The GBA appreciation thread

In celebration of my Everdrive GBA X5 Mini arriving today, I wanted to finally create a thread where we can talk about the best things about the always excellent Game Boy Advance and its games.

I think the GBA is likely my very favourite system I've ever owned, and it's certainly the system that I played far more than any other. I got a launch day OG GBA in arctic, and proceeded to play it on my lunch break every single work day from 2001 until sometime after 2006, when I moved states and bought a DS, and it gradually started replacing my GBA in day to day play.

Anyway, everyone talk away! I'd like to celebrate games we've loved (and would recommend), argue about which screen type is best, and hopefully talk about what makes this such a great handheld.

In the spirit of that, I'd like to recommend Yggdra Union as a game everyone should try! It's a Dept. Heaven game (I think the second one after Riviera, also recommended on the GBA), and it's got some of the wildest SRPG gameplay I've ever encountered. It was also released later for the PSP with some additions and upscaled art, and then again for PC (worldwide) and Switch (Japan only for now). For me though, I far prefer the GBA version's sprite work.

(Also learning just now that while I always pronounced it "IG-druh", the Japanese name (ユグドラ・ユニオン) makes it clear that it's actually "YIG-druh")

I played Urban Yeti for the first time today on real hardware. When it told me I had to get a job to pay a toll booth I shut the game off.

I emulated Dynasty Warriors on GBA once, and it was surprisingly more playable than I expected. I don‘t know how or why Koei did this. It is so compromised that it’s a totally different game but follows the same design philosophies to its own detriment. It's not what you might call “conventionally fun,” but it has as much burning ambition as Cao Cao.

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I had a NES SP and a Green Micro when they were current. Sold them both over the years and now have a custom modded one.


I didn't play as many games for it when it was current as I would have liked to. I thoroughly enjoyed Advance Wars 2, FF Tactics Advance and Puzzle Fighter. Now I have a flash cart and have started dipping into stuff. Astro Boy is really cool! Mario Golf has about 1000x too much dialogue!

I think good looking GBA games are some of the best looking pixel games out there. I'm looking forward to digging into more and getting the Good Recs from this thread!

The GBA might also lay claim to some of the ugliest pixel art out there, at least by volume—rampant shovelware, lazy pre-rendered graphics and a ton of tiny EU micro refugee studios meant there are loads of really hideous GBA games out there, and that‘s kinda where my mind goes when I think of The GBA Look, instead of any of the really nice-looking games (and that’s before junk like the cartridges that gave you the entirety of the Shrek movie compressed into a lossy GIF or whatever).

I have never owned an actual GameBoy Advance, but I love the thing anyway. I did all my GBA playing via emulator at first. I have a specific memory of being on the ZSNES forums when Metroid Fusion got released (hey wow that was twenty years ago). And Metroid Fusion was my first Metroid game.

One game I always go back to, even though I don't think I actually like it, is Kuru Kuru Kururin. Something about that specific iteration on the Irritating Stick genre compels me to boot it up and stop at the third level maybe once or twice a year.

The GBA is home to a lot of weird, interesting entries in franchises that might surprise you. Did you know there‘s an Altered Beast sequel on the GBA? It’s got a lot of stuff in it, it's pretty wild!

Also, as an aside about audio, the GBA is probably more famous for bad audio than good. But you didn't have to just use crunchy samples, you could also use the on board sound chip to make chiptunes! And really good chiptunes at that!

I am obliged to post the completely inexplicable unlicensed Lord of the Rings game by Vast Fame that allegedly uses the Pocky and Rocky engine:

@“TheFragranceOfDarkCoffee”#p113354 that Altered Beaat game is precisely what I was thinking of when I wrote that post about The GBA Look (that and Dragon Ball Taiketsu)

@“donrumata”#p113355 I think you’re required to tag @Funbil in for any and all Pocky and Rocky mentions, haha!

@“gsk”#p113356 Yeah it's bad. Which is a bummer, because with solid art direction the GBA was home to some truly iconic pixel art! The highs are so high, but the lows are so low and so, so common.

Let's celebrate the highs real quick:
What would mid 2000s Newgrounds have been without the Game Boy Advance, truly.

