While a lot of gamers have been drawn to the DS line of handhelds or the Switch, the Game Boy Advance library was filled with great 2D games that any retro gamer can appreciate. And like I mentioned in my recent guide for the Gamecube’s Game Boy Player, the library is also a welcome addition to a home console lineup. Also, be sure to check out our best Cheap Game Boy Games guide for Nintendo’s original handheld — which can also be played on the Game Boy Player or some GBA units (see our price guide for Game Boy Advance variations and other Handheld hardware).
While most of the GBA lineup have just mildly increased over the last decade, some classic exclusives like Metroid Fusion and Drill Dozer have jumped up, but there’s lots of affordable greatness out there. I have also increased the cut-off point to $15. Yes, I could have kept this guide at the $10 price point, but there were some real treasures just at or below the $15 point that I just could get myself to cut. If you really want to shoot for $10 or less, that still makes up the majority of this guide. Also, in case it’s not apparent, the prices shown are for cartridges only. Adding boxes (not to mention manuals) to the equation adds quite a bit to the cost/value and is more of a diehard collector proposition.
For more lists of inexpensive classics, check out the rest of the Cheapest Games Series.
Advance Wars 2: $15
While the Game Boy Advance has a grand and diverse game library, the Advance Wars series seems like one of the most essential purchases and one of the GBA’s Defining games. Even without being a turn-based strategy fan, it is easy to get sucked into this game and the way the game presents itself makes it a great game to take on the go and play off-and-on.
The Advance Wars games are a classic examples of Nintendo’s 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.
While the original Advance Wars game used to be the most affordable, part 1 and 2 seem to have switched places in recent years. I personally really enjoyed AW2 the most and you don’t need a storyline of the first to feel comfortable.
Advance Wars 2 is cutting it close on this list at $15. Its one that is getting a bit up there online so you need to be patient to score it for $15 or less. But I’ve often seen it for less in local shops. The original Advance Wars is also a solid recommendation, but you’re now looking at $20 for that cart.
Golden Sun & Golden Sun: The Lost Age: $15 & $14
If you’re looking for a classic turn-based Japanese RPG, the Golden Sun series is both a wonderful example of the genre (it helps that it was developed by Camelot (the team behind Sega’s Classic Shining series) but also a nice showpiece of 2D sprite artwork and animation that takes advantage of the Game Boy Advance’s hardware.
At a time when there were so many Super Nintendo games being ported over to the Advance, it was so refreshing to see a fresh property being designed from the ground up. It was also fairly unusual to see so much time and effort being spent in developing a new game exclusively for a handheld, but this solidifies it as another nearly required purchase for those building a GBA library. Even if you aren’t a dedicated RPG fan (I wasn’t) you will find this an enjoyable experience that can welcome you warmly into its world.
While the Golden Sun games were previously above our old $10 price limit for this guide, they actually dropped in value just a few dollars to be included in this list. Much like Advance Wars, it might be a little harder to find under $15 online, but I’ve seen the games in the $10 to $12 range in local game shops.
Wario Land 4: $10
These days, Wario is known mostly for his mini-game compilations and cameos in the Mario sports and racing games, but Wario Land 4 is a great reminder that he boasts some excellent platformers as well. The Wario Land series started beautifully as a sequel/off-shoot of the Super Mario Land series on the original Game Boy with a fresh puzzle-solving take on the action platform genre.
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. Much like the earlier installments in the Wario Land series, it has a quirky personality that help the game stand apart from other platforms on the GBA.
While Wario Land 2 and 3 made Wario invisible, Wario Land 4 made our anti-hero vulnerable again and also added a mechanic where you would have to escape from a level before a timer runs out. This adds a nice adrenalin rush to the more relaxed Wario formula. It also had impressive boss battles and compelling level themes and designs.
Castlevania Circle of the Moon: $12
The Game Boy Advance was a great platform for Castlevania fans. In fact, while Symphony of the Night on the Playstation may have brought new life to the series, the Game Boy Advance saw a steady stream of solid installments that made it feel like the series was in its heyday again.
