Final Fantasy V expanded the series' job system and came to the West in TOSE's 2006 GBA port Final Fantasy V Advance. The port touched up the visuals and added a sprinkling of new content and features to make it arguably the best version to play — it remains the only way to play the game in the West on Nintendo systems, although it's on Japanese Virtual Consoles and is widely available on other platforms (PC, PlayStation, mobile).
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was a GBA launch title and while far from perfect, it offered a polished presentation of the Castlevania experience the likes of which simply wasn't possible on the original Game Boy (although Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge is still pretty spectacular).
Circle of the Moon's successors would perfect the portable formula, but this was a solid foundation. That is providing you had perfect ambient lighting conditions or one of those little worm lights for your GBA — it could be extremely tough to follow this game on the original hardware's dim screen. Developers partially addressed this issue by dialling up the colour values in the following games, and GBA hardware revisions with front/back lights made Circle of the Moon much easier to follow.
This Treasure-developed take on Osamu Tezuka's classic character was a real looker in the GBA's library — fitting given the prestige of the property and the adoration of manga and anime fans around the world. As opposed to Treasure's usual output, Astro Boy: The Omega Factor is more platforming beat 'em up than run-and-gunner (with a few shmup-style stages thrown in for good measure). It successfully blends traditional manga-style presentation of the characters in dialogue portraits with more rounded 3D-esque sprites and backgrounds for the action. It's a real winner; a licensed game that lives up to the source material.
Mario Golf: Advance Tour is a fantastic portable golf game and then some. Camelot nailed the mixture of RPG and straight-up golf action in the Game Boy Color entry, and it works this time around, too — so well, in fact, that there's not much need to rely on the stable of Mario characters to flesh out the experience, although we're always happy to join the plumber on the fairway, or for the various mini-game modes available — something that Mario Golf: Super Rush on Switch is bring back.
Throw in multiplayer options and MGAT (as no-one ever called it) is still worth firing up when tee time comes around.
Putting you in the role of Juste Belmont, the developers learned their lesson from Circle of the Moon and punched up the colour values making Harmony of Dissonance a much brighter entry for the GBA's dim little screen. Igarashi began steering the franchise in the direction of Symphony of the Night with this entry and while its immediate successor refined things further, Harmony of Dissonance is still a fantastic game, even with an underwhelming soundtrack by Castlevania standards.
Both this and Aria of Sorrow came bundled together on the Castlevania Double Pack for GBA, so there's no excuse for missing out on CHOD, as precisely no-one abbreviates it.
Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire ushered in the third generation of Pocket Monsters and moved the series on from the stalwart 8-bit Game Boy hardware onto the more capable, wider platform of the Advance.
The removal of the night-day cycle irked some of the Poké-faithful, but Gen III brought with it a host of new features, including 2 vs. 2 battles and the natures mechanic that gave Poké Trainers a whole new stat-filled rabbit hole to go down. The widescreen presentation of the GBA improved the look of the battle screens, and the entire Hoenn region looked incredibly lush compared to 8-bit Kanto and Johto.
Wario Land 4 is a testament to quality over quantity, with the clever nonlinear level structures that lend themselves to multiple playthroughs and further exploration to unlock all the extras. It's a platformer for platforming veterans, full of impeccable level design and a quirky audiovisual presentation that would go on to set the precedent for the WarioWare series. If you're a fan of platformers — which will probably be the majority of you if you're Nintendo aficionados — Wario Land 4 is an absolute must-play.
The eighth instalment of the Fire Emblem franchise, The Sacred Stones was only the second to get an international release. It stars royal twins Eirika and Ephraim in a story that sees them separate to protect their homeland of Magvel from invading forces. While it didn't add much to the established formula, it's an exceptionally solid and enjoyable entry and a fittingly impressive swansong for the series on GBA in 2005. It was included as part of the 3DS' Ambassador Program for early adopters, which gave owners of that handheld an opportunity to catch up with the series before the arrival of Fire Emblem: Awakening and the rise of the series' popularity in the West.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town might be available on Switch (carrying the Story of Seasons branding in the West nowadays), but the GBA version is still a good pick-up for cultivating types who enjoy that core Harvest Moon portable gameplay with 16-bit style visuals. Additional fun and secrets outside land-working are present, but the game isn't overwhelmed with the twists or gimmicks we've seen introduced in more recent entries to 'keep things fresh'. This remains a great jumping in point for anyone new to the series — it's undeniably lacking in some areas by modern standards, but it's still got charm to spare.
Levelling up your clan, finding the best weapons and trying to out-think the enemy leads to endlessly enjoyable battling in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, with enough variables in location, laws and opponent abilities to prevent things becoming too repetitive. Even when battles get easy with an OP clan, they remain entertaining. It can be tricky to find what you are looking for amongst the many menu screens, but once you know where to look Final Fantasy Tactics Advance will divert and delight you for a long ol' time. Lovely.