The Gameboy Advance launched in Japan 15 years ago now. That’s a decade and a half, just in case you wanted some kind of existential crisis today.
Portable gaming has come on leaps and bounds since then, and kids who game on their iPhones, Vitas, and Nintendo 3DS’ probably look at our clunky old consoles and laugh unkindly as if it’s some kind of Victorian attraction.
Still, we still remember some of the amazing games that came out on the GBA, right? Here are the five best, just for you
Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
If you can ignore the confusing title, what you’re left with is a much needed remake of one of the greatest Mario games of all time, probably one of best NES games, and arguably one of the most incredible games period.
Super Mario Bros. 3 re-released on a portable device was a revelation at the time – with updated graphics and the ability to save your game, no less. Everything about this game is nigh on perfect, from Mario’s raccoon suit power up, right through to the genius sound and level design.
GG if you could find the secret route that got you to world 8 in minutes. GG.
The Legend Of Zelda: Minish Cap
The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap is one of the more underrated Zelda titles out there, and that’s a real shame. It’s far too short, yeah, and kind of easy compared to other games in the series – but the fact remains that it’s one of the most genuinely inventive games in the Zelda franchise.
Shrinking down to the size of an insect to explore areas you’d already seen was a mastersroke. Suddenly cats became giant feral beasts, and puddles became vast lakes. It forced you to constantly think about the game and the surrounding world in two different ways at all times.
It also offered some of the best boss battles and items I’ve seen in Zelda. Hoovering up with the Gust Jar was weirdly addictive.
Let this sink in. Metroid Fusion was the last original 2D Metroid title, and it came out in 2002 – 14 fucking years ago. Sort it out, Nintendo.
Anyone who missed Metroid Fusion missed a pure distillation of everything that makes the series great. It was basically Super Metroid streamlined, put onto a portable console, and made as hard as the developers could possibly make it.
Legging it through an abandoned space station from a super powered clone of yourself that’s hell bent on murdering the universe? Nintendo games weren’t always just for kids.
This strategy game really had it all: tough gameplay, an unforgettable campaign, tons of user customization in the form of a map creator, and an incredible four player mode.
For a game that offered such deep and rewarding design, it’s a real shame there hasn’t been an Advance Wars game since the DS.
Still, on the offchance you’re one of the few people who own a Wii U, you can grab it on the virtual console now. It’s well worth a look.
What else was it gonna be, really? Pokemon is the pimp daddy of portable Nintendo consoles. A vast chasm that guzzles sale and vomits out sickening profits.
Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire were the third generation of Pokemon games, and to many the beginning of the end. A lot of people who grew up loving Red/Blue and Gold/Silver enjoyed these Advance titles, but then decided their love affair with Pokemon was over.
Still, it was as good a place as any to get off. The sudden leap forward in visuals from the days of the Gameboy was incredible. Everything looked great, from colourful Pokemon battles to the gloomy undersea caverns and tropical locales you’d explore on your quest.
My only real complaint is that it felt a little light on content compared to Gold/Silver, but there was still a hell of a lot to love about Hoenn, even if the number of Pokemon was starting to tip into madness at this point.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.