N-Europe's Top Ten Game Boy Advance Games
Posted 16 Jun 2019 at 11:00 by Glen O'Brien
The N-Europe Top Tens are breaking into the current millennium now with the Game Boy Advance. The purple or black or orange or whatever colour you got handheld was the Super NES to the Game Boy’s NES? That metaphor isn’t very good. Is it even a metaphor? Anyway, it played games, and it played them with more graphical capabilities than the Game Boy and the Game Boy Color. But you probably know that.
Anyway, before I have an existential crisis about whether these opening paragraphs are necessary, we should get this latest top ten going. And this one was the most hotly contested to date!
And if you'd like to take a look at our previous Top Ten articles then you can do so by clicking any of the mini banners below...
Possibly the most infamous Nintendo game that never made it out of Japan. Mother 3 is the sequel to EarthBound and follows a number of characters as a small village is visited by a mysterious group of pig-masked people. And that’s all I’m telling you, because the story in this game is something else and the combat is charmingly unique. Mother 3 is a game that needs to be played by everyone, if only Nintendo would let them… Remember, no crying until the end.
"Mother 3 is an RPG that throws itself completely into its story, themes and aesthetics. There will never be an opportunity to explore or do side-quests. There will never be a "quiet town" for you to rest in. Everywhere you go to serves to further your journey, even the identity of the main character is fluid, since you play as 3 other characters before you even get to Lucas.
The Mother series has always satirised or paid tribute to Dragon Quest, and this one is no exception... However, and without ever forgetting that side of itself, it does feel like Mother 3 is more story-driven than ever before, not unlike what JRPGs in general had become during that time.
And what a story it is, about the loss of innocence of a young boy, or rather, his entire town. Whether it's a small village's identity corrupted by the arrival of television and cosmopolitan culture, or a young man who needs to abandon his friends to fulfil his duty, or Lucas' entire arc... Everything we see in the game follows this coming of age story, with an ending that legitimately made me cry (one of the only times this has ever happened in a videogame).
I know the fan translation isn't technically part of the original game, but what a phenomenal job they did. The script is the right combination of funny, endearing and creepy, and I daresay is far more memorable than EarthBound's ever was." – Jonnas
Our 9th best GBA game seems like a simple game on the surface. You play as a human who has been transported to a parallel world where only Pokémon live and subsequently transformed into one yourself. Obvious concept, really, having Pokémon talk English, but what I (and a lot of other people) probably didn’t realise is that Red Rescue Team hides a lot of traits that are uncharacteristic of most Pokémon games. It’s difficult, light on tutorials and hides a story that gets just a little dark at times. That probably helped to make it the most successful Pokémon spin-off to date, and earned it its spot on this top ten.
"There's a lot of charm in this game, something that rings true of the whole series it managed to spawn. Chunsoft are known for the quality of their games, and that is especially apparent in this offering; the story is so damn good, which you just wouldn't get from any main Pokémon titles. The sprite-work is utterly gorgeous too, whether it's the dungeons or the Pokémon themselves - the game looks so vibrant and alive. This, coupled with how much personality all the characters have, really makes you feel like this world inhabited by only Pokémon could be real, and would actually work as a living breathing society, and not just a world of animals free from humans. It gave us what we all wanted; remember that one episode from the anime where Ash's companions talk to one another, inhabiting their own little world? Yeah, that, but a whole game of it. And that's the best thing ever in my book." – Sofiz
I have vivid memories of the time when Golden Sun came out. Everyone who had a GBA was playing this game when it came out. If I had to put a reason on why it was so popular, I’d put it down to the absolutely gorgeous visuals. Beautiful sprite work, spectacular attack animations and particle effects up the wazoo, Golden Sun is always exciting to see. Thankfully, the positives are more than skin-deep. There’s an engaging battle system, amazing music and dungeons chock full of cool puzzles that utilise the game’s unique magic system. Golden Sun is the quintessential GBA JRPG.
"When the first titbits of Golden Sun started appearing, I knew this game was going to be huge. It looked amazing for a Game Boy Advance game, and even promised us random elements in dungeons. That didn't turn out to be a big thing in the end, but the rest of the game was perfection. I don't think I have ever been engaged that much in an RPG. I listened to the soundtrack, looked up stats, drop chances and more on the internet and even hosted a crappy website dedicated to the game. But the game was worth it as it had it all: A gripping story too big for one game, an amazing soundtrack, an interesting battle system involving magic, djinni, giant Summons and the option to change the classes of your heroes unleashing even weirder magic. It even had an awesome TV commercial! Golden Sun stands tall as my favourite RPG, and I can only hope that Camelot one day will bring the franchise back. It's time!" – Vileplume2000
A game that never actually got released in America (Well, not until the WiiU Virtual Console version), Kuru Kuru Kururin is a game about navigating a giant stick through a variety of obstacle courses without touching the walls or any objects. Problem is, the damn thing won’t stop spinning! The straightforward nature of the game’s mechanics makes it easy to pick up and very addictive to boot. It also has a pretty sweet multiplayer mode! This is a game that will keep you coming back for more.