@“donrumata”#p113355 Wild to see someone mention this game!! The only other time I‘ve ever seen it is in a brief review on this website. Kiki Kaikai Advance is a pretty dismal game, so it’s hilarious to hear in this review that this knockoff is apparently better lol

I love the GBA very much, but I REALLY wish it were possible to mod the hardware to eliminate the audio quality damage done by the 8-bit linear DAC. Sadly, I think it's far too integrated a component to be able to fix outside of emulation. I also really wish the screen were ever so slightly higher resolution, like at least 256x240, but preferably 320x240.

I played the heck out of my little Cobalt SP. I still have it around. It holds a charge for, oh, about 30 minutes these days.

@“gsk”#p113356 I absolutely agree with you about this! I think a part of me handwaves it, because I have an inexplicable taste for grubby Mortal Kombat-style digitized sprites on systems like PS1 and Saturn, but there truly are some incredibly gross looking games on the GBA, especially later in the system‘s life, and particularly prevalent in licensed games and GBA demakes of games for more powerful systems. I think the sheer volume of shovelware for the GBA is a related problem, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was correlated to the period of time that the GBA coexisted with the DS and was considered the budget option for some folks.

Still, there are some truly great games, and folks in this thread have proven! (And yeah, @"TheFragranceOfDarkCoffee"#330 I own that Altered Beast game and I have to say it has a whole other vibe when you buy something new and sight unseen, only to find it's janky AF, versus playing in emulation! I say that playing a bunch of stuff I was curious about for a long time on my Everdrive, and wow I am glad I never bought some of this stuff!!)

@"Tradegood"#p113283 Oh wow, I had no idea this existed! It looks... strange! And it reminds me of another oddity demake-ish thing, Onimusha Tactics, which I recall being just okay but very uneven.

I may have mentioned this before, but I somehow lived in an alternative universe where the GBA was the undisputed pinacle of Nintendo‘s handheld offerings and the DS was a goofy gimmicky failure. When I was in middle school the GBA was the thing. It had Golden Sun and Advance Wars and Fire Emblem and Castlevania and Metroid and crisp sprites with huge outlines and every game was stellar. I, to this day, have never held a DS in my hand and have barely seen any in the wild and assumed it was a massive flop. I eventually discovered that this was not the experience that most people had, but I’m still perplexed that when people talk about ugly looking Nintendo handheld games that they are somehow talking about my darling GBA and not that silly stylus dog raising unweildy mess that followed it.

I was playing monopoly for the gba yesterday. That game sucks! It's slower than real monopoly. But it has some pretty wild music, this is the title screen:

I'm combing my romset for games I will actually want to play, and it occurred to me we could make essential games lists for individual consoles. Could really use one for the GBA at any rate!

@“Karasu”#p113365 I like onimusha tactics! But you need to be commuting to work and wanting a tactics game that doesn't use your brain.

@“exodus”#p113421 it’s kinda surprising how untaxing it is! I really like how its spritework translates the enemies from the mainline games.

This is one of those threads where I feel like: where do I even begin with this?? I‘ve said so much about GBA on this forum, and I’ve had a lot of convos with buddies sharing the best and most obscure GBA tunes… I documented on the forum my recent phase of GBA backlog bustin' out in the sun during the hottest summers on record.

Or my consistent remark that the Gameboy Micro with an Everdrive X5 Mini is the ultimate desert island machine and the one machine I would smuggle into prison or north korea, because of the sheer volume of entertainment content you can cram onto that thing that's still small enough to smuggle anywhere.

I'll just start here. Everybody knows Mother 3. It's a soap opera in a tiny gba cartridge. Well before Mother 3, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had the best music GBA was ever capable of. And three whole years sooner, that's a win.
This was the first Final Fantasy game I owned myself and played through and beat! and it's very important to me...

@"TheFragranceOfDarkCoffee"#p113354 oh lord I haven't revisited that yugioh track sicne I played it back in the day and it's such a banger that it has kind of lived in my mind all along... if you had played it for me blindfolded I would have guessed it was from Pokemon Trading Card Game GB