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Talking Point: The Most Memorable Third Party Game Boy Advance Games

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

We’re a bit late to the party

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?

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User Comments (78)




Good feature article there. I think my 3rd party fav for the GBA was the Sonic Advance series. There were SO many good 3rd party games on the console. Had an all time great library up there with the SNES, PS2, DS.

I've played most of the games on that list....



Link79 said:

The Sonic Advance series as well as all three Castlevania games were awesome!
Also the Megaman Zero games.



AbuJaffer said:

God dangit never played any of these. But I played Sonic on the Genesis so I'll choose something I know is full of quality...

While we're at it, my favorite 3rd-party game was Lady Sia. It really changed my perception on how women can be portrayed in video games as a kid, seeing how I had a Genesis (no Metroid!).



belmont said:

Castlevania Aria of Sorrow is by far the best game on GBA (1st and 3rd party) in my opinion.



Shiryu said:

I never found Ninja Five-o for sale over here. Awesome, awesome game.



ToneDeath said:

Gunstar Future Heroes springs to mind, though the Mega Drive original is even better. Both games pushed the consoles to their limits though.



CanisWolfred said:

Ninja Five-O, Circle of the Moon, Astro Boy, and Sonic Advance I'll agree with (though I still say Sonic Advance 2 is far better), but the rest made me laugh hard. Seriously, some of those games were better left forgotten rather than being "memorable".

In addition to the 4 already mentioned, I'd say Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, Mega Man Zero 4, Gunstar Super Heroes, Boktai, Final Fantasy V, and Klonoa 2: The Dream Champ Tournament are the most memorable Third Party games on the GBA in my opinion (with Honorable Mentions going to Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 1 & 2 and Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 1 & 2).



Highwinter said:

In my opinion, the Advance games were terrible, they're the pure epitome of everything wrong with "modern Sonic". Poor level design, annoying friends, pits of death everywhere, bad music..



ueI said:

Out of all the choices given, I think I'd vote for Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town if I had a facebook. I did like Sonic Advance, although I never played the sequels.



Gavin_Rozee said:

Some third party games I remember enjoying:

Lady Sia
Ecks vs Sever
Banjo Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge
Spyro: Season of Ice



Shadowflash said:

Sonic Advance 3 (playing multi-player) was the best time of my life. Easily sucked away hours and days and weeks of my time .




Off top of my head (memory brain ache time):

Tony Hawks Pro Skater series, Street Fight Alpha 3, Spiderman Mysterio's Menace, Puyo Pop, Racing Gears Advance, Moto Racer Advance, Super Puzzle Fighter 2, GT Advance Championship, Colin McRae Rally, Ultimate Brain Games, Sonic Advance series were particular favourites of mine but I played so many more 3rd party GBA games I would say.

On your list ChuChu Rocket, Astro Boy Omega Factor, Final Fantasy IV Advance were the ones I played and loved. I'd rather play a FF game, or any RPG game, on a GBA or a DS than any other console frankly



shonenjump86 said:

Asrto Boy Omega factor is my favorite GBA game, it was so awsome. Final Fight One and Sonic Advance are good too.



grumblegrumble said:

None of those games are memorable or were favorites to me, but then again I'm weird like that. lol. I was always a fan of puzzle games and Nintendo in-house franchise games such as Metroid, Zelda: Minish Cap and SMB Advance.



BigBluePanda said:

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is the best HM ever.
Even if the translation was a bit allover the place!



BigBluePanda said:

And I know this is wishful thinking at it's peak, but it would be so awesome if one or two of these titles completed the Ambassador selection.



Ristar42 said:

Final Fight One was good, but daft that Capcom repeated the SNES censorship on the GBA, which made me go for the Japanese version. For me, Double Dragon Advance (which I had to Import from the US) is probably the better game overall.
Good choices, I really need to try Ninja Cop as I'm a fan of classic Shinobi games.



shingi_70 said:

Had some good times with Astro Boy. Never completed the 2nd quest.

Another great but underrated game is Omishuna tatics? Not as deep as FFA but was great in its own right.



Adamant said:

The Mega Man Zero series are some of the finest action platformers ever produced, and among my favorite GBA games.



