Achieving a delicate balance between captivating visuals and engaging gameplay is a feat that often eludes many developers. Yet, there exist exceptional titles that defy this challenge, seamlessly marrying stunning graphics with impeccable gameplay. These are the games that not only captivate players with their visual splendor but also have extraordinary core gameplay on the Game Boy Advance (GBA).
Best game boy advance games with the best graphics
7. Gekido Advance: Kintaro’s Revenge
Gekido Advance: Kintaro's Revenge is a beat 'em up gem known for its unreal sprite work for the GBA. It was crafted by the Italian game studio NAPS Team and is the sequel to the PlayStation title Gekido. This game is recognized for its exceptional graphics, pushing the boundaries of the Game Boy Advance's capabilities.
This beat ‘em up introduces a unique approach by incorporating storytelling beyond mere brawling. In traditional beat-em-ups, repetitive combat can quickly lead to monotony. Gekido Advance breaks this pattern by interspersing battles with moments of exploration and narrative progression, reminiscent of the structure seen in River City Ransom.
Gekido Advance Kintaro’s Revenge showcases impressive visuals and character designs. The game's vibrant colors, well-animated characters, and artistic style reminiscent of SNK's fighting games are incredibly appealing. This is one of those games that one should see to believe it.
6. Summon Knight: Swordcraft Story 2
Visuals play a monumental role in Summon Knight: Swordcraft Story 2's appeal. The side-scrolling battles boast breathtaking visuals, but the game's exploration segments have also been remarkably enhanced as compared to the first game. The variety of areas represents a significant improvement over the repetitive dungeons of the previous game. This shift keeps the gameplay intriguing and engaging, making it a marked improvement over its predecessor.
Summon Knight: Swordcraft Story 2 amplifies its visual prowess while retaining its fluid animations during battles. This installment stands as a proof to the Game Boy Advance's hardware capabilities, flaunting some of the handheld's most impressive graphics.
Another improvement: players wield three equipped weapons and summon guardian beasts to cast spells. Summon Knight 2: Swordcraft Story 2 deviates from its predecessor with its crafting system. The approach has been streamlined: now, crafting a weapon necessitates just one primary material. Once the base weapon is created, upgrades become the focal point. The crafting rank determines the extent of these enhancements. This crafting aspect is, aside from visual fidelity, where much of the game's appeal resides—constantly seeking the most potent weapons to wield is one hell of a gameplay loop.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap for the Game Boy Advance is a standout title that excels in many aspects, with its graphics being a particular highlight. Still, the game is incredible gameplay-wise, but who needs beauty inside when the looks are too good?
The game seamlessly combines classic Zelda charm with refreshing new elements, offering an engaging experience. The story follows Link's quest to save Princess Zelda and defeat the evil sorcerer Vaati. This iteration introduces innovative gameplay mechanics, including the ability to shrink to minuscule sizes and interact with the Minish.
The GBA's graphical capabilities are expertly utilized, resulting in breathtaking visuals that make the most of the handheld's color palette and animations. The game's world, encompassing forests, swamps, volcanoes, and temples, is a visual marvel. The incorporation of classic Zelda music with a modern twist adds to the atmosphere. While maintaining the franchise’s ethos, The Minish Cap pushes GBA’s graphics to new heights, making it a must-play for fans and newcomers alike.
4. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories navigates the challenge of transitioning from a console game to a handheld platform, delivering a satisfying experience despite its simplified mechanics. Set as a side story between the main Kingdom Hearts titles, the game showcases a watered-down version of its console counterparts. Despite this, it manages to remain enjoyable with its engaging storyline and accessible card-based combat system. Players continue the journey as Sora, Donald, and Goofy find themselves trapped in a mysterious castle, where their memories are gradually stripped away. The game introduces twists and characters that connect to the broader series.
Visually, the game surprises players with well-rendered cutscenes that are unexpectedly impressive for a handheld console. These sequences captivate players with their attention to detail. However, the regular in-game graphics, while not as striking as the cutscenes, are still well-executed, particularly given the limitations of the Game Boy Advance. The various environments, from bright and colorful to appropriately dark, contribute to the game's visual diversity.
The gameplay features a unique card-based battle system that initially might sound unappealing. However, the game's simplicity and customization options make it surprisingly engaging. Players construct decks with various card types, including attacks, magic, summons, and more. The battles demand strategic card usage, blocking, and countering, creating a tactical element amidst the action. The customization aspect allows players to design their decks to fit their preferred playstyle, and the system avoids becoming overly complicated.
