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The 18 best GBA games of all time

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

Custom image for best GBA games guide with a purple Game Boy Advance on a purple backgorund

Picking out the best GBA games of all time might seem like a tricky task, but, well, someone has to do it. Of course, it’s all subjective, but we think the games on this list truly stand the test of time and are as fun to play today as they were all those years ago. So what are you waiting for? Let’s roll back the years and see if our picks for the best Game Boy Advance games match up to your expectations.

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 turn back the clock for our list of the 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. It expands on the ideas of Sapphire and Ruby in a way that truly refreshes the Hoenn experience, whilst still retaining all the things that made the third generation of Pokémon so special.

With plenty 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. It might feel a little stilted if you’re coming from more modern Mario Golf games, but it’s still an important part of Mario’s sporting legacy.

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. It also features one of my all-time favorite GBA soundtracks, with plenty of bopping tunes to keep you grooving through your adventure.

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. These titles managed to combine modern mechanics, or modern for the time at least, with the best of retro Sonic for a highly engaging experience.

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 Advance Wars battling for best GBA games guide

Advance Wars

Fire Emblem isn’t the only strategy series in Nintendo’s arsenal, and the GBA era was big for the Wars series. There’s no better example than in the original GBA offering, Advance Wars, with its challenging battles, various warfarin captains, and classic soundtrack.

The sequel is pretty fantastic too, but we only have enough space for one on our list. Sure, there’s a remake – more on that in our Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp review – but sometimes playing the original way is the best.

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 catalog.

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 from 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 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 for a fighting game that still feels pretty fresh today.

With the possibility of sparring 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 miniaturize 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. It also marks the end of the 2D Mario Kart era, so it’s worth checking out for that alone.

Screenshot of a boss battle in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow for best GBA games guide

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

We can’t put together a list of the best GBA games without including a title from this much-loved gothic series. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a high point of the series, both in terms of Game Boy Advanced games and the wider saga, offering eerie atmospheres, an engaging story, and some incredible combat.

This game also marks the introduction of the Tactical Soul mechanic. This system allows you to steal the souls of your vanquished enemies and use them to better your abilities in battle. Over twenty years later, this is still a fan favorite for those who love a solid Metroidvania.

Screenshot of a race in F-Zero Maximum Velocity for best GBA games list

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

Back when Nintendo didn’t act as if it had never heard of Captain Falcon, F-Zero was the pinnacle of high-octane sci-fi racing. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity was a continuation of everything so many of us loved about the earlier games but in a portable package, with some incredible tracks on offer to race around.

Despite arriving over 20 years ago, Maximum Velocity still feels free enough for a playthrough today. It’s not the best on this list in terms of story or GBA graphics, but it’s a treat for anyone who loves F-Zero 99 and is looking for more ways to fulfill their need for speed.

Custom image for Mario vs Donkey Kong entry on best GBA games list with Mario jumping on an enemy

Mario vs. Donkey Kong

This Mushroom Kingdom spin-off goes back to the heart of the series by pitting Mario up against Donkey Kong in a puzzling platformer. As Mario, it’s your job to pursue DK through a toy factory to save all the Mini-Marios, but you’re going to have to use the best of the plumber’s acrobatic and athletic abilities to get the job done.

It might not look like it, but this game can be one of Mario’s more challenging outings, with some of the puzzles turning out to be real head-scratchers. If you’re a fan of Nintendo’s mascot man and haven’t played this one, it’s definitely worth trying out, even if just for the funky soundtrack and colorful pixel levels alone.

Screenshot of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy with a field full of cards for best GBA games guide

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy might not be the most well-known Yu-Gi-Oh! title on GBA, but in my opinion, it’s easily the best. This game follows the arc of the anime’s first season, introducing you to classic characters like Jaden, Alexis, Chazz, and more. You find yourself in Slifer Red house, but by acing tests, you can advance to Slifer Yellow and eventually Obelisk Blue.

While it might seem a little primitive now compared to titles like Master Duel and Duel Links, Duel Academy offers a challenge to even the most hardened duelist, with some of the in-game bosses posing a real threat. Plus, there are over 100 dueling puzzles to solve, a treat for any duelist worth their salt.

Screenshot of puling a heelflip in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for best GBA games guide

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

While the PlayStation version might be the one that goes down in history as one of the best skating games ever, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for GBA isn’t a bad alternative at all. This isometric skating game still holds up all these years later, with its time trials pushing you to the limit as you perform a never-ending sequence of tricks to get that new high score.

Sure, the controls in this one are famously janky, but that’s not an issue unique to this entry on our list of the best GBA games. We love it anyway. There’s no better way to kill an afternoon than by heading into Free Skate mode and seeing how many tricks you can pull off before bailing.

There you have it, our picks for the best GBA games from back in the day. For more modern hits, check out our picks for the best games like Wordle. Or, if you prefer board games to word games, grab some extra turns with our free Monopoly Go dice guide.