Top 10 Game Boy Advance Games of my Childhood
Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, or simply GBA for short. In my mind, the GBA was another incredible device in the Game Boy line. This small handheld provided me with hours upon hours of entertainment during its era, and thanks to backwards compatibility, I kept playing some of my favorite GBA games even after I got a Nintendo DS.
What makes the GBA so remarkable? Its games, of course! Prepare yourself for a wave of opinions that may shake you to your core, a list of the Top 10 Game Boy Advance Games of my Childhood!
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
A fun little adventure game based on the book and movie of the same name, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a game I enjoyed on my GBA as a kid. If I replayed it now, I have a sinking suspicion I might find it more flawed. I mean, the Metacritic score of the GBA version is a 64 at the time of this writing, that’s rather low. I’ve also grown a heavy sense of skepticism for licensed games in general. But, at the time, all I knew was I loved Harry Potter, so of course I had to play the licensed video game, right? And play it I did.
One thing I will give this game credit for, I always thought was rather cool that you could lose the House Cup at the end of the game if you lost enough House Points over the course of the game. That was an interesting twist to Harry Potter story I knew and loved.
9. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Eternal Duelist Soul
This was a GBA game I never bought, instead a friend simply gave it to me. I don’t remember the circumstances, I guess they were just bored with Yu-Gi-Oh! entirely by then, or maybe getting rid of their Game Boy Advance altogether? Either way, when it came into my hands, I had never played Yu-Gi-Oh! in any form; I’d never collected the cards, nor played the card game at all. I don’t even know if this is the best video game incarnation of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, since it’s still the only one I’ve played, but it had me hooked!
I loved collecting new cards in game, and constructing new decks. It gave me some insight into why so many of my classmates were hooked on the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game…it was just fun!
8. Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland blew my mind with how good it looked on the GBA. Seriously, the graphics in the game look excellent, even to this day I think they hold up quite well.
Besides looking great, Nightmare in Dreamland was a blast to play! Like all Kirby games, the premise is simple. You jump and fly through levels, swallowing enemies to absorb their powers, and try to reach the exit door of the level. I enjoyed this game so much as a kid, I remember blowing through this game really quickly. It’s really not a long game. However, I’m guessing my parents may have regretted this purchase a little when I told them I had finished playing the new game they just got after just a day or two!
I’ve replayed Nightmare in Dreamland since then, and I’d say the gameplay holds up very well! It’s just as fun to play through now as it was when I first played it, and I’d say that’s definitely the mark of a good game! The short length also means that a single playthrough can be done quickly. It’s something I could easily accomplish during a free evening. Sometimes it’s nice to have a game that isn’t a huge time commitment.
7. Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls
This was my first look at the main, numbered Final Fantasy series. Before this, I’d only played spin-off games in the Final Fantasy series, but we’ll cover those later in this list.
Final Fantasy I & II charmed me pretty quickly. Honestly, just from hearing the main menu music, that classic Final Fantasy Prelude, I was enchanted. These weren’t the first JRPGs or turn-based games I’d played, since I’d played Super Mario RPG on the SNES prior, and Paper Mario on the N64. Despite having played some JRPGs before, Final Fantasy was still a nice treat. The classic turn-based combat, fantasy setting, and exploration, was all pretty magical!
6. Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2
Man, the title of this game is something! It’s Super Mario World…but also has the subtitle of Super Mario Advance 2. Most games would switch those parts around, but not Nintendo! I digress.
This was how I first played Super Mario World! I never owned nor played it on the SNES. For me Super Mario World was GBA experience, and what an experience it was! I’m sure a lot of people have great memories of Super Mario World, but for those who never played it, or even never heard of it, I’ll summarize it briefly. Super Mario World is possibly the greatest 2D Mario game ever made. I think it’s my personal favorite 2D Mario, at least. There’s just so much there. Secret levels, unlockable switches, Yoshi, platforming that never gets too frustrating, and of course the Cape Feather, (in)famous for allowing Mario to fly through some entire levels, once the player masters the flying mechanics! I think few people would dispute that Super Mario World is a masterpiece of a game. For me, it was definitely one of my favorite GBA games!
5. Pokémon Ruby Version
Honestly, who doesn’t know what Pokémon is these days? The franchise is so prolific, I bet even my grandmother, who hasn’t played Pokémon (or any video game!) a day in her life, would at least recognize Pikachu.
Prior to playing Pokémon Ruby, I’d played Red, Blue, Yellow, and Gold versions. For some reason, my family owned all 3 titles of the first generation. I’m not really sure how…but it was pretty awesome! By the time Ruby came out, I’d say I was a pretty experienced Pokémon trainer. Generation 3 brought a ton of new mechanics to the table though, enough to keep even a series veteran like myself interested! Berries, Pokémon abilities, and probably a huge list of things I’m not even remembering, were all introduced by the third generation of Pokémon. But of course, one of the most impressive improvements were the graphics. Pokémon had never looked so beautiful! Every was in full, brilliant color, and it all looked fantastic! The sound was also much improved from what the old games had been capable of.
