The Game Boy Advance just recently turned 15 years old, with that first model kicking off what would be the last Game Boy 'family' or systems, at least so far. It would be a platform that would take Nintendo's portable offerings forward in leaps and bounds, not just in terms of raw power but also conceptually. In various (and sometimes limited) ways it embraced wireless trading in Pokémon, connected to the GameCube, introduced a primitive precursor to NFC and amiibo with its eReader cards, and the SP model included an internal rechargeable battery and a clamshell design that would be emulated by the DS.
An area we skipped over in our Anniversary post was the games library, which we summed up as marvellous but avoided detail. That's because we wanted to highlight some of its gems here and also enjoy the chat and voting around the portable's finest games.
We've picked ten games that we think represent some of the best and most varied options on the system; naturally we've had to leave plenty out - that's what the comments section is for.
So, without further ado, below are ten GBA games we think you should play.
Our draft top ten also had Metroid: Zero Mission, which is also fantastic, but two Metroid games in the list wouldn't have gone done well. In any case, Fusion was entirely new and is fondly regarded by many (including this writer). More linear than its predecessors, it ramps up the tension due to the pursuit from SA-X, a deadly doppelganger to Samus. In terms of narrative and writing it's actually not a million miles away - in tone - from aspects of Metroid: Other M (sound the blasphemy klaxon), but courtesy of its polished 2D gameplay and lighter storytelling touch its generally regarded far better than the Wii game.
You can swap this out for Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising if you prefer, but we've listed the original as it's naturally a great starting point. This franchise sees Intelligent Systems apply its strategy chops to modern (but still fantastical) warfare, with unit types and environmental concerns all being important in the turn-based strategy. This first entry is perhaps slightly fairer than its sequel (though it's all subjective) and also has unlockable and more difficult missions to take on if you have the skills.
The first entry in what has become a regular series from AlphaDream, this is an RPG series that has developed a key identity and storytelling style of its own. When GBA games were confirmed for the Wii U this was a title that was loudly demanded by many (and delivered). Not only does it deliver the timing-based turn-based battles we're now used to, but this entry still stands as exceptionally funny and host to a great cast. It's a game all Mario & Luigi fans should play.
This is an odd entry, as it's one of many classics ported / remastered on GBA, and we're actually recommending the Wii U Virtual Console version. That's because it has 38 extra levels that back in the day required eReader cards. Even better, a lot of the levels didn't even get cards in all regions, so now we all win. Beyond that it's another version of Super Mario Bros. 3, which is no bad thing.
This is actually the third of the GBA trilogy of Castlevania games, so if you want to go from the beginning pick up Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and then Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance first. All offer fantastic 2D Castlevania gaming on the go with solid combat and RPG elements. This is a terrific series of games, and Aria of Sorrow arguably represents the most refined GBA entry courtesy of improvements over its predecessors.
This is the first game on our list that necessitates an early DS or actual Game Boy Advance to play, as it sadly isn't on the Wii U Virtual Console. Effectively a port of one of the Dreamcast's most beloved games, this is one of many excellent SEGA games from the early noughties era. In single player it's an engrossing puzzle game in which you guide space mice to safety with carefully placed directional tiles, and in multiplayer it's mayhem - a lovely game.
A Capcom-developed entry in the series that most certainly stands up with fellow 2D Zelda titles, this one's big on charm and clever design. The main gimmick this time is that you can shrink down to a tiny size, which gave the development team plenty of scope for intriguing areas and dungeons. Colourful and with a fabulous soundtrack, this offers some excellent portable Legend of Zelda gaming.
We felt legally obliged to include a Wario title, and this one narrowly beat out Wario Land 4 and WarioWare Twisted!, the latter mainly because it never saw release in Europe. As for this one that did make the cut, it delivers frantic minigame challenges with a humorous style. Fast paced, chaotic and hard to put down, like its successors this is a game that should certainly be experienced.
We've chosen this one above its GBA successor as it was the first series entry to arrive outside of Japan - the franchise had previously been long-established on home consoles. As the Western debut this is as good a start as any, albeit turn-based strategy veterans will need to settle in for plenty of exposition and tutorial-style segments early on. It looks and sounds great by GBA standards, though, and provides a handy reminder of the series' origins in this modern age of 3D models and DLC.
Here's our obligatory left-field - perhaps less common - choice to round out this list. An action platformer published by Konami and developed by Hudson Soft, it has projectile weapons, melee sword attacks and a grappling hook as core gameplay mechanics. You also rescue hostages and grab collectibles, and with some old-school design and awesome graphics and sound this is one of our GBA favourites.
So there you go, ten games we highly recommend for GBA, though the list could have been double the size and not struggled for quality. Vote for your favourite out of these in the poll below and talk over all of those that missed out in the comments.