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The Best Game Boy Advance Games

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The Game Boy Advance is not only one of the greatest handheld systems of all time, but one of the greatest video game consoles of all time. It took everything players loved about the Gameboy Color and brought it to an entirely new level. From its launch to its sad end, the Game Boy Advance brought about game after game of awesomeness. To celebrate the system’s 15th anniversary, I compiled a list of what I believe is its best games. There are a couple of rules, however: first, only one game per series, and second, no games that were ported from another console. So with that said, here are the Top Ten GBA Games.

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10. Mega Man Zero

What was the best part about Mega Man X? Was it the wall jumping? The upgradable armor? The insanely interesting storyline? No. It was Zero, X’s best friend and rival. Being the leader of a bounty hunting group called the Maverick Hunter’s and having a head of hair straight off the set of a Viking movie, Zero was the definition of cool, especially in the ’90s. Naturally, his popularity gave way to his getting a solo game. Set 100 years after the fifth and final canon Mega Man X game, the game takes place in a world ravaged by a terrible war between humans and Reploids. Zero is awoken by a group of rebels who request his help fighting the now-evil X and bringing peace to the land. The game is extremely hard in parts, with some players even going so far as to call it the hardest in the Mega Man series. As Zero, the player has to slash and blast his way through hordes of enemies on his way to stop the war and save the world. Extremely challenging and equally as fun, Mega Man Zero returns the series to its roots of run-and-gun platforming and high difficulty levels. Not one to be missed.

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9. Golden Sun

A perfect re-imagining of the JRPG formula, Golden Sun breathes new life into the genre with interesting twists on the traditional turn-based fighting system, amazing graphics, and challenging but doable gameplay. The player takes control of a band of magic users called ‘Adepts’ who have the duty of protecting the world of Weyward from an evil power known as alchemy. The game is one of only a handful that can truly say that all the challenge it offers is rewarded in full by just pure gameplay; it is that fun. Golden Sun really is a callback to the greats, to the time of Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana.

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8. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town

Ever dream of planting crops, milking cows, chopping down trees, or training a dog to go fetch? How about all four? If so, the Harvest Moon series was made for you. Really though, not many people ever thought farming could translate very well into a videogame, but Harvest Moon went above and beyond. In FoMT, the player takes control of a young man who receives a farm after the previous owner leaves it to him in his will. Throughout the game, the player must tend the fields and the animals, expand their home, find and marry a spouse and eventually raise children. Filled with beautiful imagery and fun mini-games, FoMT never makes the player feel as if they are simulating manual labour, which they technically are. It creates a light and joyful atmosphere that wipes out everything monotonous about running a farm.

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7. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Superstar Saga is a Mario Bros. RPG in the same bloodline as Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG. In the game, Mario and Luigi must travel to the Beanbean Kingdom to battle the evil Cackletta, who has stolen Princess Peach’s voice. Mixing up the traditional turn-based system, the gameplay involves timed attacks and complicated maneuvers. It’s funny and light-hearted, and just an all-around joy to experience. Not much else to say about this simple but intelligent game except you should play it.

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6. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

This entry in the Zelda series is basically Ant-Man, but instead of Paul Rudd we have Link, and instead of a high-tech suit we have a hat. A talking hat. The game is bananas. One would think the introduction of a shrinking technique into a Zelda game would be too drastic of a change, too much of a variation from the norm, but Minish Cap defies the odds and makes it work in an unbelievable and completely unique way. When shrunk down to the size of, well, an ant, an entirely new world is presented to the player. Link to the Past had the dark world, Minish Cap has the tiny world, and like almost every other game in the series, it works. There are also the usual dungeon crawling, boss fights, fun weapons, and challenging puzzles we have begun to expect from a Zelda title, and even in those aspects, this game does not disappoint.

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5. Summon Night: Swordcraft Story

Although insanely popular in Japan, the Summon Night series never really got a chance to take off in North America, mainly because of its lack of main-series releases. NA only ever got the spin-off titles of the series (Swordcraft Story being the debut of the entire series in the Americas), but not only did this game surprise fans of the series, but it also surprised almost anyone who played it. It’s amazing, and also amazingly underrated and vastly under-appreciated. Having never really been given a chance, Summon Night has faded into obscurity to the point where if one was to bring it up in casual conversations they would receive confused stares and muttered grunts of “what?” The game has the player take control of either a boy or a girl who is the child of Shintetsu, the Craftlord of Iron. After Shintetsu gives up his life to save his family and the world, the remaining Craftlords hold a tournament to choose the next Craftlord of Iron in Shintetsus place. As his child, the player must enter the tournament and claim his father’s role, all while crafting their own weapons, gaining a mystical otherworldly companion, finding and losing relationships, and dealing with an evil conspiracy that could once again bring forth the cataclysmic event that Shintetsu gave his life to prevent. This game should be given a chance on its story alone, let alone its fun graphics and addicting gameplay.

