If you ask any lucky Game Boy Advance owner about the most nostalgic and highly-discussed titles of the time, you’ll inevitably hear the same answers. Some will remember Pokemon Ruby, others hold tender memories of Mario Kart: Super Circuit. The high-selling franchises deserve their sweet spots in tops and ratings, but they weren’t the only reason to love GBA.
The truth is, under the thick shadows of successful series, a lot of games overlooked masterpieces that outmatch mainstream titles in their functionality, interface, and writing quality. These rare titles are also one of the most replayable ones, and they hold you back even now when technical standards are unrecognizable.
We made our list of underrated Game Boy Advance roms that definitely deserve more attention. Hopefully, our quick glance will inspire you to give these retro-gems more attention – and boy, are they worth it!
1. Rebelstar: Tactical Command
While Advance Wars is definitely a strategic masterpiece that raised the bar high even for modern warfare games, Rebelstar deserved no less attention. Great fighting sequences, tactical depth, and variety of maps and upgrades – these aspects of Rebelstar by no means lose to mainstream Advance Wars.
Experienced lovers of turn-based tactics might know the name of Julian Galop – an incredible developer with the history of creating strategic masterpieces. The game combines cute-kawaii anime graphics with a serious deep approach to strategy and fighting.
While its somewhat childish appearance may have deen a turn-off for some users back in the day, now we’ve learned to appreciate the combination o lighthearted design and dark themes – this is the area where Rebelstart: Tactical Command truly shines.
The game is focused on the war between humans and aliens, and the plot somewhat reminds of X-Com, but only at first glance. As you progress down the story, there are many twists and reveals. These turns of events make you question not just strategic decisions but also, think about the psychological and philosophical aspects of the plot.
2. Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand
We think that this game, so undeservingly forgotten could actually be one of the best GBA games of RPG genre ever created. The game, equipped with a light sensor, encourages users to lay in sunny places, cleverly tieing this amazing gimmick into the game’s plot.
This innovation, on its own, is already a treat to any gamer. Such additions are not common in modern titles, and even less typical for that period – maybe, that’s the reason why the game wasn’t received as well as it deserves to be.
Django, the protagonist of the game, hance to fight the vampires with the solar gun, and to power-up his weapon, he needs light. Instead of forcing users to look for the source of light in game settings, developers transferred the challenge to the real-life. It’s a bit of a problem for night gamers, but perfect for daytime.
Aside from the light-detector, the game has an innovative fighting approach (characters use a lot of rare, unseen-before techniques) and rich lore. It feels like watching a movie or reading a book, only with real-life objectives.
Critics loved this game, and it still keeps receiving positive reviews from professional developers all over the world. So, if you missed out on the game in its prime, now just might be a perfect time to catch up.
3. Drill Dozer
Ken Sugimori, one of the most famous creators of Pokemon, wasn’t only writing titles for the most popular franchise In his spare time, he did some smaller projects that never received wide recognition. Game Freak is one of those side projects and we think, it deserved much more attention than it ended up getting.
The game offers users to help a female protagonist, a young girl, to get through the challenges of a consuming mecha fights and explore the map of the universe, searching for the secrets, hidden all over the maps.
It’s a smart RPG with colorful design and rich functionality. The lore is versatile and involves a bunch of side-characters with separate storylines. Too bad it never got a sequel – the plot and settings definitely deserved to be deepened. Still, even the original version is enough to understand the magnitude of the concept and appreciate the excellent execution.
4. Scurge: Hive
Some games come out too late, when the public eye stops caring about the console, focusing on newer offers instead. In 2006, when GBA was losing its title of the best-selling sensations, its users saw one of the best indie shooters ever. Scurge: Hive became a treat for loyal fans who stayed with the console, but it never got any impressive public appreciation.
Honestly, we think that Scurge: Hive is one of the only games that truly represent the huge graphics potential of GBA. Sci-fi world settings and peculiar landscapes are one of the most realistic GBA creations. The functionality is not falling behind either; The game combines the aspects of exploring a huge world, solving mysteries, completing quests, fighting enemies.
