7 Best Game Boy Advance RPGs to be engulfed in epic journeys

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) revolutionized portable gaming by offering fully-fledged RPG experiences. This is a feat not achieved by previous handheld consoles that often had to compromise due to hardware limitations. Here are seven exceptional RPGs on the GBA that have truly stood the test of time.

Best game boy advance rpgs

7. Breath of Fire II

Breath of Fire II, originally released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System by Capcom, is a solid RPG and a sequel to Breath of Fire 1. The game's story, while dated, still holds up with its classic “The Chosen One” trope. Every convention a JRPG is known for is here. That is not necessarily a bad thing since most of these conventions are founded on this franchise.

Graphics are decent for both SNES and GBA standards, with fluid battle animations and detailed character designs. The monsters and bosses particularly have great designs. The GBA version introduces cutscenes.  

Gameplay follows the standard RPG formula, typical of its time, involving talking to characters, traveling to different places, and accomplishing various tasks. The turn-based battle system allows for some strategy with different formations and unique character styles. The main character, Ryu, can transform into a dragon, but the transformation consumes all of his MP, limiting its duration. Each character possesses over-world and in-battle special skills, adding diversity to the gameplay.

An interesting gameplay mechanic is character transformation through shamans, creating more powerful characters with different abilities. Additionally, players can build their town by selecting a carpenter and recruiting citizens, this should distract from the general weary JRPG grunt in its main quest.

Breath of Fire II may not measure up to RPGs of more recent generations, but for a long time, it is the standard, the actual foundation of JRPGs from then until now.

6. Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku 2

Atari has delivered a pleasant surprise with the sequel to Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy Of Goku, which greatly improves upon the first game's shortcomings. The story follows events from the Trunks Saga up until the end of the Cell Saga, incorporating elements from Cooler's Revenge and Gohan's Dream as playable areas. The story, while based on the show, incorporates some original ideas and additional side quests, providing a fresh perspective.

Controls in this action RPG are good, allowing easy movement in any direction and improved combat mechanics. While not perfect, they are a significant improvement over the first game which is, for lack of better descriptors, not a good game at all.

The graphics remain similar to the first game but with some minor improvements. The characters look better, the weather changes add depth, and the Ki Techniques have been significantly updated.

Gameplay shines with multiple playable characters, a World Map for exploration, side quests, and a Scouter to collect data on enemies. Replay value is lacking, but the game compensates with a secret ending and a variety of activities.

5. Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories

Watching many companies water down their game series when converting them from console to portable can be painful. This is so true in both Game Boy and Game Boy Color. However, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, despite a cut-down version of the original game on the PlayStation 2, manages to be enjoyable to play through at least once. The card system may not sound exciting, but the engaging storyline and its simplicity make the game enjoyable in the end.

In Chain of Memories, players continue from where the original Kingdom Hearts game left off. Sora, Donald, and Goofy find themselves in a mysterious castle where their memories are being stripped away. The plot twists keep pace with the original game, introducing characters vital to Kingdom Hearts 2. The game impresses with well-rendered cutscenes and nicely designed graphics.

The gameplay is different from the original but retains some similarities. Players navigate interconnected rooms using cards that determine the content and difficulty of each room. Customizing one's deck with different cards adds strategy to battles. The card system may seem overwhelming at first, but it adds depth and variety to the action.

The game's sound design is well-executed, with voices in battle and familiar background music from the original game. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories serves as a satisfying side story that bridges the gap in the storyline and prepares players for Kingdom Hearts 2.

4. Final Fantasy VI Advance

This version of Final Fantasy VI is considered the best version of the game. Final Fantasy VI is one of the G.O.A.T. games and the GBA improves on the obvious flaws of original releases. The GBA version featured a more accurate and complete translation, rectifying the limitations of the SNES version and maintaining nostalgic moments for long-time fans.

The sound quality saw a slight downgrade, but the iconic tunes remained epic and memorable. The addition of a Music Player after completing the game allowed players to enjoy their favorite tracks.  The gameplay retained the beloved Active Time Battle (ATB) system. Players could form diverse parties, learn magic through Espers, and enjoy well-balanced gameplay. The story remained a masterpiece as this is merely a “remaster” and not the remake Final Fantasy VII received.