Over time, more attention was given to the later Game Boy Advance installments, but Circle of the Moon, the first GBA installment is a wonderful value. When it was released, it didn’t always get good word-of-mouth as it was difficult to see on the dim screens of the original GBA hardware. However, if you’re playing this on a DS, the Gamecube’s Gameboy Player SP model or GBA Micro or a classic GBA system with an upgraded screen, you should enjoy it much more.
Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga: $9
For those that aren’t familiar with this Mario off-shoot, Mario and Luigi is a turned based RPG that has attacks that play off of excellent timing — much like their console-based Paper Mario brethren. However, with Mario and Luigi, controlling the two brothers simultaneously contribute to the game’s many fun area puzzles.
Previously out of reach on this “cheap” list, this first entry into the Mario and Luigi RPG series has now become a more budget-friendly pickup now that the game had an enhanced port on the 3DS. Some of us still don’t have a 3D3 and/or like to play games on a Game Boy Player via Gamecube, so the original cartridge is still a welcome addition.
Klonoa Empire of Dreams: $15
Fans of the Klonoa series are sure to notice that Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is not 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 while having a top-notch 2D presentation that old-school gamers can appreciate. (For people new to the series, I recommended watching Slopes’s Game Room’s videos on the series)
If you want to take the next step, the second GBA game in the series, Klonoa 2 Dream Champ Tournament is just an extra dollar, but just out of the criteria for this list.
F-Zero Maximum Velocity / F-Zero GP Legend: $7 / $8
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.
It is worth noting that Maximum Velocity is geared for those that have played the SNES original. If this is your first attempt at an F-Zero game, you might find the learning curve to be frustrating. (For people new to the series, I recommended watching Slopes’s Game Room’s videos on the series)
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: $9
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 with a variety of interesting level designs that are inspired by the the original arcade game (and more specifically its Game Boy follow-up).
There is a Mario vs Donkey Kong 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.
Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (Plus Four Swords Adventure): $14
One of the most loved Zelda games made its first mobile debut on the Game Boy Advance and was executed exquisitely. The port also introduced a new feature, however, called Four Swords. This cooperative mode let two to four players team up to solve puzzles and defeat baddies in dungeons.
This cartridge used to command a higher price, but having the SNES version available on Virtual Console has helped keep this GBA cart affordable.
Check for Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past on eBay
Check for Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past on Amazon
Phantasy Star Collection: $15
Landmark portable systems are always great opportunities to create pick-up-and-play complications of classics. The Game Boy Advance was one of the first (and possibly the best for mainstream) portable platform to share classics from the 16-bit era or earlier. Of course RPGs are also great for keeping on hand to keep plugging away on a long journey (both in a visual and physical sense).
As great as it is to have the initial trilogy of Phantasy Star games on this cartridge, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium was not included. The games did exhibit some altering of the resolution and has a reduced number of save slots available for Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star II. With that being said, it’s still a pretty solid way of playing these three games aside from an emulation route.
It still remains the only portable compilation of the original Phantasy Star games and the only full compilations are found on the Japanese Sega Saturn and PS2.
Final Fantasy IV Advance: $10 / Final Fantasy V Advance: $14
These excellent installments of the Final Fantasy series have both been ported to many different consoles and handhelds. However these Game Boy Advance releases underwent a number of enhancements and revisions such as improving the graphics, fixing bugs in the battle system, showing an improved English translation, adding quick saves, and refining the story for a smoother experience. RPG fans will find that both of these Final Fantasy Advance releases are worth the small investment.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Of course, the original Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the most popular Playstation titles and one of the most iconic Strategy RPG franchises ever, but the GBA installment is also one of the best strategy experiences on Nintendo’s popular portable. (Tactics Orge and the Fire Emblem series are up there too, but more expensive)
For such a tiny cartridge Tactics Advance has insane amount of depth, replay value and challenge, and a ton of fun if you’re willing to put in the investment of thought and time.
Gunstar Super Heroes: $14
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.
