The GBA was a popular handheld console known for its wide range of games. However, many great ones didn’t get the attention they deserved.
Each title on this list offers a unique glimpse into the creativity and innovation of GBA game developers. So, let’s dive in and rediscover some of the best yet overlooked and underrated hidden gems that the Game Boy Advance had to offer.
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams
In Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, players enter a dreamlike world where the protagonist, Klonoa, is summoned by the Emperor to rid the land of monsters plaguing the kingdom. Set in a vibrant and imaginative world, Klonoa must navigate through various levels to fulfill this quest.
The game skillfully blends platforming with puzzle-solving. Players guide Klonoa through a series of levels, each designed with unique obstacles and challenges. The gameplay revolves around manipulating the environment and using Klonoa’s ability to inflate enemies to use them for jumping higher or reaching distant places. The game’s charm lies in its creative level design, requiring thoughtful strategies to progress, and its blend of 2D and 3D graphics which provide depth to its platforming segments.
Lady Sia is an action-platformer where players take on the role of a brave warrior princess, Sia, on a mission to rescue her kingdom from the clutches of a malevolent sorcerer and his army of beasts. The game is set in a fantastical, medieval world filled with magic and mystery.
This game stands out for its detailed and vibrant art style, which brings its fantasy world to life. The gameplay mixes traditional platforming with combat elements, allowing players to engage in sword fights, utilize magic attacks, and even transform into a powerful sasquatch during boss battles. The game is known for its challenging platforming segments, diverse environments, and intricate character animations, making it a visually captivating experience.
In Drill Dozer, players control Jill, a young girl piloting a powerful drilling machine, on a quest to retrieve a stolen red diamond and avenge her father’s defeat against a notorious gang. The game is set in a colorful world filled with diverse and creative levels.
The core mechanic of Drill Dozer is its drilling gameplay. Players use Jill’s drill to navigate levels, solve puzzles, and combat enemies. The drill can be upgraded to access new abilities and areas. This mechanic is not only unique but deeply integrated into every aspect of gameplay, from exploration to combat. The game is notable for its inventive level design, where drilling is essential to progress, and its engaging story, enhanced by charming graphics and character designs.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor
Astro Boy: Omega Factor brings Osamu Tezuka’s iconic character, Astro Boy, to the GBA in a fast-paced action game. The game combines elements of platforming and beat ’em up gameplay, following Astro Boy’s journey as he battles foes and learns about his own robotic existence and destiny.
The game is characterized by its fluid combat system and the variety of powers available to Astro Boy, including laser beams, machine guns, and high-powered punches. The gameplay is a mix of aerial and ground combat, with levels designed to utilize Astro Boy’s flying ability. The game also features a unique Omega Factor system, which enhances Astro Boy’s abilities as players meet new characters and gather their spirits. The game is lauded for its tight controls, engaging story, and well-crafted levels that pay homage to the classic manga and anime series.
Sabre Wulf revives an old-school classic character in a new adventure on the GBA. Players control the adventurer Sabreman as he attempts to defeat the evil wolf Sabrewulf and recover stolen treasure. Set in a rich, colorful world, the game combines platforming with puzzle-solving.
Developed by Rare, the game maintains the studio’s trademark humor and polished game design. Players navigate through various levels, each offering a mix of platforming challenges, enemy encounters, and puzzle-solving elements. The game is known for its tight controls, engaging level design, and a unique mechanic where players collect and use different creatures to assist in overcoming obstacles and solving puzzles. Sabre Wulf is praised for its whimsical art style, charming characters, and the classic Rare wit imbued in its storytelling and gameplay.
Honorable Mentions for GBA Platformers
- Ninja Five-O: A blend of Ninja Gaiden and Bionic Commando styles.
- Kuru Kuru Kururin: A puzzle-platformer with a unique rotating stick mechanic.
- The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night: An underrated entry in the Spyro series.
- Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation: Features tilt sensor controls for a unique experience.
- Maximo: Ghosts to Glory: Combines classic platforming with combat and humor.
Role-Playing Games (RPGs)
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story
In Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, players embark on an enchanting journey set in a mystical world, where they assume the role of a young craftknight apprentice. The game’s story revolves around a prestigious tournament and the quest to uncover the mysteries surrounding the protagonist’s family.
