At a time when the future of gaming seemed to be moving exclusively towards 3D, the Nintendo Gameboy Advance offered us one final look back at the glory days of 2D gaming. In many ways, the GBA feels like the last “retro” consoles, even though many of its best games don’t feel outdated in the slightest.
Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow are all classics in the lineage of handheld gaming and are still heralded for all their achievements all these years later. But what about the great GBA games that no one really talks about anymore? The games that, despite their undeniable quality, never broke through in the same way because they were from a more obscure developer, a smaller developer, or simply released at the wrong time.
But just because you may not have heard of these games before doesn’t mean that they don’t hold any value. In fact, many of them can still be enjoyed today as hidden gems of a beloved console that never really got the chance to thrive. Today, we’re going to give the spotlight to the GBA games that deserve it the most.
Here are the top ten most underrated Gameboy Advance games of all time.
10. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
While the game was critically lauded, not everyone all fans were particularly enamored with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance as they felt like it strayed too far from the gritty, medieval setting that defined that PlayStation original.
Well, if you were looking for a complex strategy RPG on the GBA in the same vein as Final Fantasy Tactics, why not go with the series that inspired it. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is everything fans of the genre want, all wrapped up in a neat portable experience that offers a tight gameplay experience without sacrificing any of the epic scales that made the series famous. With an excellent party of characters, a wonderful soundtrack, and some of the best strategic action on the system, this is one game fans of the genre cannot miss out on.
9. Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars
Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars may have lacked series creator and famed video game auteur Hideo Kojima, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthy handheld spinoff for the series. Unlike the main series, The Fist of Mars is a tactical strategy game that still delivers the thought-provoking, philosophical and cinematic storytelling that fans have come to expect.
It is truly impressive how the developers manage to cram so much scale and action and anime drama gets crammed into this GBA cartridge, and despite being on a handheld, The Fist of Mars is a very worthy spinoff that has sadly remained an underrated game for an underrated series.
8. Gunstar Super Heroes
Despite lacking the defining element of the Sega Genesis classic, Gunstar Heroes – that being the weapons fusing system – Gunstar Super Heroes is still a really enjoyable experience from developer Treasure. The game continues the series’ love of over-the-top action, creative level ideas, and boss fights that keep you on the edge of your seat.
What makes Gunstar Super Heroes so interesting is its replay value. Depending on the difficulty level you choose, you will get a slightly different campaign with longer levels, more difficult enemies, and other surprises thrown into the mix the greater the difficulty you choose. This makes it rewarding to rise up the difficulty levels, as you will be experiencing a slightly different game each time you go through it.
7. Ninja Five-O
Who doesn’t love a good ninja game? It just so happens that the GBA has one of the best of all time in the form of Ninja Five-O, an incredibly entertaining action platform game in the spirit of Shinobi or Ninja Gaiden, or even Bionic Commando.
Now established as a cult classic, Ninja Five-O should really be enjoyed by more people for its slick gameplay, entertaining story, and stylish presentation. It does everything right that a great ninja game needs to do and does it all on the GBA. Without question, Ninja Five-O can stand alongside the greats of its genre.
6. Klonoa: Empire of Dreams
The Klonoa series feels like a natural fit for the Gameboy Advance – colorful graphics, an upbeat soundtrack, and slick platforming gameplay. Thankfully, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams didn’t let up on this potential and delivered a cute, and at times thoughtful, platforming experience that did the series’ name proudly.
In Empire of Dreams, you still play as Klonoa, using the wind bullet to fill enemies with air. This way, you can use your inflated foes to reach higher platforms, solve puzzles, and traverse these colorful worlds. This game is a delightful adventure filled with tight-level design, gorgeous sprite work, and one of the best soundtracks on the system.
5. Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch
Have you ever wanted that sweet Punch-Out!! Experience, but on the GBA? Thankfully, Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch is here to fill that void, with the same strategic boxing gameplay that made the NES classic so iconic.
What sets this game apart are the opponents. It’s clear from the moment a gorilla enters the ring with you that Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch doesn’t take its setting too seriously. That doesn’t mean that the gameplay is a joke, as you will have to carefully judge your punches, counter punches, and blocks on your way to becoming the boxing champion of the world.
4. Wario Land 4
Yes, it’s a Nintendo game, and yes, it enjoyed relatively good sales back in the day, but Wario Land 4 has to be one of the most overlooked games in one of the most overlooked series from the “Big N.” Wario Land 4 takes everything that made the original Gameboy games so fun and unique and turns it up to 11.
The immature humor is as vulgar as ever, the heavy-hitting platform gameplay has never felt so satisfying, and the graphics have aged really well. If you are looking for a highly polished Nintendo platformer that has stacks of characters to go around, then play Wario Land 4 today!
3. Lady Sia
Who knew that developers RTX Interactive – who were maligned in the industry for making bad licensed games – had it in them to create a gorgeous action platformer for the GBA in the form of Lady Sia. This game is one of the prettiest on the system, with a lush hand-drawn art style that perfectly complements the large character sprites. In motion, the game looks even better, with slick animations highlighting the game’s interesting combat and enemy attacks.
Gameplay-wise, Lady Sia does not drop the ball, either. Slicing through foes is always a blast, and the level designs could get quite creative. Lady Sia may just be the most unexpected, underrated game on the GBA, but it is certainly one you shouldn’t overlook twice.
2. Astro Boy: Omega Factor
Based on the iconic manga and anime series of the same name, Astro Boy: Omega Factor is one of the true surprise jewels in the GBA’s crown, offering a unique and exciting gameplay experience that should not be missed. The fast-paced action of Astro Boy: Omega Factor is split up into two sections – action platforming sections and shoot ‘em up sections. Both are loads of fun and complement each other nicely, ensuring that the game remains fresh from start to finish.
There are also large boss battles, super tight controls, and a visual style that does a wonderful job paying tribute to its legacy. There can be no doubt that more people need to know about, play, and enjoy all the fun that Astro Boy: Omega Factor has to provide.
1. Drill Dozer
Who would have thought that Game Freak, the developer behind the most popular GBA games of all time in Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, would also be responsible for creating its most underrated? And yet, Drill Dozer is the kind of weird idea that can so easily fly under the radar without a big enough marketing push or the benefit of word of mouth.
Drill Dozer is about, well… drilling. Lots and lots of drilling. Drilling to move, drilling to attack, drilling to solve puzzles. What makes the game so great is how it consistently finds new, creative ways to put this central mechanic to good use. It employs imaginative thinking to take such a silly-sounding idea and transform it into an expertly crafted joy ride that sadly has never been attempted elsewhere outside of the GBA.
And there you have it, our ten most underrated Gameboy Advance games of all time. We are sure to have missed some other hidden gems in this list, but that’s the great thing about sharing a conversation on underrated games! It means there is always the chance for someone else to come forward with a game they love for the GBA that they feel not enough people know about.