Top 10 GBA Games in my Backlog

Top 10 GBA Games in my Backlog

The GBA was a heck of a portable gaming device. By the end of its life, it had a large library of good games, far too many for me to keep up with during its commercial lifetime.

Though some received remakes or Wii U Virtual Console releases, such as Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga (which would be on this list if not for the 3DS remake!), other games were not so lucky. For some, the GBA was their one and only release. For others, they may not be exclusive to the GBA, but they are exclusive to Japan, never having seen an official English release. We’ll see some of both types in this list!

10. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

  • Developer: Capcom / Flagship
  • Release: January 10, 2005

I’ve partially played through The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap before, but didn’t end up finishing it for whatever reason. I remember enjoying it, at a certain point I may just have gotten lost or maybe started playing other games and forgot about my playthrough. Whatever the case was, that’s why The Minish Cap remains in my backlog.

I’ve always like the art of The Minish Cap. I think the characters, environments, and enemies look quite charming, but because I’ve played some of it before I’m not quite as excited to play The Minish Cap compared to the other games in this list, since it’s not wholly new to me.

9. Summon Night: Swordcraft Story

  • Developer: Flight-Plan
  • Release: July 26, 2006

Our first title available only on the GBA, never having seen a Virtual Console release, is Summon Night: Swordcraft Story. This is a part of the Summon Night series, but I believe it has significantly different gameplay from other games in the series, so maybe this is more of a spin-off. It has random encounters rather than enemies appearing on the overworld, which is something I’m not a huge fan of but I don’t think it will ruin the experience.

Battles themselves are real-time, and seem reminiscent of the older 2D Tales Of games. One of the main mechanics is weapon crafting, wherein you receive “techniques” and learn to craft new weapons if you can gather the materials. HowLongToBeat says this game isn’t too long, clocking in at 14 hours for the Main Story. That sounds kind of nice actually, as I could probably play through this over a few weeks easily!

8. Mother 3

  • Developer: Brownie Brown / HAL Laboratory
  • Release: April 20, 2006 (Japan)

This one comes with the caveat that I don’t want to play it before I’ve played Earthbound (another classic game which I tragically haven’t finished), but Mother 3 has always looked super charming. Earthbound is known in Japan as Mother 2, the predecessor to Mother 3. Though I don’t think the stories of the two games are very strongly related, I still plan on playing Earthbound before Mother 3. Thus, Mother 3 finds its home here on the list.

The screenshots and gameplay footage I’ve seen over the years look phenomenal. The art style really works, especially on the GBA. Plus the rhythm-based combo system within the turn-based battles sounds incredibly original, and I’m excited to try that out!

Mother 3 is also where Lucas, who many westerners may be familiar with due to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, originates. Yet, Mother 3 has never seen an official English release! Thanks to a dedicated group of fans, it did receive a full English translation in 2008. Mother 3 was released on the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan.

7. DemiKids: Dark Version

  • Developer: Multimedia Intelligence Transfer
  • Release: October 7, 2003

DemiKids: Dark Version and DemiKids: Light Version are more titles only released on the GBA itself.

DemiKids is actually part of a series known as Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children in Japan, and as you may have intuited from the name, is a spin-off series of Shin Megami Tensei. Dark Version and Light Version are the only two games to have been released in North America. Interestingly, these games actually got sequels in Japan, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children - Book of Fire, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children - Book of Ice. However, these games were only ever released in Japan.

This entry may end up being DemiKids: Light Version instead, I’m still not quite sure of all the differences between the two to be honest. Unlike Pokémon, the two Versions have different plots even though they released at the same time. Despite that, it is still similar to Pokémon in at least one way. You can trade Demons between games, and some demons are only available in one version, so you’d have to trade to obtain them in the other version.

Other than that, the gameplay has a lot of Megami Tensei series staples, like demon fusion, and conversing with demons to get them to join your party. I’ve enjoyed these aspects in Persona quite a bit, so if DemiKids is at all similar to that I should be a happy camper.

6. Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade

  • Developer: Intelligent Systems
  • Release: March 29, 2002 (Japan)

Edit: Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade was difficult, but definitely worth playing if you’ve enjoyed other games in the series, particularly the other GBA titles. I definitely don’t recommend you start the series with this game though, unless you’re already really good at SRPGs and don’t mind the challenge. If you don’t mind me spoiling the number of chapters in the game, the way to get different endings, or 1 epilogue spoiler about the story’s conclusion, you can read more of my thoughts on this game here.

Fire Emblem: Fūin no Tsurugi, translated as either Fire Emblem: The Sword of Seals or Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, was the first Fire Emblem game released on the Game Boy Advance, and the first handheld title in the entire series. Like all the previous titles at its time of release, it never received an English release. However, due to the fantastic work of fans, it received a complete unofficial English translation a number of years ago! This is another example of a title that was also released on the Wii U Virtual Console, but only in Japan since the GBA version was also Japan-exclusive.