Morpheel said:

My HM: FoMT deletes saved files as soon as I turn off the game.

So many lost hours LOST.



RedBlueSpot said:

Castlevania Aria of Sorrow is by far the best game for the Advance. It's one of the best Castlevania games too.



Linkuini said:

It's been mentioned already, but Gunstar Super Heroes was even better than Astro Boy, good as it was. What else...

Scurge: Hive came out so late it got a DS game alongside it. I haven't gotten to play it all the way through, but what I got through was good. I had to admire the boldness of giving the player a time limit between reaching a save point. It made me do some backtracking sometimes, but it also kept me occupied when I wasn't sure what to do next, and the constant sense of urgency was exciting without being frustrating.

Other than that, I had some Crash and Spyro games, but they really didn't work out so well on the GBA. I sure did buy a lot of Nintendo titles.



JamieO said:

I think that this list does a great job of showing the diversity of genres available on GBA and that there are plenty of third-party treats available, to complement Nintendo's own classics.

I personally have very similar taste in games to @Mickeymac and @Ristar42, that is something that I have noticed in my time at Nlife. However, the challenge of compiling a list like this is to allow for a variety of gamer's tastes.

For example, I love Double Dragon Advance, but Final Fight One is still an incredibly relevant beat-'em-up conversion. Similarly, I have tons of time and appreciation for Gunstar Super Heroes, but I can see how Astro Boy: Omega Factor is arguably the more rounded, accomplished and deserving title to make the list.

The other challenge I see in compiling a list like this is that the Sonic Advance and Castlevania series of games each appeared three times on GBA. You could have an entire forum thread debating which is the best GBA Castlevania or Sonic Advance game, but I am honestly happy to see any of those six games appearing here.

Ultimately, I think that if you invested in all ten of these games, you would have a cracking collection of third-party games for your GBA.

...and if you own Ninja Five-O, please send it to me, it is not worth that much money. I'm sure you won't miss it.



bezerker99 said:

Interestingly, Koji Igarashi (IGA) had nothing to do with Circle of the Moon. He doesn't even like it and considers it non-canon.



TKOWL said:

Megaman Battle Network 6 was freaking awesome. I still play that game with my friend, with that old-style link cable



Yanchamaru said:

My all time favorite would be Gunstar Super Heroes. Final Fight One, Lunar Legend, Metal Slug Advance, and King of Fighters EX2 round out the top five.



JimLad said:

Sonic Advance: The last truly great Sonic games ever made. (Rush 1+2 were good but not as good imo)
I had Final Fight One, didn't think much of it.
My GBA was dominated by Advance Wars



Ristar42 said:

@JamieO - Yep, I remember playing Double Dragon, Final Fight and Shinobi in the arcades way back when. The GBA updates were great, with the exception of Shinobi. I'd give a mention to the GBA versions of Out Run and Super Hang-On too, as they are pretty good considering the hardware.

Retro Gamer Magazine has a feature on the GBA this month and also reminded me about Ninja Cop / Five-O as a great Shinobi type game, so I'll be looking to get a copy.



LittleKing said:

Astro Boy was a hidden gem. I spent forever playing ChuChu Rocket... I played most of the Megaman Battle Network games a few years back, and Advance Wars was always fun to play. Too many good GBA titles.



JamieO said:

@Ristar42 Agreed on a number of points mate, I have Retro Gamer Issue 94 too, and I can second your recommendation of it for the GBA article. It looks at twenty notable games that were not remakes and has a box-out for special mention of another five titles (including the TMNT game by Ubisoft Montreal, that played like an homage to Konami's colourful side-scrolling brawlers). Plus there is a two page 'Future Classic' spread on GBA Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.

I hear you about Shinobi on GBA, I read such bad things about that game that I never invested in it to try it for myself. In some respects it sullied the fine name that is The Revenge of Shinobi. I would love to find out that it was not as bad as the reviews described, but I am doubtful.

I have brilliant memories of recapturing SEGA's '80s arcade days, by playing SEGA Arcade Gallery while I was on holiday in France. With OutRun, Space Harrier, After Burner and Super Hang On available on one cart it was a quality compilation, especially since I had not played Super Hang On since the Mega Drive days. Unfortunately the GBA compilation SEGA Smash Pack had a completely dire conversion of Golden Axe that disappointed considering the GBA's capabilities.



