15. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
It's two decades on now and we're still working out how Vicarious Visions pulled this off on Nintendo’s diminutive handheld. Yes there are obvious concessions (the licensed soundtracks are short instrumental renditions) and yes the dinky visuals can strain the eyes at times, but that doesn't detract at all from the excellent pickup and play gameplay which is just as addictive here as it was on the bigger home console versions. Despite a new isometric viewpoint, all the original levels are perfectly captured and instantly recognizable. Mechanically it's excellent too and while the move set has been dialed back a little, it remains just as enjoyable racking up insane scores.
14. Mario Vs Donkey Kong
This charming 2004 release is effectively a spiritual successor of the earlier 1994 Game Boy game, Donkey Kong. Many stages typically consist of Mario trying to retrieve a key to open a checkpoint and then rescue a stolen toy Mario against a strict time limit, but the plucky plumber also needs to guide the retrieved toy Marios to safety in a separate stage and then face an inventive battle against Donkey Kong. It's a neat concept with a tremendous presentation that will test both your platforming skills as well as your old grey matter. Several sequels followed on later systems, but the original remains our favorite.
13. Metroid: Zero Mission
Alongside Capcom’s magnificent GameCube remake of Resident Evil, this remains one of the best remasters of the generation. Rather than simply remake the original NES classic (which is included as an unlockable extra), Nintendo R&D1 took the core of the pioneering 8-bit game and subtly retooled it. Samus’ journey is retold with brand-new cutscenes, while enhanced aesthetics greatly improve what was already a very atmospheric adventure. Best of all is that even when you get to the game’s end, Nintendo has one final trick up its sleeve, which allows you to experience Samus’ battle against the space pirates like never before.
12. Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World
While we like to keep lists like this to system exclusives, we’d be remiss if we didn’t celebrate a portable version of the greatest 2d platformer of all time. This is essentially the same slice of exceptional platforming excellence that appeared on the SNES but various tweaks have been made from brightening characters up to make them easier to see, to adding new Dragon Coins in stages that didn’t feature them originally. Oh, and Luigi is now a playable character as well. It’s not the most ambitious of updates, but as the recent Super Mario 3D All-Stars Switch collection proved, it’s very, very hard to improve on platform perfection.
11. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
It’s no word of a lie to admit we’ve put nearly 300 hours into Square’s superb strategy hit. Rather than acting as a straight sequel to the PlayStation original, Square’s portable isometric epic is a standalone story set in the world of Ivalice and features a bunch of young kids trying to find their way home. A gargantuan adventure resides within Square’s tiny cartridge and you’ll discover many enhancements over the original PlayStation hit, including a far bigger roster of jobs and enhanced mechanics for learning new abilities. The biggest (and many would say best) change is the introduction of Judges who make players follow strict new laws which can instantly turn the tide of battle.
10. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald
While Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen are excellent Pokemon games in their own rights, we’ve somehow managed to clock up even more hours on this trilogy of RPGs. Many Pokemon aficionados weren’t happy with Game Freak’s decision to not import your earlier Pokemon (meaning this was the first time where you couldn’t actually catch ‘em all) but a new engine and not having to lean on the earlier games meant that the series could move in new directions, including adding dramatic new double battles and bestowing new Innate Abilities and Natures which further distinguished the cute critters you were feverishly trying to collect.
9. Mario Kart: Super Circuit
While the pre-rendered graphical style hasn’t really stood the test of time, the polished karting mechanics absolutely have. The beauty of Nintendo’s portable racer is that it doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, but simply builds on the two games that proceeded it. You won’t find new power-ups or new characters, but you will discover 20 brilliantly designed tracks, challenging difficulty levels, and some excellent multiplayer options. In a slice of genius, it also allows you to unlock the 20 tracks of Super Mario Kart, a move that proved to be so popular, the franchise continues to revisit classic tracks to this day.
8. Fire Emblem
This is actually the seventh entry in Intelligent Systems’ tremendous strategy series and it serves as an excellent introduction to the highly-regarded franchise. Like its strategy stablemate Advance Wars, Fire Emblem looks cute on the surface, but is actually a resoundingly tough game, thanks to its challenging AI, exceptionally designed maps, and triangle weapon system that powers each combat encounter. Things are further complicated by you permanently losing members as they fall in battle, which is doubly impactful as the strong writing and engaging personalities make each character easy to connect with. The follow-up Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is equally worthy of your time and cash.
7. Astro Boy: The Omega Factor
Treasure and Hitmakers wonderfully chaotic collaboration is not only a love letter to Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga series but also serves as an overview of his entire canon of work. At its core Omega Factor is a beat-’em-up, but it’s one that prides itself on dishing out as much damage as possible so you can quickly build up Astro Boy’s EX gauge and flatten your foes with outrageous special attacks. It’s a truly marvelous game, which is enhanced further by technically outrageous boss encounters, a surprisingly strong storyline, and light platform and shooting sections that nicely highlight Treasure’s technical wizardry.
6. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
The GBA certainly isn’t shortchanged in the RPG department, but few hold a candle to this wonderfully witty adventure. While the outrageously funny story will hold your attention, it’s the finely crafted combat mechanics that make AlphaDream’s adventure so much fun to play. The flow of battle will be instantly familiar to anyone who has experienced Mario’s earlier RPGs, but fights are cleverly enhanced by the inclusion of Luigi. This brotherly love extends to the rest of the game too and the pair have a number of special moves that will enable them to navigate BeanBean Kingdom in their mission to rescue Princess Peach.
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