This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Game Boy Advance! To celebrate, the Siliconera staff wanted to share which games in the handheld’s library most deserve a play (or replay) in 2021.
It shouldn’t be this way, really, but Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising remains the pinnacle of console strategy game design. Not that it doesn’t deserve it! It most certainly does. But the long absence of the Advance Wars franchise has meant that, after the fun but weaker Nintendo DS entries, we haven’t seen a true successor for the mantle.
Maybe that’s okay! Because Advance Wars 2 is everything it should be. A compelling single-player campaign! A balanced batch of multiplayer maps! Topped off with an aesthetic that stands the test of time. It’s not just one of the best Game Boy Advance games, or one of the best games for its time. It’s one of the best games, period. (And it should be playable on a modern system that isn’t the Wii U.) — Graham
One of the best Game Boy Advance titles that springs to mind is Golden Sun. This JRPG has cemented itself as a cult classic hit, with a junctioning system that changes your party’s class and skills. This elemental-based magic system makes for some interesting spell combinations that bring a real sense of variety to the combat. Additionally, the score by Motoi Sakuraba still manages to hold up. If anything, revisiting Golden Sun has made me want to see another sequel entry all the more. — Kazuma
Since Graham already wrote about Advance Wars, I’m going to talk about another GBA classic that changed my (gaming) life: Fire Emblem. I knew nothing about the series when I picked up Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade.
The reason Fire Emblem worked so well then and remains good now is because it doesn’t rely on appearances. It is all about approaching every map and its challenges in a way that not only mitigates potential losses, but perhaps involves overcoming incredible odds. There’s a reason the core gameplay remains (mostly) unchanged from one installment to another. The mechanics are beyond reproach. Each entry instead becomes about seeing how you learn and grow from every encounter. — Jenni
Metroid: Zero Mission is an excellent remake of Samus Aran’s first adventure. It considers nearly 20 years of game design to update this clunky classic. The game holds up perfectly in 2021, and is fantastic for both beginners and veterans.
The key to the title’s success is how it teaches the player navigation organically. These are implemented as tools, rather than a means to hold the player’s hand. And for someone like me who enjoys their environmental design and storytelling? Metroid: Zero Mission turns this up to 11. There are new cutscenes that flesh out the narrative, environmental details that enhance the mystery, and an oppressive atmosphere. Metroid: Zero Mission is effective because it shows and doesn’t tell. — Oni
The Game Boy Advance may well be one of the greatest gaming platforms of all time, but I remember it best for still being one of the only places you can play Super Robot Taisen OG. Localized by Atlus in 2006, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation and its sequel were for the longest time the only officially translated Super Robot Wars games. At the time, complex licensing requirements made it too much of a hassle for Japanese companies to localize Super Robot Wars in North America and Europe. OG was different, as it starred only the Banpresto-owned creations, so there was no need to negotiate with whoever held the rights to, say, Evangelion or Macross.
I ended up enjoying this original story so much. Even to this day, I can’t really bring myself to play the now-readily-accessible mainline games. (Bandai now localizes them for the Southeast Asian market, allowing other English-speaking fans to import from those stores.) Well, until some brave soul opts to localize Super Robot Wars OGS, an enhanced remake of both games for the PS2. — Josh
What do you think are the best Game Boy Advance games? Let us know in the comments! And read our other handy roundtable features for more cool games to check out.