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.
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.
Cuts were made in order to bring the game to the Game Boy Advance, but that was to be expected. What’s surprising is how Crawfish managed to cram in the huge character line-up, multiple modes of play and still got it to look and (most importantly) play like Street Fighter Alpha 3. Controls may take a bit of getting used to and there are a few quibbles (with this many characters you really need an in-game move list) but overall this is an excellent game with plenty to keep you entertained.
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.
The integrity of Mario Kart Super Circuit's gameplay holds up well nowadays and it serves as a great successor to the original SNES game. The series has risen to incredible heights over its eight entries, of course, and going back can be tough. Still, the foundation was there at the very beginning and it's definitely there in the GBA version. Don't forget the link cables!
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?
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.
The characters, moves and music that made Street Fighter II great are all here and you can certainly have fun with this particular version. Of course much of what appeals with this game is available in the other versions of Street Fighter II and as well as multiplayer they have less awkward controls. The new artwork and stages (even if there wasn't anything wrong with the old ones) generally work well, but unless you have a strong desire to experience Super Combos and Akuma on GBA, it's hard to recommend this over other versions, even if it's a pleasant little port.
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.
The first of the Super Mario platformer ports (and the one that kicked off the most convoluted naming convention in gaming history), Super Mario Advance brought Super Mario Bros. 2 to the GBA in the 16-bit style of Super Mario All-Stars. With the ability to choose between four characters carrying over from the original, it gained a point system in addition to its facelift, as well as several collectibles to find throughout each stage. Overall, it's still one of the best ways to revisit the game, and you also get the remake of original Mario Bros. bundled in — that little multiplayer bonus would feature on multiple other entries in this GBA port series going forward.
This GBA launch title may start off a little too easy but that's about all you can fault with Kuru Kuru Kururin. It won't take you long to clear every level, but doing it without error is a tough challenge and you'll love every minute as you guide a big ol' constantly rotating stick (sorry, Helirin) around tricky, colourful courses. With plenty of environmental variety and some terrific music, there's a lot of enjoyment from simply improving your times on the various courses. Kuru Kuru Kururin is one of the GBA's most delightful treats and perfect for portable play — a brilliantly fun little game that's a bit different from the norm.