Bonus content like the Bestiary and challenging Dragon's Den and Soul Shrine is a welcome addition to a perfect game content-wise. The sound downgrade is a shame, but its limitation is set by the hardware.

3. Pokémon Emerald

Pokémon Sapphire is a highly anticipated addition to the Pokémon franchise, following the success of games like Gold, Silver, and Crystal on the Game Boy. Set in the Hoenn region, the game's storyline revolves around an aspiring Pokémon trainer's journey to become the greatest Pokémon Master. The addition of two underground syndicates, Team Aqua, and Team Magma, seeking to change the world, adds a fresh twist to the classic Pokémon narrative.

The gameplay introduces newcomers to the basics of battling, gradually teaching battle mechanics and type advantages. Veterans of the series will appreciate the new features, such as double battles and Pokémon contests.

The game's world of Hoenn is technologically advanced, featuring never-before-seen landscapes and creatively designed Pokémon. The absence of the real-time clock from previous games is a slight drawback, but the introduction of Abilities, providing constant powers to Pokémon, enhances battles and introduces new strategic elements.

Emerald excels in the graphical department with vibrant colors and impressive battle animations. The audio is also improved, featuring new themes and Pokémon calls. Pokémon Emerald proves to be an outstanding RPG experience, often cited as one of the best games even after a bajillion Pokémon games have been released since its debut. While being similar to Ruby and Sapphire, Emerald stands out more from the two in content and narrative aspects.

2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Luigi finally gets a chance to shine alongside his famous brother, Mario. The game takes the sibling duo to the Beanbean Kingdom, where an evil witch named Cackletta has stolen Princess Peach's voice. Mario and Luigi, along with Bowser, set out on a hilarious adventure to retrieve the princess's voice for their own motives. The game's witty writing and acknowledgment of Nintendo characters' quirks add to its charm.

The most notable feature of Superstar Saga is the innovative battle system that allows players to control both plumbers simultaneously. During battles, Mario and Luigi can perform various turn-based attacks using different combinations of buttons, reminiscent of classic RPGs like Super Mario RPG. The brothers can also learn cooperative moves that deal more damage, adding depth to the combat.

The game features a diverse and expansive world in the Beanbean Kingdom, and the brothers' fame opens up opportunities to learn new abilities from the kingdom's inhabitants. Solving puzzles and navigating obstacles often requires using the brothers' unique moves and teamwork. The gameplay is engaging and offers plenty of variety, making it enjoyable for Mario fans, who are mostly platform fans, and of course RPG veterans.

1. Golden Sun

Golden Sun truly stands out as the best among portable role-playing games, often overshadowed by more well-known titles like Pokémon and the Final Fantasy series. However, for those who ventured into the realm of Weyard, this extraordinary game rewarded them with an unforgettable experience that rivaled major console titles.

Golden Sun has awe-inspiring graphics pushing the limits of the GBA. Beyond the impressive visuals, the game's enthralling story is a must-experience. The tale began with the small village of Vale facing peril, setting the stage for an epic adventure in which the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of the protagonist, Isaac, and his friend, Garet. As the game unfolded, the plot's depth and unexpected twists kept players emotionally invested. Betrayals, revelations, and mysteries added layers of intrigue, leaving a sense of urgency to uncover the truth behind the unfolding events.

The introduction of Psynergy powers and the concept of Alchemy further enriched the gameplay, offering unique abilities to characters and presenting exciting opportunities for exploration and puzzle-solving. With a variety of commands available, from regular attacks to Psynergy and awe-inspiring summons, each encounter was a thrilling experience. The Djinn system, with its class combinations and power boosts, added yet another layer of depth to battles, providing players with endless tactical possibilities.

Golden Sun's seamless transition into its sequel is a rare feat. The Lost Age further adds narrative greatness while retaining all the good things in the first game. These games ought to be played in successive order to satisfy all the RPG needs.