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4. Advance Wars

Often considered one of, if not the best game of the GBA’s lifespan, Advance Wars is a military strategy game, played in the same style as the Fire Emblem games. Players control and command an entire army, having to organize their units and plan accordingly beforehand to stand a chance of completing each mission. A very basic game that presents a very basic and very fun experience. It represents the Game Boy Advance’s excellent ability to host games with limited graphical capabilities and turning them into something intense and visually stunning.

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3. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Crazy-hard, infinitely frustrating, anger-inducing, impossible to put down, awesome fun; these terms describe most of the games in the Castlevania series (except for Simon’s Quest and Castlevania 64, but we don’t talk about them). Aria of Sorrow puts the player in the shoes of Soma Cruz, a student in Japan who possesses the power to absorb the souls of monsters and use their abilities. The reincarnation of Dracula is the central plot point in the game, as Soma uses a variety of weapons, spells, and monster souls to defeat the enemies that would have this happen. AoS is the third Castlevania game for handheld devices and completely flips the series on its head in terms of brightly-coloured graphics and fun, tight controls that allow simple movements in a not so simple game.

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2. Pokémon Emerald

The third Pokémon game in the series third generation, Emerald takes place in the Hoenn Region where the player must venture out on their quest to become a Pokémon Master and end the evil plots of Team Magma and Team Aqua, whose individual missions end up intertwining and bringing about an event that could end the entire world. Travelling through the region, catching pokémon, collecting badges, and battling other trainers is basically the plot to every Pokémon game ever made, and Emerald is no different, but there is a reason Nintendo sticks to the same formula time after time. That reason is that it works. Emerald takes said formula and runs with it, doing everything right and creating the perfect Pokémon experience.

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1. Fire Emblem

Although a very popular game series in Japan, Fire Emblem was virtually unknown in North America until Super Smash Bros. Melee. When Melee debuted the Fire Emblem characters of Roy and Marth, most gamers were confused and mildly annoyed. Why would Nintendo include characters nobody even heard of before? Well, Nintendo did that as the first step in what turned out to be a very successful and intelligent plan. Using Roy and Marth to get NA players interested, they released Fire Emblem in North America for the Game Boy Advance and completely blew the continent’s collective mind. A medieval warfare strategy game, Fire Emblem added an incredible twist: it gave players consequence to letting unit’s die. If any character besides the main protagonists perishes on the battlefield, then they are gone for good. No extra lives, no revival later in the game; they die, they’re gone. This one element completely changed the handheld strategy genre and took over the gaming world. Fire Emblem is filled with interesting characters who the player begins to develop attachments too, so when one of them does fall in battle, it isn’t just a character leaving the team – it feels like a friend has just left you, a teammate. It is very rare that a game can create that sort of bond with the player, and if you mix it with the top-tier gameplay, you end up with undoubtedly the greatest game in the GBA’s life cycle.

Be sure to also check out:

The Top 50 SNES Games

The 40 Best Nintendo 64 Games

The Best Game Boy Games that Stand the Test of Time

The Best Game Boy Advance Games

35 Best Gamecube Games

The Very Best Wii Games

The 25 Best Wii U Games

The Best Nintendo Switch Games

200 Best Nintendo Games

M. T. McDonald is a wanna-be writer, amateur smart ass, and semi-pro whiskey enthusiast. At the age of four, he was given a Gameboy and made it his lifelong goal to never see sunlight again. He lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with his partner Jenna and Waffles the Cat. He can be reached for any business inquiries or questions about his beard at mtmcdonald.contact@gmail.com. Alternatively, you can hop on over to his blog Wires n' Words at wiresandwords.wordpress.com and listen to his incoherent ramblings about video games and books.

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‘KartRider: Drift’ is Gorgeous But in Need of Fine-Tuning

KartRider: Drift is Microsoft’s new exclusive racer coming in 2020. Here are hands-on beta impressions from behind the wheel.

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kartrider drift

KartRider: Drift had the odds stacked against it from the outset. Though the KartRider series has been immensely popular in China and Korea for more than a decade, its brand recognition in the West has been largely nonexistent. Thus, when it was showcased at Microsoft’s XO19 event in November, many dismissed the game as a generic Mario Kart clone. In reality, not only is KartRider is one of the longest-running competitive racing games in the world, but its closed beta weekend proved that Nexon is taking the impending Western release very seriously.

