What’s Worth Keeping…On the Nintendo Game Boy Advance?

Here we are with our fifth installment of “What’s Worth Keeping?” As always the point of this is to help me pare down my collection to just twenty games per system. In the previous column we did on the Nintendo DS, I mentioned I couldn’t think of even twenty games on the DS that I thought were worth keeping – the only handheld I didn’t have an abundance of games for. After that column, I decided it might be time to look at some of those other handhelds before going back to console and the first might as well be my favorite handheld of all time – the Game Boy Advance. When we started this series of columns I had close to forty games for it. I’ve been slowly whittling them away and now I call on you to help me figure out what should be the final few to go.

In the my ten and a half years of video game journalism I’ve only reviewed 28 Game Boy Advance titles, but that’s because I came in partway through the life cycle of the system. Nine out of my first ten reviews were for the GBA, starting with my Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire and ending with Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team. Fitting, isn’t it? Here now is a list of those 28 games. Remember if they aren’t in my current collection, I got rid of them for one reason or another. If you’re curious I’m more than happy to expand on why for a particular game.

Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire
Robotech: The Macross Saga
Phantasy Star 1
Phantasy Star 2
Phantasy Star 3
Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder
Lunar Legend
Space Channel 5
Pokémon Pinball R/S
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Shining Soul
Demikids Dark
Double Dragon Advance
Onimusha Tactics
Sword of Mana
Shining Soul 2
Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon
River City Ransom EX
Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games
Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green
Advance Guardian Heroes
Bubble Bobble Old & New
Pokémon Emerald
Sigma Star Saga
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon -Red Rescue Team

On retrospect, it was mostly RPGs and beat ’em ups, wasn’t it? On average, I scored a GBA game with a 6.68, the highest average out of any system I’ve ever review and a nearly a full point higher than the Nintendo DS games. OUCH. If you look at the above list those, some of those are big time ports of some of the most classic games of all time. No wonder they scored as highly as they did compared to my lifetime average score of 5.99.

Now, let’s take a look at the games I still have in my collection. As I said, when we started this series of columns in April, I had roughly forty GBA games. Now I’m down to 23 and I’m finding I’m stumped for the final three to remove. Here they are!

1. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
2. Bubble Bobble: Old and New
3. Centipede/Breakout/Warlords
4. Drill Dozer
5. Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder
6. Gunstar Heroes
7. Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games
8. Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak
9. Lunar Legend
10. Onimusha Tactics
11. Pinball of the Dead
12. Pokémon Emerald
13. Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green
14. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team
15. Pokémon Pinball R/S
16. Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire
17. Robotech: The Macross Saga
18. Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon
19. Shining Soul
20. Shining Soul II
21. Sigma Star Saga
22. Super Bust-A-Move
23. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis

Wow, that’s a big list for me, especially if you factor in I’ve already removed games like Double Dragon Advance, Silent Hill Phantasy Star Collection, both Mother games, Metal Slug Advance, Magical Vacation, Demikids, Golden Sun and still others. There were so many great games for the Game Boy Advance, I have no problem declaring it the best handheld of all time. The problem remains however, what to get rid of for the last few?

If we look at what remains it’s three Action RPGs, a Platformer, an arcade compilation, one Action, two Dungeon Crawls, one Run & Gun, a Sports Game, one Point and Click Adventure game, four Turn Based RPGs, three SRPGs, two Pinball games, two Shoot ’em Ups and a Puzzle game. That’s a whopping thirteen different genres – the most out of the five systems we’ve looked at so far.

Dark Alliance is doable as I have the GCN version, but it’s honestly the best action RPG for the system. Both Hamtaro themed games are amazing, which is a shock to pretty much anyone who plays them. Ask Matt – he’s not really a Hamtaro fan or an adventure game fan, but he LOVED Ham-Ham Heartbreak back in the day. Ham-Ham Games is not only the best looking GBA title, but it’s also the best sports game for the system as well, bringing me back to the days of the NES Track& Field titles. I’ve got Lunar for every system it’s out for save the Saturn, but I have emotional reasons for keeping this version, which is the same reason for Shining Soul. I think Onimusha Tactics is the next to go as it’s very well done, but the last of the remaining games. I suppose Drill Dozer is on that short list too, but both games are fun and have some strong replay value so it’s bloody hard to decide, it is!