"This was the first game I played on the GBA. It was a challenging game but addictive at the same time. No matter how infuriating some of the courses were it had a want to try one more time approach to the game and felt satisfying beating the tougher levels." – Gadwin
Capcom’s 4th and last Zelda project is one of the more underrated titles in the series. Luckily, N-Europe has good taste and saw the aspects that make this game such a must-have. It’s good old Zelda action with a cool twist of being able to shrink Link down to minuscule proportions. The Minish Cap is clever, fluid and jam-packed with sidequests to discover. Good luck getting those Light Arrows though.
"Another fantastic entry into one of gaming’s greatest franchises. Just one item gave the Zelda developers a whole new playground in which to build new dungeons and design new environments. The ability to shrink Link helped unleash a whole slew of ideas that GBA owners got to enjoy." – WackerJr
"Make no mistake, this is one of the finest entries in the long-running series and has never been stronger; while Minish Cap could have perhaps been longer it still sets a shining example of how to truly do a portable Zelda title the justice it deserves. If you've yet to play this most excellent entry in the series then I would strongly suggest that you do so." – S.C.G
Europe’s first foray into the Fire Emblem franchise would be through the seventh entry, which is late, to say the least. But thanks to Smash Bros., Nintendo decided to take a chance with it. Fire Emblem is a strategy RPG which is known for permanently killing off your army should they lose in battle. Failure is punished harshly, so careful planning is a must otherwise… OH BUGGER! I LEFT SERRA OPEN TO ATTACK! NOOOOOOOO!
"I love games that test my wits. Unfortunately, most strategy games fall more into the "prepare properly" kind of strategy, rather than the chess-like quick thinking I like most. The Fire Emblem series, however, fully embraces the idea of throwing you into situations and allowing you to figure out your own solution with the tools you have. And this is the game that introduced me to the series, and this kind of strategy.
It might seem like a standard RPG plot, but the fact that you can't explore freely, that the pace of the journey is dictated by story battles, that you can't grind, that characters stay dead if you let them die, and that every place seems to have a functioning political system in place... It feels so much more immersive than your average RPG. This feels like a lived-in world. And what cements that way of thinking are the gigantic cast of characters, and their supports (optional conversations that reveal more about themselves). It's genuinely impressive that each character has a fully fleshed out back-story that's likely to pertain to the lore. Coupled with the beats of the main story, this game contains some of my favourite character arcs in gaming." – Jonnas
"I remember picking this game up as a US import (all hail that the GBA's region free!). The game instantly got me. Interesting characters and a whole new type of battle system (at least to me). The thought of losing one of your party members forever kept you on your toes, while still trying to keep your troops close together to trigger conversations. It is a beautiful fine line. After that I've enjoyed several other games in the series, but the first one on the GBA will always be my favourite." – Vileplume2000
Wow, this game has 213 different games in it! Bargain of the century! Except for the fact that pretty much all of them last for less than 5 seconds. But instead of being a humongous rip-off, the first game in the WarioWare series bombards you with these games one after the other as you see how long you can last before you inevitably succumb to the increasingly frantic pace. The stories that set up each stage are suitably silly and the characters ooze, well… character. WarioWare is an incredibly unique game and deserves all the money people threw at it.
"Absolutely bonkers game, the original WarioWare is essentially the perfect portable video game, highly entertaining short burst gameplay and infinitely replayable. The eclectic presentation makes it all the more memorable and special." – RedShell
"The ideal hand-held game! Can be played in 2-minute bursts or longer sessions. The idea of “micro games” was inspired & allowed experienced or non-gamers the chance to play & get good at it. The development team’s sense of humour shone through in the sheer diversity and downright bizarreness of the games! It also brought us the most memorable “virtual nose-picking” in videogame history, and not many games can claim that!" – WackerJr
The first Pokémon generation on a new console is always a really exciting affair. Well, it is for me! The third generation of Pokémon changed a lot of the underlying mechanics of the series in ways that we still see to this day. A whole host of new Pokémon and a massive new region to explore cemented these games as must-haves in the GBA line-up. Emerald in particular has some of the best post-game content the series had ever seen.
"Pokémon Sapphire was the last main series Pokémon game that I truly, deeply enjoyed. Not in the last place because it was the last game where I physically linked up with friends through a link cable to trade and battle. The weather system was a great addition, as well as the secret bases and even the contests. It introduced some of my favourite Pokémon, such as Gardevoir and Flygon. I never got to playing Alpha Sapphire on the 3DS, but thinking about it makes me think I really should!" – Vileplume2000
"This is definitely going to be in the top 10 and it's not hard to see why. While Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald may not be my favourites entries in the series, but the entire main Pokémon series has been solid in quality and I have many memories associated with this game. The game I wasn't originally going to get because I was now "too old for Pokémon" won me over in the build up to its release and I'm glad I bought it. Even to this day this is one of the smoothest Pokémon battle system I've seen with no load times between each move when selecting.
