikku said:

I'm with Ron. When I first played my brother's GBA in 2001, I was blown away by the start-up screen, and the fact that my first two games were Donkey Kong Country 2, and SUper Mario WOrld, two games I played to death on the SNES, only made it more clear how powerful the system really was compared to the brick Game Boy to which I was accustomed.

AbuJaffer

#9

AbuJaffer said:

The GameBoy Advance was my first portable and it has very dear memories in my heart. From the beatifully animated and detailed games, to the beloved series that continued on the system, to the high power the system offered, I loved my GBA. I look a the 3DS as a sequel to the GBA, seeing how it's the only handheld I've bought since the GBA and, and between all these retro games/2D eShop releases, I feel like we're back in 2000 (which is a good thing). It feels good to go back to the beloved basics.

citizenerased

#10

citizenerased said:

Anyone else agree that the GBA SP is still the most beautiful iteration of Nintendo handhelds? And what an improvement it was!

TheAmazingRaccoon

#11

TheAmazingRaccoon said:

I missed out on the gameboy colour, so when I got my transparent blue (or purple, I am colour blind) GBA the thing that hit me was how cool my original gameboy games looked with the addition of colour. It is funny that I didn't buy a gameboy colour game until about 10 years later because I was busy buying a sizable GBA collection. I can still remember my motion sickness educing sessions with Doom on the GBA, it is the only game I have ever felt sick playing (it was the colour pallet I think).

Omenapoika

#12

Omenapoika said:

SUch nice memories... I remember the day we bought the gba with my brother and dad :) it was the light blue, slightly see-through one with the Mario game at release. Graphics were so great, and the startup screen is welded in my memory.
I plowed through the Mario on my grandparent's couch and grandad says "you can't see anything of that screen" :D
I have maybe 30 cartridges now, haven't counted. Most fond memories are of Metroid Fusion, Tony hawks 2, Super star saga, Mario Kart super circuit, pokemon sapphire...

schumaga

#13

schumaga said:

What a great console it was! Some of my best gaming memories come from deciphering puzzles on Golden Sun or training my Blaziken on Pokemon Saphire. Those two games were my favorites on the system, alongside Leafgreen and Sonic Battle. LordJumpMad, glad to see someone share's my opinion on that game :)

Late

#14

Late said:

GBA has many great games and I wish that they'll let us download those great games from 3DS VC in the future after the Ambassador Program thing. There's more than just 10 great games to download. I have played a lot of GBA games but I never got the chance to buy a console when I was younger partly because of my parents and partly for some reason unknown. And when I got my DS Lite, almost all the GBA games were already sold out in Finland so I have only Minish Cap, Pokémon Ruby and Spyro. I really want to get all the great games for it!

I didn't get into Sonic Battle but my friend played it a lot on his phone two years ago. He probably played it few hours every day. It seems like a funny game but I didn't enjoy it when I tried it.

HugoSmits

#15

HugoSmits said:

I bought Ninja-Five-O for only 20 bucks back in the day :) I think it's the most amazing game I have for GBA (not because it's rare, but because it's really REALLY good gameplay wise).

Other than that I loved the FPS games (Doom, Ecks, Duke) and fighting games. Going from Street Fighter on the GBC to GBA was amazing.. colors everywhere!

Moco_Loco

#16

Moco_Loco said:

I bought a GBA SP not long after getting a GameCube for the same reason I've ended up buying every portable console: I wanted to be able to play games even when other people were using the TV.

While I missed a lot of the classics, I had tons of fun on that thing. Super Mario World was great, but my absolute favorites were Minish Cap and the GBA FIre Emblem games. Oddly I also had a lot of fun with the GBA version of Prisoner of Azkaban, which was a simple, easy RPG but was somehow more enjoyable than either the GCN or PC versions. (Yes, I played all three.)

Rensch

#17

Rensch said:

So many fond memories of this baby. I didn't pick one up until the SP released, but I definitely caught up over the years, partially because of the DS Lite's backward compatability, which I choose over downloadable DSi games any day. Having that 16-bit SNES feeling in the palm of your hand was such a remarkable thing to experience.

StarDust4Ever

#18

StarDust4Ever said:

Great article. It sums up well my feelings towards my first Game Boy, albeit for me it was the Color version. I got that transparent purple Game Boy Color around Christmas 1998 when it launched my Senior year of High School. WarioLand 3 was my favorite title for it. I rubbed the label clean off that thing.

I'm planning on rekindling my Gameboy days by reliving some of my old games on the Gameboy Player for Game Cube, with a RetroZone Game Cube/ SNES adapter.

Thanks, Nintendo, for the memories...

NX01Trekkie1992

#19

NX01Trekkie1992 said:

@Zach I think you got a little confused between the Super Mario Bros. port for gba and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe Edition for the GBC, two different games.

Crystalking18

#20

Crystalking18 said:

I remember when I got my GBA for the first time. It was when it first came out, but I was too young to remember what I had for it. I do remember one day thought when I got home from school and I saw the GBA SP on my kitchen table, or actually 2 of them, one for my brother and one for myself. There was a blue and a red one and fittingly, we has ruby and saphire with the games as well. That's one of my favorite gaming moments.

vdallos

#21

vdallos said:

I bought the gba at launch , the lack of back light was not impediment for playing castlevania and fzero for hours. The gba sp was the best and allow 1 friend of mine buy the mine on cheap almost gift. Then the multiplayer Mario k art Pokemon was the non stopping fun. The favorite game until now is astroboy and close adv.wars

Frodo87

#22

Frodo87 said:

The GBA SP was perhaps the best looking handheld game console ever made. What a beautiful machine.

Sam_Loser2

#23

Sam_Loser2 said:

If I trade in my old DS for a gameboy advance SP, coupled with my 3ds I'll be able to play any Nintendo handheld game out there.

