Now That’s What I Call The Best List Of Top 25 GBA Games To Put In Your DS Ever

April 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Posted in Gaming Article | Leave a comment
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Backwards compatibility is slowly being phased out by hardware manufacturers; even Nintendo have taken away the opportunity for DSi adopters to savour some of its finest handheld titles. So before the option is gone forever, I urge you to root out these classics and fill your DS’ GBA slot with true gaming goodness.

In no particular order (except, maybe, alphabetically), here are my top something-or-other best GBA games to put in your DS GBA slot ever:

Advance Wars

Someone once said ‘War is Hell’; but that doesn’t always ring true because Advance Wars is bloody brilliant. The chunky tanks and cheerful troops quietly camouflage the depth on offer in one of the finest strategy games ever made. The sequels on GBA and DS could do nothing to improve upon the formula (after all, how do you improve on perfection?) and were resigned to bolting on extra units and gimmicky control systems that watered down the finely balanced gameplay. The only thing that could have made the original better was online play, which is remedied in the latest DS version, Days of Ruin. Still, local multiplayer matches could easily last an entire day if your batteries and brain cells could handle it. Because of the turn-based nature of the game this is one of the few multiplayer GBA games that can still be enjoyed fully on the DS, just pass and move, like that old Liverpool groove.

In a word: Tank top

Expect to pay: £5


In between creating 10-hour long interactive movies, Hideo Kojima could be found tinkering away on this innovative little series. Boktai followed a vampire hunter who could use the power of the sun to decimate hordes of evil. The game made use of a specially designed GBA cartridge containing a solar sensor, meaning you had to recharge your in-game power by playing outside. Its USP proved its undoing however as the prospect of having to face natural light frightened and confused many gamers and, as a result, the game bombed. Shame, as the game was pretty good fun, as long as you didn’t live in perpetual twilight. Boktai has the unique claim to be the only game you can’t play during a solar eclipse.

In a word: Blindin’

Expect to pay: £8-10

Castlevania Aria of Sorrow

Since Konami gave Castlevania a Metroid style makeover, the GBA and DS have played host to some of the finest entries in the series. None more so than the third GBA outing, Aria of Sorrow. This refined just about every aspect of gameplay, and included some of the best bosses in the handheld releases. Bargain hunters should be on the look out for the double pack which also contained Harmony of Dissonance.

In a word: Whipped cream

Expect to pay: £7.50

Densetsu no Stafy

For some reason, Nintendo decided to keep Stafy’s antics from anyone but the Japanese gaming public, despite it finding huge popularity amongst the fish-loving populace of Akihibara. Stafy the starfish remains mostly unknown to UK gamers, but his strange brand of underwater platforming was pretty charming for its time and spawned two GBA sequels and a further two DS titles. This can be found dirt cheap on most import sites.

In a word: A shining star(fish)

Expect to pay: £12

DK King of Swing

Paon developed this rather unique Donkey Kong title, which saw the big ape traversing levels by swinging on peg boards, using the shoulder buttons to swing DK around. This marked one of the first appearances of DK in an original title since Nintendo’s split with Rare and had a style that was more akin to Yoshi’s Island than the pre-rendered look of the SNES games. While it hasn’t aged well, and has been soundly beaten by the far superior DS sequel, it’s still worth rooting out, if only for the groovy music.

In a word: Swingin’

Expect to pay: £5-10

Drill Dozer

Coming from the brains behind one of gaming’s biggest franchises, Pokemon, you’d think Drill Dozer would be assured of some measure of success. Unfortunately, Game Freak’s quirky platform title never found much of an audience and it sunk without a trace. Every action in the game revolved (literally) around main character Jill and her drill, and the title contained some pretty ingenious puzzles, especially in the boss battles. Eagle-eyed fans may have spied Jill’s brief cameo in Smash Bros Brawl as an assist trophy. This is another import only title I’m afraid.

In a word: Revolutionary

Expect to pay:  £15

F-Zero GP Maximum Velocity

The first of the GBA’s three F-Zero titles is arguably the best of the lot. This launch title saw a return to the mode-7 tracks of the SNES original but did away with most of the existing cast. As such it’s the only game in the series that doesn’t feature Captain Falcon and his wonderful Blue Falcon, or his Falcon Punch. The tracks were tightly designed and looked great even on the GBA’s poor screen. Unfortunately the DS can’t recreate Maximum Velocity’s single cart multiplayer, but you can still pretend it works using the power of imagination.

In a word: Neeeooooowwwmmmm

Expect to pay: £3

Final Fantasy VI

Ignore the fanboy arguments over which series entry is best, just sit back enjoy Square’s sixth instalment for what it is. This was the last Final Fantasy to appear on the SNES and one of the finest RPGs ever made. This port marks the first PAL release on a Nintendo format (there is a hard-to-find PS1 version) and was one of the last big GBA games released over here. The sprawling story is still as engrossing as ever and contains some of the series’ more memorable moments and music. Definitely the best RPG on GBA and guaranteed to make any long distance trips at least 27% more bearable (unless you’re the one driving).

In a word: Fantastic

Expect to pay: £15-20

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones

Although it’s been around since the NES days, and hosted more than a dozen titles, Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem series has only recently been introduced to western gamers, via early protgonists Marth and Roy’s appearance in Smash Bros Melee on the GameCube. Like Advance Wars, Fire Emblem revolves around strategic turn-based battling but there are some major differences that set the two apart. Aside from the medieval, fantasy setting and RPG elements, FE places greater importance on your individual units. Unlike most games, once they are killed, that’s it, they are gone forever, so every move and attack really counts. Sacred Stones is one of the best in the series and a good introduction to one of Nintendo’s most low-key franchises.