While die-hard fans may say that it doesn’t quite live up to the high standard of the original, but Gunstar Super Heroes is still worth playing for those that own it and for those that have never played it.
Wario Ware Mega Microgames: $15
This cartridge packed with 200 wacky bits of pick-up-and-play goodness brought our buddy Wario into a new spotlight. This original installment spawned a series of offshoots on most of Nintendo’s next few consoles and handhelds.
None of the micro games included in this arrangement are particularly challenging, deep, or elegant. But the fact that they are randomly arranged in fast succession required the gamer to be prepared for anything and focus on completing a simple feat with some precision. Stacking multiple instances of these tasks on an ultra-short deadline creates a surprisingly addicting and laugh inducing experience.
This collection was also brought to the Gamecube (equally, if not more enjoyable) in addition to having some of the included micrograms included on the newer 3D3 collection, WarioWare Gold. If you’d rather have those, you might want to hold off on this cart. However, if you want a mobile introduction on a more classic handheld or just want on the GBA format, the price is quite reasonable!
Pinball of the Dead: $10
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. he physics are spot-on, and your ball is easy to follow. The graphics (unimpressive bosses aside) are clean, detailed, and well animated. The sound effects are great with lots of odd voice samples from the series, and the soundtrack shows off some zombie rock.
Pac-Man Collection: $5
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 traditional Pac-Man, there are also some remakes and puzzle spin-offs included such as Pac-Man Arrangement (a colorful and faster-paced modernization of the classic), Pac-Mania (isometric view with the ability to jump and a turbo power-up), and Pac-Attack (a falling-block puzzle game akin to Tetris). You can read more about each of these titles and more related games in our Best Pac-Man Clones and Spin-Offs Guide. Overall, the Pac-Man Collection is an ideal package for quick pick-up games for classic-minded gamers on the go.
Namco Museum: $4
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.
It’s worth noting that there’s also at 50th Anniversary Edition of the Namco Museum that also included the original Pac-Man (also included in Pac-Man Collection above) and Rally-X while losing Galaxian and Pole Position. I actually prefer the lineup of the original release (even compared to the DS Namco Museum, which doesn’t have the original Dig Dug).
Super Monkey Ball Jr.: $5
Super Monkey Ball is one of the best games from the PS2/GC/XB 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.
Chu Chu Rocket: $5
For those that aren’t fans of the Sega Dreamcast, Chu Chu Rocket may be a hidden gem. The game was the first example of online multiplayer on Sega’s final console and redefined multiplayer puzzle game experiences. Even though most gamers remember the intense multiplayer battles, Chu Chu Rocket also had some great single player levels to work your brain.
Obviously, the Game Boy Advance doesn’t benefit from online connectivity, so Sega worked to bulk up the single player experience. Fortunately, Sega could thank the Dreamcast’s online users armed with the custom level designer for a hefty supply of challenges. While the original Dreamcast game only had 100 single player levels, the GBA version incorporated an extra 2,500 (out of the 17,000 user created levels on the Dreamcast) to keep portable players busy.
One of the Dreamcast’s premier puzzle games and defining gameplay experiences was shrunken down to the GBA without losing too 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.
Sonic Advance: $7
The first decade of the new millennium wasn’t especially great for Sonic the Hedgehog. However, with the Game Boy Advance, Sonic fans were at least treated to some new 2D platforming. While these portable gems weren’t quite as fast and solid as the mainline Sonic games on Sega’s 16-bit console, they are fairly solid. Sonic Advance was actually developed by Dips (who worked on the 1999 Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure for the Neo Geo Pocket Color) alongside Sonic Team and Yuji Naka.
Even thought Sonic Advance 2 and 3 show more cosmetic flair than the original GBA release, the first Sonic Advance had far better level design. Sonic Advance 2 in particular is an exercise in frustration, with one bottomless pit after another that you won’t be ready for. However, if you are interested in exploring Sonic Advance 2 and 3, they are also quite affordable at $7 and $10 price ranges respectively.
