5. Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow
All three GBA Castlevania games deserve to be in your collection, but if you can only choose one then hunt down Sorrow. It’s not only the most aesthetically pleasing of the three games but is mechanically rich thanks to the brand-new Tactical Soul system that allows you to absorb the souls of defeated foes and use them to enhance the skills of protagonist Soma Cruz. You won’t find an inverse castle here, but you will discover spectacular bosses, an excellent soundtrack, and a silly amount of weaponry to experiment with. Soma’s adventures continue with Dawn Of Sorrow on the DS.
4. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!
Few games reach the absurd heights of silliness that this collection of potty mini-games manages to achieve. The brilliance of Wario Ware Inc stems from its sheer accessibility and simple control system – you’re typically given a single word instruction and then a few seconds to achieve the required absurd task, which can range from balancing a set of tiles while riding a unicycle to sniffing a bogey back into a girl’s nose. Over 200 absurd games are spread across nine themed levels, including a stage celebrating classic Nintendo franchises, and the entire package is held together by a very abstract art style that elevates Nintendo’s game to even higher levels of weirdness.
3. Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2
Although the lineage of Intelligent Systems’ series can be traced back to the Famicom, Nintendo’s portable system feels like its true home. The diminutive troops and vehicles may make Intelligent System’s game look cute, but they’re simply a jolly front for some incredibly complex maps that will take a real tactical genius to master. Luckily the task becomes a lot easier thanks to a selection of commanders who are full of character and boast unique powers to master. Even when you’ve completed the lengthy campaign, the war is far from over and the engaging multiplayer maps will keep you playing till your batteries run out. The sequel continues the first game's story and is equally great, introducing eight more commanders, new powers, a brand-new Neotank, and numerous other quality of life tweaks.
2. The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap
While it lacks the guiding touch of Eiji Aonuma who has been shepherding the series since Ocarina Of Time, The Minish Cap still feels like a traditional Zelda game. Flagship had already done fine work with the Oracle series on the Game Boy Color, and The Minish Cap builds upon those strengths by improving elements like dungeon design and giving Link brand-new sword techniques to master. The masterstroke of The Minish Cap however is Link's new ability to shrink down in size, which greatly improves the puzzle aspects of the series because you need to flip back and forth between forms to find new routes and solve various tasks. Ezlo, the game's titular talking hat is also a great addition, with his acerbic comments providing plenty of humor as you navigate Flagship's ambitiously designed world. Handheld Zelda games don't get much better than this.
1. Metroid Fusion
Many expected Super Metroid to be converted to Nintendo's portable 32-bit powerhouse like past Super Mario games had been, but series stalwart Yoshio Sakamoto had other plans. Metroid Fusion is the result and it’s a fantastic adventure that takes the series in interesting new directions. While it doesn't offer the same level of freedom as its older siblings, its more linear structure leads to a far stronger narrative than earlier Metroid games and explores Samus’ personality in a way that the later games would embrace. Its other strength is the introduction of Samus' nemesis SA-X, a deadly parasite formed from her old Power Suit. Samus herself is trying to regain her lost powers, meaning she’s constantly stalked by a far more powerful foe. It's a deadly game of cat and mouse which is enhanced by the game's atmospheric visuals and the claustrophobic nature of the GBA's small screen. It’s quite simply the best game you can experience on Nintendo’s handheld.
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