Rumors that Nintendo is planning to release Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games on its Nintendo Switch Online subscription service have returned with a vengeance after an apparent leak of a Nintendo-developed emulator surfaced online. It’s a system we lovely dearly in Nintendo Life Towers, and while we looked at the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games we’d love to replay on Switch last year, now seems like the perfect time to look at GBA titles we’d love to see come to Nintendo Switch Online — or, perhaps more likely, to the more expansive Expansion Pack tier.
Below is a list of 24 such titles. We’ve skipped any games that are already available on Switch in some form — Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Harvest Moon, the Mega Man Zeroes, and Advance Wars (at some point) being the main ones — with one exception which we explain.
We’ve also abstained from adding Pokémon; it’s a given we’d love to see them, but transferring and trading Pokémon in a game with Save States gets messy, at least from Nintendo’s perspective. Perhaps we’ll see a glorious workaround with those particular entries, although we think it’s more likely we’ll see Pokemon remakes rather than re-releases.
Enough with the caveats! Let’s take a look at 24 GBA gems we’d love to revisit via Nintendo Switch Online.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Camelot
Golden Sun is a fine RPG, perfecting the classic formula whilst introducing unique mechanics of its own. An intriguing setting, likeable characters, and gripping story are the bread-and-butter of any good RPG, and Golden Sun doesn’t disappoint on those fronts. The first few hours are a slog, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, deep RPG that desperately deserves a modern day installation… or just a re-release.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Metroid: Zero Mission is an excellent 2004 remake of the original Metroid, and a game that’s in the conversation for ‘best remake evs’ (if that conversation is being held with a teenager during the 2010s). Zero Mission tells the story of the first entry, but with far snazzier visuals and Super Metroid-inspired gameplay. With save rooms and a bunch of new items, areas, and mini-bosses, this is the way to experience Samus’ first mission. Sorry, zero-st mission.
If it came down to a duel, there are Nintendo Life staffers who would actually take this over the SNES game. It’s that good.
Publisher: activision / Developer: Vicarious Visions
Vicarious Visions managed to distil the essence of the full-sized Tony Hawk titles into an incredible isometric version that feels tight, responsive and very much not the obligatory downgraded handheld port you might have expected. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on GBA is genuinely one of our favorite entries in the overall series, with great music and cracking visuals. And Spider-Man.
What’s not to love?
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Treasure
This Treasure-developed take on Osamu Tezuka’s classic character was a real looker in the GBA’s library — fitting given the prestige of the property and the adoration of manga and anime fans around the world. As opposed to Treasure’s usual output, Astro Boy: The Omega Factor is more platforming beat ’em up than run-and-gunner (with a few shmup-style stages thrown in for good measure). It successfully blends traditional manga-style presentation of the characters in dialogue portraits with more rounded 3D-esque sprites and backgrounds for the action. It’s a real winner; a licensed game that lives up to the source material.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is a worthy remake of Kirby’s first home console adventure and with his 30th anniversary just around the corner, this would be a nice tribute to the little pink fella. While what it offers is a tad basic compared to what more modern Kirby titles offer, it’s still very playable, and there are little creative moments where game occasionally shines. As with practically every other game featuring the Kirbster, its delightful, colorful visuals make it a supremely charming experience, and one which will be most appreciated by players looking for only a very light challenge.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Treasure
Gunstar Super Heroes (or Gunstar future Heroes in Europe) is a sequel that lives up to the prestige of the name it awkwardly sandwiches a ‘Super’ in the middle of. The gameplay and controls of Treasure’s classic 1993 Mega Drive game are altered to work better on the portable, but the result is every bit as compelling, even if it’s on the short side and doesn’t feature co-op play. As run and gun games go, Gunstar Heroes is up there with the very best. This sequel is also very good — one might even say super.
Or future if you’re European and want to be awkward.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: flagship
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap carried on the trend of giving Link a talking piece of equipment to accompany him on his quest. This time around, it was the Minish Cap — a hat named Ezlo that could shrink Link to microscopic proportions so he can locate the Kinstone fragments and save the Minish people, or ‘Picori’.
Another Flagship-developed entry after the company proved itself with the excellent pair of Oracles (Ages and Seasons), this was a traditional Zelda adventure that looks and sounds wonderful, but didn’t do an awful lot to shake up the formula. It introduced a few new items, though – Mole Mitts, Gust Jar, and Cane of Pacci – and allowed Link to learn new sword techniques throughout the game, as well as gain the ability to fuse elements to his sword from him. All-in-all, the brilliant bitesized adventure.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Eighting
This GBA launch title may start off a little too easy but that’s about all you can fault with Kuru Kuru Kururin. It won’t take you long to clear every level, but doing it without error is a tough challenge and you’ll love every minute as you guide a big ol’ constantly rotating stick (sorry, Helirin) around tricky, colorful courses. With plenty of environmental variety and some terrific music, there’s a lot of enjoyment from simply improving your times on the various courses. Kuru Kuru Kururin is one of the GBA’s most delightful treats and perfect for portable play — a brilliantly fun little game that’s a bit different from the norm.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
This game made navigating this series’ obtuse naming conventions absolutely worth it, even if you played Super Mario Bros. 3 on NES (which of course you did). Assuming you had the requisite kit to access the e-Reader levels — many of which were never released in North America — Super Mario Advance 4 contained a bevy of fresh Nintendo-designed levels to play through, making it an essential purchase for the Mario connoisseur (and the Wii U Virtual Console release actually included all 38 levels without the need to have the e-Reader, the cards and a second GBA to scan them with — something you’d hope would make the transition to a prospective NSO release).
Aside from the extra levels, this felt like playing the version of SMB3 from Super Mario All-Stars on a handheld. Whether you’re a NES purist or you prefer the updated look and feel of the SNES version, Super Mario Bros. 3 shines brightly in any form.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Camelot
Even though Golden Sun: The Lost Age plays much like any standard RPG, there is something very special about it. It’s accessible and engaging in a way that keeps you wanting to play and experiment. The Lost Age builds on almost everything from the original Golden Sun, with a longer campaign, extended Djinn mechanics, greater challenge, clever puzzles, and minor graphical improvements. Newcomers would do well to start with the excellent first entry, as the game does take for granted that you know the basics (plus, you’ll want to know the plot details if you want this one to make proper sense, at least initially) . If you’ve you’ll be jonesing for more and The Lost Age provides just that — it’s a no-brainer.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
The microgames on offer in WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! may be simple affairs, but the frantic, fast–paced and challenging experience that results from knitting them together in quick succession is incredibly addictive, and Wario’s patented brand of mania is well suited to a handheld. It isn’t the longest game, and beyond the single-player mode there isn’t much else to do, but it’s stuffed full of magical, creative moments, not to mention an abundance of that classic Nintendo nostalgia and charm.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Intelligent Systems
Also known as Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, this was the very first entry to come to the West and is actually a prequel to the Japan-only Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade which starred series stalwart Roy. The Blazing Blade (or just plain old Fire Emblem if you prefer) follows Roy’s old man Eliwood and served as a thoroughly decent introduction to the series for us Westerners, the majority of whom had been wondering about the series after seeing Roy and Marth as fighters in in Super Smash Bros. Melee.