The SNES is one of the best consoles of all time. Nintendo created some of its most memorable games for its flagship series, and the system really pushed what people believed was possible through gameplay and storytelling in a video game.
When Nintendo created the Game Boy Advance, it saw an opportunity to bring some of its best games to the system with updated control schemes and new features. While not every game ported from the SNES to the GBA ended up getting altered for the better, some games stand out as being even better on the handheld than their original incarnation on the SNES.
5 Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
The infamously hard SNES game, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the GBA needed a lot of work to condense the controls and still make the game playable without losing its infamous difficulty. Thankfully, they did. In addition to the original game mode being just as difficult as we remember, it also added something called Arrange Mode which was a neat new mode that not only could be finished in one playthrough but also allowed you to select from different arrangements of each level, depending on how well they did in the previous level.
These extra levels could have different bosses and were based on the original Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Ghosts ‘n Goblins. All this extra content on top of a save-anywhere feature that keeps your armor and power-ups makes this a must-play for fans of the SNES version.
4 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords
It’s pretty safe to say that A Link to the Past is one of the most beloved Zelda games, right up there with Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Between Nintendo Switch Online, the SNES Mini, the Wii U, and 3DS eShops and the original versions, there is no shortage of ways to play too. The GBA remake – while it could’ve been just a bare-bones port – instead introduced a multiplayer adventure you could play with your friends.
Nintendo didn’t stop there though, and on completion of both Four Swords and A Link to the Past you unlock a new dungeon on the eastern side of the pyramid in the Dark World. This dungeon is a ton of fun and includes stronger versions of bosses from some of the earlier dungeons and even a unique boss at the end.
3 Final Fantasy 5 Advance
While we didn’t get every great RPG for the GBA, we did manage to get several Final Fantasy games. While not the first port of Final Fantasy 5 to hit the west, Final Fantasy 5 Advance is one of the best versions of this game. It had updated graphics and added plenty of quality-of-life changes, such as a new and more accurate translation and a quicksave feature.
This version also added new jobs, a new secret boss, and a bonus dungeon. The only real issue with it was the soundtrack which just doesn’t sound as good on the GBA. However, since Final Fantasy 5 was never released for the SNES in the west, this is the best way for most players to play it, besides the pixel remasters.
2 Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World
Super Mario World is one of the best games available on the SNES, and one of the best Mario games ever. So how could the GBA version improve upon it? Well to start with, it implements several quality-of-life changes, including the ability to save anywhere and allowing both power-ups and lives to not reset upon shutting the game off.
While this itself would’ve been enough to earn a place on this list, it also add the ability to select between Mario and Luigi and even made Luigi more unique. His sprite was altered to be taller and thinner, his run is more slippery, and his jump is higher. These aren’t even all the changes made to this version, but it’s enough to rank it above the original.
1 Donkey Kong Country Trilogy
While an argument could be made for any one of these games, we’re going to look at the trilogy as a whole, released on the GBA. The GBA had plenty of games that pushed the limits of the console, with the Donkey Kong Country games being one of the best examples. Not satisfied with just running these incredible games though, a ton of new features were added as well. Saving was possible anywhere and at any time in all three games, making them much more accessible than their SNES counterparts. In the first two games, a scrapbook was added with photos of both enemies and allies, which is a neat addition but not an overall improvement.
Finally, the first game added a new mode once you beat the campaign, where you can only play as Diddy and there are no checkpoints. All three games added new mini-games and a whole new world was even added to the third game. Plus, one of the original composers for Donkey Kong Country actually came back to specifically compose new music for the third game. These aren’t even all the changes but they’re enough to give all three of these games a try on the GBA.