This RPG is celebrated for its unique crafting system, where players forge and customize a variety of weapons. The gameplay features real-time battles, blending action with strategic elements, as players choose the right weapon for each encounter. The game also includes companion creatures known as “Guardian Beasts,” which assist in battles and influence the storyline. The vibrant graphics, engaging story, and the combination of crafting with real-time combat make this game a standout experience in the GBA’s RPG library.
Yggdra Union is set in a fantasy realm where players lead a princess, Yggdra, and her loyal followers in a campaign to reclaim her kingdom from an evil empire. The game is a tale of war, strategy, and unexpected alliances.
This tactical RPG is known for its unique card battle system, which governs everything from movement to combat. Players strategically use cards to execute various actions on a grid-based battlefield. Each card has distinct abilities and plays a crucial role in shaping the battle’s outcome. The game blends traditional turn-based tactics with card game elements, offering a novel approach to strategy gaming. Its challenging gameplay, intricate story, and beautifully detailed sprite work contribute to its acclaim.
Car Battler Joe
In the world of Car Battler Joe, players dive into a post-apocalyptic setting where cars are rare and highly coveted. The story follows Joe, a young man on a quest to find his missing father and become a legendary car battler.
This RPG uniquely combines elements of vehicular combat, exploration, and customization. Players design and build their own cars, equipping them with various weapons and parts for battles. The gameplay oscillates between exploring towns and the wasteland on foot and engaging in high-octane car battles. The game offers a rich and immersive experience with its blend of RPG storytelling, car customization, and action-packed combat, making it a unique gem in the GBA lineup.
Set in the universe of the acclaimed Onimusha series, Onimusha Tactics takes players into a world of samurai and demons. The game follows a young warrior, Onimaru, who must lead a group of heroes against Nobunaga and his army of genma (demons).
As a strategy RPG, the game emphasizes tactical grid-based combat. Players must strategically position their units, each with unique abilities and classes, to outmaneuver and defeat enemies. The game incorporates elements from the Onimusha series, such as collecting souls to empower characters. It offers a rich storyline, deep tactical gameplay, and a unique aesthetic that combines feudal Japan with supernatural elements, making it a standout title for strategy enthusiasts.
Shining Soul II
Shining Soul II immerses players in a vibrant fantasy world threatened by dark forces. Players embark on a quest as one of eight character classes, each with unique abilities, to thwart an emerging evil and uncover the secrets behind it.
This action RPG is known for its fast-paced dungeon crawling and extensive loot system. Players explore a variety of dungeons, battling monsters and gathering treasure. The game emphasizes character customization, allowing players to tailor their play style through different classes, skills, and equipment. One of the game’s highlights is its multiplayer mode, where up to four players can team up for cooperative dungeon exploration. With its engaging gameplay, diverse character options, and vibrant world, Shining Soul II offers a rich and rewarding RPG experience on the GBA.
Honorable Mentions for GBA RPGs
- Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis: A classic tactical RPG with deep strategy elements.
- Lufia: The Ruins of Lore – A traditional RPG with a compelling story and puzzle elements.
- Riviera: The Promised Land – A unique RPG with a focus on story and simplified combat.
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age – Often overshadowed by its predecessor but equally engaging.
- Breath of Fire II – A port of the classic RPG with a deep story and traditional gameplay.
Kuru Kuru Kururin
In Kuru Kuru Kururin, players navigate a constantly rotating stick, known as the Helirin, through intricate mazes without touching the walls. Set across various colorful environments, this game challenges players with increasingly complex levels.
The primary gameplay element is the rotation mechanic, requiring precise timing and spatial awareness. Players control the speed and direction of the Helirin’s rotation to maneuver through tight spaces and avoid obstacles. The game offers a variety of levels, each with unique layouts and hazards, as well as time trial modes to test players’ skills. Its simple yet challenging gameplay, coupled with bright graphics and engaging levels, makes Kuru Kuru Kururin a uniquely addictive puzzle experience on the GBA.