3. V-Rally 3
Despite the GBA being a relatively young 32-bit console geared towards 2D animation, it effortlessly handled V-Rally 3 demo graphics during E3 back in 2002. Two months later that presentation, V-Rally 3 was released for the GBA, and it certainly lived up to its promise.
The actual in-game graphics not only matched the anticipations set by the preview videos and screenshots but exceeded them. The tracks were rendered in full 3D, and the incorporation of well-crafted sprites for elements like trees, pedestrians, and signs added a touch of realism. The cars, though presented as 2D sprites, were so meticulously designed that they gave off a nearly 3D model-like impression. Players had the option of choosing between two camera perspectives: one exterior, akin to GT, and another interior, complete with the steering wheel and driver's hands. Moreover, certain tracks featured random weather conditions, further intensifying the driving challenge.
2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
From a visual standpoint, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga effortlessly stands out. The intricate detailing of towns and structures within them resonates, as Mushroom Kingdom's iconic buildings take on new dimensions. The chromatic tapestry weaves itself across the entire spectrum, from familiar characters such as Bowser and Princess Peach to novel entities like the nefarious Cackletta and her quirky sidekick Fawful. The graphical coherence extends to the vibrant backgrounds, which harmonize with the characters seamlessly.
At the core of Superstar Saga lies its standout feature: an inventive battle system that enables players to seamlessly control both Mario and Luigi in tandem. This turn-based combat mechanism echoes classic RPGs like Super Mario RPG, infusing the gameplay with a nostalgic resonance. The plumbers can unleash an array of attacks by skillfully combining different button combinations, reminiscent of the genre's traditional mechanics. Furthermore, the brothers can master joint maneuvers that inflict greater damage, augmenting the strategic depth of the battles.
Set within the expansive and diverse landscape of the Beanbean Kingdom, the game unfolds a captivating world teeming with opportunities for exploration. As Mario and Luigi's reputation expands, the doors to learning new abilities from the kingdom's inhabitants swing open.
This intricate interplay between character growth and narrative progression adds a layer of depth to the gameplay. The challenges encountered, often embedded in puzzles and navigational hurdles, invariably demand the utilization of the brothers' distinct skill sets and their collaborative synergy. This dynamic variety imparts an engrossing and multifaceted experience, catering to both ardent Mario platform enthusiasts and seasoned RPG connoisseurs alike.
1. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
The visual prowess of Aria of Sorrow is truly astonishing and goes above and beyond conventional expectations for a Game Boy Advance title. Every element, from character designs to enemy sprites and intricate backgrounds, exudes a level of detail that is simply breathtaking. The game's graphics unequivocally push the GBA hardware to its limits, perhaps even inducing a slight pang of sympathy for the handheld's efforts to handle such an awe-inspiring display of visual grandeur.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow's visuals for a GBA title is as good as its legendary gameplay, even without 3D elements The absence of 3D doesn't hinder the appeal, particularly for side-scrolling games. Each region in the castle boasts distinct designs, preventing monotony. The moon's appearance varies across regions, from different colors to sizes, such as big orange moons or small light blue ones. The Floating Garden, illuminated by moonlight, stands out as a great example of its visual acuity.
Gameplay shines is, obviously, Metroidvania-style akin to Symphony of the Night. Playing as Soma Cruz, players navigate a non-linear castle adventure—collecting items, battling monsters, purchasing gear, and confronting bosses. At this point in time, the standout feature is the soul system, which lets you absorb defeated enemies' souls, granting new abilities. Three soul types—red for attacks, blue for temporary enhancements, and yellow for passive support. Unlike Symphony of the Night, this game introduces diverse weapon options and unique attacks, without complicated button sequences. Instead of traditional hearts, collected items restore MP. The game avoids Symphony of the Night's issues, offering more functional items and simplified moves.
Controls and physics are also implemented well, boasting smooth and responsive mechanics. Attacks, jumps, and soul usage is intuitive, although there is a curious omission of a forward dash.
In terms of gameplay, Aria of Sorrow confidently secures the top spot on our list of the best platformers for the GBA. This fact alone speaks volumes about its exceptionality. Combined with the graphical bonanza, this title may be, the best GBA game ever.