TeeJay said:

I agree with Dragoon. Megaman Battle Network 6 was my favorite 3rd party GBA title.



Ristar42 said:

@JamieO - I think without been able to attach a screen to the Saturn and carry it about, GBA SEGA Arcade Gallery is where its at.

Retro Gamer is first and only games magazine I've bought every month since the 16-bit days.

Emulation on Smash Pack was bad on Dreamcast and GBA. I might need to check out that TMNT game as well. GBA has so many great games, listing ten cant be easy...



BulbasaurusRex said:

I don't know which one is best, as I've only played one of them (plus the GameCube one, which I find to be highly underrated), but I have to give a shout out to my favorite incarnation of Mega Man games, the Battle Network series.



Linux_Man said:

The GBA had a fine selection of third-party RPGs, namely Final Fantasy I and II Dawn of Souls, easily added several hours to the life of the games, plus 2 Final Fantasy games in a single cart + additions was a great value. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance ate away hours of my time. Shining Force Resurrection of the Dark Dragon was another great game, though not really a fan of some of the additions. The Breath of Fire ports were also pretty good. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was a pretty fun game, though I think I would have preferred it to be separate from the KH series.

The Sonic Advance games were really the last decent Sonic games to be made (though I'm hoping for Generations to change that) and all were pretty fun. And the Castlevania games were good also.

To be honest (and this might just be nostalgia talking) the GBA era was a nearly perfect era of portable games, there were just so many good ones. From nearly perfect RPGs like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy, and Advance Wars, to remakes of all the classic Mario games, to some really off-beat and original content like Wario Ware and Mario and Luigi's Superstar Saga, the GBA had something for everyone.



ecco6t9 said:

The GBA's catalog of must play/must have games is massive. It truly is one of the best systems of all time.

Honestly we could all go on all day about every single great game on there, some even average games are great games as well.

Gadget Racers
Activision Anthology
Super Puzzle Fighter
Puyo Pop
Columns Crown
Gem Smashers(Which is getting a 3DS update,)
Space Invaders
Dual Blades
Phantasy Star Collection
Jet Grind Radio
Sonic Pinball Party
Pinball of the Dead



sketchturner said:

Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear is my favorite GBA game of all time. I don't normally like tactical shooters, but it is absolutely amazing how well they designed the levels in a 2D format.



Slapshot said:

I'm still kicking myself that I forgot to throw the awesome Konami Krazy Racers into the batch!

Other than that, the only one on the list that I don't own is Ninja Five-O, and I'll be tracking it down asap. Somehow this awesome ninja title has slipped through my fingers all these long year, but it shall slip no more!



shinobi88 said:

I'd buy every ones of those games from NL's list (Astro Boy my fave GBA game EVER), except for the RPG's (turned based battles, not my thing). I'm a lil suprised about how many GBA games I'd pick up off the eShop. My favorite system of all time is the Genesis, and GBA games were similar to them in graphics and technical capabilities. But GBA games exceeded Genesis games in those areas in many instances.

Since the DS library SUCKED in terms of Beat 'Em Ups, I'd love to see some of those non-licensed GBA Beat 'Em Ups on the VC like Double Dragon Advance, Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realm, Comix Zone, and River City Ransom Ex.

If a Shinobi can dream, I'd put X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse and TMNT on there. Both XCELLENT games that represent my first and last GBA titles.

Nintendo, quit being loco and make GBA games available to ALL 3DS owners!!!



SuperSonic said:

SONIC ADVANCE 3!!! Gotta be some of the best music around! But then there's also Sonic Advance 2, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Yoshi's Island.



NovaParadigm said:

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was my first and favourite GBA title. Give it the recognition it deserves!



DrDaisy said:

Ah, Circle of the Moon. That was one of two games I rented with a Game Boy Advance to test it out (the other being Super Mario Advance). This is in regards to the middle picture in the article. It's hard to choose a favorite game, but TMNT was pretty cool.



