Many people use video game reviews to determine how to spend their hard-earned dollars. While as an adult I don’t take this as seriously and I now make my own money I am more forgiving of games that aren’t perfect. As kids or teens, we have limited money and are usually picked through gaming magazines to determine if that one game was worth the money because we only got a few a year. For me, it was only during Christmas time that my parents bought games. I mostly rented mine throughout my childhood and teen years. Even for rentals, I was picky as I didn’t want to be stuck on my weekend with a dud of a game. Even a 7/10 or 3.5/5 would be considered a waste of time. This was the last generation in which AAA title after AAA title would be considered fantastic and with so many exclusives it was hard to keep up with. The HD era of gaming would see budgets balloon to insane heights and game releases slowed down as a result.
In my eyes, 7/10 or 3.5/5 games are mostly ignored. These aren’t always considered hidden gems either. Some are, but some are just considered forgettable. Not awful or good, but just passes under everyone’s radar. These aren’t the “so bad it’s good” games either. A few of these games have cult followings; a few I had only heard of while compiling this list and some I played myself growing up. I compiled this list from Metacritic with games between 74-70. I feel that’s the true blue 7 range. 79 and 78-rated games usually only have about 25% of the critics giving it a 7 to bring an otherwise 8 score down some. These games are at least rated by half the critics as 7/10. While I know many people don’t listen to critics and some might feel this game should be rated higher or lower is subjective. Like it or not, critic reviews drive sales and it may be the reason why you might find a few games on this list you’ve never heard of, thought was talked about worse than you remember, or something along those lines
Dr. Mario / Puzzle League– 2005
The game is addictive fun. Both games are something you can pick up and play for a few minutes or hours. However, the presentation was rather bland and there wasn’t a lot of content. Your reliance on the formula is what kept you coming back.
Most Recent Entry: Dr. Mario World – 2019 (AND, iOS)
Classic NES Series: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – 2004
Classic NES Series: Castlevania – 2004
The Classic NES Series on GBA are highly collectible but necessary. Did we really need these games as full physical releases in 2004? Probably not. While the Wiiware store was yet to come, the only other way to play these was through the original consoles or emulators. While the ports are fine, they are just that. There aren’t any extra features or enhancements.
GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing – 2003
The third and final game in the racing sim series on GBA. It was an incredibly impressive third outing with even better visuals, smooth framerate, and great physics. The downside was the lack of content. At this point, you can play any of the three games and it would be hard to spot the difference.
Spyro: Season of Ice – 2001
Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs – 2003
The Spyro Season games were a great attempt to put the purple dragon in a top-down isometric adventure and still capture the charm of the PS1 classics. It did a great job of this but felt a bit tedious and repetitive. Season of Flame would improve on some features a year later. Attack of the Rynocs removed the platforming and made the game more of an RPG which worked for the most part, but felt like a step backward.
Most Recent Entry: Spyro: Reignited Trilogy – 2018 (PC, PS4, XONE, NS)
Hot Potato! – 2001
A fun and cute puzzle game that gets the job done, but isn’t very addictive and can be really frustrating. A lot of people loved the visuals but didn’t stick around very long to see it through until the end.
Driver 2 Advance – 2002
Trying to make an open-world game on the GBA is pretty much impossible. Driver 2 looks good and has decent missions, but the performance is spotty and it just doesn’t know what it wants to be most of the time. It’s still a decent 3D title on the system.
Most Recent Entry: Driver: Speedboat Paradise – 2015 (AND, iOS)
Lady Sia – 2001
While the gameplay and platforming might be pretty average, the game looks great which is why it got as much attention as it did. Sadly, the sales didn’t pan out, but this is one of the most unique-looking games on the system.
It’s Mr. Pants – 2005
Another unique-looking game for the system with a questionable title. The puzzle elements are very trial and error which brings the experience down some, but the game is better than the sum of its parts. Puzzle fans will get a kick out of this one.
Blender Bros. – 2002
A cute and charming platformer that has a cult following. The gameplay itself might feel too easy at times, but overall gets the job done. Despite the great art direction, the game was also really short. It was later released on Steam in 2020.
Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors – 2004
Another half-decent DBZ fighting game. This was the first and only outing on the GBA. It looked great but had very simple controls and a fighting system. It was best played with another person. The direct sequel would be released on DS.