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Beta players were given access to three modes: online matchmaking, solo time trials, and the garage for character and kart customization. The online interface is simple and intuitive; with a press of the “X” button players can toggle between Solo, Duo, and Squad (four-player) races across Item Mode (featuring traditional kart racer items) and Speed Mode (no items). Switching between different configurations is a snap and, thanks to KartRacer already being such a massive game in the East, I rarely had to wait more than 20 seconds to get thrown into a match. Creating private parties and inviting friends to race is also an option.

Although maps took a while to load, performance was consistently smooth once races actually began. It’s here where Nexon’s investment in Unreal Engine 4 really shines; the tracks are simply a joy to look at. Each manage to pop with personality despite not being based on recognizable IP like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Of the nine tracks available during the beta only two stuck out as being a bit samey. Each of the drivers also benefit from colorful, distinct designs and fully customizable win/loss animations. The only portion of the presentation that didn’t impress was the music, which was quite catchy at first, but looped endlessly irrespective of the track.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual course design, which is largely serviceable but also initially frustrating. For instance, a forest-themed track features logs that stick up from the ground and stop racers in their tracks. This wouldn’t be too egregious, but the logs are so large that only tiny spaces on either side remain. Nearly half of my races on this map were marred by traffic jams caused by a couple of these choke points. Another map features a jump that must be hit at just the right time to not collide with a building and cost players the entire race.

Even maps that don’t demand unreasonable precision from new players suffer from jarringly sharp edges that make it easy to get stuck on corners. This is only exacerbated by a finicky drift mechanic that takes hours of experimentation and countless losses to nail down. While growing more competent at cornering eventually felt rewarding and worthwhile, the high skill threshold here feels like it’s at odds with KartRider: Drift’s framing as an accessible, beginner-friendly experience. These aren’t necessarily design flaws, but they seem like missteps in a game that’s trying to appeal to as many newcomers as possible.

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Tantalizing Customization

While KartRider: Drift’s core mechanics might aggravate the casual players it’s trying to reach, its customization options are some of the most appealing I’ve seen in any kart racer. Players can choose from a range of skins, emotes, kart types, and wheels to fully deck out their characters. Be it the aggressively adorable Bunny Buggy or skins that turn characters into little baseball and football players, it’s tough not to fall in love with the clean, cutesy charm on display here.

One potential worry is that since the game will be completely free-to-play, it’ll follow the route of relying on premium skins and emotes to generate revenue. There was no store or lootbox-esque system implemented in the beta build, but it’s clear from the “Epic” and “Rare” tags on items that premium customization will surely be a major focus. Considering players gain experience and level up the more races they compete in, there’s hope that at least some items might be unlockables to encourage higher attachment rates.

KartRacer: Drift is an unusual Microsoft exclusive, and yet it’s clear that Nexon has poured a tremendous amount of care and resources into it over the years. Having crossplay with PC this early on was crucial and ensures a built-in online community of millions from the get-go. It remains to be seen if the team makes any track design tweaks or alters the hyper-touchy drift, but what’s already here is at least worth giving a whirl when it releases for free sometime in 2020.

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The Best Reveals of Indie World December 2019

From long-awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in the latest Indie World showcase.

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Indie World

It’s been a banner year for independent games, and Nintendo has closed it out with a new Indie World presentation. From long awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in this showcase. We’ve rounded up a few of the very best reveals below.

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The show started off strong with the reveal of Sports Story, a sequel to 2017’s much loved, golf-obsessed RPG Golf Story. Whereas the first game focused solely on the noble sport of golf, the sequel has a much broader scope, integrating a variety of new sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer, to name only a few. On top of that, the gameplay is expanding with plenty of new elements, including dungeons to explore, espionage missions to sneak through, and numerous memorable characters to interact with. Just like its predecessor, Sports Story will be a Switch exclusive when it launches in mid-2020.

Some of the best indies can be immensely stylish experiences, and such games were well represented throughout this showcase. The first one shown was Gleamlight, a 2D action game created by developers who worked on the recent Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It puts players in control of a sentient sword, tasked with exploring a mysterious world made of stained glass. It leaves players to their own devices, with no UI or dialogue to tell its somber story. Like so many other games in this presentation, it will release in early 2020.

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Another eye-catching title was Liberated, which describes itself as “a playable graphic novel.” Literally taking place across the panels and pages of a cyberpunk comic book, Liberated features a mixture of stealth-based gunplay and action platforming, along with a dystopian story told from numerous perspectives. It will be a timed Switch console exclusive when it launches next year.

