As the Gameboy Advance nears its final days, I'd just like to waste a few paragraphs to highlight my favorite games from its vast library. It was a great little machine, and killed far too many hours of my life. At least I was able to write a little bit about it; true to form, I focused most of my attention on the hidden gems and sleeper hits.
You already know all there is to know about Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, and Joe Schmoe is always gonna shell out for the latest Madden and Harry Potter. Let's see what else is out there:
1. Advance Wars 2 - Of the three Advance Wars titles on Advance and DS, I'd say this one is the best. The balance between the different characters and military units is just about perfect. The DS sequel messes things up somewhat with the CO tag-teams, which complete obliterate any enemy army on most missions. I hope that this series doesn't follow the same path as the Bomberman games. Why tinker with a perfectly good formula? Until the next DS installment arrives, Advance Wars 2 has the crown.
2. Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap - Question: will Minish Cap be the last traditional, 2-D Zelda game? I certainly hope not! Capcom had finally figured out how everything should work, tapping into the magic of the original Zelda, and with enough new ideas and quirks to keep you hooked. There's quite a bit of the Mega Man influence here, another classic series that I miss dearly.
3. Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer - I was a big fan of the surfing competition from California Games on the Lynx, so this game was like manna from Heaven. I was never enamoured by the Tony Hawk games on the Advance, mostly because of the button scheme and angled viewpoint. Kelly Slater, I think, worked to the handheld's strengths, without losing any of the immediacy or complexity you'd expect. This was the first thing I grabbed when I bought a SP three years ago, and was happy for a very long time.
4. Hikaru no Go 2 - I wrote about this a couple posts down, so no need to rehash everything. It's a terrific strategy game that should have been brought to America, but wasn't. Of all the times we need Gamefan around to beat the drum....
5. Pinball of the Dead - Exhibit #1 why emulation is no match for the real thing; although, it must be said, if it weren't for Visual Boy Advance and the rom sites around the internet, I never would've discovered how good the Advance was. It helps, I suppose, if you remember Naxat's classic Devil's Crush from the Turbo (and later Genesis). Now I get the portable version, with three pinball tables? Groovy.
6. Wario Ware: Twisted - Much more refined and focused, and a lot more weird, than the original. The control scheme is just bloody perfect - have you tried this with a svivel chair? Slam down a couple drinks and then give Twisted a try. This is probably going to be the Wario Ware title by which all future ones will be judged.
7. Lunar Legends - This is the, what, twentieth revision of the classic Sega CD game? Whatever. I've had a lot more fun with Lunar than any of the other RPGs on the system. Perhaps it's because none of them possess the same charm, or the lovable characters. Perhaps RPGs have just stagnated many years ago. If that's the case, why not stick with one of the classics instead?
8. Motoracer Advance - Another sleeper gem that deserved far more attention than it received. There are a lot of these games lurking around, if you know where to find them. Remember arcade racing games? Back before anal-retentive realism sucked all the joy of life out of them? I'd rather race through traffic, crash into chickens, and watch cheerleaders.
9. Pac-Man Collection - According to Next Gen, Pac-Man Collection is one of the top-selling games for the Advance. That was a pleasant surprise for me, but I shouldn't be, really. It's always reliable, always there when you need it. I still think the cartridge is chincy as hell, though. Would it kill Namco to do a Pac-Man compilation right for once? Where the hell is Junior?!
10. Tactics Ogre - There have been a number of turn-based strategy games on GBA, at least three by my reckoning. I think the best was the first, Tactics Ogre. This was an early title for the handheld, but you wouldn't guess it from the presentation, or the graphics, or the complex gameplay. Strange, isn't it, that both the Onimusha and Final Fantasy titles were so much easier and simplified?
Honorable Mention: Broken Sword; Car Battler Joe; Double Dragon; Medal of Honor; Rainbow Six; Sheep; Shining Force; Super Dropzone; The Three Stooges; Turbo Turtle Adventure; Virtual Kasparov.