Most Recent Entry: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot – 2020 (PS4, PC, XONE)
WWE Road to Wrestlemania X8 – 2002
A good-looking WWE game that got the job done with simple controls. There wasn’t much content either, but it was a good entry for wrastlin’ fans on the go.
Most Recent Entry: WWE 2K Battlegrounds – 2020 (NS, PS4, XONE, PC)
Fire Pro Wrestling 2 – 2002
While it’s considered the best wrestling game on the GBA it didn’t add much from the original game. It still had a large roster and a fun gameplay system, but that was about it.
Most Recent Entry: Fire Pro Wrestling World – 2017 (PC, PS4)
Sword of Mana – 2003
This was one of only three games I ever bought new for my GBA as a young teen. I picked this up because I wanted a long game to play on my GBA that would take a while to finish. Thankfully, for me at least, the game was rather easy and had a decent length. It looked good and had great music, but many criticized the game for being too simple and easy compared to the SNES game.
Most Recent Entry: Echoes of Mana – 2022 (AND, iOS)
Shaman King: Master of Spirits 2 – 2005
The final game in the GBA franchise, Master of Spirits 2 looked great and had solid gameplay, but for newcomers, it threw you into the middle of the story without any explanation. It was also not well-liked for how repetitive it was. This was mostly for fans of the anime.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Worldwide Edition – Stairway to the Destined Duel – 2003
It may not look like much and has a steep learning curve, but it has longevity and strategy that will keep you busy. You also really need to like the source material to even bother here. This isn’t for the casual card dueling fan.
Most Recent Entry: Yu-Gi-Oh!: Master Duel – 2022 (PC, NS, PS4, XONE, PS5, XSX)
Justice League Heroes: The Flash – 2006
The GBA got an exclusive Flash game which is cool and it got the concept right. The Flash’s combat is very fast-paced, but it’s very average and by the numbers beat ’em up.
Most Recent Entry: Justice League VR: The Complete Experience – 2017 (PC, PS4)
Hamtaro: Ham Ham Heartbreak – 2003
Do you remember the Hamtaro anime? I sure do, and it was popular with the nerdy girls at school. The games actually aren’t all that bad. They’re cute, fun, and have nice visuals that complement the show. This game just has a lot of trial and error that irked some players. The series stuck to just the handhelds and would come to an end in 2008.
Most Recent Entry: Hi! Hamtaro: Little Hamsters Big Adventures – Ham-Ham Challenge – 2008 (DS)
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever – 2002
The weird choice of putting a movie license exclusively on the GBA is what gives this series a cult following. 3D FPS games on the GBA are a novelty and not much as improved in this sequel. It was praised for the great gunplay and controls, but the muddy visuals brought it down a few pegs.
While it wasn’t a true 3D platformer the isometric gameplay hindered the gameplay overall. I personally found the level design to be confusing and poorly laid out, but it kept the series’ charm we’ve all grown to love. I also found the visuals a bit buddy and so did others.
Most Recent Entry: Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts – 2008 (X360)
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation – 2006
If you want a deep strategy game on the go this one is great. However, due to the heavy anime-themed story you need to like that or the source material at the very least to enjoy this. The series is incredibly popular and lives on to this day.
Most Recent Entry: Super Robot Wars 30 – 2021 (PC, PS4, NS)
Defender of the Crown – 2002
A rework of the original 80’s PC game. It’s a good strategy game, but you will have to stomach the boring visuals to get through it. It was a good port but didn’t bring anything new from the original and excluded multiplayer which is a real shame here.
Most Recent Entry: Defender of the Crown: Heroes Live Forever – 2007 (PC)
Wings – 2003
Another classic PC game ported to GBA. It looked good and the dog fights were fun, but it lacked variety and felt repetitive after a short time. It’s still a very unique game on the system.
The Scorpion King: Sword of Orsiris – 2002
While the movie is infamous for its terrible effects and acting, the GBA game is actually a rather good platformer. It was just critiqued for being overtly hard and not having a good checkpoint system.
Aero the Acro-Bat – 2002
A fun platformer that was ported from the 16-bit era of consoles. It does the job well, but is too simple and short providing little replay value.
