The best GBA games

For our list of the best GBA games, we’ve whittled down hundreds of titles to pick out the finest fare for you to try on the premium handheld of the Advance era

screenshot of a GBA on a yellow background for best GBA games list

Depending on who you ask, the question “what are the best GBA games?” can be one that reveals a lot about a gamer. Big into JRPGS? It’s probably Golden Sun and Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade. More of a Mario fan? Then it’s Superstar Saga and Power Tour tennis. Really, there are just too many options, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try and condense them down into one list. That’s what we do.

For more long lists of exciting titles, check out our picks for the best Switch adventure gamesSwitch strategy games, Switch racing games, and free Switch games. Or, if you’re trying to keep things retro, turn back the clock even further with our list of the best Game Boy games.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the best GBA games.

Best GBA games

Just before the Rayquaza encounter in Pokemon Emerald for best GBA games list

Pokémon Emerald

Let’s be fair, every Pokémon game from the GBA era could easily make this list, but if we have to pick one, it’s always Pokémon Emerald. With bundles of post-game content thanks to the Battle Frontier, the excitement of finding Johto Pokémon in the extended safari zone, and the best version of the third gen’s narrative arc, there’s a reason you see Emerald at the top of many best Pokémon games lists.

Screenshot of Mario teeing off in Mario Golf for best GBA games list

Mario Golf: Advance Tour

While other golf games didn’t have the nerve to push the GBA to its limits with a 3D title, Mario Golf: Advance Tour put on its big-person pants and offered a near-console quality experience for the time. With an intuitive design that pushes you to keep improving your handicap and four exciting courses to play on, there are hours of content for those keen on finding the fairway in this title,

Screenshot of Wario falling through a portal in Wario Land 4 for best GBA games list

Wario Land 4

Wario Land 4 has a special place in my heart as the game I first played on GBA, but don’t think I’m biased here. Wario’s fourth foray is well known as one of the wackiest platformers on GBA, asking the question “What if Mario played as if it were a fever dream trapped inside an Egyptian pyramid?”. From the mind-boggling bosses to the charming minigames, the whole Wario Land 4 experience is one of the most memorable of the GBA era, and well worth catching up on for any retro enthusiasts.

Screenshot of a dungeon from Golden Sun for best GBA games list

Golden Sun

Golden Sun was created by the brothers Hiroyuki and Shugo Takahashi as a way to combat Sony’s increasing JRPG dominance at the turn of the millennium, and it did just that. Often ranking as the top pick on other best GBA games lists, Golden Sun’s epic narrative takes some of the best tropes from the genre and uses them to create a tale somehow unlike any other, with the overarching story across the original game, it’s GBA sequel Golden Sun: The Lost Age, and DS follow-up Golden Sun: Dark Dawn coming together to showcase a tour de force in games writing and RPG mechanics.

Screenshot of Sonic racing away from in a bee in Sonic Advance 2 for best GBA games list

Sonic Advance 2

Before Sonic the Hedgehog entered his mid-noughties malaise, the blue blur was doing gangbusters on GBA thanks to titles like Sonic Advance 2. The middle child of the three Sonic Advance titles is often heralded as the best of the bunch, thanks to the enhanced speed of the hedgehog himself, as well as improved level design, and a few challenging missions to test those who pass through Green Hill Zone with ease.

Screenshot of Samus taking on baddies for best GBA games list

Metroid: Zero Mission

A reimagining of a series’ starting point can so often go wrong, but with Metroid: Zero Mission, Nintendo really decided to go to town in bringing the original Metroid experience to life in handheld form. In this version, you can actually tell what the enemies are supposed to be, and the deep-space horror vibes turn up a few notches thanks to memorable bosses like Mother Brain looking, well, revolting. Better still, you can complete this one in a single afternoon, so there’s no reason for it not to be in your catalogue.

Screenshot of Yoshi taking out monkeys in Yoshi's Island for best GBA games list

Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3

Much like Wario Land 4, Yoshi’s Island offers an alternative to the classic Mario-style platforming, this time thanks to some floaty dinosaurs, flying eggs, and one very peeved baby Bowser. Outside of gameplay, and that gameplay is plenty enjoyable, Yoshi’s Island is a pastel paradise, using childlike illustrations to build a world that feels different to anything else in the Mario series, and is a must for anyone who hasn’t experienced its joy.

Screenshot of Sora opening a new door in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories for best GBA games list

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

There was some trepidation from series fans when Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was announced way back in the early days of the saga, with some fans finding it difficult to believe the console experience could translate to handheld. How wrong they were, with Chain of Memories a childhood highlight for many who still love the convoluted franchise, thanks to an intelligent reimagining of KH gameplay for the GBA’s limitations, all the beloved characters, and just a general vibrancy about the game that makes every location feel packed with imagination.

Screenshot of two fighters from Street Fighter Turbo for best GBA games list

Super Street Fighter II: Turbo Revival

Another SNES port perfectly suited for the GBA, Super Street Fighter II: Turbo Revival takes everything great about the original game, and, well, turbo charges it for a new generation. With the possibility of fighting on the go thanks to the GBA’s link cable connection, you can take any of the iconic roster of fighters to battle against your friends – though they’ll need a copy themselves – through various game modes and across vivid stages from all over the world.

Screenshot of Link taking on the final boss in the Minish Cap for best GBA games list

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

The Legend Of Zelda series loves a good gimmick, time travel, moving between worlds, apocalyptic moons that hang over you like an impending omen of doom, that sort of thing. In The Minish Cap, things go all Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, as Link gains the ability to miniaturise himself for another adventure, and this leads to Hyrule as you’ve never seen it before, like through the lens of a magnifying glass. Outside of everything being teeny-tiny, The Minish Cap also gives Link some new sword-wielding abilities, making it one of the strongest top-down Zelda experiences for pure combat.

Screenshot of Mario and Luigi in Superstar Saga for best GBA games list

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a game that lives up to its name, sending the pair of plumbing brothers on a scale of epic proportions, all the while battling through with RPG mechanics a la Paper Mario while providing plenty of laughs. With Nintendo trusting AlphaDream with its most precious IP, the developer delivered and then some, creating a blueprint that would continue all the way through until 2015’s Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam successfully.

Screenshot of racing with Mario in Mario Kart GBA for best GBA games list

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

If Nintendo ever needs a hit for a new console, there’s one title you can be sure the developer is keen to race to release, and it’s Mario Kart. Super Circuit was the series debut on handheld, with memorable tracks like Cheep-Cheep Circuit and Ribbon Road combined with the original twenty Super Mario Kart tracks to over forty different locations (if you’re including battle maps). While the graphics are a bit hard to get along with in this day and age, it’s still worth trying out this title for any Mario or Nintendo historians.

There you have it, our picks for the best GBA games from back in the day. For more modern hits, or if you’re just feeling wordy, check out our picks for the best games like Wordle.