The 15 Best GBA Platformers Of All Time

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Back in the day, everyone had a Game Boy Advance.

With its accessible price tag and beefy game library, including every game on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, the GBA took the world by storm.

Few genres are better suited to play on the go than the traditional platformer – and Nintendo always has the best ones.

Just about any GBA platformer is worth checking out, but I decided to dig a little deeper and find the pick of the litter.

And these are my choices for the best platformers on the Game Boy Advance!


15. Densetsu no Stafy (JP) (2002)

Densetsu no Stafy (JP) (2002) gameplay screenshot

One of the biggest localization crimes on the GBA was keeping the adorable Stafy locked within the borders of Japan.

Densetsu no Stafy is a bright and colorful platformer with floaty physics that stands out from the crowd with its crisp, cutesy sprites and lighthearted storyline.

It was successful enough to warrant two sequels on the GBA, but apparently not to get an English translation.

Western fans would have to wait until The Legendary Starfy on the NDS to meet the eponymous cosmic creature.


14. Wario Land 4 (2001)

Wario Land 4 (2001) gameplay screenshot

The WarioWare games are beloved by basically anyone who gives them a chance – but have you ever heard of Wario’s previous solo ventures?

Wario Land 4 was the first mainline Wario title I ever got to play, and from the first moment, I was impressed.

The storyline feels more grounded than Mario’s quest to save Princess Peach due to Wario’s self-centered nature.

The levels are exotic, and the bosses – including a mutant eggplant and the “CatBat” – are delightfully bizarre.

Princess Shokora, your garlic-nosed knight in shining armor is on the way!


13. Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (2001)

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (2001) gameplay screenshot

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (1997) was one of the most memorable and plain fun platformers on the PlayStation.

Empire of Dreams brings the same addictive gameplay to the GBA.

The main difference between Door to Phantomile and Empire of Dreams is the latter’s 2D graphics, but every one of Klonoa’s abilities perfectly translates to the 2D realm.

These 2D sprites and backgrounds let go of the original’s ethereal appeal for a bright and colorful art style.

It’s what you needed on a console that lacked a built-in backlight. Although, it looks like a carnival in backlit models like the GameBoy Advance SP and the GameBoy Micro.

If you like a side of puzzles with your platforming, you can’t go wrong with Klonoa: Empire of Dreams.


12. Ninja Five-O (2003)

Ninja Five-O (2003) gameplay screenshot

We all remember one time we bought a terrible game for its cool cover art, but we never know when we’re overlooking a masterpiece for the opposite reason.

That happened to Ninja Five-O, known as Ninja Cop in Europe.

Despite offering incredibly tight gameplay reminiscent of the Golden Age of Arcades, Ninja Five-O sold terribly due to its amateurish cover art and uninspired concept.

Nowadays, it’s a cult classic considered one of the essential action-platformers on the GBA.


11. Donkey Kong Country (2003)

Donkey Kong Country (2003) gameplay screenshot

Nintendo has a long history of re-releasing previous console classics on their newer machines – and the GBA is packed with SNES ports.

Donkey Kong Country (1994) is undoubtedly one of the most influential and polished platformers on the SNES.

The level design is top-notch, but what really makes it so memorable is its distinctive pseudo-3D art style and the magnificent soundtrack by David Wise.

Both aspects suffered on the GBA, but Diddy and DK’s adventure to recover the banana hoard remains a must-play.


10. Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure (2004)

Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure (2004) gameplay screenshot

Dragon Ball-themed fighters were a dime a dozen back in the day. Everyone played at least one!

What most people ignore is that the real fun of the Dragon Ball video game series hides in other genres.

Fans of the show will thoroughly enjoy reliving Goku’s younger years in Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure, a platformer/beat-em-up hybrid that’ll keep you hooked for weeks.

The story mode covers Goku’s adventure from the show’s start to the battle against King Piccolo, and you’ll unlock a second story mode to play through with Krillin afterward.

Once that’s cleared, you’ll be able to play through every level as one of 28 fan-favorite characters.

There’s also a One-on-One mode to test your might against friends or the CPU, and the Survival Mode is a blast.


9. Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004)

Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004) gameplay screenshot

Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the GBA is a must-try if you’ve never gotten over the simple charm of old-school Donkey Kong games.

This puzzle-platformer is based on the 1994 Donkey Kong for the Game Boy, which loosely follows the formula of the Donkey Kong (1981) and Donkey Kong Jr. (1982) arcade games.

This title demands patience and thought from the player but never feels like a pure puzzle game. Rescuing the Mini-Marios from every level feels dynamic – and the boss battles are unforgettable.


8. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror (2004)

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror (2004) gameplay screenshot

You can’t go wrong with a Kirby platformer.

