When you add a console or handheld to your collection, the first thing you want to do is get a handful of games to keep you busy with your new toy. However, most of us can’t spend afford to spend fat pile of cash for a few games. This budget-friendly list should help you quickly find which games will start you off well without emptying your wallet. (Prices listed are an average eBay price for US games, including shipping)
Even though the GBA is starting to be phased out, they games are still great for 2D gameplay for those that have moved onto the DS (still backwards compatible) or have a Gamecube with a Gameboy Advance Player. These inexpensive GBA games will complement any library nicely.
Metroid Fusion: $8
As the pinnacle of the Metroid franchise, Metroid Fusion is a must-own for action fans — even if you haven’t had much exposure to the Metroid games. The graphics and audio both show off the capabilities of the Gameboy Advance and the atmosphere and gameplay draw you in a way that very few portable games have been able to do.
It’s a shame that we haven’t seen another completely new 2D Metroid game since. Even though the demand is quite high on Fusion, there are plenty of copies up for grabs to keep the price down.
Shop for Metroid Fusion at eBay
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Golden Sun: $9
Camelot Software (the makers of the original Shining Force games) blessed the GBA with a fresh RPG franchise that had some small, but unique touches in addition to some beautiful 2D graphics . The Golden Sun series didn’t any awards for innovative gameplay or storytelling, but it stands as a very solid RPG that is possibly the best on the handheld as well as a GBA exclusive.
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Sonic Pinball Party/Sonic Advance Combo: $9
The Sonic Advance series was essentially the only way for old-school Sonic fans to get their fix of a new 2D Sonic game. They aren’t quite as good as their Genesis counterparts, but better than playing some of the 3D disappointments we are seeing on the new consoles. Sonic Advance is a pretty good value on its own, but if you add on a Sonic (and NiGHTS and Samba De Amigo)-themed pinball game on for a few dollars more, you can’t go wrong.
Shop for Sonic Pinball Party/Sonic Advance Combo at eBay
Shop for Sonic Pinball Party/Sonic Advance Combo at Amazon.com
Tony Hawk’s Underground: $5
Cheap Tony Hawk games are abundant on the Gameboy Advance aftermarket. Personally, I have Tony Hawk 2 since I acquired it a while ago, but if you want a slightly newer (and supposedly improved) installment, Tony Hawk Underground might be what you’re looking for. If you want to spend a few extra dollars, you could also go for the Tony Hawk Underground/Kelly Slater Pro Surfer combo cartridge.
Shop for Tony Hawk’s Underground at eBay
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F-Zero: Maximum Velocity: $7
If you liked the original F-Zero game on the SNES, you should check out the sequels for the GBA. I personally prefer the first GBA installment, Maximum Velocity, but the follow-up, F-Zero:GP Legend is nearly identical and can sometimes be found for a little less money. If you want more of a focus on the racing gameplay, go for Maximum Velocity, but if you enjoy the F-Zero storyline a bit more, GP Legend might fit you better. Either way, they are both an excellent value.
Shop for F-Zero Maximum Velocity at eBay
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Pac-Man Collection: $8
Even after all these years, Pac-Man still holds up as a solid game — especially for portable gaming. The Pac-Man Collection was a budget-minded compilation from the start and can still be found in retail stores on occasion for less than $10. In addition to the standard Pac-Man games, there are also some newer remakes and puzzle spin-offs included. It is an ideal package for quick pick-up games for classic-minded gamers on the go.
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Virtua Tennis: $8
Taking one of the best Dreamcast games and slimming it down to the GBA’s capabilities is no easy task (just look at the crappy Crazy Taxi port), but with Virtua Tennis, Sega did well. While it definitely does not have the graphical prowess of the original, it maintain much of the solid gameplay and simplicity that made the Dreamcast game worthwhile.
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Gunstar Super Heroes: $9
Treasure made a name for themselves with the original Gunstar Heroes on the Sega Genesis with its innovative run-and-gun gameplay. Ever since, hardcore gamers were clamoring for a followup. Gunstar Super Heroes answered the call for the most part, as a slightly modernized remake that had some fresh elements and levels while showing some level and boss design that makes some obvious calls back to the original. Bottom line is that those that loved the original will find themselves pleased with this cart on the GBA.
