The Game Boy Advance celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Japanese debut on 21st March 2021. Nintendo's first true successor to the original Game Boy line (the Game Boys Pocket and Color notwithstanding), the GBA in all its forms — original horizontal console, clamshell SP model, and ludicrously small (and sexy) Micro — would be the company's final handheld to carry the Game Boy branding; the experimental Nintendo DS came along in the mid-2000s and swiftly ate the GBA's lunch.
One of the cleverest things about the DS, though, was the GBA slot in the bottom of the original and Lite models. You could happily transition to the new portable (and ditch the worm light if you never picked up an SP or a Micro) without losing access to the huge library of Game Boy Advance titles.
And what a library it is! Much like many of our Best Games and Series rankings, in order to find out definitively the top 50 Game Boy Advance games ever we asked Nintendo Life readers to score for their favourite GBA titles out of 10. Those User Ratings are tabulated in real-time and form the ranked list below — it's entirely possible to change the order, even after publication. Even GBA games in our database that are bubbling under the top 50 can elbow their way in if they get sufficient love from your lovely selves!
So, don't worry if you missed out on 'voting' in Advance (see what we did there?) — simply scroll down and rate them now. Alternatively, use the search bar below to search for any GBA game in our database and rate it for a chance to see it rise through the ranks and appear. For now, though, we proudly present the 50 best Game Boy Advance games ever...
Note. In order for games to become eligible, they need a minimum of 50 User Ratings in total.
A lavish remake of the Game Boy’s Seiken Densetsu, AKA: Final Fantasy Adventure, currently AKA: Adventures of Mana sees either a hero or heroine, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (no prizes for guessing which of the two is more magically-inclined), initially off to avenge the deaths of various loved ones at the hands of the Dark Lord before tackling the now traditional Mana Sword/Mana Tree shenanigans. Playing as something of a pick ‘n’ mix between all the then-current entries in the series gives Brownie Brown’s (Mother 3, Magical Starsign, Fantasy Life) interpretation of the original’s events a dreamlike feeling of familiarity, where everything is exactly but never quite how you remember it to be.
Vicarious Visions managed to distil the essence of the full-sized Tony Hawk titles into an incredible isometric version that feels tight, responsive and very much not the obligatory downgraded handheld port you might have expected. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on GBA is genuinely one of our favourite entries in the overall series, with great music and cracking visuals.
And Spider-Man. What's not to love?
48. Doom (GBA)
Doom has been squeezed onto pretty much every game console — nay, every electronic device with a screen — over the years, but that shouldn't diminish the achievement of getting it running nicely on the most advanced Game Boy there ever was. This is a solid port of an FPS classic.
While the Metroid-esque gameplay is a refreshing change of pace for the Kirby series and works well in some parts, it also fails in others. The Metroid games have backtracking as well, yes, but it's not nearly as frequent and annoying as it is in Kirby & The Amazing Mirror. The multiplayer features are optional, but the game was arguably designed around the multiple Kirby aspect and it's at its best with other people.
In the decades since the shocking first appearance of Sega's mascot on a Nintendo handheld, it's fair to say that not every team that's worked on a 2D Sonic game has nailed the delicate sense of inertia and tight physics that characterise the classic 16-bit titles. Sonic Advance is one such example that just gets it. Developer Dimps retains the classic feel and course design that made the originals special while adding fresh elements that prevent it from feeling like a re-tread of old ideas. Vibrant visuals, charming animation, excellent audio; add multiplayer into the mix — as well as the Tiny Chao Garden that linked to the Gamecube — and Sonic Advance is a platforming treat up there with hedgehog's finest.
Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire is an enjoyable entry-level pinball game designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Its colourful, charming visuals look great, and the vast number of Pokémon available to catch and evolve means that if you’re looking for a long-term dip-in, dip-out sort of game, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied. It can become a bit tedious if played extensively, though, so it’s much better to enjoy it in short bursts.
The gameplay is simple, but the included titles in Game & Watch Gallery Advance are still fun to play decades after they appeared in Game & Watch form. High-score chasing should keep players occupied, especially with twenty games to chose from — eleven of which also include an updated "Modern" mode. It can feel repetitive at times and the method of unlocking games has the potential to annoy but this volume of titles remains an excellent compilation of Nintendo's first foray into portable gaming.
Mega Man Zero 2 does a great job of ironing out the wrinkles of its predecessor. With both audio and visual improvements, it also significantly reduces grinding, and provides the same brutal challenge in what feels like a much more fair way. Unlockable forms and EX Skills are also added to the mix, which gives the game an additional layer of replayability. It's a sequel done right, and it's no surprise that it's remembered so fondly all these years later.
If the story missions in F-Zero: GP Legend become too gruelling, there's always the option of tackling Grand Prix mode across a variety of difficulty tiers, which helps scale up the challenge as your skills improve. Before long you will be snaking your way around eye-watering turns and hazards in an unblinking state, where your muscle memory kicks in and nothing can break your concentration. That is the true F-Zero experience. That the format endures is testament to the series' gripping, yet savage design. With hours of content and challenge, GP Legend is a stellar handheld F-Zero experience.
At this point in a series, you should know what to expect, and Mega Man Zero 4 delivers in the same way that other high-numbered Mega Man titles do in other branches of Capcom's franchise. You get more of the same excellent gameplay in this final game, with the addition of an optional Easy Mode for those who prefer a light jog-and-gun as opposed to a full on run-and-gun, although things were already simplified in Zero 3. There is still a secret hard mode if you want a truly harrowing experience, as well a plethora of unlocks that are quite difficult to acquire. All-in-all, this relatively late release in the GBA's life cycle is another fine franchise entry.