With the success of Pokémon, Nintendo’s flagging Game Boy brand was re-energized and portable gaming became a major focus for Nintendo once again. The Game Boy Pocket and Color helped bring in a new generation of gamers, but the 8-Bit hardware was quickly becoming obsolete, despite several well designed games. Nintendo needed a portable console with a greater color palette, more horsepower, and fully realize the on-the-go 16-Bit gaming dream that Sega had been trying to do for a decade. What the Game Boy needed to do... was advance.
The Game Boy Advance is a weird little system. It never achieved the heights of its predecessor nor its successor, but had several cult classics that seem to have flown under the radar thanks to a lack of digital re-releases in modern times. The system did bring shoulder buttons to the Game Boy line, but frustratingly kept the two face button layout of the original, likely to keep it similar to its father system, especially since the GBA could play all Game Boy games. The system also famously didn’t have a backlight, which severely hurt portable playtime because you needed to have a bright light source to see what was going on.
While the Game Boy Advance would have dozens of color options like the Pocket and Color would, it also was the start of Nintendo introducing wholly different models to the line. Soon after the system’s launch, Nintendo introduced the Game Boy Advance SP, which featured a clamshell design, a front light to see what was going on even in the dark, and a smaller frame, but it comes at the cost of a headphone jack and an incompatibility with certain GBA games and accessories. Near the end of the system’s life cycle, Nintendo would introduce the Game Boy Micro, which returned the system to its horizontal roots, but made the system much smaller, introduced customizable faceplates, brought back the headphone jack, and finally gave the system a backlight. Unfortunately, the system was incompatible with most GBA accessories (including the Link Cable) and couldn’t play original Game Boy games anymore.
As far as the games lineup, it had a rather unusual lineup compared to other systems past and present. In order to show off the power of the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo (and a lot of third party developers) decided to port as many 16-bit games as gamers could handle. All of the Mario platformers (sans the All-Stars version of the original), Link to the Past, all three Donkey Kong Country games, and kinda sorta Super Mario Kart all made an appearance on this system. NES games also got ported over, some as remakes such as Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland or Metroid: Zero Mission, but most as part of the Classic NES Series where they were straight ports of the originals. Remember that digital storefronts weren’t a thing yet and Nintendo didn’t do many Complete Collection re-releases, so this was the first time gamers could play, say, the original Metroid or The Legend of Zelda, since the original NES days. A lot of third party companies also got in on the craze, as series like Final Fantasy and Street Fighter saw ports or remakes of their 8-Bit and 16-Bit originals put on the system.
That’s not to say that there weren’t any original games. There were a large number of original titles for the system and many are still beloved to this day. However, a lot of them tended to get lost in the shuffle with all the ports and remakes (as well as sub series like the Game Boy Video series or the e-Reader) and many have been forgotten to time for a lot of gamers, unless you happen to have certain 3DS systems or a Wii U.
Which makes a Classic Edition a perfect chance to bring these underrated gems back to into the forefront. As far as technical specs go, it will obviously be greatly enhanced with modern technology. All of the additions to the previous Game Boy Classic Editions will find their way here, including a proper backlight, a higher resolution screen, wireless adapter, a way to connect the system to the TV, and a Wii Classic Controller port replacing the Link Cable port. With the design, as much as I prefer the SP and Micro designs for the system, Nintendo has used the original design when designating Game Boy Advance games, so I believe they will only release the system with its original design. Perhaps they will release multiple colors or even changeable faceplates, but I don’t think they’ll make three different system designs for this product.
As far as the games list goes, I am going to emphasize games made with this system in mind. That means no ports/remakes of previous games. No game from the Super Mario Advance series, no Link to the Past, no Metroid: Zero Mission, no Donkey Kong Country games, and no Nightmare in Dreamland. The other usual caveats apply, so no titles based on licensed properties such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Dragon Ball Z, no licensed sports titles, and no Rare games featuring characters not owned by Nintendo.
With all that being said, let’s get to the list!
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Like with the Game Boy Color, there was no brand new Super Mario platformer made for the GBA, only remakes and ports of the plumber’s NES and SNES outings. So, much like before, our headlining game will instead come from the Legend of Zelda series. Probably the most underappreciated entry in the franchise, Minish Cap had Link traverse the land to stop the wizard Vaati, with his companion this time being a magical talking hat named Ezlo. Combining the gameplay styles of the Game Boy Zelda titles with Link to the Past, Minish Cap offered a fairly comfortable return to 2D Zelda, with an interesting new mechanic being shrinking or growing, which essentially doubled the size of the world map. It also offered an explanation as to why random bushes have rupees or ammo hiding in them.