Puyo Pop Fever
Puyo Pop Fever is a vibrant and fast-paced puzzle game where players match colored blobs known as Puyos. The goal is to create chains of the same colored Puyos to clear them from the screen and send obstacles to the opponent’s field in multiplayer modes.
The game introduces the “Fever Mode,” which adds a new layer of strategy to the classic Puyo Puyo gameplay. Players can trigger this mode by building up a gauge, leading to a frenzy of pre-arranged Puyos for rapid combo opportunities. The game includes various modes, such as single-player campaigns and competitive multiplayer. Its colorful graphics, catchy music, and engaging gameplay make it a standout puzzle title, offering both accessibility for newcomers and depth for seasoned players.
Boulder Dash EX
Boulder Dash EX modernizes the classic Boulder Dash gameplay with new features and levels. Players navigate through caves, collecting diamonds while avoiding falling boulders and enemies. This version brings an enhanced visual style and additional game modes to the classic formula.
The game maintains the core mechanics of the original, requiring players to dig through dirt to collect diamonds and reach the exit before time runs out. New features include varying power-ups, different types of soil, and enemy behaviors. Besides the classic mode, it introduces a puzzle mode with set challenges and an EX mode with a new storyline and characters. Its mix of classic gameplay with new elements, along with updated graphics, makes Boulder Dash EX a refreshing and challenging puzzle experience.
ZooCube takes puzzle gaming into the third dimension, where players rotate a cube in 3D space to match incoming animal shapes. Set against a backdrop of a scientific experiment gone wrong, the game offers a unique spin on the match-three puzzle genre.
The central mechanic is the rotation of the central cube to align similar animal shapes on each face. As the game progresses, the speed increases, adding to the challenge. The game features multiple modes, including classic, arcade, and multiplayer options. ZooCube‘s 3D puzzle gameplay, combined with its quirky theme and increasing difficulty levels, offers a unique and engaging experience that stands out in the puzzle genre.
Dr. Mario & Puzzle League
Dr. Mario & Puzzle League combines two beloved puzzle games into one package. In Dr. Mario, players eliminate viruses with color-matched pills, while Puzzle League (also known as Panel de Pon or Tetris Attack) challenges players to match blocks to clear them from the screen.
In Dr. Mario, the key gameplay involves strategically placing colored capsules to clear viruses from the playing field, requiring foresight and quick thinking. Puzzle League offers a different kind of challenge, focusing on swapping adjacent blocks to create rows or columns of the same color. Both games feature various difficulty levels and modes, including classic, time trial, and multiplayer battles. This combo pack offers diverse puzzle-solving gameplay, appealing to fans of traditional and action puzzle games alike.
Honorable Mentions for GBA Puzzle Games
- Denki Blocks!: A puzzle game focusing on sliding blocks to connect them.
- Klax: An arcade-style puzzle game involving tiles and patterns.
- Mr. Driller 2: A mix of puzzle and action where you drill through colored blocks.
- Polarium Advance: A tile-flipping game with challenging puzzles.
- Super Monkey Ball Jr.: A puzzle game where players navigate monkeys in balls through mazes.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is a point-and-click adventure game that immerses players in a thrilling narrative involving a murder mystery and an ancient conspiracy. Players control George Stobbart, an American tourist in Paris, who becomes embroiled in a dangerous investigation after witnessing a deadly explosion.
The game is renowned for its engaging storyline, well-developed characters, and clever puzzles. Players interact with various characters and environments, gathering clues and solving puzzles to unravel the mystery. The game features beautifully hand-drawn graphics and a compelling narrative, with humor and suspense woven throughout. Its point-and-click mechanics are seamlessly integrated into the GBA, offering a rich and immersive adventure experience.
Sword of Mana
Sword of Mana is an action-adventure RPG that reimagines the story of the original Mana game. The story follows the journeys of a hero and a heroine, each with their own unique narrative, as they battle against dark forces threatening their world.
Players explore a vast world, engaging in real-time combat with a variety of weapons and magical spells. The game includes RPG elements like leveling up, equipping gear, and managing inventory. One of the key features is the ability to switch between the hero and heroine, each with their own skills and storylines. The game also includes day-night cycles and various side quests, adding depth to the gameplay. With its rich story, engaging combat system, and vibrant world, Sword of Mana provides a compelling action RPG experience on the GBA.
Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand
Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand is an innovative action-adventure game where players take on the role of Django, a vampire hunter who uses sunlight to charge his weapons and combat the undead.
The game’s most unique feature is its use of a built-in solar sensor on the cartridge, which requires players to physically go outside and use real-world sunlight to power Django’s Solar Gun. This mechanic is integrated into various aspects of gameplay, from combat to solving puzzles and defeating bosses. The game blends stealth, action, and puzzle-solving, with a dynamic gameplay experience influenced by the actual time of day and weather conditions. Boktai‘s unique use of sunlight as a gameplay element makes it a standout title in the GBA library.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, players embark on a journey with Link to rescue Princess Zelda and thwart the evil sorcerer Vaati. The game introduces the Minish Cap, a sentient hat that gives Link the ability to shrink to a miniature size.
This mechanic of shrinking and returning to normal size is central to the game, allowing players to explore both the vast world and its tiny, hidden aspects. The game features classic Zelda gameplay elements like puzzle-solving, dungeon exploration, and combat, with the added twist of size-changing puzzles. The game is praised for its vibrant graphics, engaging story, and innovative mechanics, making it a unique and beloved installment in the Zelda series.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance follows the story of Juste Belmont, a descendant of the legendary Belmont clan, as he ventures into Dracula’s castle to rescue his friend and confront dark forces.
This entry in the Castlevania series continues the series’ tradition of action-packed platforming and exploration. The game features a large, interconnected map, with various areas to explore and secrets to uncover. Combat involves using the legendary Vampire Killer whip, sub-weapons, and magical spells. The game includes RPG elements like leveling up and equipping different gear. Its atmospheric gothic aesthetic, coupled with challenging gameplay and exploration, makes it a compelling experience for fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Honorable Mentions for GBA Adventure Games
- Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: Based on the popular book series.
- Metroid: Zero Mission: A reimagining of the original Metroid with added content.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Offers a surprising depth of adventure.
- Monster Rancher Advance: A unique blend of adventure and monster-raising.
In V-Rally 3, Players navigate through various off-road tracks, competing in different weather conditions and environments. The game aims to capture the essence of rally racing with a focus on realism and detail.
V-Rally 3 is notable for its impressive graphics on the GBA, offering a 3D perspective rarely seen on the platform. The game features several modes, including a career mode where players can progress through different championships, upgrading their vehicles along the way. The tracks are detailed and varied, requiring players to adapt to different terrains and weather conditions. This game stands out for its realistic approach to handheld rally racing, offering depth and challenge for racing enthusiasts.
Top Gear Rally
Top Gear Rally for the GBA is a portable adaptation of the console racing game, focusing on rally car racing. Players race across different terrains, aiming to become the top rally driver. The game includes a variety of tracks and environments, each presenting unique challenges.
One of the game’s standout features is its use of 3D graphics, which is an impressive feat on the GBA. Players can choose from various rally cars, each with different attributes, and can customize their vehicles. The game offers different modes, including championship and time trial, and tracks vary in weather conditions and terrain types. Top Gear Rally is known for its solid racing mechanics and its capability to deliver a visually impressive and enjoyable racing experience on a handheld system.
Karnaaj Rally is a unique racing game that combines high-speed racing with vehicular combat. Players race against opponents while also dealing with various weapons and power-ups that can be used to gain an advantage or hinder other racers.
The game stands out for its overhead perspective and colorful, detailed graphics. As players progress through races, they can upgrade their cars with better weapons and defenses. The racing mechanics are straightforward, but the addition of combat elements adds an extra layer of strategy and excitement. Karnaaj Rally‘s blend of racing and combat, along with its vibrant visuals and engaging gameplay, makes it a distinct and entertaining title in the GBA racing genre.
GT Advance Championship Racing
GT Advance Championship Racing brings a realistic racing simulation experience to the Game Boy Advance. Players can choose from a variety of real-world cars and race on different tracks, aiming to win championships and unlock new vehicles and courses.