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Chu Chu Rocket: $6
One of the Dreamcast’s premier puzzle games was shrunken down to the GBA without losing to much in the process. Chu Chu Rocket will bend you mind with its quirky puzzles. Much like more modern games like Super Monkey Ball, it makes you think creatively to reach your goal. A true classic.
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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones: $8
For strategy addicts that need even more challenge and/or like the more fantasy-like atmosphere, take a look at the Fire Emblem games. Fire Emblem for the GBA was the first in the series to actually make it out of Japan and The Sacred Stones quickly followed up with equal success. Once the duo finally reached our shores, they were quickly touted as some of the best portable strategy games ever. The Sacred Stones is a bit more common due to a higher print run after the first game’s success and can be found for a few dollars less than the original game.
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Namco Museum: $8
Much like its Pac-Man Collection sibling, the Namco Museum is a top-notch retro compilation that can almost always be found dirt cheap and in high supply. It includes Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position, Dig Dug, Galaxian and Galaga resulting in a great set of classics to pass the time away.
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Drill Dozer: $8
This action platformer from GameFreaks (developer of Pulseman and other cult classics) received a lot of underground praise as a later release for the Gameboy Advance. Drill Dozer reminded a lot of old-school gamers of the way 2D games used to be while providing them with a refreshingly innovative gameplay mechanic. The cartridge also has a built-in rumble pack to give it some extra kick. Drill Dozer never really caught on commercially, so it can now be found in the bargain bins in game stores and discounted on the online aftermarket as well.
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Pinball of the Dead: $8
Touted as one of the best video pinball games of all time, Pinball of the Dead is a Sega production that is themed by its House of the Dead franchise and is reminiscent of the TurboGrafx 16 classic, Devil’s Crush. Most likely do to Nintendo pinball fans moving onto Metroid Prime Pinball on the DS, Pinball of the Dead’s price has come down significantly on eBay as of late.
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Klonoa: Empire of Dreams: $7
Fans of the Klonoa series are sure to notice that Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is nowhere as ambitious of a platformer as Klonoa 2 on the PlayStation 2. However, it is a highly respectable emulation of the general feel of the Klonoa universe and is a slightly cheaper alternative to other platformers like Wario Land 4.
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A Few Must-Haves Slightly Over $10…
Advance Wars: $11
Every GBA and DS owner needs to own at least one installment of the Advance Wars series. It is turn-based strategy at its most pure form. What is wonderful about the Advance Wars games is that uses the Nintendo formula of taking a previously complex genre that would normally scare off most gamers and makes it more simplified and appealing while building up to intense gameplay as you go along. The first Advance Wars is currently the cheapest version, so I would recommend starting there if you are on a budget.
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Wario Ware Twisted!: $11
WarioWare: Twisted! is a mini-game filled title much like its prequel, but has an extra “twist” to it. (Ok, I couldn’t resist that pun) This cartridge has a built-in gyro sensor and rumble feature (for feedback during rotation). Most of the microgames are played by rotating the entire handheld device. Because the game automatically calibrates the gyro sensor when the game is turned on (and after every microgame), it works with both top-loading (like the Game Boy Advance) and bottom-loading slots (like all other models after the GBA and the Nintendo DS Lite). The manual states that Twisted! is not compatible with the Gamecube’s Game Boy Player, with good reason. Shop for Wario Ware Twisted at eBay
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Mario Kart Super Circuit, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country: about $11 each
If you liked these games on the Super Nintendo, you will like them on the Gameboy Advance as well. If you have already played them on the SNES, however, you will have to decide if it’s worth paying for them again. If you haven’t given them a shot yet, you might want to give them a look. Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, and Donkey Kong Country were some of the SNES’s best platformers and Mario Kart Super Circuit is a respectable racer (but has recently be overshadowed by Mario Kart DS).