2./3. Pokémon Ruby Version/Sapphire Version
Of course we have to have Pokémon on here. While not the best-loved games of the franchise, Ruby and Sapphire introduced several new mechanics that have become mainstays in the franchise, such as Abilities innate to every Pokémon, and the ability to finally have 2-on-2 battling. Though a number of design choices were very odd, the bump in graphics as well as the excellent design aesthetic for the series really gave the games their own identity. To this day, this is still my favorite lineup of Pokémon designs. And you know what? Thanks to modern technology, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company can finally apply something that was impossible to do with the original releases: Make the games compatible with the original Generation 1 and 2 games. Originally, the Game Boy Advance had a different Link Cable design, which made it impossible to connect to an original Game Boy, so it was impossible to bring a player’s team to the new games. Now, that is a simple task. It’s also the only way you’d be able to complete the Pokédex, since the original game required Fire Red/Leaf Green and Pokémon Colosseum to do so back in the day.
4. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
While the spotlight Mario titles on the system were the remakes of the NES and SNES platformers, that’s not to say there weren’t ANY original Mario titles on the system. The most beloved is this game, a spinoff RPG that played very differently from both Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario. For one thing, Luigi actually got in on the action for once, and you controlled both brothers at the same time. Mario’s actions were mapped to the A Button, while Luigi, the B Button. This game had a wonderful sense of humor, with dozens of memorable characters, great facial expressions, and the introduction of one of the most beloved spinoff villains: Fawful.
5. Mario Kart: Super Circuit
I’ll come right out and admit it: Super Circuit is the only Mario Kart game I actively hate. Sort of a marriage of Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64, Super Circuit had a much steeper learning curve compared to other titles in the franchise, especially if you’re used to the more modern Mario Kart controls. Still, it’s Mario Kart and it’s one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises for a reason, so even an outright bad game in the series is still a must for the Classic Edition lineup. This was actually the first game that introduced retro tracks, as you could unlock every single track from the SNES game.
6. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
This might seem a bit weird to include over the then-latest entries of the Mario Party, Mario Tennis, and Mario Golf series, but I decided to include this game for some variety. A semi-sequel to the original Donkey Kong game (the one with Jumpman, not the Country games), this game has Donkey Kong steal a bunch of Mini-Mario toys and Mario has to get them back. While future titles would be straight puzzle games utilizing the Mini-Mario toys, this game is more of an action puzzler in the vein of the arcade game, creating a rather unique experience that sadly has never really been revisited.
7. Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!
A bunch of Nintendo programmers had come up with an idea for a new minigame collection, using a bunch of various weird games that took only seconds to accomplish, and it was eventually decided to use Wario as the mascot for the title, which would drastically change the character from then on. Sporting a brand new biker outfit, Wario challenged the user to complete his microgames and he became a natural fit for how insane this series got. While the original game has some outdated stylings and frustrating microgames, it does overall still hold up and is great for pick-up-and-play bus trips and the like.
8. Wario Land 4
Thanks to WarioWare, the Wario Land series would eventually fall by the wayside. Nintendo would continue to support it through the Wii era, but it seemed like the new hotness was all people wanted. As a result, Wario Land 4 was mostly forgotten by the gaming populace soon after release. While the game doesn’t do anything drastically new with the series, it does offer fantastic platforming levels and retains the ability for Wario to change form from certain enemy attacks. However, Wario is no longer invincible and now has a health meter. Still, searching around for treasure is just as fun as always and trying to get the best ending requires a lot of practice and skill, since you’re timed in certain segments.
9. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
Typically, Nintendo likes to keep a lot of their franchises as one entry per console, including F-Zero. However, for some reason, there were three games in the franchise released for the system. The first was this game, which was chosen because it most resembles classic F-Zero and is generally agreed to be the best of the three. The second, GP Legend, was based on the F-Zero anime (Yes, there was an F-Zero anime. It was dubbed by 4Kids but I don’t think they finished the show due to poor ratings.) while the third entry, Climax, never left Japan. F-Zero could desperately use some kind of popularity boost, and including this title on here would give it that boost, especially with fans still begging for a new entry in the series.
10. Advance Wars
This series, along with the franchise below, originally started on the Famicom in Japan, but it wasn’t until the 21st Century when it finally came to the West. Advance Wars is a strategy RPG that has you conquering surrounding countries using your army and was a smash hit when released over here. The kooky characters, enjoyable designs, and excellent sprite work entranced gamers, while the deep strategy and the need to plan out your attack kept gamers enthralled. The game was such a hit that the series would shift to becoming more focused on Western tastes (which kinda bit them in the butt with Days of Ruin) as well as give Nintendo the confidence to bring over their more complicated RPGs, including...
11. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
While Advance Wars needed to do well on its own merits, Fire Emblem got a boost in popularity from another series entirely. When Marth and Roy were included in Super Smash Bros. Melee, fans over in the West instantly fell in love with them and the demand for the Fire Emblem games to be brought over was overwhelming. While we never did get the games starring either Smasher (though Marth’s game would get a remake on the DS), we did get future titles. This was the second game released over here, focusing on a brother and sister duo as they attempted to stop an evil warlord from conquering the land and plunging it into darkness. All the classic Fire Emblem gameplay remains intact and still holds up to this day. I will admit that it’s very possible that Nintendo could put The Blazing Blade (released over here as simply Fire Emblem) on here instead since that game has Lyn, one of the more popular characters in the series, but I chose this one as it’s more standalone.
12. Metroid Fusion
With the success of the Transfer Pak on the Nintendo 64, Nintendo decided to expand upon that and released the Game Cube/Game Boy Advance Link Cable early on, allowing the two systems to connect. One of the early games to show this off was when this game was released at the same time as Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime. The story of this game is rather unique. A new parasite called the X Parasite has infected Samus’ Power Suit and taken it over. Using a new, less powerful suit, Samus must sneak around and avoid the SA-X while finding a way to beat it. One of the most beloved titles in the franchise, Fusion combined the exploration and action the series was known for, but combined it with tense stealth gameplay as, for most of the game, Samus is powerless against SA-X, who is constantly hunting her down. Connecting this with Prime allowed you to play the original Metroid upon beating the game, but I dunno if Nintendo will modify that in an eventual release here.
13. Golden Sun
Developed by Camelot (the same guys who did the Mario Tennis and Golf games), Golden Sun is a return to traditional turn-based RPG action. Issac and his friends traverse around trying to rescue their friends before some evil villains can activate the four lighthouses and cause calamity everywhere. The game was notable for the Djinns, little creatures that can be used to enhance the party’s powers and grant them amazing new abilities. Gamers were also wowed by the extremely detailed sprite work and amazing special moves, which still hold punch even in this day and age. While the game was beloved by many, they were also frustrated by a rather annoying cliffhanger ending, leading into...
14. Golden Sun: The Lost Age
I know it seems wrong to include both Golden Sun games but only one Fire Emblem, Metroid, or Advance Wars game, but I made a few exceptions for this game. For one thing, it’s essentially the second half of the first game. You can even connect the two (either by Link Cable or password) and bring over your stats and Djinn from the first game to have some real powerhouses. But another reason is that the series doesn’t have extra representation elsewhere. Almost every other Nintendo franchise gets a new game or re-release on every console, meaning that if you miss one entry in the series, you can play another entry on a different console. In particular, with these Classic Edition lineups, we have a lot of choices from those franchises to pick from. But Golden Sun’s heyday was here and only here. After The Lost Age, there was a DS sequel called Dark Dawn, which bombed so hard stores couldn’t give the game away, and Issac was an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Since then, the franchise has been deader than a doornail, so why not throw it a bone and have both games here?
15. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
With the popularity of the anime series injecting some new life into the franchise, Kirby & The Amazing Mirror brought some unique design formulas to the series. In this game, you can call three other Kirbys (either CPU controlled or player controlled via Link Cable) and rather than explore the world in a linear, stage-by-stage fashion like other Kirby games, you are dropped in a large maze and have to explore every nook and cranny like this was a Metroid game. While this was never explored again in a future title, it makes for a fun one-off and a very different Kirby experience from other games in the franchise. Plus, with the wireless adapter in this Classic Edition, getting a multiplayer quest going isn’t as hard as it was back then.
16. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
There were three Castlevania games released for the Game Boy Advance, Circle of the Moon was a launch title, followed by Harmony of Dissonance, and concluded by this game, Aria of Sorrow. While all three are fan favorites, I chose this one because it’s mostly agreed to be the best of the three and was developed by Koji Igurashi, who many consider the true father of what fans enjoy Castlevania for. This game was built off of the gameplay introduced in Symphony of the Night and solidifies the action and RPG elements that game introduced. While a lot of the portable Castlevania games are forgotten today, they’re really well done titles and deserve a second chance. Plus, with Simon and Richter coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it the brand name has a boost in popularity.