The game focuses on delivering a realistic racing experience with detailed car models and tracks. Players can tune and customize their vehicles for better performance. The game features different modes, including championship and time attack, providing various racing challenges. GT Advance Championship Racing is known for its depth in vehicle customization, realistic racing physics, and a substantial selection of cars and tracks, offering a comprehensive racing sim experience on a handheld console.
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity continues the high-speed, futuristic racing tradition of the F-Zero series on the Game Boy Advance. Set in the future, players race in fast and gravity-defying vehicles across various tracks, competing against other racers and aiming for the top spot.
The game is known for its fast-paced racing and challenging tracks that include jumps, sharp turns, and speed boosts. It features different vehicles, each with unique attributes in terms of speed, durability, and handling. Players can compete in different leagues and difficulty levels, testing their racing skills to the limit. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity stands out for its speed and smooth gameplay, maintaining the series’ reputation for delivering intense and exhilarating racing experiences.
Honorable Mentions for GBA Racing Games
- Colin McRae Rally 2.0: A well-executed rally racing game.
- Mario Kart: Super Circuit: Often overshadowed by other Mario Kart titles.
- Moto Racer Advance: Offers a mix of street, motocross, and traffic racing.
- Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed: A GBA port of the classic racing game.
- Road Rash: Jailbreak: Combines racing with brawler elements.
Mario Tennis: Power Tour
Mario Tennis: Power Tour brings a unique blend of tennis action and role-playing elements to the Game Boy Advance. Players embark on a journey to become top tennis players at a prestigious academy, engaging in both singles and doubles matches.
The RPG elements involve training your character, improving skills, and engaging in various challenges and mini-games to enhance abilities. The tennis gameplay itself is intuitive yet deep, with special moves and power shots adding an extra layer of strategy. The game’s story mode is robust, with a variety of characters to interact with and tournaments to conquer. Mario Tennis: Power Tour stands out for its successful fusion of sports action and RPG mechanics, offering a unique and engaging experience.
Mario Golf: Advance Tour
Mario Golf: Advance Tour combines the leisurely sport of golf with engaging RPG elements. Players start as rookie golfers in a golfing academy and work their way up by competing in tournaments and challenges. Alongside familiar Mario characters, players can improve their skills and attributes.
The game features an in-depth story mode where players can develop their characters by winning matches, earning experience points, and improving stats. The golf mechanics are robust, with different clubs, terrains, and weather conditions affecting gameplay. Players can also interact with various characters and engage in side quests and challenges. Mario Golf: Advance Tour is notable for blending strategic golf gameplay with RPG progression, making it a unique title in the sports genre on the GBA.
SSX 3 is a port of the popular console snowboarding game, adapted for the Game Boy Advance. The game offers players an exhilarating snowboarding experience with various modes, courses, and challenges. Players can perform an array of tricks and stunts across different snowy terrains.
The game features multiple mountains to explore, each with its own set of races and events. Players can customize their characters and upgrade equipment as they progress. The gameplay focuses on speed and tricks, with a combo system to rack up points. Despite the limitations of the GBA, SSX 3 manages to capture the essence of the console version with impressive graphics and fluid controls. It’s praised for bringing a robust and enjoyable snowboarding experience to a handheld platform.
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam offers a unique twist on skateboarding games, focusing on high-speed downhill races. Players skate through various cityscapes and natural environments, competing against others while performing tricks and stunts.
Unlike traditional skateboarding games that focus on tricks and combos in a confined space, Downhill Jam emphasizes speed and racing elements. Players must navigate through courses, avoiding obstacles and making use of ramps and rails to perform tricks. The game includes a variety of characters, including Tony Hawk, and different modes like race, slalom, and trick events. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam stands out for its fast-paced gameplay and integration of racing elements into the skateboarding genre, offering a fresh take on the well-established series.
Honorable Mentions for GBA Sports Games
- Virtua Tennis: A portable version of the acclaimed tennis game.
- FIFA 07: Offers a comprehensive soccer experience for a handheld.
- Backyard Football: A fun, simplified version of American football.
- Backyard Basketball: Brings a casual, fun approach to basketball.
- International Karate Advanced: A classic karate fighting game with a sports twist.
That’s our GBA hidden gems list! If you want more, take a look at our list of SNES hidden gems.