The Game Boy Advance was a worthy successor to the Game Boy, taking handheld gaming and bringing it to the next level. Pulling together some of their most iconic games, Nintendo put forth their best efforts into making the GBA the must-have console for children everywhere. It was home to some of the most beloved titles as well, like Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and Metroid Fusion.
Due to its popularity, there were a lot of developers who wanted a piece of the GBA pie. As such, there were many companies that rushed to make games and release them on Nintendo’s shiny, new handheld to make some extra cash. Unfortunately, that often went one of two ways. The first was a company would rush out a game that was either poorly-made or just a shameless attempt at cashing in on a property. Either way, the results were less than impressive. The second was that a developer (Nintendo included) would make a great game that wouldn’t get as much attention, thus causing them a dip in the sales they deserved.
Needless to say, there are plenty of great GBA games that never got a fair chance in the spotlight. Many of them becoming cult classics or hidden gems, they will forever be remembered as such. There are also plenty other GBA games that were notoriously awful, and they’ll never change in their memories either.
With that said, we’re exploring 15 of the worst GBA games and 15 that deserve a second chance.
30 Worst: Sonic The Hedgehog
Despite being one of the most popular games on the SEGA Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog was not ported to the GBA smoothly. The system could run similar graphics to the Genesis, but that didn’t stop the Sonic port from looking like a bootleg version of its original game. Another mistake made was that the sprites were too big, making the area of visibility small, which made it easier to perish in an already difficult game. It was a port that needed much more effort before its release.
29 Underrated: Golden Sun
When it comes to the various Nintendo franchises that never got a fair chance in the spotlight, Golden Sun is often at the top of the list. Many have praised the game’s characters, battle mechanics, and RPG elements. It arguably stands next to other great RPG franchises like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.
The game was also unique in its story progression, turning the player’s quest into an event that caused the entire world harm.
Let’s just say there’s a reason people want Isaac in Smash.
28 Worst: Mortal Kombat Advance
Mortal Kombat is one of the most beloved fighting game franchises of all time, with the first three entries bringing in a lot of fans. With the third game’s port to the GBA, though, many of those fans jumped ship. It was that bad. Mortal Kombat Advance tries to carry over the systems of the console games to a handheld, but without the benefit of the tighter directional inputs of a full controller. The AI is broken, the moves don’t always work, and the compression makes the game look worse.
27 Underrated: Mega Man: Battle Network
Mega Man: Battle Network was unlike anything the franchise had seen beforehand. Where the games were typically tough-as-nails platformers, Battle Network was focused on more adventure-esque, RPG elements. Each battle took place on a grid that had to be managed with attacks and movement. Its differences caused it to be overlooked, but that’s not to say that the game was awful. The design worked well, provided a unique experience for Mega Man fans that many people look back to fondly.
26 Worst: Mega Man And Bass
Mega Man and Bass is one of the forgotten entries in the Mega Man series. After getting a late release on the SNES, it was ported to the GBA.
Unfortunately, it suffered from many of the same problems that the Sonic the Hedgehog port did.
The screen compression made it difficult to see what was happening at any given time and, combined with the difficulty, made the game more frustrating than entertaining. On top of that, it just seems like a game that wasn’t created with as much love. Not even the soundtrack is on its typical level of quality.
25 Underrated: Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure
The Crash Bandicoot series involved following 3D corridors, busting boxes and enemies until players reached the goal. In the jump to the GBA, that gameplay wasn’t achievable. Instead, the developers decided to translate the game to a 2D platformer. However, Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure managed to be a surprise hit. Not only did the game retain a lot of its console charm, but the mechanics converted well, with the 2D sections in the older games being an excellent source.
24 Worst: Shrek: Swamp Kart Speedway
Many developers tried their best to capitalize on the Mario Kart formula, but very few of them succeeded. The same goes for Shrek: Swamp Kart Speedway, which is little more than a poor version of Super Mario Kart with a Shrek skin thrown in. The game takes a flat perspective, and with stagnant backgrounds and choppy frame rates, it’s difficult to know where to drive next without going through grass or hitting some sort of obstacle. Likewise, the power-ups are cheap knock-offs as well, leading this game better forgotten.
23 Underrated: Advance Wars
Many people believed that intense strategy games would never be a good fit for handheld consoles. Nintendo was more than up to the challenge, though, releasing the charming Advance Wars. Not only did the game have a unique aesthetic, but it also reinvented new ways of utilizing strategy games. Even the minds behind XCOM praised the execution, citing it as a landmark for strategy games on handheld consoles. Unfortunately, few people played Advance Wars, leaving it as one of the Big N’s deceased franchises.
