A huge step up from the original Game Boy, handheld gaming entered a golden era with the Game Boy Advance.
The Game Boy Advance was a technological breakthrough, something Nintendo are quite good at. What would’ve been a whole console a decade prior could now just slip into your pocket with ease, and a primarily 2D console let developers relive the glory days of the SNES, even if those days weren’t so long gone at that point.
It blew the original Game Boy out of the water and brought with it some of the best 2D games the world has ever seen. Be they platformers, adventures, JRPGs, or something completely weird, if you have a Game Boy Advance then you had access to an incredible library.
Some Sonic the Hedgehog fans will tell you that there were no good 2D games between Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Mania, but those fans clearly never owned a handheld console. Much like the DS after it, the GBA would have not one, but three awesome 2D Sonic games. They were great platformers that are worthy of Sonic’s golden era, and they had their original characters to boot.
Before Metroid went on an upsettingly long hiatus, Metroid Fusion blessed the world with its presence. There is disagreement among the fanbase on just how great this game is, but many consider it worthy of the same praise as Super Metroid, which is about as good as Metroid games get.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy Tactics is a series that has inspired a lot of great games over the years, so it’s nice to look back and see a great entry in this classic series. With a classic JRPG plot of a protagonist getting sucked out of their world, you’re in for a great Final Fantasy narrative combined with refined tactical gameplay.
While we’re talking about tactical RPGs, let’s talk about Advance Wars, games so good the fanbase managed to create a remake through sheer force of will. It’s simple and clean tactical gameplay with a brilliant art style and tonnes of memorable moments. While you’re waiting for the delayed remakes to come about, why not go back and play the originals?
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
We’ve done a few of these retro console lists now, and the one series that always appears without fail is The Legend of Zelda. Not only is it amazing that an LoZ game has been made for every Nintendo console ever, but they’re all fantastic games. With a talking bird hat that lets Link shrink to solve classic puzzle dungeons, this is the Zelda series you’ve always known and loved.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
If you knew what an ‘aria’ was without having to look it up then Konami might have a job for you. Despite being a genre-defining landmark, the Castlevania series was starting to move away from 2D adventure games in the 2000s. This move would ultimately see the series drop off significantly, but before it went down we got just one more classic 2D adventure. If you loved Symphony of the Night but never played this, you’re missing out.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Mario’s various RPG outings are quite the wild ride, and perhaps none are crazier than the Mario & Luigi games. They’re great, though, as they blend isometric puzzle/platforming with action turn-based combat (that description makes sense if you’ve played them) and if there’s any Mario spin-off franchise that needs a new game for Switch, it’s this one.
Ruby & Sapphire may have introduced the world to the third generation of Pokemon, but Pokemon Emerald is the game that perfected it. It was a huge step up for the series, with sprites getting way more detail, and even a little bit more animation to inject a whole new world of life into our favourite creatures. Not to mention the awesome line-up of new Pokemon. Rayquaza, Salamence, Sceptile, and Absol just to name a few of the best. We could be here all day listing them.
Written by Ryan Woodrow on behalf of GLHF.