I still have my Level 100 Blaziken that I first acquired as a Torchic from way back in 2003 albeit on an entirely different cartridge. It is also home to what I believe is one of the hardest puzzles in Pokémon history, namely the boulder puzzle right before Groudon/Kyogre in the Seafloor Cavern. And while the game may have "too much water" I believe it has one of the most interesting layouts of any region in terms of progression and a lot more complex than what the modern games have. It was also crazily future proofed, there is a National Dex in the game but unless you are a hacker or knew someone who had hacked the game either in real life or through reading about it on the internet, you'd never know that it would exist." – GenericAperson
The original NES Metroid is certainly a revolutionary game, but you’d be bonkers to think it hasn’t aged in the 31 years since it released over here. Thankfully, Nintendo agreed and set out to make a complete overhaul of the original vision. Zero Mission barely resembles the original game with its redone world map, loads of new content and impeccably tight and satisfying controls. This entry in the Metroid series is incredibly fun and a perfect starting point for anyone of you who still hasn’t discovered the 2D Metroid series.
"You ever get a console's successor and then realise that you missed out on a lot of good games for it and go back to acquire the good games you missed out? Yeah, Metroid Zero Mission was the last one for me and in the case of the GBA, the quality of game I ended up with on the portable was significantly better in the latter half of the collection than the former half. Acquired amidst a huge Metroid obsession after getting into the franchise the previous year, Zero Mission was the first 2D Metroid game I played (yeah, I got into the Prime games first). It was a game I replayed many times, though there was a good reason for this and that was to unlock the extras.
Zero Mission feels great to play, I like how they expanded the world map from the original game and I also appreciate how more accessible it is. It is still to date the only Metroid game with level design actually designed with sequence breaking in mind and they added so many bosses to make it a more complete experience. They even expanded the scope of the original game by including a post Mother Brain stealth section and this would be the game that would finally define what Samus looks like without the suit on after many different interpretations over the years. They even presented a canonical reason as to why the Varia Suit has rounded shoulders after the first game but didn't in the first although the changes were probably meant to tie it more into Metroid Prime, back when people still thought the entire Metroid series was one continuity. Yeah... about that..." – GenericAperson
"Easily the most complete remake ever, Metroid Zero Mission is an example of what can be done when you go about releasing a classic game for a new generation. In any case if you have yet to experience this stunning title then now is definitely the right time to do so, this is a prime example of a GBA offering and is the ideal starting point for anyone new to the series who wishes to play the games chronologically and a fitting tribute for fans of the series which is still justifiably held in the very highest regard even today. Well worth playing in the wait for Samus' next adventure for who knows when that might be, so for now... See you next mission!" – S.C.G
"The best 2D entry in the series. Masterful map design, brilliant bosses; just incredible from start to finish!" – Dcubed
Back in the GBA era, Advance Wars was a well-loved turn-based strategy game that offered a humongous amount of wars for players to test their wits to the extreme. So the sequel decided that there’s no point fixing what isn’t broken. Advance Wars 2 has more of everything that made the previous game so beloved. One of the finest strategy games in the history of gaming. This game has managed to triumph in the hard-fought war of the GBA Top Ten.
"The finest entry in the long running Wars series. The perfect balance of characters, unit types and map design. I could literally play this game forever! (And indeed I think I will!)" – Dcubed
"The first game was brilliant & proved an inspired decision to finally bring the “Wars” series to Europe. The second game built on it in every conceivable way! More characters, more units, more special abilities, a longer campaign & more maps (including many from the original) made this a must-buy for GBA owners." – WackerJr
"I won't say much about the specifics of the gameplay, but between combat units, base-capturing, CO powers, and multiple other mechanics, there are many ways to play this game, and hardly two missions will feel alike. And between the story mode, the regular maps, and the multiplayer mode (no extra GBA or cart required!), there is no lack of content or mission variety in this game.
To be honest, there isn't much more to say about Advance Wars, other than the fact that the second game is a strict improvement over the first one (more maps, more balanced CO powers, more characters, etc.). It's a simple but effective game, and this simple genius is enough for it to earn a spot on this list." – Jonnas
If you'd like to be part of N-Europe's Top Ten game lists, then check out the thread on our forum as while it's too late to nominate any Nintendo GameCube titles, we're now down to the last decisive moments as the shortlist is now available and voting will close 22/06/19 but in any case please stop on by. It will be nice if we do get any new forum members (or even existing members) taking part, as we would very much welcome your input because these articles simply wouldn't happen without the valuable feedback and memories from our community.
Exciting times indeed, catch you next time when the article for the best Nintendo GameCube titles goes live on N-Europe in... two weeks time? We'll go with two weeks and then expect our readers to be either mildly surprised if it's any earlier or hopefully only slightly miffed if it's any later than the first week of July.