I played a ton of Ruby, and yet…there’s a Pokémon game I played on the GBA even more…
4. Pokémon LeafGreen Version
Pokémon LeafGreen version. With its companion, FireRed version, the two re-imagined the original Pokémon games, Red and Blue, on the GBA, and they couldn’t have done it more perfectly. Red and Blue version also hold a special place in my heart, from my even earlier childhood, but I don’t think I’ve played any Pokémon game, before or since, more than I played my copy of LeafGreen. I still never caught ‘em all…but I think I got pretty darn close from trading Pokémon from my copy of Ruby to LeafGreen, and transferring Pokémon from Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD on the GameCube, one of the few times I used my Game Boy Advance/GameCube adapter cable.
Besides bringing me back to the Kanto I knew and loved from Red/Blue/Yellow, LeafGreen also had a whole bunch of new post-game content that I loved as well! LeafGreen and FireRed were awesome games, and I don’t think it’s entirely from the nostalgia I feel for Red and Blue! Although honestly I’m sure that’s a contributing factor.
3. Metroid Fusion
This was the first ever 2D Metroid game I played. Ironically, I think I may have played some Metroid Prime prior to getting this game, but I don’t think I finished it before then. That said, Metroid Fusion is also likely the first Metroid game I ever completed.
I got this game as a birthday present one year, and I was hooked. The story, the graphics, the sound, the atmosphere, everything in this game had me mesmerized until the moment I finished it. Not only was this my first Metroid game, but I believe it was my first Metroidvania as well, and the exploration, the acquisition of new abilities allowing for further exploration…man, it was simply awesome. Plus, this game also scared me so much at certain points. Even now, there are some moments in it that I’m sure would make me nervous.
A brief side note, I never had Metroid: Zero Mission. That’s a pretty killer game too, but I never played it on the GBA.
Man, even remembering my time playing Metroid Fusion has me nostalgic for it…I might have to re-play it sometime soon!
2. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
This was the only Fire Emblem game I owned on GBA. The “original” Fire Emblem is a game I never had, though I have played it via emulation since. I say “original” because as many Fire Emblem fans know, that game is actually the 7th title to be released - the previous 6 were only released in Japan.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones was the second Fire Emblem game I ever played, the first being Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the Nintendo GameCube. Sacred Stones held so much fun on its 128Mbit cartridge. The graphics during battles were pretty impressive to me, and I’d say they look good for the GBA, quality sprite-work and all that. The story was always interesting too, following 2 siblings and allowing you to pick which one you wanted to be your “main character” at a certain point, and the rest of the cast contained a number of interesting characters as well. It’s been a long time since I played it, but from the memories I have, I bet it still holds up today.
A number of the systems were different from what I’d grown used to in Path of Radiance. It’s been a while since I’ve played both Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance, but from what I remember, changing classes was different between them? I think Sacred Stones allowed you to pick between 2 class options when ranking up, whereas Path of Radiance did not. Both games had a Magic Triangle, similar to the famed Weapons Triangle, but not the same Magic Triangle. Sacred Stones’ magic triangle had Anima, Light, and Dark magic, whereas Path of Radiance’s triangle just had Wind, Fire, and Lightning (of course, Path of Radiance also had Light magic but it wasn’t part of the magic triangle). Sacred Stones also had monsters in it, something I’ve come to realize is sort of common for the Fire Emblem series, but basically entirely absent from Path of Radiance. Learning how the games were different made the experience even more fun, as I had a few things to learn or get used to when switching to Sacred Stones from Path of Radiance.
I think I knew Sacred Stones was an earlier game, so seeing how the series had changed from Sacred Stones to Path of Radiance was the icing on the delicious cake that is Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.
1. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
I loved this game. My love for it cannot be understated. I LOVED this game. In fact, I still do! Whatever flaws fans of the Final Fantasy Tactics spin-off series may find in it, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA) will always be one of my favorite games.
I wish I remembered more details about when and how I got Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. My copy was used, I remember that much. After getting it I remember playing it immediately during the car ride. I’m not sure what got me interested in this one in the first place. A Nintendo Power ad, maybe? Perhaps I saw an isometric screenshot and instantly fell in love with the presentation and art style? Also, I can’t remember if I played this before or after Fire Emblem. If it was before, then this game may have been my first real Tactical RPG, the game that paved the way for me to enjoy Fire Emblem! No matter how I got it, so many hours of my childhood were poured into this game. Grinding to master Double Sword so that I could create a dual-wielding Paladin, trying my hardest to master the Beastmaster class…with as much as I did in this game, I still feel like I never did it all, and that’s kind of an amazing thing, right? There are a ton of possibilities for the units in FFTA.
The premise of the game is pretty simple. You play a character who’s just moved to a new town, so you don’t really have friends yet. With the few people in town you do know, you sit down with a mysterious book one night. Before you know it, POOF, you and your friends get transported into the fantasy world of Ivalice. Its story may seem clichéd now, but when I first played FFTA the whole “transported into a game/book world” thing amazed me. It filled my imagination with fantastical thoughts. I hadn’t played a Final Fantasy game before this, so I always loved how characters referenced “Final Fantasy” when reacting to some of the creatures of Ivalice. FFTA truly holds an irreplaceable spot in my heart!