While the Game Boy Advance (GBA) boasts a rich library of official releases, the homebrew community has contributed its share of innovative, creative, and sometimes unexpected titles. From revitalizing old genres to introducing entirely new gameplay experiences, these homebrew games showcase the ingenuity of independent developers who've harnessed the GBA's capabilities to craft captivating adventures. Most of the games on this list are fairly recent homebrew GBA games as retro games are so hot right now.
Best game boy advance homebrew games
7. The Last Seal
The Last Seal is an adventure game that was originally intended for a commercial release but due to some circumstances, it did not see a retail release. Instead, the developers opted to distribute the game for free. While technically not classified as a homebrew game, since it wasn't created by hobbyists or amateur developers, these distinctions can be seen as semantics. Homebrew games typically circumvent official channels and operate without the constraints of regulations and licensing, which makes The Last Seal fall within this category.
The Last Seal would have been a nice addition to the starving adventure game genre on the platform. The game offers an expansive and immersive experience that sets it apart from other classics. In contrast to typical titles featuring around 100 locations, this game boasts an impressive array of over 180 distinct locations, meticulously distributed across more than 500 intricately rendered screens. Notably, the character animations in the game exceed the significant milestone of 1000 frames.
The art direction and story may not appeal to everyone's tastes, but there's nothing quite like the raw experience of playing this game on the GBA. Despite being designed for commercial release, it carries the distinct charm and quirks often associated with homebrew games.
6. Motocross Challenge
For those who may not be well-versed in the intriguing saga of Motocross Challenge on the Game Boy Advance (GBA), the game's destiny took a twist when its intended commercial release was abruptly halted. This unfortunate turn of events occurred as its publisher withdrew from the project, citing dwindling sales of GBA titles as the cause.
Yet, the narrative didn't end there. In an unexpected and somewhat vengeful maneuver, DHG Games decided to salvage the remnants of their efforts. In the developer’s own words, “After deceptions about a canceled deal and a recently broken contract, the DHG Games members finally decided to distribute Motocross Challenge for free.” Just like the Last Seal. Motocross Challenge is a canceled retail game that became a homebrew out of technicality. It also found a release on iOS, a planned Nintendo DS port that also got canceled until the studio itself is nowhere to be found.
Motocross Challenge presents a fusion of gaming influences, combining elements from iconic titles like Motocross Maniacs, Excite Bike, and California Games. The game adopts the viewpoint of Motocross Maniacs, boasts classic Excite Bike tracks that are more intricate, and introduces an intuitive trick system reminiscent of California Games. The Challenge mode offers rounds in 'Beat the Clock,' 'Trick Attack,' and 'World Tour' categories, each requiring a distinct play style. This variety suggests a commercial game rather than just a polished piece of homebrew.
Motocross Challenge stands out with its detailed yet uncluttered artwork, seamless frame rate, and adequate presentation. It would seem unfair to include this game on this list due to its level of professional polish. Nevertheless, it showcases the capabilities of the GBA without compromising gameplay. The controls prove more intricate than the standard arcade-style bike games it may appear to emulate. The physics-based mechanics add depth, demanding players to adjust their rider's position during acceleration and jumps. The introduction of a turbo boost further enriches gameplay, providing increased speed and extra airtime for tricks.
5. Butano Fighter
Butano emerges as a cutting-edge C++ high-level engine meticulously tailored to the Game Boy Advance platform. Its multifaceted capabilities empower developers to effortlessly craft and exhibit an array of elements like sprites, backgrounds, text, and raster effects, all achieved with a single line of C++ code. The significance of this innovation becomes particularly pronounced as it arrives two decades after the platform's inception. Remarkably, numerous games featured on this list harness the potential of this engine, including the aptly named Butano Fighter.
Butano Fighter fills the void of the endangered species also known as the vertical top-down shooter genre. The game's vibrant color palette exquisitely preserves the essence of GBA aesthetics while adding a modern flair. Nevertheless, certain facets of the game's visuals subtly reveal its creation in a time beyond the mid-2000s.
While the music might not boast the highest quality, it boasts a commendable range, offering diverse themes, including distinct compositions for boss battles. Yes, there are boss battles. Despite the game's relatively short completion time of around 15 minutes, its appeal thrives on diversity, not only within the array of enemies but also across its levels which includes a snow level.
4. Tremblay Island
Tremblay Island is a homebrew game for the Game Boy Advance that was also made with the Butano engine. The game describes itself as a part digital comic, part open-world game, and part mystery that follows the adventures of three siblings who start their tiny island nation.