22 Worst: Zoey 101
Zoey 101 was a live-action TV show filled with teen drama and comedy. Despite that seemingly bland description, the minds at Nickelodeon thought it would be a great enough premise to create a mini-game collection on the GBA. The aptly-named Zoey 101 ended up being one of the worst games on the system. Not only did it have no knowledge of how to make a good mini-game, the graphics, sound design, and additional mechanics were just as awful. Not even fans of the show could enjoy it.
21 Underrated: Wario Land 4
The Wario Land series has always run parallel to the Super Mario Bros series. While both are sidescrolling platformers, Wario Land has typically been more about charm and unique art styles and ideas as opposed to the solid mechanics of Mario.
As such, Wario Land 4 is easily one of the best in the franchise.
Not only does it have some of the best graphics on the entire GBA, the mechanics and level design are standouts as well, creating an adventure that’s worthy of Wario himself.
20 Worst: Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles
The standard version of Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles was released on the PlayStation and featured 3D action where two players could team up as popular characters from The Phantom Menace. However, even that game had its fair share of flaws. Imagine how much worse its GBA port was, then. This version of the game suffers from ugly graphics and clunky action. They don’t even get the designs of some of the characters correct. Mace Windu wields a blue lightsaber in the game.
19 Underrated: Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand
Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand is one of the most unique games on the GBA. Its cartridge was created to be light-sensitive. The character in the game has a solar gun that can be recharged by playing in daylight, where the light from the sun fills it up. On top of this novel mechanic, Boktai is also a solid dungeon exploration game, having players go through new environments and taking bosses in an isometric and visually pleasing perspective.
18 Worst: Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee
Munch’s Oddysee isn’t the best game in the Oddworld franchise, but it cleverly adapts the mechanics of the game in a 3D space. The console versions were fun. However, putting that experience on a GBA proved to have several problems. First, the formula didn’t quite work in a top-down perspective, leading to some awkward mechanics. The graphics also took a major hit, with the game’s environments being bland to see. The character models were subpar, and the mechanics were clunky.
17 Underrated: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red And Blue Rescue Team
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red and Blue Rescue Team were released on both the DS and the GBA. While the DS version made more use of the new hardware, the GBA version is practically identical. It was surprising how well the Pokémon franchise lent itself to the mystery dungeon style. As the series has grown, these two games still manage to have the best friend management system in the entire franchise. It had a ridiculous amount of content as well, keeping players busy in their adventure for weeks.
16 Worst: That’s So Raven
Nickelodeon wasn’t the only company to take a live-action show and have it made into a GBA game. Disney did the same thing when they decided That’s So Raven would make for an excellent handheld experience. However, the game is one of the worst titles on the GBA.
It is little more than a walking simulator, where players have to collect random water bottles and sit through text boxes.
Combining the GBA graphics with portraits of the actual characters was also a bad choice, leading to some awkward visuals.
15 Underrated: Drill Dozer
Drill Dozer is an obscure game on the GBA, though that’s mostly because many consumers ignored it. Developed by Game Freak, the minds behind Pokémon, the game had excellent mechanics from start to finish. Having players control a girl with a drill, it led to some unique platforming sections. This premise alone was remarkably handled in the entire game, leading to some great graphics, great levels, and a memorable character (for those that played it). Drill Dozer would later appear as an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
14 Worst: March Of The Penguins
Whoever thought that March of the Penguins, a documentary about birds that live on icy continents, would make for a great game needs to rethink their life. March of the Penguins is a weird game. Part random education game and part Lemmings clone, there is a lack of effort that oozes throughout each level. The graphics are subpar, the mechanics of each item are never properly explained, and they’re all bookended with random trivia that will only be useful if people also play Trivial Pursuit.
13 Underrated: Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure
Dragon Ball will always lend itself to video games. Before the numerous fighting games that dominated the franchise, there were other titles like Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure.
As ridiculous as the title sounds, it hides a well-constructed action platformer.
Players control Goku through fast-moving levels. They can attack enemies in a series of flashy combos or breeze through levels. It’s all set behind a world that has surprisingly great graphics and nice sound design. It’s a respectable entry for Dragon Ball.
12 Worst: Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu
Fighting games aren’t usually a good idea on handheld consoles, and Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu merely affirms that concern. Where Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure made great use of the GBA’s graphics and engine, Taiketsu entirely ignores it. What’s left is a muddy fighter that’s ugly to watch and difficult to control. It’s especially awful considering how much the actual show relied on stellar animation. It also suffered from the age-old screen compression, making the environment feel much too small.