17. Mega Man Battle Network 2
Capcom was coming to a crossroads in regards to the Mega Man franchise. The Classic series was all but dead and the X series, while still profitable, was beginning to suffer franchise fatigue, especially with Kenji Inafune wanting to leave the series for a different spinoff. So, in order to inject from fresh blood in the franchise, Capcom decided to bring the Blue Bomber to the Game Boy Advance as an RPG. You play as a young kid named Lan Hikari, who has a digital AI partner MegaMan.EXE that can connect to the internet to battle viruses and collect data. You collect Battle Chips, which give Mega Man extra battle options besides his weak Buster, and try to maneuver around a 9x9 title grid to avoid enemy attacks. The series proved a big hit, even moving to the DS and spawning a sequel series known as Mega Man Star Force. For this list, I chose the first sequel because it’s well regarded by the fanbase and fixed a lot of issues from the first game, but I can easily see the original being put on here just because it was the original.
18. Mega Man Zero
Having finished up Mega Man X5, Inafune finally got what he really wanted and the next series in the franchise had his baby, Zero, taking the starring role. Taking place a century after the X series, Zero finds the titular Reploid with a brand new design and in a brand new era. This game served as a safety net for fans who wanted classic Mega Man action, as this game stayed to the original action formula, though with a more linear stage layout than the pick-and-choose stage selection from the originals, though with a few changes to accommodate Zero’s different playstyle. While nowhere near as popular as the Battle Network series, Zero is still fun, but it also starts a trend of this subseries being hard as hell. This is not a game for the faint of heart.
19. Sonic Advance
When the Dreamcast ended production, Sega decided to leave the console business entirely and become a third party developer instead. This change was felt almost immediately, as Sonic Adventure 2 was quickly ported over the brand new Game Cube while a companion portable piece, Sonic Advance, was developed for this system. Touted as a return to the Genesis style of gameplay, Sonic Advance allowed you to play as four characters (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy), each with their own specialties and abilities, and had you go through classic 2D action in order to defeat Dr. Eggman. While nowhere near as beloved as the original Genesis games, this game is still a lot of fun and having Mario and Sonic on the same system is still a cool thing.
20. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
There were a LOT of Final Fantasy games on the Game Boy Advance. The first six games in the franchise were remade for the system, which was actually the first time Western fans could play Final Fantasy II, III, and V legally. However, the only original title is one of the most beloved. Though it never reached the popularity of its core series, Tactics Advance took the series in a new direction by having the game be a strategy RPG instead of a turn-based one, with excellent results. An engaging story, wonderful characters, colorful graphics, and great soundtrack all combined to make one of the fandom’s most beloved spinoff titles. This sub series has been ignored by SquareEnix in the past decade, and including this here is a great way to re-energize the franchise again.
Bonus Game 21. Sonic the Hedgehog
I know we have a Sonic game in here already, but if there’s anything that is a guaranteed system seller, it is by far the best port of one of the most popular games in history. This masterpiece successfully translated the expansive 16-Bit Genesis game into the tiny Game Boy Advance screen, with perfect controls, music better than the original, and graphics that made the original game look like an Atari game. I mean, is it any wonder why every successive port of the original is based on this version rather than the original Genesis version? Who could possibly argue against what might THE most important inclusion on this list?
You think this was a joke entry?
That there’s some other game that should be the bonus instead?
Like, one that never left Japan?
Why would you think that?
If it didn’t leave Japan, it’s obvious no one in the West would want it.
And if Nintendo wanted to release it in the West, they would have by now.
There’s no way they would release a previously Japan-only game on this system to boost sales.
Nah, not happening.
Actual Bonus Game 21. Mother 3
OK, you probably saw this coming a mile away. Much like how Star Fox 2 was completed as a way to entice hardcore gamers to buy the SNES Classic Edition, you KNOW Nintendo would damn well use this to finally get Mother 3 released in the West. It’d piss off a lot of people, yes, but it’s the most Nintendo thing Nintendo would do. The sequel to Earthbound, this quirky RPG is among the more legendary games in Nintendo’s stable thanks to fans demanding this game’s Western release for a decade and a half now. Yes, I do think this game will be released on the Switch eventually, but not until long after this Classic Edition has been released.
As for other possible suggestions for this system not mentioned, there’s Mario Pinball Land, Mario Tennis: Power Tour, Mario Golf: Advance Tour, Mario Party Advance, Game & Watch Gallery 4, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, R-Type III: The Third Lightning, Rayman III, Rayman: Raving Rabbids, Sonic Battle, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation, and DK: King of Swing.
Are there any other games that you think should have been included instead? Any games you’d take off?