Players have a lot of influence on the world of the game. You can drag the settings around and even destroy certain things. Fighting incorporates rich action elements and offers a wide choice of weapons and tactics.
5. Sabre Wulf
This game is a bit different from other titles on the list due to its quirky plot, saturated by British humor and unusual twists. The protagonist is called Sabreman, a British hero with a unique attitude to his adventures. He is looking for treasures are trying to keep optimism as he’s being hunted by wild animals. It’s a fun RPG with eccentric characters and a very special tone of voice.
If you are a fan of British jokes and like unexpected perspectives on known RPG tropes, this is a great pick for you. Even though it wasn’t particularly well-received by a global audience, the game is truly gold.
Also, it’s one of those titles that you can find in the catalogs of GBA games online. You don’t even have to download the game file or install an emulator; all files are available in the web version.
6. Zone Of The Enders: The Fist Of Mars
Another turn-based tactical game on the list, this time with the sci-fi flavor. It’s not a combat game with typical action elements. The game feels like a TV show – each quest is incorporated into episodes. Just like in TV series, you have a huge cast to drive the story forward.
The protagonist constantly interacts with enemies and allies, and they all have unique motivation, habits, and phrases. It’s a mecha game, and fighting is surely a big part of it, but really, it’s all about writing here
7. Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure
Even if you are not a fan of a truly iconic anime and manga, this game will excite you anyway- it’s just really, really well-done. The game has an official storyline that follows the events of the manga, so if you are planning on actually reading or watching Dragonball, you may consider avoiding story mode first.
The action is fast and really detailed. Techniques are adapted to a particular character who uses it, just like in the original. Of course, you can also experiment with the fighting style and create new tactics for beloved characters. Here you can also bring together two heroes who never fought each other in the manga (you are in for some fun combination).
The gameplay set up a high standard on how to do games that are based n anime or manga material. Basically, all shounen anime that were adapted into games later, took pointers from the Dragonball series – that’s already enough of a reason to give this masterpiece a try.
8. Klonoa: Empire Of Dreams
For fans of handheld ports, GBA has a hidden masterpiece that we think could be even better than Mario’s adventures. Klonoa: Empire of Dreams has it all: great writing, diverse quests, sensitive controls, and bright interface. The protagonist is almost as charismatic as its Italian contender – too bad it never got the same recognition.
The gameplay is easy to grasp even for beginning GBA players. Everything falls in place and each feature is easily reachable. That said, it doesn’t mean the game is easy. You need to think about the best way approach the obstacles, but it doesn’t require you to throw out hours just to learn how to reach for the button in a correct time.
9. Lady Sia
It’s time for the compelling female protagonist to appear on this list. While GBA games had no lack of those. Lady Sia is the best example of a well-balanced female leading character in the adventure game. Detailed action element,s solid character design, and thoughtful functionality – these advantages come in the package as well.
Lady Sia has only one heroine design because it never got the sequel, but it’s enough to explore and appreciate its best sides. The adventures are replayable ad never gets boring. The obstacles appear randomly and the map always seems to slightly differ. No matter how great you’ve gotten in the previous run, you’ll definitely be challenged in the next one.
10. Rhythm Tengoku
This title has a historic significance – it was the very last game ever made for GBA. It really deserved its title though. Rhythm Tengoku was a wonderful farewell since it has it all, from original humor to detailed mini-games.
The game is addictive and really lightweight. The adventures feature a lot of fighting but the game experience is by no means aggressive. The bright and rememberable humor makes it a great example of how writing can make a fighting game that much better.
The game was quite popular in Japan and got three sequels. For the international audience, its’ a great insider look into Japanese culture and language. The game takes a deep look at Japanese customs, providing a player with a new perspective on traditional events.
We would’ve made this list much longer if we’d know that you will have the patience to try all these games out. Unfortunately, time is limited, and you can try all unknown GBA masterpiece. This console was truly a defining point for gaming worldwide, and not just because of its best-selling franchises. In fact, some of its lesser-known titles are much more innovative than the most popular games.
You don’t have to choose between the games on this list. You could just simplify the task, trying them all out. We promise you won’t regret the decision.