Since today marks the 16th anniversary of the Gameboy Advance’s release in the U.S., I thought I’d take some time to share my experience with the GBA and a few of my favorite games for it. As you can see in the photo above, these are my GBA units. The first one I acquired was the silver one, and later the NES style because I liked the classic look of it. I didn’t get a GBA until well into the life of the handheld (around 2005), as it was a time in my life when I had a bit of a lapse in gaming. I still played my SNES and PSone once in a while, but I wasn’t purchasing any new consoles or handhelds at the time. I had lost interest in “modern gaming” and the GBA (and PS2 shortly after) brought me back into it.
The Gameboy Advance felt like a handheld Super Nintendo, which was perfect for me as the SNES is my favorite console with a timeless library of games that I never seem to tire of. I learned that Final Fantasy IV was getting an “advance” version, and since that is one of my favorite games of all time, I just had to play it again. I still remember purchasing Final Fantasy IV Advance from a local game store that sadly no longer exists. Thus began my rejuvenated interest in video games.
From that new take on a classic, I was able to branch out and get some great games that I may have missed out on otherwise. I’d like to share just a few of those, because if I were to list them all, I’d certainly be here all day!
First up is Mother 3! This game is an emotional roller coaster. I think it’s an excellent example of how an RPG, and a video game in general can tell a very meaningful story that really makes you care for the characters and the world they live in. There’s something very unique about the style and presentation of this game, and yet it is very easy to relate to the trials and tribulations of the characters.
Loss is something we all deal with at some point in our lives in some form, and Mother 3 touches upon that in a very realistic manner. It’s not all depressing though, the game has an awesome sense of humor and is a ton of fun to play. The soundtrack is also very memorable.
Sure, you can play it on SNES (and I recommend that you do) but I couldn’t not mention Final Fantasy VI Advance. The translation has been updated and though I did miss some of the charm of the SNES translation, this is an adequate update. If you’ve played the game before there’s not too much different here, but they did add some extra dungeons at the end of the game that are somewhat interesting.
Dragon Ball Z Legacy of Goku II and Buu’s Fury – These are two separate games if you were unaware, but since they’re in the same series I thought I’d mention them together. I love these games because combines two of my favorite things: RPGs and Dragon Ball. The first Legacy of Goku game is absolutely awful, but Legacy of Goku II improves upon it in every way and turns it into a respectable action RPG series.
Buu’s Fury improves on the series even further, by allowing for equippable armor and accessories, taking the RPG feel to the next level. I really liked how rather than starting you at level 1, they started you off at higher levels to make it more of a continuation. These games had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed the sprite art a lot. I always wanted this series to return, but unfortunately it ended with Buu’s Fury. At the very least, it went out on a high note and I can’t recommend these games enough.
Sword of Mana is an “enhanced” remake of Final Fantasy Adventure for the original Gameboy. It updates a lot of the gameplay elements to fit in with later titles of the Mana series. It also allows you to choose between a male or female protagonist and updates the story with more details and dialogue. It’s a fun little game that feels a lot like Secret or Legend of Mana, which in my opinion are the highest points of the Mana games.
Last, but not least, is Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. While it takes on a different tone and is, in my opinion, not as good as Final Fantasy Tactics, this is a great little game in its own right and has a lot of heart. The beginning features a tactical snowball fight that teaches you how to navigate the battle system. The law system in battles, while meant to offer a new element of strategy can sometimes be obnoxious, but once you get the hang of it and learn to compensate for what you cannot do in certain battles, it’s not so bad.
The graphics are charming and the music is enjoyable. It’s a wonderful game and I remember having a lot of fun with it. I clocked in a lot of time with this title trying to master the skills. The clock on my old file is stopped at 99 hours and 99 minutes. I definitely played well over that!
This is nowhere near a complete list of my favorites, and some honorable mentions for quality GBA games goes to: Any of the Kirby and Castlevania titles, Bubble Bobble: Old & New, Breath of Fire II, Metroid Fusion, and Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure.
I’m sure there are some I am forgetting, but that’s just off the top of my head. The Gameboy Advance will go down as one of my favorite, if not favorite handhelds, and I can always go back to its library and enjoy the games as much as I did the very first time I played them.