11 Underrated: Astro Boy: Omega Factor
Despite looking like a Mega Man clone, Astro Boy: Omega Factor manages to be one of the best action platformers on the GBA. With esteemed developer, Treasure, behind the development, it was almost guaranteed that it would be a hit. Making full use of Nintendo’s handheld, Treasure crafted a game that looks and feels fantastic. Not only is it amazing how all the sprites are smoothly animated, but that the mechanics themselves are unique and well-designed. Make no mistake, this is no Mega Man clone.
10 Worst: Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
Does it come as a surprise to anyone that a handheld version of a game based on one of the worst Star Wars movies was bad? Not us. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is far from a good game. Having players casually stroll through levels that don’t offer enough visibility, it’s easy to see what’s bad about it. The levels are bland, with environments being reused throughout the entire game. Despite being a Jedi that can tackle waves of enemies, the game feels ridiculously slow.
9 Underrated: Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow
The Castlevania franchise had a lot of ups and downs after it released, with Symphony of the Night regarded as the peak of it all. However, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow proved that Konami still knew how to use this formula to create something truly special. With excellent graphics, great items, and a vast world to explore, Aria of Sorrow was not only the best Castlevania game on the GBA, but potentially of all time. It rivals the best of the bunch, and it was all done on a handheld.
8 Worst: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
While E.T. was one of the worst games ever created back on the Atari, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on the GBA hoped to improve on the formula.
Unfortunately, the game only improves by a technicality.
It is better than the worst game ever made, but that’s not saying much. The game is still littered with half-baked ideas, featuring mechanics that are reused so much that the entire adventure starts to get grating. After just a few moments, it’s likely someone has played through every unique idea the game offers.
7 Underrated: Gunstar Super Heroes
Gunstar Heroes was one of the most beloved “unsung” games on the SEGA Genesis. Years later, Treasure was back at it again with Gunstar Super Heroes on the GBA. As fans of the development team expected, the game nearly perfected the formula established in the first game. While designed more for one player this time around, the level design and mechanics were so tight that it bothered no one. Gunstar Super Heroes is easily one of the best action games on the GBA.
6 Worst: Spider-Man: Battle For New York
After sitting through a series of lazily-constructed, bland pieces of story details, players are immediately thrust through a level that tries to blend the pixel art of the GBA with cel-shaded character models. This is the mixed design behind Spider-Man: Battle for New York.
Despite having access to tons of great characters, the game is just boring.
The graphics are inconsistent, often clashing with each other. The fighting system isn’t very fun. Then there’s the story, which is little more than a slog.
5 Underrated: Konami Krazy Racers
When it comes to Mario Kart clones, most of them are downright awful. That’s not the case with Konami Krazy Racers, which may even be better than Mario Kart: Super Circuit. The game features characters from Konami franchises, such as Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid, and Gradius. The graphics are solid, with a tight frame rate and great tracks to race on. It’s an intense kart racing game that can easily stand against Nintendo’s own franchise, and that’s a rarity in and of itself.
4 Worst: Crash Purple/Spyro Orange
Despite the idea of a crossover between Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon sounding like a good idea, the execution left a lot to be desired. Crash Purple and Spyro Orange aren’t good games. Most often, they just throw the popular characters through pointless mini-games that have no overall bearing on the plot. Couple that with the story that consists of nothing more than static images and lots of text to scroll through. Both of these gaming icons deserved better.
3 Underrated: Ninja Five-O
Despite its ridiculous premise, Ninja Five-O is easily one of if not the most underrated game on the GBA. Starring a ninja cop going through multi-floored levels, players will take down bad guys and rescue hostages. What makes the game so good is how great the controls feel in combination with the crisp animations. On top of that, the levels all feature decent obstacles to overcome, forcing players to think before attacking. The graphics are great, the sound is great, and the game itself is great.
2 Worst: Medal Of Honor: Underground
Often times, with 3D games on home consoles, developers would turn into sidescrollers or top-down games when putting them on a handheld. That wasn’t the case with Medal of Honor: Underground.
The developers wanted to keep the game a first-person shooter, and that’s what they did.
Unfortunately, the game looks downright terrible, with the graphics being muddy and pixelated, making it nearly impossible to see what’s happening. The controls also take a severe hit, making it a prime example of why fps belonged on home consoles.
1 Underrated: V-Rally 3
V-Rally 3 is a great example of a developer pushing a console to its limit. This game tries to achieve a 3D polygonal racing game and mostly succeeds. It’s one of the best-looking games on the GBA and has plenty of great racing tracks to boot. The game was a fun racer, featuring planet of cars and tracks to use. At the end of the day, the game deserves praise for its graphics alone, though its home console versions proved more popular.