CT Special Forces – 2004
This series has a cult following due to having three solid entries on the GBA and being quite good for what is it. It’s mindless platforming fun with pretty much no story, but it works. It would get one final FPS game in 2005 and then disappear.
Most Recent Entry: Special Forces: Nemesis Strike – 2005 (PS2, PC, Xbox)
Shrek: Hassle the Castle – 2002
Yep, I’m just as surprised as you are. A good Shrek game?! Apparently, this one had multiple difficulty levels so kids and avid gamers could play it with some challenge. It had charming visuals and played well. Overall, you need to be a Shrek fan to really like this, but it’s there. The series struggled to provide a single decent game and ended with a mobile game a few years back.
Most Recent Entry: Shrek Sugar Fever – 2017 (AND, iOS)
Phalanx – 2001
A port of the SNES game with good results. It was simple yet very difficult and it irked players in this regard. If you love your SNES side-scrolling shooters then this should be a fun one for you.
Game & Watch Gallery 4 – 2002
The final game in the long-running series. At this point, it felt like it was being milked to death or could have been a complete collection. The games are solid fun, but you either love these or hate them. They are simple pick-up and play high-score games with a single goal. Many felt it was too dated for the GBA and for the price point.
Rampage: Puzzle Attack – 2001
A fun puzzle game despite the license, however the lack of battery backup saves and addictive gameplay means you will have fun but get bored after a while.
Most Recent Entry: Rampage: Total Destruction – 2006 (GC, PS2, Wii)
Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars – 2002
Going from an action game to a slower strategy game is risky, but it had to be done on the system’s limited hardware. First of Mars had some good strategy elements, plus it looked pretty good but didn’t offer multiplayer to extend replay value.
Most Recent Entry: Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MVRS – 2018 (PS4, PC)
Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy – The Path of the Superhero – 2003
This bizarre Saturday morning cartoon wrestling game was quirky and hilarious despite its simple design. Thankfully the multiplayer kept people coming back for more, but the lack of depth kept it from shooting to the stars.
Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX – 2002
The Contra series has had so many ups and downs. It’s insane. While the SNES port plays and looks good on the system, the hardware itself would bring the overall experience down. The zoomed-in view makes the game even harder than it needs to be and an overall lack of extra content.
Most Recent Entry: Contra Returns – 2021 (AND, iOS)
Wing Commander: Prophecy – 2003
A surprising port of the PC game, Prophecy played surprisingly well but suffered from poor controls and muddy visuals. Many applauded the effort, and it didn’t go to waste. A space sim on the GBA is a daunting task.
Turbo Turtle Adventure – 2002
The GBA was no stranger to puzzle games, and this weird one didn’t stand out. It had some fun elements and addictive nature, but the trial and error really got to people and brought the experience down some.
DK: King of Swing – 2005
While not the only DK game on GBA it was the only unique one. Using the shoulder buttons to swing across vines rather than run was pretty fun. Its downside was its own control gimmick. The game became frustrating fast and many would need a lot of patience to finish it.
Most Recent Entry: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars – 2015 (3DS, WIIU)
Gekido Advance: Kintar’s Revenge – 2003
A lot of people love this game. It’s one of the few fighting games on the system, but it doesn’t come from a larger franchise. It’s considered one of the best-looking games on the system and plays really well. Sadly, it lacks content and modes.
Sega Arcade Gallery – 2003
Yeah, you can play these on other consoles with better iterations of them, but for the GBA these were four of Sega’s most popular arcade games. They played and ran very well, but that was it. It was just four short arcade games with nothing else to keep you coming back.
Columns Crown – 2002
This was Sega’s last attempt at a unique game in the series without it being a port. The cutesy anime-style graphics won people over, but it didn’t change the overall gameplay formula much. It just felt like a coat of new paint.
CIMA: The Enemy – 2003
Despite the generic-sounding name, this was a good attempt from Natsume to bring a turn-based RPG to the system. It was well-liked but it suffered from a wonky interface and complicated controls.
ESPM Final Round Golf 2002 – 2001
The one and only ESPN-branded golfing game. It was a good attempt on the GBA however it wasn’t very challenging and lacked content compared to the Tiger Woods games.