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Not all games were so serious or artistic – some were decidedly sillier. One such game was SkateBIRD, which, as the title implies, is all about controlling cute little birds on skateboards. This intrepid athletes will spend their time “grinding on bendy straws, kickflipping over staplers or carving lines through a park held together by sticky tape,” and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what does. These little birdies won’t take flight until late 2020.

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To get even sillier, imagine the bizarre bird-based dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend set to an Ace Attorney soundtrack. As bizarre as that sounds, that’s exactly what Murder by the Numbers is. This murder mystery visual novel blends detective work with pixelated puzzling, featuring characters designed by Hatoful Boyfriend creator Hato Moa and music by Ace Attorney composer Masakazu Sugimori. Releasing early next year, this unusual mashup will be a timed Switch exclusive at launch.

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Procedural generation can feel like a tired trope in indie games. However, SuperMash, which describes itself as “the game that makes games,” looks like it should be a unique take on that style with its inventive genre-mashing style. Players will be able to mash distinct genres together – such as JRPG and platformer – to randomly created entirely new gameplay styles. It has plenty of unique mashing potential, releasing in May next year on Switch.

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It’s seemingly impossible for Nintendo to hold a presentation without a shadow drop or two, and that holds true with this Indie World showcase. The free-to-play multiplayer hit Dauntless was revealed to include exclusive weapons and armor in the Switch version, which also features full cross-play support. Likewise, the deluxe version of the philosophical puzzler The Talos Principle was announced for Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, featuring all the immersive mind teasers and world design that made the game such a hit when it launched years ago. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, you won’t need to wait until next year to play these – instead, they’re both available for download now.

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The presentation opened with a sequel to a fan-favorite indie, and fittingly enough, that’s also how it closed, with the announcement of Axiom Verge 2. Details are currently scarce, but this new title will return to the sci-fi universe of the original 2015 Metroidvania hit, including “completely new characters, abilities, and gameplay.” We’re sure to learn more about this mysterious new sequel ahead of its release in Fall 2020.

These are only a few of the most exciting reveals from Indie World. For everything announced, you can see the full presentation below.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘The Walking Dead’

A look back at one of the most critically acclaimed narrative based point and click story games of the decade: Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

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The story-based video game has been around for a long time but there has been a spike in popularity in them in the last decade. One of the most influential and critically acclaimed narrative games is the 2012 game Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which initiated a tidal wave of choice-based games that still continues today.

Lee Everett, the protagonist of the first season of The Walking Dead Game.

Telltale Games was created in 2004 and had a significant library of games established — including games based on Back to the Future and Jurassic Park — before the release of The Walking Dead. It was the zombie point and click adventure that shot them to triple A game studio status though. The game took on similar mechanics to their other games but introduced a more cinematic style. Player choice is a key element in regard to dialogue choices and important decisions within the story. These shape the player character, Lee Everett, and change his personality to suit the play style. This was one of the most endearing features of the game, allowing players to experience scenarios slightly differently depending on your choice.

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Lee and his ward Clementine had a strong connection that led to a lot of the emotional moments in the story.

The depth of the characters and dark nature of the narrative are the best aspects of the game. The player takes on the role of Lee as he is on his way to jail at the dawn of the zombie apocalypse. After a car accident leaves him stranded, he stumbles upon a little girl named Clementine. Lee becomes her protector as they and a group of survivors try to survive in the walker-infested world. This simple story of a man with a troubled past attempting to protect a little girl at the end of the world is incredibly engaging and it is difficult not to get emotionally attached to both Lee and Clementine. The system wherein certain characters will remember Lee’s words or actions is also a nice feature that can guilt trip you over your choices, particularly if you see the words “Clementine Will Remember That”. Lee is an interesting and complex character whose attitude and personality can change depending on player choice and Clementine is a loveable child who doesn’t fall into the “annoying kid” stereotype in most games. Both became beloved video game characters who set a precedent for likeable protagonists in gaming.

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The cast of characters in The Walking Dead’s first season all had their complexities.

The legacy of Telltale Games and The Walking Dead still continues within the gaming community. Telltales unfortunate downfall in September 2018 was a great loss to story-based gaming but many have been influenced by Telltale’s work since. Dontnod adapted the episodic formula for their Life is Strange games, another fantastic narrative series. Others who had previously worked for Telltale helped bring other great story games to life. The co-writers of the first season of The Walking Dead game set up the company that created the 2016 game Firewatch, for example. More writers of the series launched Night School Studios, responsible for Oxenfree (2016) and Afterparty (2019). The Walking Dead catapulted Telltale Games to stardom, leading them to take on a slew of projects — possibly leading to their downfall. Despite this, the game has carved out a place for itself in history as one of the best point and click narrative adventure games that established a trend of games that encourage strong storytelling and complex characters.

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