WaveGhoul said:

Blah, i feel totaly left out considering I haven't played more than maybe 5 GBA titles when i had my GBA back during it's Which were Super Mario Advance, F- Zero: MV, Tony Hawk, Mario Kart SS and Chu Chu Rocket.....Yet as of late I've experienced Mega Man & Bass and Mega Man Zero..... I mean I lost interest in the GBA because of the Gamecube, yet at that point i was never too big on Hand helds to begin with...

Zelda: Minish Cap, Wario Land 4, Metroid Zero Mission, MMZ 2,3 & 4, Shante, WarioWare, Double Dragon Advance, Metroid Fusion ect. I need you now baby.



kdognumba1 said:

Its really sad, I've been gaming for quite some time but never really played much on handhelds which is also one of the driving reasons I got a 3DS (yes for the VC). I really need to go back and play GBA games!



retro_player_22 said:

My favorite 3rd party GBA games are these:

  • Sonic Advance 1, 2, 3
  • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and Tournament Edition
  • Castlevania COTM, HOD, & AOS
  • Final Fight One
  • Double Dragon Advance
  • Gunstar Super Heroes
  • Lunar Legends
  • Final Fantasy I, II, III, IV, V, & VI, Tactics Advance
  • Mega Man Battle Network 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6
  • Astro Boy: Omega Factor
  • Dragon Ball: Advance Adventure
  • Phantasy Star Collection
  • Konami Krazy Racers
  • Crash Nitro Kart
  • Banjo Pilot
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge
  • Sabrewulf
  • Rayman Advance, Hoodlum Havoc, and Hoodlum Revenge
  • Earthworm Jim 1 & 2
  • Aero the Acro-bat
  • Fire Pro Wrestling 1 & 2
  • TMNT
  • Guilty Gear X
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival
  • Street Fighter Alpha 3
  • Tekken Advance
  • Spyro: Season of Ice and Flames
  • Mega Man & Bass
  • Mega Man Zero 1, 2, 3, & 4
  • GT Advance 1, 2, & 3
  • Metal Slug Advance
  • Contra 3
  • The King of Fighters EX 1 & 2
  • Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realm
  • Columns Crown
  • Super Puzzle Fighters II Turbo
  • Bust-A-Move Advance
  • Chu Chu Rocket
    and more...


PJRandall said:

My personal faves were Metroid: Zero Mission, and Sonic Advance 2. Wonderful, wonderful games.



Sakura_Moonlight2421 said:

Astroboy and Harvest Moon......I would have loved Final Fantasy Tactics instead of IV again...(had both the GBA and DS versions got the PSP version only for the After Years story)...



moosa said:

One I haven't seen anyone mention yet: Advance Guardian Heroes. That game is crazy.



outrun2sp said:

GBA is an amazing Handheld console. The only one im interested in and im still collecting stuff on it.

I would have to add king of fighters ex2 howling blood. Basically a port of king of fighters 2000 with all the graphics, playability and sound intact.



Samholy said:

there HAS to be Shining soul 2. its has to be the game i played the most on advance, with final fantasy tactics advance close behind.
But really, shining soul 2 had this mystery feeling in it, and some hell of a great replay value.

but the advance came in a time where i didnt have a lot of money, a new appartment, a new car and a low money income job. just didnt had a chance to try much stuff on advance. maybe i will find a lot of great titles i missed on my 3DS !



alLabouTandroiD said:

Out of the ones mentioned I only have Astro Boy, ChuChu Rocket and Sonic.
I’m sure I’d buy Castlevania, Duke Nukem Advance, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and many other games as VC titles for the 3DS. Preferring original versions over ports and remakes without much new content.

Out of the few I’ve played my favourite 3rd party game is also Gunstar Super Heroes (aka Gunstar Future Heroes in Europe).



Aqueous said:

I forgot medabots medabee and rokusho versions, they were like pokemon in some ways but yet completely different and you needed both versions to get very medal and part, with hidden secerts, humour and a story line that on used the tv show to loosely base areas and characters, also it let you go deep into planing your team in advance and carefully chosing attacks



Token_Girl said:

Man, I really hope we eventually get GBA games for real on the VC. I'd love to take the Sonic Advances for a spin, since I basically went from a GBC to a DSi.

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