Emphasis on variety. No ports of old NES, Super NES, Genesis, etc. games.
#10 TMNT (Ubisoft)
Ubisoft released several different games on various systems to tie into the TMNT movie. This is the only one that anyone liked and it’s easy to see why. The sprites are very sharp and colorful but it’s the gameplay that people will embrace: it’s basically an extension and improvement on the old Konami beat-em-ups. Now there are many more moves at your disposal and even an experience system.
#9 GUNSTAR SUPER HEROES (Treasure/SEGA)
Sequel to the classic Gunstar Heroes on Genesis. The gameplay is largely the same. Many of the characters are the same. Great game but maybe a bit too familiar. For the unfamiliar, it’s like a wacky, cartoon Contra. But not like Metal Slug. Deeper, crazier, more sci-fi!
#8 MARIO VS. DONKEY KONG (Nintendo STC/Nintendo)
This is a sequel to the old Donkey Kong game on Game Boy. In other words, it’s a platformer with very heavy puzzle elements. The graphics are very different, though, going with a DKC-ish pre-rendered look. Lots of Mario enemies are used throughout, like Shy Guys but something about the game just doesn’t feel very Mario-ish. There are many, many levels in this game. And when you beat the boss, there’s basically a new game’s worth of levels to play, with another final boss to boot.
#7 MARIO KART SUPER CIRCUIT (Intelligent Systems/Nintendo)
It actually plays very much like the original Mario Kart on SNES but it attempts have a more 3D look, even using the character designs from Mario Kart 64. It features all 20 tracks from the original game plus 20 brand new tracks. There’s a LOT of racing to do with 3 speed settings on each of those tracks. It’s as solid as ever.
#6 SABRE WULF (Rare/THQ)
Even though Microsoft bought Rare from Nintendo in 2001, they still allowed Rare to develop games for Nintendo handhelds, an unusual situation. This is the best of the games that resulted from that arrangement. The main character is great, as he’s a totally unrelatable, uninteresting 19th-century-style British explorer. Basically, you have a bunch of make-believe animals that have different abilities that you capture and then use to make your way through various levels in order to steal some treasure from the Sabre Wulf. At that point each level becomes a very fast-paced action platformer as you attempt to renegotiate the same terrain back the way you came with the wolf hot on your heelz.
#5 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE MINISH CAP (Capcom/Nintendo)
The last of the Zelda games that Nintendo asked/allowed Capcom to develop. It uses the same sprites and game engine as the “Four Swords” bonus game on the GBA version of A Link to the Past. It’s a fun adventure with some nice equipment. You kan shrink!
#4 SONIC ADVANCE 3 (Dimps/Sonic Team/SEGA)
There were three Sonic Advance games for GBA with surprising differences between them. This game wins the spot on the list because of its length and depth. It also introduces the semi-interesting idea of choosing a pair from the available characters to enter each level. The pair will have different abilities depending on the combination. The Sonic Advance games have a graphical style that reminds me more of Super Mario Bros. than the classic Genesis Sonic titles.
#3 WARIO LAND 4 (Nintendo)
Eight years later, there still hasn’t been another Wario Land game so I guess this was the swan song but you couldn’t have asked for a better one. It’s basicaly the perfect synthesis of Mario style action and Metroid-style exploration. And then came Wario Ware and ruined everything!
#2 METROID FUSION (Nintendo)
This is a great game for several reasons, one of those being that it doesn’t attempt to simply ape the earlier games. It’s definitely more linear than its predecessors but change can be good. This time around there’s a lot of drama and scripted moments that create some real tension. There’s a real story throughout and it’s a decent one. Pretty boss.
#1 CASTLEVANIA: CIRCLE OF THE MOON (Koncami CEK/Konami)
This was the 1st Castlevania game on GBA and also the 2nd-ever ‘Metroidvania’-style game. The reason why this entry gets the top spot over the Castlevania on GBA is that it’s the only one that captures the hardcore elements of the pre-1997 Castlevanias. Several of the bosses in this game are just goddamned hard. You may have to try several times or run around leveling up to get past them. There’s also an interesting, card-based magic system. Occasionally enemies will drop a card that has a spell or part of one. Combining different cards will have interesting results and provides for interesting experimentation.