Sonic Advance & Sonic Pinball Party: $11
Not only can you get a 2D Sonic fix, but you can add a quality pinball game that has lots of great level designs including NiGHTS and Samba De Amigo-themed. Even compared to Pinball of the Dead above, Sonic Pinball Party has lots more extras to unlock and play beyond the standard set of tables
Check for Sonic Advance & Sonic Pinball Party on eBay
Check for Sonic Advance & Sonic Pinball Party on Amazon
Mario Kart Super Circuit: $9
It’s hard to go wrong with a Mario Kart game. Super Circuit may feel more like the original Super Nintendo game instead of the more visually stunning 3D games, but don’t write it off as as SNES port like it Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country brethren. Instead, Mario Kart Super Circuit is actually a new game with its own set of tracks and characters.
I wouldn’t make this your only purchase of a Mario Kart game, but if you are a fan of the series, this can be a fun one to spend some time with.
Mario Golf Advance Tour: $10
The Team at Camelot may be best known for the Shining Force series (and later the Golden Sun franchise, mentioned above), but they also worked on all the Mario Golf and Tennis games. They starting on the Game Boy Color, but also working on the consoles starting with the N64, Camelot knows their way around a golf game and also is skilled at working in RPG elements. The attention to detail shows in this GBA installment. It may feel like a more old-school golf video game, but it’s still a lot of fun.
With so many options (singles, doubles, tourneys, matchplays, star courses, and mini-games to name a few) everyone can find something they enjoy. The RPG in story mode allows players to customize their own character for super power or straight and steady. Whatever one finds to do in the game, he’ll enjoy it immensely.
Super Street Fighter II / Street Fighter Alpha 3: $15 each
Even with the impressive handheld specs of its day, it wasn’t especially common for a fighting game to replicate the arcade experience. However, with both Super Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 3, Capcom did an impressive job harnessing all the capabilities of the hardware to bring us something remarkable.
Of course, there are newer portable versions of these games on the PSP and Switch, but not only is it hard to beat these prices, but there’s just something especially cool about playing a quality port of these classic brawlers on a GBA. If you’re a fans of the series, consider these a required pick-up.
Super Puzzle Fighter 2: $10
Puzzle games are always a welcome addition on a mobile gaming expedition. And if you’re a fan of the Street Fighter franchise, it’s hard to go wrong with some Puzzle Fighter action. Even without relying on the Street Fighter theme, Super Puzzle Fighter 2 is a rock solid gameplay experience.
Of course, it will feel familiar to those that have played lots of falling block games, but Puzzle Fighter adds its own gameplay spin and personality. It is easy to pick up and get into, difficult to master, and the little additions, animations, and strategy possibilities make it one of the more addicting games on the GBA.
Dr. Mario / Puzzle League: $9
This cartridge offers two wonderful puzzle games on one cartridge and will provide mobile gamers with a great challenge and loads of fun. Dr. Mario originally was released on the NES and the original monochrome Gameboy. Puzzle League originated as Panel de Pon in Japan. Both have been re-built for the GBA and look great.
The standalone Dr. Mario was actually mentioned in our Best Classic Game Boy Games Under $12 Guide and is always a splendid take on the falling block puzzle genre.
Puzzle League is my particular favorite of the two games. Puzzle League makes you think a bit more than most typical puzzle games — without being frustrating. After you play though it a few times you will quickly learn the technique and will get that “in-the-zone” feeling in no time.
While many of us hold the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games and their console ports close to our hearts, the newer console follow-ups have been very hit or miss. However, with the Game Boy Advance, Ubisoft Montreal took a shot in bringing old-school beatemup to this modern 2D hardware. (Also note, this game, which is based on the TMNT GCI film, is not the same game as the GBA’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” by Konami, which is based on the 2003 TV series).
Anyway, this particular installment avoids any puzzles or platforming sections and focuses on being a fast-paced brawler with engaging visuals and audio. The combat engine even shows some variety with different button combinations. Enemies can even be bounced and juggled for addition combo points.
