Back in June, the Game Boy Advance was celebrating its 10 year anniversary. We’re sure there was a party, with lots of balloons and a GBA shaped cake, but we weren’t there. We were a bit tied up with the excitement of E3 and the unveiling of the Wii U, while also looking ahead to what was next for the 3DS. Now we have to admit that we forgot the occasion, apologise to the snazzy little handheld and send it a belated birthday card.
So, in honour of the anniversary that we almost forgot, this is GBA Features week. We’re kicking things off with a poll: what is the most memorable third party GBA game? We’re focusing on games that weren’t published by Nintendo, as many of the first-party GBA classics were already discussed in our Ambassador Programme feature. It’s easy to forget that this handheld had its fair share of support from major developers, so our team has been raiding its memory banks and retro GBA collections to compile a list of 10 classics. There’s only one title per franchise, and this isn’t a top 10 based on review scores, but a collection of titles that we think represent some of the most enjoyable and diverse third-party experiences on the console.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor — This was a critically acclaimed 2D beat-em-up that boasted bright, vibrant visuals. The occasional sidescrolling shooter level was thrown in for good measure.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon — There were three Castlevania titles on the GBA, all highly regarded. We’ve opted for the first title on the handheld, known simply as Castlevania in PAL regions, as it was a launch title that demonstrated the capabilities of the device while delighting fans of the franchise.
ChuChu Rocket – ChuChu Rocket arrived on the GBA as a launch title, a remake of the Sega Dreamcast original. A frenetic and fun puzzle game, it was the single cartridge multi-player that truly shone.
Duke Nukem Advance — In the interests of diversity, a first-person shooter was required in the list. While Doom and Doom II were strong contenders, its sense of fun as well as an original storyline gave this title the edge.
Final Fantasy VI Advance — It was a close-run contest with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but this port of Final Fantasy VI took a classic title, added some subtle enhancements, and provided gamers with the opportunity to enjoy the famous RPG on the go.
Final Fight One — Another beat-em-up makes the list, this being the GBA-exclusive remake of the original Final Fight. With a save feature and multiplayer via the GBA link cable, this was a must buy for fans of the SNES or arcade original.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town — The Harvest Moon series has been prominent on Nintendo consoles in recent generations, with this title providing GBA owners with the engrossing challenge of successfully managing a profitable farm. Many hours have been lost to this game.
Ninja Five-O — Known as ‘Ninja Cop’ in Japan and PAL regions, this title is packed with old fashioned, arcade ninja action. With inspiration from classics such as The Revenge of Shinobi and the arcade original of Ninja Gaiden, this title shouldn’t be missed by ninja fans.
Sonic Advance – The idea that Sonic would appear on a Nintendo handheld would have been inconceivable in the 1990s, yet in 2002 it became a reality. A Sonic title with classic appeal as well as hints of a new direction for the series, this title was historic and, at the same time, rather good.
Tony Hawk's Underground — There was a time when Tony Hawk titles on the GBA represented gaming of the highest quality: this fourth entry typified what once made the franchise so popular. Impressive graphics and polished gameplay were supplemented by an excellent story mode, making this a stand-out in the series.
So those are ten third-party GBA titles that we consider to be worth a bit of retro gaming time. Of course, we’ve had to exclude some excellent titles, and in some cases select one entry from a series packed with top-notch games. You can vote for your favourite in our list on Facebook, or we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What’s your favourite or most memorable third-party game on the GBA?