The 25 best GBA games of all time

Oh the times, they are a-changing. When the Game Boy line of hardware debuted in 1989, the idea of a device that could play fully-fledged games on the go was revolutionary. Now we have cell phones that allow us to talk to others, stream video, play games, and look up facts (like what year the Game Boy debuted) in the palm of our hands. But let us never forget these dedicated little machines, or the last of its lineage, the Game Boy Advance (GBA).

This was the handheld that gave us amazing games like Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand, Advance Wars 2, and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. It had a wide range of third-party support, updated versions of SNES classics, and some of the most gorgeous sprites this side of Rainbow Road. The library spanned more than 1,000 titles, but we've combed through that extensive list to bring you the 25 best GBA games of all time. So even if you've got a phone that can do everything the GBA does and more, be sure to give these games some love.

25. Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand

You could count on one hand the number of Game Boy Advance games that've actually used the system's portability as a key gameplay feature--and you'd still have a free hand to play GBA games, inside, next to your TV. Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand changes all that, with a stroke of the vexing ingenuity for which producer Hideo Kojima will forever be known. 

Equipped with a built-in clock and solar sensor, the vampire-hunting Boktai challenges you to charge your in-game weaponry with IRL solar energy--and ramps up the difficulty during the hours of darkness. It's an intriguing twist on player immersion, and more importantly, it's a lot of fun as well.

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24. Mario Golf: Advance Tour

"Why, oh why," you've doubtless asked during rounds of Tiger Woods PGA Tour, "why doesn't this golf simulator include more top-down JRPG elements? It's as if they didn't know why people play golf games at all!" 

Happily for you and all your very real, not-just-invented-for-journalistic-purposes friends, Mario Golf: Advance Tour developer Camelot has elected to remedy the glaring lack of golfing games that double as item-heavy, level-based RPGs. And happily for anyone still unsold on such a formula, the developer has done it near-flawlessly, turning out the GBA's best golfing title in the process.

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23. Kirby & the Amazing Mirror

Seen most recently among the freebies handed out by Nintendo to placate early 3DS adopters and now available on the Wii U eShop, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror's already in fine company. The title earns its prestige with a twist on the usual suck-'em-up Kirby formula, one which paid off. 

Contracted out to Minish Cap developer Flagship, Amazing Mirror forgoes the left-to-right platforming action in favor of a Metroidvania-style quest incorporating a large game world and multiple Kirbies. Fans of the character - or of anything Metroid-esque and Nintendo-approved - ought to keep an eye out for a copy.

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22. Car Battler Joe

Car Battler Joe is the Mad Max-inspired JRPG you never knew you wanted. The world lies in ruins, pockets of civilization band together in run-down villages, and car battlers make their living by going into the wastes looking for scrap and competing in deadly competitions. Your father has gone missing, and rumor has it that he's been hanging out with the most ruthless car-battling gang out there. 

And so you must travel from town to town, chat with the locals, take on odd jobs, upgrade your car, and scour the land looking for clues to your father's whereabouts. It's a bizarre blend of genres, but Car Battler Joe makes it all come together in explosive fashion. 

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21. Wario Land 4

A title that lucky 3DS Ambassadors and Wii U owners can enjoy today, Wario Land 4 continues the series that began life as a Mario Land spin-off and has since blossomed into its own sneering, garlic-reeking, treasure-grabbing epic entirely. 

Developed by Nintendo R&D1 and released when programmers' prowess with the GBA was really hitting its stride, Wario Land 4 is a late-period throwback to the golden age of side-on platforming. As such, the title's design may be more traditional than the open-world likes of other Advance hits like Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Metroid Fusion, but it's no less ingenious for it.

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20. Advance Wars 2

Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' Advance Wars came seemingly out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best reasons to own a Game Boy Advance. When players dug into the Famicom Wars' long and storied Japanese history, the obvious question was: When do we get some more of this great thing. Without much further ado, an answer appeared less than two years later. 

Advance Wars 2 doesn't do much to rewrite its predecessor's winning formula; but as you'll recall from some 24 words ago, "some more of this great thing" was exactly what we wanted, and that's what you get. More characters, more powers, more arenas, more battles... it's more Advance Wars, and that's just great.

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19. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis

The Ogre Battle franchise remains a hidden gem in the west, never commanding the same fevered enthusiasm as your Final Fantasies or Elder Scrollses. But for those in the know, Quest's series occupies a special place in the history of the tactical-JRPG genre. 

Drawing inspiration from the Balkan conflict of the early '90s, creator Yasume Matsuno laid the foundations for Ogre Battle before developing the acclaimed Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics, and FF12 for Square Enix. The Knight of Lodis was developed after Matsuno left the company, but it's still a fitting continuation of his first tactical masterwork.

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18. Dr. Mario & Puzzle League

Sometimes you can't be bothered with inventive power-ups or innovative level design or relatable characters. Sometimes you just want to strap a stethoscope to a plumber and hurl pills into a bottle of bacteria until your eyes glaze over. And with this solidly realized port of Dr. Mario, you can do that on the bus, in the bathroom, wherever. 

Someone at Nintendo sure must like you, because they packed in something extra. A good deal better than Dr. Mario, Puzzle League is a bare-bones version of the title sometimes known as Tetris Attack and Pokmon Puzzle League. It may lack any new frills. but the addicting puzzle challenge is still at the top of its game.

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17. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town

New to Harvest Moon? Then what you need to know is that this series is considerably more engrossing than one might expect from a game whose basic premise is "like a JRPG, but without the fighting or plot." Harvest Moon knows its lack of magic swords or monstrous bosses may seem like a sticking point, but the game is eager to accept that challenge. 

And if you're not new to Harvest Moon, you're aware the game packs an admirable amount of charm and challenge both. The series has commanded a cult following since its inception in the SNES days, and this GBA conversion of the PlayStation iteration is a perfect entry point - or, for aficionados, more of what you love.

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16. Drill Dozer

We love Pokemon games as much as the next potential collector, but its always nice to see series creator Game Freak try something new in addition to the monster collectors it keeps pumping out. Drill Dozer ended up being quite the departure for Game Freak, thanks mostly to its interesting approach to platforming, that mostly involved drilling everything around you. 

Protagonist Jill and her highly customizable drill explored many impressively expansive stages, and the storytelling reminded us of our favorite manic anime series. The game was made more even more impactful thanks to the rumble pack attached to the cart, a feature exploited in few games, and one that Drill Dozer uses with panache.

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