“There has never been a portable game system like the Game Boy Advance.” So stated Peter Main, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo Of America back in March 2001.
And you know what? He was right!
A 32-bit handheld console that promised to take portable gaming to a whole new level, the Game Boy Advance would sell close to 82,000,000 units across the globe and continues to be remembered for both its fantastic ports of classic games and helping launch a handful of beloved franchises.
However, in addition to featuring heavy hitters like Super Mario Bros. 3, Metroid Fusion, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Pokémon FireRed, and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, the GBA was also home to a host of lesser-known video games that still deserve to be checked out more than two decades later.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of
Underrated Hidden Gems On The Game Boy Advance
Monster Rancher Advance 2 (2002)
A sequel to the popular 2001 role-playing game, Monster Rancher Advance 2 plays like an antagonistic virtual pet and offers up some seriously solid replay value.
While there are no real major innovations here, it brings more features to the table than its predecessor, as well as a really nice variety of different monsters to raise
Inexplicably addictive and loads of fun, fans of the genre will not want to bypass this terrific Temco gem.
Sonic Battle (2003)
Offering up one of the very best multiplayer experiences to be had on the Game Boy Advance, Sonic Battle is a surprisingly charming title with an engaging plot, excellent combat, and a solid single-player campaign.
A truly fun pick-up-and-play fighter that’s sure to challenge even the most seasoned of gamers, this stupendous SEGA slugfest is easily one of the very best offshoots that the Sonic The Hedgehog series has had so far.
Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch (2004)
Simple and sweet, this boxing title from Inferno Games is a great cel-shaded stress reliever that is just a really fun game to play.
With a near-perfect balance of tough opponents, vivacious visuals, and unadorned controls, it’s an absolute blast – whose surprising lack of variety can be overlooked thanks to how expertly it pays homage to its NES ancestor.
Add to that a featherweight price point and you’ve got a sports title that belongs in every GBA library.
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 (2006)
Featuring improved graphics, music, and customization options, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 is a vast improvement over the original in every possible way!
Familiar mechanics and an improved interface make this a very user-friendly sequel which, when combined with its predecessor, mesh into one of the most satisfying turn-based titles to grace a handheld.
Yes, it’s lengthy but totally worth the price of admission.
Gunstar Super Heroes (2005)
A slick sequel to the Genesis classic, Gunstar Super Heroes is easily one of the best action games on the Game Boy Advance. Fans of the original are sure to appreciate the beautiful graphics and solid old-school style – even if it is more than a little disappointing to see a total lack of co-op multiplayer mode.
Regardless, this is a great throwback to the classic video games of yesteryear – with enough fresh-faced fun to keep you on your toes from start to finish.
V – Rally 3 (2002)
Featuring advanced driving mechanics, expanded customization options, and improved graphics, V-Rally 3 is not only a technically impressive feat for a handheld title, but perhaps the very best racing game to find a home on the Game Boy Advance.
All of the big rally car names are present here and, while it may lack the same level of rush that comes from titles like Mario Kart: Super Circuit, this is an exceptional game that really showed what the console was capable of.
Zone Of The Enders: The Fist Of Mars (2002)
A turn-based title from Winkysoft, this is one of those science fiction strategy games that’s really hard to put down.
With a solid story and strong gameplay elements, this one truly is a breath of fresh air whose only real drawbacks come from a set of somewhat convoluted controls and a surprising overload of linearity.
While not for everyone, fans of sweeping narratives and a compelling in-game presentation are sure to get a real kick out of it.
Car Battler Joe (2002)
While it may look like some sort of outdated SNES-era RPG, Car Battler Joe offers up one of the most unique ideas you’ll find in 32-bit. Mixing driving challenges with plenty of RPG profundity for good measure, it oozes loads of personality and is sure to appeal to anyone who picks it up in at least one aspect or another.
Sure it’s weird, but this is one of those early 2000s titles that is just so off the wall that it eventually pulls you in and refuses to let go.
Iridion II (2003)
This underrated sequel to Iridion 3D features new in-game mechanics and plenty of action that calls to mind all of those classic 2D shooters from back in the day.
Additionally, it brings improved audio, strong graphics and a nice variety of gameplay features to the fore that really raise the bar so far as the genre is concerned and prove that even the most solid of premises can be improved upon – if put in the hands of the right team.
A sleek, and sexy-looking, shooter all around.
Double Dragon Advance (2003)
As I mentioned at the outset, the GBA was known for its ports – and one of the best comes in the form of 2003’s Double Dragon Advance. A side-scrolling beat-em-up published by Atlus, it is a remake of the excellent 1987 arcade game that stands as a perfect example of how remakes should be handled.
Yes, the fighting system is pretty basic, but this can easily be overlooked given how many elements are incorporated from previous incarnations.