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror follows the pink blob and his multicolored copies on a quest to reunite the shards of the Amazing Mirror and merge back into a single Kirby.

The game retains the franchise’s signature cutesy art style and vivid graphics while offering action-packed gameplay that could be even better with friends.

Something else you’ll enjoy with friends is the varied mini-games. Specifically, the warp star racing of Kirby’s Wave Ride is too good to pass up.

Even without multiplayer, the tight gameplay and Castlevania-esque exploration are enough reasons to try this.


7. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003)

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003) gameplay screenshot

Speaking of Castlevania…

The series saw three distinct releases on the GBA, including Circle of the Moon (2001) and Harmony of Dissonance (2002) – but Konami’s crowning achievement was Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow.

If I had to describe this game in one statement, I’d say it’s the best thing since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997).

It features the same tight action-platformer gameplay with mild RPG elements, with some exciting new additions like the Tactical Soul system.

The story of Soma Cruz isn’t half as compelling as Alucard’s, but from a gameplay perspective, Aria of Sorrow comes out on top.


6. Astro Boy: Omega Factor (2004)

Astro Boy: Omega Factor (2004) gameplay screenshot

The year 2003 was big for the Astro Boy franchise.

Not only did the steel Pinocchio get a complete remake of the original 1960s anime series, but also one of the best platformer/beat-em-up hybrids in the history of anime games.

It features smooth fighting, varied skill customization, and a surprisingly emotional storyline pulling content from all across Osamu Tezuka’s body of work.

Omega Factor shines for its replayability. Once you’re done with the primary campaign, you’ll unlock a whole second story mode. There are also extra difficulty modes for those needing a real challenge.


5. Sonic Advance 2 (2002)

Sonic Advance 2 (2002) gameplay screenshot

Of all the classic 2D sidescroller franchises on the GBA, Sonic the Hedgehog had some of the best and most consistent titles.

Developed by Dimps, Sonic Advance 2 abandons some of the more traditional gameplay of its predecessor to focus on the feeling of speed.

It was well received by audiences worldwide and would become the basis for the Sonic Rush games on the Nintendo DS.

Despite the fast-paced gameplay, the game feels longer than the original Sonic Advance. The replay value is also through the roof, thanks to the different playable characters and the Tiny Chao Garden.


4. Drill Dozer (2006)

Drill Dozer (2006) gameplay screenshot

Between 1996 and 2012, Game Freak released 14 games.

Of these 14 titles, 12 belonged to the Pokémon franchise. They only produced two non-Pokémon games, and only one was released outside Japan.

That game was Drill Dozer, an action-packed action platformer that puts you in control of an adorable little girl on a drilling robot.

At first glance, the graphics seem enough reason to recommend Drill Dozer, but the tight gameplay and challenging fights against enormous bosses make it unforgettable.

If wanton property destruction via drill sounds like fun – and you know it does – you can’t miss this underrated gem.


3. Metroid Fusion (2002)

Metroid Fusion (2002) gameplay screenshot

Nintendo’s in-house developers have always known how to give old franchises glorious returns in every one of the Big N’s consoles.

Metroid Fusion brought the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter to the GBA with a spiffy new power suit and many new power-ups that make the game a little bit easier on newcomers.

The game is slightly more linear and story-driven than the original Metroid. It’s more fast-paced and harder to put down, though you lose some of the wonders of non-linear exploration.

If you still prefer the old-school level design, check out Metroid: Zero Mission. It revitalizes the original Metroid (1986) with remade graphics, more content, and a fleshed-out story.


2. Mega Man Zero 2 (2003)

Mega Man Zero 2 (2003) gameplay screenshot

Gamers who value gameplay above all else will love the Mega Man Zero series on the GBA.

Based on the Mega Man X franchise, Mega Man Zero features similar action-platformer gameplay focusing on close-quarters melee combat using Zero’s sword.

MMZ stands out for its agile main character and brutal bosses.

Any mistake during a boss fight can mean the end of your run, but the gameplay and controls are silky smooth, making it a fair challenge.

Four Mega Man Zero games were made for the GBA, and though each one is worth checking out for different reasons, I think MMZ2 is the best place to start.


1. Super Mario Advance 4 (2003)

Super Mario Advance 4 (2003) gameplay screenshot

Mario had no shortage of appearances on the Advance, but this port of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988) is easily the best and most authentic Super Mario fun you can have on this console.

Based on the updated SMB3 from Super Mario All-Stars (1993), this is one of the best-looking Super Mario ports on the system.

It’s been a hot minute since SMB3 first came out, and many new Mario fans have no idea what a Super Leaf, Tanooki Suit, or Frog Suit are.

If you belong to this group, do yourself a favor and get Super Mario Advance 4.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.