Shop for Mario Kart Super Circuit at eBay / Amazon.com
Shop for Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island at eBay / Amazon.com
Shop for Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World at eBay / Amazon.com
Shop for Donkey Kong Country at eBay / Amazon.com
Metroid: Zero Mission: $10
Zero Mission is essentially an enhanced remake of the original Metroid from the NES. It take many of the gameplay elements and audio/visual enhancements from Metroid Fusion in order to bring it up to the level of the best Gameboy Advance games. If you play Fusion and still need more of a Metroid fix, this is where to go. If you would prefer the original NES version or would like to round out your Metroid collection, the NES classic version of Metroid is also quite inexpensive for the GBA.
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Sonic Advance 2 & Sonic Advance 3: $10 each
Sonic Advance 2 and Sonic Advance 3 were both a step abover the original Sonic Advance mentioned above, but will require a few more dollars for the higher level of polish. But if you are still pining for the 2D glory days of Sonic, give these a spin.
Shop for Sonic Advance 2 at eBay / Amazon.com
Shop for Sonic Advance 3 at eBay / Amazon.com
Super Monkey Ball Jr.: $11
Super Monkey Ball is one of the best games from the last console generation as it is filled with endless puzzles that require creativity, concentration, and skill in addition to a good dose of sweet minigames. I was actually quite surprised how well Super Monkey Ball Jr. for the Gameboy Advance actually replicated the Gamecube version while running on the limited GBA hardware. It isn’t full 3D, but it sure feels like it. The puzzle courses are significantly different from the console version, so Jr. serves as an excellent complement. The minigames are still fun, but of course multiplayer is much more limited.
Shop for Super Monkey Ball Jr. at eBay
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Wario Land 4: $12
These days, Wario is known mostly for his mini-game compilations, but Wario Land 4 is a great reminder that he boasts some excellent platformers as well. As Nintendo’s first platforming game developed solely for the GBA, it shines in all the right places. The gameplay is tight and varied, the graphics are detailed and bright, and the sound is second to none.
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Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga: $12
As a spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG on the SNES, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a goofy action RPG featuring Nintendo’s most popular brothers. Like Super Mario RPG and the Paper Mario series, Mario & Luigi isn’t hardcore in terms of RPG gameplay, but it filled with lots of puzzles and humor to make it an enjoyable experience for nearly any type of gamer.
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Astro Boy: Omega Factor: $11
The cult-classic developer Treasure (of Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, and Ikaruga fame) put together an under-hyped action platformer featuring an old-school Manga/Anime hero. Astro Boy: Omega Factor features a blend of shoot-em-up and beat-em-up action (two genres Treasure knows very well) in order to bring a package that will appeal to almost any old-school gamer.
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Final Fantasy IV Advance: $10
This popular installement of the Final Fantasy series (known as Final Fantasy II on the North American SNES) has been ported to many different consoles and handhelds in the past. However, the GBA port underwent a number of enhancements and revisions such as improving the graphics, fixing bugs in the battle system, and refining the story for a smoother experience. RPG fans will find that Final Fantasy IV Advance is definitely worth the small investment.
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Castlevania Double Pack: $13
Two of the most popular (and hard-to-find) Castlevania games for the Gameboy Advance were recently re-released as a Combo cartridge for those that are looking for a more accessible and affordable option for Castelvania fans. This game pack includes both Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow for an action-packed portable experience.
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Mario vs. Donkey Kong: $12
It may not be quite as critically-acclaimed as the titles above, but Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a charming game that will work your mind and keep you entertained for quite a while. There is a follow-up on the DS, but I enjoy the mechanics of the original more and it is, of course much more of a bargain. If you have some change to spare, you might want to look into this gem.
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Other Cheap Favorites:
- Jet Grind Radio: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Final Fight One: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Max Payne: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Konami Collector’s Series: Arcade Advanced: $4 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Mega Man Battle Network 2: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Rampage Puzzle Attack: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Desert Strike Advance: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Castlevania (Classic NES Series): $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Mega Man Battle Network 3 White Version: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Mega Man Battle Network 3 Blue Version: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Bomberman (Classic NES Series): $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
My Starter Picks For $50 Budget
If I only had $50 to spend on starting out a Game Boy Advance collection, here would be my top picks (in order of priority):
- Metroid Fusion: $8
- Golden Sun: $9
- Sonic Pinball Party/Sonic Advance Combo: $9
- Castlevania Double Pack: $13
- Super Monkey Ball Jr.: $11
- Total = $50
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