21st March 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Game Boy Advance. 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 at the top of the page to search for any GBA game in our database and rate it via its Game Page 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...
Mega Man Zero kicks off a series that will challenge you endlessly, but is very rewarding to master. Its brutal difficulty is bound to turn off a lot of gamers, but those who stick with it will find the richest world in any Mega Man series, populated with interesting characters and pulsing with a predictably brilliant soundtrack. Its sword-heavy combat and Cyber Elf approach to upgrades aren't going to resonate with everybody — and the grinding is a genuine obstacle to enjoyment — but if you have even a passing interest in Mega Men, it's worth seeking out. Just don't expect to be very good at it for a long time.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Diminishing returns? Pah! — there's no such thing as too much Mega Man!
Mega Man Zero 2 made some drastic changes to the first game's formula to make it more enjoyable, and Mega Man Zero 3 finetunes things a little more, but stops short of major changes; a classic example of not messing with something that works. If you enjoyed the previous titles, you will absolutely get a kick out of this one as well, and all the collectibles should keep you entertained. Again!
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.
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.
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.
Building on the good foundation put down in the previous entry, this middle game in the Sonic Advance trilogy upped the difficulty to a level that put some players off, but Sonic Advance 2 retained the elements that made the first game such a good translation of the 2D Sonic formula to the GBA platform: great music, lovely visuals, clever level design, and — above all — that proper Sonic 'feel'. You haven't got to go fast, but it's highly encouraged.