7 Best Game Boy Advance Racing Games to run laps around your rivals

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) had one of the most incredible leaps in terms of hardware compared to its predecessor. Racing games took advantage of the tech and ran away with an amazing array of titles. Here are seven of the best racers on the platform.

Best game boy advance racing games

7. V-Rally 3

V-Rally 3 is on this list for its pure glorious graphics. During 2002's E3, the game showcased its first videos, demonstrating the impressive 3D engine in action. Despite being a relatively young 32-bit console designed primarily for 2D animation, the GBA handled the graphics effortlessly, leaving everyone amazed. Two months later, V-Rally 3 for the GBA was released, and it proved to be a looker.

The graphics in the game lived up to the expectations set by the videos and screenshots and even exceeded them. The tracks were fully 3D, while the trees, people, and signs were well-implemented sprites that added a touch of realism. The cars in the game were 2D sprites, but their exceptional design made them appear almost like 3D models. Players could choose between two camera perspectives, one outside like in GT and another inside the car, including the steering wheel and the driver's hands. Additionally, some tracks featured random weather conditions, adding to the driving challenge.

V-Rally 3 also employed a difficulty setting that gradually increases as players improve their times. Car settings play a significant role in performance, motivating players to seek better scores and challenge friends. With both good looks and ample racing core gameplay, V-Rally 3 is one of GBA's best racing games that just wins.

6. Road Trip: Shifting Gears

Road Trip: Shifting Gears as published by Takara, known for their Choro-Q toys or Penny Racers in the United States, had a curious racing game for the GBA. For the uninitiated, Choro-Q, Gadget Racers, Penny Racers, and Road Trip form a series of licensed model vehicles in charming super-deformed style.

The game offers a treasure trove of collectible cars for fans of 80s and 90s sports cars, including Supras, Skylines, and Datsun Zs. Like an RPG or a collector's game, Road Trip starts with a limited selection of cars and options, unlocking more as players progress through the game.

While not a true 3D polygon-based game, the sprite-based cars are animated well, creating an illusion of 3D through rotation and scaling effects. The viewpoint, positioned above and behind the car is also a unique take on the genre.

The heart of the game—the gameplay—offers a thrilling experience. The cars are initially a bit understeer-y, but steering upgrades become available after the first few races. Courses feature vivid and upbeat designs, even in rainy weather, with clear obstacles like sand, water, trees, and walls. Short and addictive races push players to aim for third place or better to unlock further progress, earn money, and upgrade their cars. Competitive AI opponents encourage players to revisit previous races with improved engines and tires to beat their records. Each race won unlocks new areas, tracks, and challenges.

Embracing its toy-inspired nature, Road Trip offers fun and fantastical options. Players can equip wings and jet or prop engines for air courses or attach pontoons and hydroskis for water courses. Stunts range from Gran Turismo-like license tests involving braking and cornering to wild and wacky activities like curling, coin collection, and even lawn darts.

5. Rock N' Roll Racing

Rock N’ Roll Racing has risen from the past, revitalized for the GBA after its appearance on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Genesis nearly a decade ago. Fortunately, this new version retains the essence of the original, allowing fans to dive right into the action seamlessly. For those unacquainted with the classic, envision R.C. Pro-AM but with turbocharged vehicles and a hard-rock soundtrack, and that is this game.

Similar to its predecessor, this game boasts simple gameplay while keeping players engaged with a flurry of on-screen action. Racers engage in high-octane battles armed with an array of weapons on diverse planets and courses. The tracks present a well-balanced mix of straight stretches and sharp turns, where a single well-timed maneuver or a small error can dramatically alter the race's outcome.

Embracing this challenge adds excitement to the experience and accelerates skill improvement over time, proving beneficial in the long run. As your car gains upgrades, you'll reap their benefits not only due to the financial gain but also thanks to your improved driving abilities. The game's ¾ overhead perspective allows for tactical planning, offering a comprehensive view of upcoming challenges and competitors behind you, infusing strategic elements into the gameplay.

The game's most exceptional feature is its audio, marking one of the first instances of a game utilizing an extensive amount of licensed tunes for its soundtrack. Although limited by the audio hardware of the SNES, Genesis, and GBA, players are treated to MIDI versions of classic songs. Enjoying hits like Bad to the Bone, and Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" through the GBA's speakers is an enticing treat, showcasing the potential of licensed music in games.

4. Need for Speed: Underground 2

Need For Speed: Underground 2 offers a unique experience within the Need For Speed series. Unlike other games in the franchise, Underground 2 focuses on urban street cars from manufacturers like Nissan and Mitsubishi, showcasing the underground street racing society.

The gameplay is solid, with similarities to its predecessor and some additions. New cars have been included, replacing those missing from the first game, and there are three new modes, along with a Mini Games section to test various car abilities. The controls remain unchanged from the previous installment, making it easy for players familiar with the first game to adapt quickly. The graphics have improved, with better track visuals and more realistic car designs compared to the first game.

Until now, Need for Speed: Underground 2 remains one of the best portable racers available, making it a worthwhile addition to any racing game enthusiast's collection. The series has since never reached the heights of the underground series of the early to mid-2000s.

3. GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing

When it comes to handheld racing games, GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing stands out as the closest thing to Gran Turismo on the Game Boy Advance. With an array of 97 cars available, the game offers plenty of opportunities for car enthusiasts to dive into the world of tuning and modifications. While, obviously, it may lack the deep complexity of console counterparts, GT Advance 3 compensates with an engaging arcade racing experience that captivates players from start to finish.

Graphics in GT Advance 3 are undoubtedly impressive, especially considering the platform's limitations. The game's graphics deliver smooth, fast-paced gameplay without a hint of slowdown. Pre-rendered sprites for the cars work surprisingly well, bringing an authentic feel to the race.

The game's control mechanics are well-implemented and strike a balance between arcade fun and simulation. While not as complex as other racing simulations, the cars feel responsive and thrilling to drive.

The sound aspect of GT Advance 3 has been a subject of debate among players. The engine sounds and other effects are satisfactorily digitized. However, opinions differ regarding the music selection. Some appreciate its Sega Genesis-like tunes, which perfectly blend with the game's atmosphere. On the other hand, some players at the time find the music dated and not up to par with contemporary standards. But looking back, the direction the game went its music is just fine.

In terms of replay value, GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing wins first place. The game caters to both casual players seeking quick pick-up-and-play moments and hardcore racing fans who appreciate the depth and involvement it offers. The availability of extra modes, collectibles, and multiplayer options adds to its appeal. For a handheld racing game, GT Advance 3 manages to strike an impressive balance between serious-faced racing and the happy-go-lucky tempo of a portable game.

With an extensive roster of cars, satisfying customization options, and engaging gameplay, it outshines its competitors, even surpassing Mario Kart in terms of presentation and execution. The game's limitations in terms of vehicle selection, while disappointing for (sim racing) fans of American and Italian supercars, do not dampen the overall enjoyment. GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing is a top-notch experience that no racing, or to a lesser extent, car aficionado should miss.

2. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for the Game Boy Advance offers an exhilarating futuristic racing experience unlike most of the racing games on this list. The F-Zero series has always been known for its high-speed racing, and Maximum Velocity lives up to its reputation. Set 25 years after the N64 version, the game offers a variety of game modes, including Grand Prix, Training, Multipak Link, Single-Pak Link, and Championship. The Grand Prix allows players to choose from different pilots and vehicles with unique specifications.

Players control futuristic F-Zero Machines, hovercraft that use opposing-gravity devices, and race around specially designed tracks throughout the galaxy. The game features different hovercraft and courses, making it unique from its SNES predecessor.

Gameplay is still enjoyable, with simple controls for acceleration, braking, and leaning into turns. Players can perform boost turns to take sharp corners and must avoid obstacles and other racers. The difficulty level can range from easy to extremely challenging, depending on the selected series and difficulty settings. The game offers various cars to suit different driving styles.

The story is decent and introduces a new generation of F-Zero pilots seeking victory, fame, and fortune. The graphics are average for the GBA, with the hovercraft looking slightly blurry, but the rotating 3D models during vehicle selection are impressive. Replayability is a strong aspect of the game, with many cars, courses, and challenges to unlock.

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity is a remarkable achievement on the Game Boy Advance, delivering thrilling gameplay and a substantial single-player experience. With its challenging difficulty levels, varied game modes, and engaging multiplayer capabilities, this title has firmly established itself as a must-have for F-Zero fans given the uncertain future of the series.

1. Mario Kart: Super Circuit

Mario Kart: Super Circuit was one of the most highly anticipated games for the portable gaming handheld, and like LeBron James, smashed all the unreasonable hype. Developed for some time, the game successfully combines the best elements of the SNES and N64 versions, impressing both new gamers and fans of the original series. The gameplay involves racing in different cups against other characters, collecting items to gain an advantage, and striving for the highest rankings.

The graphics in Mario Kart: Super Circuit are exceptional for a 2D game, featuring advanced mode 7 scaling that creates a seamless 3D effect. The colorful and detailed visuals, multi-layered backgrounds, and smooth frame rate contribute to the game's visual appeal. The characters are well-animated and the various tracks, including the 20 bonus levels from the SNES version, provide a diverse and enjoyable racing experience.

The game's music and sound effects are another highlight, with catchy tunes, bass guitars, and a variety of sounds for different in-game actions. The audio quality is excellent just like what you expect from Nintendo-made games.

The controls are responsive and well-suited for the GBA, with a button layout that feels natural and comfortable. The game's replayability is high, with extensive single-player cups, time trial challenges, and multiplayer modes that keep players engaged for months. The difficulty levels cater to players of all skill levels, providing a challenging experience for veterans and accessibility for newcomers.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit is a must-buy for racing game fans, even for those sim racing classicists, showcasing classic Nintendo gameplay, excellent graphics, and addictive gameplay that will keep players coming back for more. With a variety of game modes and tracks, this title firmly establishes itself as one of the best games not only on the GBA but across gaming platforms. It is a testament to Nintendo's game development prowess and solidifies its dominance in the kart racing genre.