Check for TMNT on eBay
Check for TMNT on Amazon
Final Fight One: $12
If you a fan of beatemups, it’s hard to pass on a quality port of one of the genre’s all time greats. Unlike the Super Nintendo port of the arcade classic, this Game Boy Advance version actually delivers most of the goods. Brawling fans can enjoy all three characters and all the levels. There’s even support for multiplayer and less censorship.
As if that wasn’t good enough, there hidden playable characters featuring Guy and Cody’s Street Fighter Alpha 3 sprites and the ability for two players to use the same character. There’s some nice extras here to make this cartridge a solid recommendation for fans of the genre.
Kirby Nightmare in Dreamland: $12
The Kirby series began on the Game Boy, so it’s not surprising that Nintendo would put out some mainline Kirby games on the GBA as well. To get the ball rolling, Nintendo released a remake of the NES classic (and second game in the series), Kirby’s Adventure but with graphics that feel more in line with the SNES re-releases that made up a lot of early Advance releases.
While Nightmare in Dreamland was more of an upgrade than most of the NES and SNES ports that made it to the portable, it didn’t push the GBA graphics hardware as much as the likes of Yoshi’s Island. Much like the original NES game, Nightmare isn’t a long, deep, or challenging game, but it makes for a solid gaming “snack” for a reasonable aftermarket price (although arguably not as much of a value as some other classics on this list).
Kirby & The Amazing Mirror: $15
While the remake that is Nightmare in Dreamland bought Nintendo a little time to get a fresh portable platformer on the market, the arrival of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror brought a cascade of color and some fresh gameplay approaches to the GBA.
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror took a break from the linear platforming levels. Instead, it’s one giant world with interconnecting parts. Instead of going through the levels in standard fashion, the game encourages exploration and backtracking, much like a Metroidvania-lite.
The Amazing Mirror also features multiplayer, allowing your to call other players or CPU-controlled Kirbys to the location for enhanced teamwork and faster completion.
Lilo and Stitch: $4
If you’re a fan of run and gun shooters, don’t write this one off as a typical Disney licensed kids game. Despite its cute trappings, Lilo and Stitch on the GBA is more in line with the Metal Slug series. You can switch between the two characters, solving puzzles with the unarmed Lilo and going on a shooting spree with Stitch. The responsive controls enable you to maneuver through the lush environments easily. You don’t have to kill everything on the screen — evading your enemy works just as well but isn’t as satisfying.
Other Cheap Favorites:
- Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Rayman Advance: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Virtua Tennis: $4 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Capcom Classics Mini Mix: $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Iridion 3D: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Riviera: The Promised Land: $13 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Lost Vikings: $14 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Broken Sword: The Shadow of Templars: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Tony Hawk’s Underground: $5 – eBay / Amazon
- Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (impressive FPS): $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Konami Collector’s Series: Arcade Advanced: $4 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Mega Man Battle Network 2: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Desert Strike Advance: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Castlevania (Classic NES Series): $15 – 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): $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Metroid Classic NES Series $13 eBay / Amazon.com
- Doom $14 eBay / Amazon.com
- Mario Tennis Power Tour $13 eBay / Amazon.com
- Breath of Fire $14 eBay / Amazon.com
- Super Mario Advance 3 Yoshi’s Island $9 eBay / Amazon.com
- Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 $10 eBay / Amazon.com
- Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) $9 eBay / Amazon.com
- Super Mario Advance (Super Mario Bros. 2) $8 eBay / Amazon.com
- Donkey Kong Classic NES Series $8 eBay / Amazon.com
- Donkey Kong Country $9 eBay / Amazon.com
- Donkey Kong Country 2 $9 eBay / Amazon.com
- Donkey Kong Country 3 $8 eBay / Amazon.com
- Fire Pro Wrestling $9 eBay) / Amazon.com
- Super Dodge Ball Advance $6 eBay / Amazon.com
- Sword of Mana $12 eBay / Amazon.com
- Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories $7 eBay / Amazon.com
- Final Fantasy I & II Dawn of Souls $9 eBay / Amazon.com
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