This game takes place after “Fire Emblem,” the first title that had an official translation. Having played that game, I am interested to see how those characters have changed between the two titles! Also, I’ll finally get to see what Roy is like in his game, after having been introduced to him years ago when I played Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube.

5. Advance Wars

  • Developer: Intelligent Systems
  • Release: September 10, 2001

Edit: Finished! Read my spoiler-free review here.

Despite my deep love of Advance Wars Dual Strike on the DS, I never went back to the game that introduced the series to the western world. Which is strange, because I even had a copy of its sequel, Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, back in the day! I never got into that one either, partially because I didn’t really want to play that one without playing the first game beforehand, since I knew Andy and company returned in the sequel.

Another reason I never got into these, I think I was spoiled by Dual Strike’s usage of the 2 screens. Having just one screen on the GBA was just too jarring for the young bsinky, so I never really gave the original games a chance. Well, I’d like to rectify that someday!

4. Mega Man Battle Network

  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release: October 31, 2001

Edit: I gave this game a shot, but ultimately the random encounters and dungeon design made me lose interest in it. You can read more of my thoughts on it here.

Mega Man Battle Network takes place in modern times, in an interconnected world driven by the Internet. In that regard, it’s a lot like the modern world. However, people in this world can explore electronic devices using online avatars called “NetNavis.” One of these is the NetNavi “MegaMan.EXE” of Lan Hikari, the main character. Mega Man Battle Network features real-time battles, supplemented by a sort of card-based system in which you customize a “folder” of special abilities for use in battle as well. This bit seems to be a sort of deck-building feature.

I remember hearing about this game as a kid and seeing screenshots of it. It always looked intriguing, both the character designs and the gameplay, but I honestly don’t know much about it. I do know there are a ton of sequels to it though, so if it clicks with me I definitely know where to turn for more.

3. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

  • Developer: Konami
  • Release: May 6, 2003

Edit: Finished! Check out my spoiler-free review here!

I’ve heard good things about this entry in the Castlevania series. While I may not see it praised as often as Symphony of the Night, from what I’ve heard Aria of Sorrow is a solid Castlevania title.

After watching a video review of it on YouTube, I’m more intrigued by this entry in the series than ever, particularly the mechanic where you absorb the souls of your enemies to gain new abilities and passive skills.

2. Kirby & the Amazing Mirror

  • Developer: HAL Laboratory / Flagship / Dimps
  • Release: October 18, 2004

Edit: Unfortunately, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror just wasn’t what I was looking for in a Kirby game. It seems like a good game, it’s just not for me, so I won’t be finishing my playthrough. Read more about my experience with it here if you’re curious.

Kirby games and always packed to the brim with charm and fun! I imagine The Amazing Mirror will prove to be no different. One thing that always strikes me as a little funny is how angry Kirby always looks on the North American box art. Compare that to the European box art where Kirby just looks cute and happy. It’s not the first time Kirby has been given an angry expression for the North American box art either, it’s an interesting trend.

I’ll likely play through this game during a lazy weekend or something. That’s something that’s pretty nice about Kirby games, they never take too long to beat. Short games are a nice refresher, from time to time.

1. Golden Sun

  • Developer: Camelot Software Planning
  • Release: November 11, 2001

Edit: I finished both Golden Sun and the sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age! Read my spoiler-free review of both here.

In the fantasy world of Weyard, everything is made up of some combination of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and wind. There are some in the world who have the ability to manipulate these elements. These people are known as Adepts, and their power is the magic known as Psynergy. They are hesitant to display their power to others.

This setting seems interesting enough, but Golden Sun follows this up with the Djinn system to enhance its turn-based battles. Throughout the game, Djinn are waiting to be found and collected. Djinn can be attached to your characters to change their stats and usable skills. Depending on the Djinn, various new actions may be used during battle as well, and additionally they allow the use of powerful Summon skills that damage all enemies and also increase the summoner’s affinity for the Djinn’s element for several turns. All of this sounds like it provides a fair amount of customization and variety in combat, which should be a nice addition.

I never had this game growing up, but oddly enough I did have its sequel. A friend gave me a copy Golden Sun: The Lost Age back in middle school when I owned a GBA. Since then, I’ve heard that Golden Sun is a classic RPG of the era. I had tried playing The Lost Age, but since it’s a direct sequel to the first game I had no idea what was going on, and couldn’t get into it.

Now, I’m hoping to finally give the series a real chance by starting with the first game!


The self-proclaimed "Guy with the Backlog", as of this writing his Steam backlog is slowly growing to the point of consuming him. Meanwhile, he spends most of his time trying to catch up on the retro classics he missed, as well as replaying the games he grew up with.

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