The game has a charming and colorful pixel art style that captures the whimsical and quirky tone of the story. The game also features smooth animations, catchy music, and varied gameplay elements such as shooting, exploring, and interacting with other characters.
The game is set in the urban fantasy world based on the novel Vous Voilà’. Tremblay Island is a truly unique game that offers a lot of replay value. The game's short yet enjoyable journey is fueled by its quirky narrative and engaging minigames. The inclusion of every character, no matter how minor, contributes to the island's growing sense of vitality as the story progresses. The art style, despite limitations, successfully captures a hand-drawn aesthetic.
3. Varooom 3D
This charming and visually appealing racing game features six tracks of varying difficulty levels, along with unlockable content and voiced commentary. While the graphics might not be the most stunning, the game runs at a smooth 60FPS. The music is delightful, reminiscent of mid-90s to early 2000s video game background music.
Varooom 3D may not stand out for its visually stunning graphics, mainly due to its blocky 3D art style. However, the game's remarkably smooth performance marks a significant achievement within the realm of homebrew games. Developing games of this nature often involves compromises, and performance is typically the first aspect to suffer. Despite these challenges, Varooom 3D manages to offer an impressive level of performance, which is a notable feat in the homebrew game development scene.
In addition to its impressive performance, Varooom 3D boasts responsive controls and an exceptional level of production value. The game also offers a wide range of variety in its race tracks, even including a snow-covered track. While the gameplay may lean towards the simpler side of the spectrum, its fundamentals are executed exceptionally well, resulting in a fantastic gaming experience.
2. Green Memories
Green Memories is an action RPG game developed by Tengukaze Studio for the GBA. It won the GBA JAM 2022 and received accolades in other categories as well. The game combines sandbox and shooter elements, featuring beautiful pixel art inspired by, of course, Game Boy Advance titles.
The setting of the story takes place in a dystopian future where extreme weather and human wars have ravaged the land. A group of scientists embarks on a mission to restore life to a deserted area by installing measuring instruments. Unfortunately, a catastrophic event occurs, and the team vanishes without a trace. Several years later, another team is sent to retrieve the instruments and uncover the fate of the missing group. Within this team is Cytra, a young scientist searching for answers and dreaming of a new world filled with greenery.
The game boasts a distinct GBA art style that stands out due to its uniqueness, as no other game on the platform shares a similar aesthetic. The sound design and game scoring are also exceptional. It stands as one of the most comprehensive GBA homebrew games, offering an engaging narrative, numerous NPC conversations, and a core gameplay that is not only compelling but also highly enjoyable and easily accessible.
1. 2004Mbit Compo Game
What is better than one single homebrew game? Ten homebrew games! The 2004Mbit Compo Game is an anthology of the best games that participated in the GBADev.org 2004 Game Development Competition. This competition engaged contestants in a challenge of creating a GBA game within a restrictive file size of 4 Megabits or lower.
From a plethora of submissions, the organizers identified the finest and most engaging creations, resulting in the selection of the top 10 games for inclusion in a comprehensive compilation physical cartridge. This initiative marked a seminal achievement in the realm of unlicensed Game Boy Advance game development, introducing the concept of a multi-game combo cart full of homebrew games. There are only 500 copies that were manufactured.
The compilation encompasses a diverse range of games, each contributing unique gameplay experiences. Notable inclusions are "Bengt - Swinger of Longarm," a platformer that introduces an audacious protagonist who employs his extended arms to access otherwise inaccessible locations. This game exhibits proficient core mechanics and serves as compelling proof of concept. "Gasp" enters the fray as a puzzler hybridizing match-3 and Tetris mechanics with an initial semblance to Breakout. Although this amalgam concept has since been surpassed by various puzzle games, its presence in the GBA compilation is well-justified, offering a harmonious addition.
"GunKid," a platformer-shooter, diverges from being a Contra replica, yet retains parallel core gameplay reminiscent of the classic. The inclusion of "Naval Battle" offers a digital transformation of Battleship, a familiar board game, while "Panzer Panik" immerses players in a 3D first-person tank warfare scenario. "Simonchu 2" distinguishes itself with a hamster protagonist engaging in platforming escapades. This game's innovation lies in recruiting fellow animals as companions, aiding the protagonist's journey.
"Snackman," is basically a Pacman clone, while "Space Gems" is Puzzle Bobble in Space. "Swish-It" introduces a basketball shooting experience employing the D-pad controls, and "YuckFu" presents an edgy arcade game that challenges players to command a spacecraft, collecting targets without colliding with the borders.