Kuru Kuru Kururin (2001)
A really entertaining puzzler, Kuru Kuru Kururin sees players maneuvering a slowly spinning stick through a number of different mazes.
You control the direction and speed of said stick, all while trying to not touch any of the walls. It may not look like much on the surface, but this is a truly challenging title that embraces its simplicity and provides hours of entertainment thanks to some seriously addictive gameplay.
Do not pass this one by!
Racing Gears Advance (2004)
Featuring 12 officially licensed cars, Racing Gears Advance is a simple, entertaining and energetic racer that encompasses strong driving mechanics and an intriguing upgrade system that proves good things can still be accomplished within the two-dimensional spectrum.
Unique and plenty engaging, with enough pedal-pounding fun to keep even the most diehard of gearheads happy, this one elevates the racing genre to new heights with slick and clever execution.
Rebelstar: Tactical Command (2005)
Featuring thoughtful gameplay and simple graphics, this is a really solid Real-Time Strategy title that trumps similar games with an interesting story and its excellent adaption of X-Com mechanics.
The single-player campaign is lots of fun and, while the presentation is somewhat bland, the overall experience is still a satisfying one that comes to fans in a delightfully portable package that is still worth seeking out even all these years later.
Klonoa: Empire Of Dreams (2006)
Hailing from Namco, this platformer offers up delightful graphics, strong audio, and loads of side-scrolling amusement. Additionally, the game brings some fun and unique concepts to the fore, coupled with some seriously sharp visuals that add to the overall presentation in a really nice way.
It may not be as ambitious as its home console counterpart, but Klonoa: Empire Of Dreams still remains one of the best platform games to ever grace the GBA.
Alien Hominid (2006)
Another Game Boy Advance title that does a nice job of bringing the home console experience to the 32-bit handheld, Alien Hominid features unique two-dimensional graphics and stands as a fast-paced little shooter that is a great companion piece to other entries on this list like Gunstar Super Heroes.
It’s not a very long game, and there isn’t a whole lot of variety when it comes to the gameplay and enemies, but it remains a really fun experience overall that’s sure to still delight fans.
Ninja Five-O (2003)
Published by Konami, Ninja Five-O sees players taking control of Joe Osugi and combating a terrorist group equipped with mythical masks.
While it never met the sales numbers that its publisher had hoped for, it would go on to win multiple awards and is now considered one of the most sought-after handheld titles in history – and most expensive!
Featuring smooth scrolling and strong physics that call to mind some of the best games of the 8-bit era, this was one of the biggest sleeper hits of the early 2000s that many gamers still kick themselves for passing up.
Sabre Wulf (2004)
Developed by Rare Ltd., Sabre Wulf is everything fans could ask for in a platformer. It’s creative and unique, with some really nice retro cues and loads of fun to boot!
While it is simple and unassuming in its execution, it’s also heavy on the charm – in fact, to the point that it really is hard to find anything to dislike about it. No, seriously. It really is that good!
Drill Dozer (2006)
In this platformer from Game Freak, players take control of Jill. The daughter of a powerful crime boss, Jill is out for revenge after a rival gang steals her family heirloom. Thus, she jumps into an upgradeable piece of armor and takes matters into her own hands.
This is classic platforming at its very best, a really solid adventure that had no business sliding under the radar like it did when it was released back in 2006.
It’s zany and unique, with slick mechanics and unassuming controls that make it the sort of thing you can quickly pick up and promptly got lost in for hours at a time.
Lady Sia (2001)
With charming characters and inventive gameplay, Lady Sia is a well-balanced game that doesn’t really lay the difficulty on too thick. However, it brings with it nice looks, smooth controls, and an overall enjoyable experience that platform fans are sure to appreciate.
It is by no means revolutionary, and it really doesn’t bring anything all that new or unexpected to the table, but it is still really solid and fun, remaining a great underrated title in any Game Boy Advance library.
Wario Land 4 (2001)
Given the amount of trouble he’s caused over the years, Wario really doesn’t deserve a game that looks, or plays this good! But, here we are! Everything is bright and colorful, with strong sprite animation and inventive level designs that make this a must for any Nintendo fan.
The audio is top-notch, while the gameplay remains both challenging and varied.
Yes, this is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Proving that perhaps it really is good to be bad once in a while.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor (2004)
Developed by the aptly named Hitmaker, Astro Boy features an engaging story and a surprising amount of character growth – allowing for a much greater level of depth and development than any handheld title really has the right to.
Level difficulty progresses gradually, offering the perfect amount of challenge each time, while controls remain tight and responsive throughout.
While it may not be the longest game out there and involves a lot of button-mashing, it still is an incredibly fun title that is much more involved and interesting than expected.