That’s where you guys come in. Help me figure out what’s next to go as we continue to whittle down my collection. Hey, it could be harder. Imagine if I still had all forty games! Next time I believe we’ll do either the PSP we’ll tackle one of the three big consoles I need to whittle down: The PS2, the Dreamcast and the Sega Saturn.

Links to the previous issues follow below:

Nintendo Wii
Microsoft Xbox
Sony Playstation
Nintendo DS



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20 responses to “What’s Worth Keeping…On the Nintendo Game Boy Advance?”

  1. Sean Madson Avatar

    Shining Force might be a good one to weed out since there are a million ports of it out there. Though I think the GBA version had some added content if I remember right.

    I bet it will show up on the VC though.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar
      Alexander Lucard

      Shining Force GBA adds an New Game+, trading cards, several new battles and three broken characters. It’s hard to hold on to portable RPGs this old as the batteries have to start going. I would love most of my RPGs to end up on the VC -especially Knight of Lodis.

  2. Matt Yaeger Avatar
    Matt Yaeger

    I still love Hamtaro Ham Ham Heartbreak (and I do like some adventure games :P). Ham-Ham games is fun, but it’s no Heartbreak. I donated that one (along with Pokemon Fire Red and a few others) to a children’s hospital years ago. Couldn’t part with Pinball of the Dead, Pokemon Pinball, or Sigma Star Saga though, to me those are keepers.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar
      Alexander Lucard

      Matt -I can’t think of a time where you’ve actively volunteered to review an adventure game! Agreed on never being able to part with the pinball games or SSS. Great games all around.

      1. Matt Yaeger Avatar
        Matt Yaeger

        Because they’re mostly PC games or one of you with better knowledge of the genre got it covered, and if one of you don’t want to play it it’s probably not worth touching with a ten foot pole. I liked a couple of the DS adventure games.

  3. Crystal Steltenpohl Avatar

    Good on ditching Sword of Mana. That game was disappointing, but only in the end. Can’t play it again because of it, to this day.

    I didn’t keep many GBA games either, but I kept Fire Emblem and both Golden Sun games.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar
      Alexander Lucard

      Yeah, I really liked Legend and Secret but Sword was just blah to me.

    2. Sean Madson Avatar

      Sword only disappointed me in the sense that it was a missed opportunity for the GBA connectivity to include co-op. I enjoyed Final Fantasy Adventure immensely which is what it is a remake of, so it was otherwise alright by me.

      1. Crystal Steltenpohl Avatar


        1. Sean Madson Avatar

          Oh c’mon, the original game came out in ’91. And it wasn’t just any tree, it was the MANA TREE!

          1. Crystal Steltenpohl Avatar


          2. Alexander Lucard Avatar
            Alexander Lucard

            The age of a game has no bearing on the quality of the story. :-P

          3. Sean Madson Avatar

            Oh, I know. I was just adding perspective. :)

          4. Crystal Steltenpohl Avatar

            Here’s some perspective: TREE =P

          5. Mark B. Avatar
            Mark B.

            I don’t see the need to get all bent because of some wooden plotting.

          6. Sean Madson Avatar

            I see what you did there.

  4. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    It was a shame the GBA Phantasy Star trilogy was glitchy because it was pretty fantastic to have all three games available on the go like that.

    I still own Drill Dozer and to this day have no motivation to do anything with it outside of the hour or so I’ve played of it so consider me in the “chuck it” camp.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar
      Alexander Lucard

      Yeah, it was really hard to part with it, but I’d rather not have a game that has a 100% chance of bricking up if you press a button the exact millisecond the music loops. That was a horrible bug.

      Onimusha Tactics and Drill Dozer are definitely the next to go. That leaves only one more game to sack.

  5. Christopher Hopkinson Avatar
    Christopher Hopkinson

    Little curious about D&D Eye of the Beholder. I seem to recall it getting mixed reviews. My main experience with the game are the PC version (and originally the Sega CD port). I know they tried to do a port with the 3rd Ed. rule set. I guessing you liked it, I’m honestly curious as to why. (To be clear, I’ve read your review…more curious how you feel it held up).

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar
      Alexander Lucard

      I absolutely love it. Basically they turned it from a first person real time dungeon crawl into a first person dungeon crawl whose battles are done like a SSI Gold Box SRPG. Like Pool of Radiance. I still feel it holds up wonderfully. It’s different enough that it stands out, is one of the better 3e rules based games and the problem is most of the negative reviews came from people who just didn’t get the format.

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