The DS lineup doesn't really compare to all the great advance games.
Yoshi's Island, Sacred Stones, Game & Watch gallary 4 (for all I know I'm the only fan of that game) The Gameboy advance was the best.

Dyl_73

#24

Dyl_73 said:

One of the best consoles ever. Tekken advance, Mario Kart, Golden Sun, Boktai, so many fond memories.

CanisWolfred

#25

CanisWolfred said:

I myself got a hand-me-down Arctic White GBA when my bro "upgraded" to a Glacier Freeze GBA. I spent many an hour on that thing, and I still keep it to do trades on my Pokemon games.

Then I got a Crimson Red GBA Sp, and all of a sudden I was in gaming heaven. I've used that thing every year since I got it, and I probably won't skip a year anytime soon. It's more comfortable than my DS, so I use it for all my GB and GBA games.

The GBA definitely had a great library, too. I have over 40 GBA games, and I love them all. Certainly the greatest Handheld Nintendo ever put out.

ecco6t9

#26

ecco6t9 said:

The only downside of the GBA was that there wasn't a good Tetris released for it. Although it ended up getting the best version of Columns.

I recently came across both a Micro and Blacklit SP, at the end of the day the Backlit SP feels a little better, no matter the system you still have access to an amazing library.

MetroidMasher17

#27

MetroidMasher17 said:

I remember my GBA very fondly. It was the first ever gaming system that I did NOT have to share with my cousin. I loved it. I would play Dr. Mario, Boxxle, Marble Madness and FX Race (all GB or GBC games) like there was no tomorrow. But one day, I saw my cousin play Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2. I finally got my hands on a copy of the game and played it to death. Sadly, one day, the internal save battery died, and I stopped playing GBA.

One day, however, I found Metroid: Zero Mission at a yard sale. The guy who sold it to me described it as a "robot running around" (mental facepalm), and I liked the idea, so I bought it. The game later went on to become my favorite 2D game of all time (yes, even moreso than Super Metroid) and introduce me to the Metroid series.

I have since given my old GBA to my cousin's sister (also my cousin) and bought another one. I still play the new one, but my very fist Arctic White GBA will always have a special place in my heart. I owe the GBA a lot. It began my love of video games and made me the gamer I am today. :)

DiggerandIndy

#28

DiggerandIndy said:

I remember getting a purple GBA original for my birthday, along with Super Mario Advance. A few years later I nabbed a GBA SP NES Edition, which I still have to this day. IMO the best part of the GBA is it can play GB and GBC games. That's 3 systems in one!! :-D

photofool83

#29

photofool83 said:

@Sam_Loser2 I am a huge fan of Game & Watch Gallery 4, as well. I have almost everything unlocked. When I finally broke down and sold my GBA SP, I decided I couldn't part with my copy of G&W4. So I kept it. I might have to purchase another system just to be able to play it again. Or here's hoping to Nintendo releasing it on 3DS Virtual Console.

CanisWolfred

#31

CanisWolfred said:

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was one of the worst strategy games I've ever played, to be honest. It felt like a "My first strategy game" kinda game, it was so basic and easy, and the story is one of the worst ones in a game, made worse by the fact that it gets shoved down your throat rather frequently.

Luckily the GBA had Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis to wash that terrible taste out of my mouth. Now THAT was a great strategy RPG. Too bad more people didn't get to play it.

HappyChris

#32

HappyChris said:

Now that i think about it, my DS didnt have any game better than the ones on my GBA. I still play my GBA games, while i let my DS cartridges collect dust in a corner

Tony3DS

#34

Tony3DS said:

@HappyPwny.....I really loved GBA games too, but I play a lot more DS games while my GBA carts collect dust now. If I do play a GBA game it's on my DS lite, don't you love how much brighter it is than the SP screen?

Shirma_Akayaku

#35

Shirma_Akayaku said:

My Game Boy Advance fell in the toilet when I was around 4-6. This older kid (before it fell in the toilet) took my GBA and tossed it up and down over the balcony on the 27th floor

Next I lost my Game Boy SP in McDonalds. I left it on the table for less than a minute when i went out the door i immediately realized i left it on the table. when i come running back inside, it was gone (and it had pokemon Ruby inside). i cried through out the whole day. i was also around 4-6 at that time.

after I lost my GBA & SP a mexican man that my mom knew bought me an n64 (and it's still working after so many years)

eviLaTtenDant

#38

eviLaTtenDant said:

Another great love letter to the GBA along with the awesome "Remembering the Game Boy Advance" feature Mark wrote. :)
I only bought the GBA in its SP form when I could get the amazing Minish Cap bundle for a very good price. It was shortly after I got the Game Boy Player which I mainly played Metroid Fusion on. So I missed out on quite a few great games that came out during its lifetime. Metroid Fusion, Zero Mission, Minish Cap, F-Zero and Gunstar Future Heroes are the brightest memories i've got along with the system.

Nowadays i'm still glad i've got the GBA SP to play backlit Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on. Fire Emblem, Advanced Wars, Mario & Luigi and Golden Sun along with quirkier titles like Drill Dozer, Kuru Kuru Kururin, WarioWare Twisted, Yoshi's Universal Gravitation, Boktai and many many Japan only games gave the GBA so much fresh content while still having some of the greatest 2D ports and sequels.
It's very hard to say if this or the SNES is the best 2D system ever. And while the DS had great titles, a bigger variety of genres and more control possibilities i somehow cannot remember it as fondly as the great GBA (SP). Maybe because of the heaps of shovelware or because I got the DS at launch or whatever.
Here’s to hoping that more games on the 3DS will feel like spiritual sucessors to the GBA’s lineup. :)

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