In a word: Fire-starter

Expect to pay: £12-15

Golden Sun

It’s a testament to Camelot’s original RPG that people are still clamouring for a new instalment to the Golden Sun series. The games found a cult following amongst Nintendo fans eager for a meaty RPG after the genre was severely underrepresented on the N64. The graphics and music still hold up well today even if the story feels a little tired.

In a word: Sun shiner

Expect to pay: £5

It’s Mr Pants

Rare may have lost a little of their magic, but their thoroughly British humour is still intact. This puzzle game, featuring the mascot from Rare’s letters page on their website, was originally meant to be Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers and was one of the first games announced for the GBA. It wasn’t a particularly enthralling puzzle game but the fact it contains a stick man wearing nothing but a pair of pants, a bowler hat and a moustache (which is my usual weekend attire) means I just had to include it in this list.

In a word: Pant-tastic

Expect to pay: Thruppence ha’penny

Kirby & the Amazing Mirror

Kirby has never got the same amount of attention as Mario or Link, which must be really upsetting for the little pink fella. Make him feel a bit better by purchasing one of his better adventures, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror. While it doesn’t add much to the staple gameplay of the series, it is still a fun adventure and the only game that King Dededee doesn’t make an appearance. If you’re not put off by the sugary sweet graphics this is a great way to introduce yourself to the little puffball’s under appreciated world.

In a word: Doesn’t suck

Expect to pay: £12

Kuru Kuru Kururin

American gamers may have got English language versions of Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and Mario RPG exclusive to their territory but we got Kuru Kuru Kururin. Thanks Nintendo. Well actually their loss really was our gain as this launch title was a great little super-action puzzle game (as described by its designer). The goal was to guide a slowly rotating helicopter thing through a series of tight courses without touching the sides and against a strict time limit. It was immensely frustrating but in a good way and remains one of the most unusual games on the GBA.

In a word: You spin me right round, baby right round, like a record baby right round, round, round

Expect to pay: £5

Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past

The GBA saw plenty of remakes of old SNES classics and this was probably the best of the lot. Not only did it contain one of the best games ever, shrunk down and ready to take on the move, but it also had the fabulous bonus title, Four Swords, a multiplayer-oriented adventure set in randomly generated dungeons. Link to the Past remains Link’s most epic adventure and was the one that put into place just about every gameplay aspect that the series is so well-known for – beautiful worlds to explore, haunting musical scores, complex dungeons and challenging bosses.

In a word: Legendary

Expect to pay: £15-18

Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

Minish Cap was the GBA’s one and only original Zelda title and is possibly the best of the handheld bunch. Developed by Flagship, who had been involved with the GB Color duology, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, this game continued the cel-shaded style first seen in Wind Waker and paired a miniaturised Link with a magical talking hat called Ezlo. The game made great use of its diminutive theme, as Link had to complete puzzles in large and small form, making for some interesting dungeons and boss battles. The game also integrated the multiple-Link elements from Four Swords into some of the puzzles which really made this title stand proudly alongside the series’ grander console entries. It’s a short adventure but nonetheless a must have for Zelda fans.

In a word: Size matters not

Expect to pay: £12-15

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Mario’s RPG adventures are well-known for poking fun at the staple elements of Mario’s worlds and Superstar Saga is no different. The paper style may have been ditched but the humour and witty script are still intact, as is the turn-based action-led battle system. Superstar Saga let you control both plumbers at the same time which led to some ingenious puzzles throughout the brothers’ unusual quest to return Princess Peach’s voice from the evil witch Cackletta.

In a word: RPGreat

Expect to pay: £15

Mariokart Super Circuit

Eschewing the slippy-slidy handling of the N64 version, Super Circuit returned the series to the tightly controlled, mode-7 tracks of the original. The graphics and music evoked happy memories of the hours spent on the SNES classic and the ranks awarded after each race meant this had tonnes of replayability. It even went so far as including every course from the original as unlockable bonuses, giving this title the most number of tracks of any title in the series. Some of them made it into the DS & Wii iterations (cunningly titled Mariokart DS & Mariokart Wii) so you can still check them out even without a copy of this game.

In a word: Has a great track record

Expect to pay: £15

Metroid Fusion

The first original handheld Metroid since Metroid 2 on the old Game Boy. Although it retained the same puzzle and exploration aspects the series is known for, this adventure was a bit more linear due to the expanded story elements which saw Samus being infected with a parasitic virus that gives her Metroid-like powers. It saw the first glimpse of an evil Samus, the SA-X created by the parasite that infected Samus. Owners of Metroid Prime could unlock Samus’ Fusion suit if they linked the two together, but you can’t do that on the DS so forget that little factoid.

In a word: SA-Xtroidinary

Expect to pay: £10

Metroid: Zero Mission

Samus’ first adventure got the remake treatment on GBA giving players a second chance to experience the haunting world of the original Metroid. Zebes and its inhabitants have never looked so good and the bosses, which are still some of the most iconic of the series, have been given some extra oomph thanks to the GBA. The original content has been fleshed out a bit to include some of the abilities and bosses from later titles like Super Metroid. On top of this, there is a whole new section to explore after you ‘complete’ the game, which is almost as long as the main game itself and will probably please fans of Smash Bros Brawl.

In a word: Missionary position

Expect to pay: £10

Mother 3

Why Nintendo refuses to translate this title and releases it to the masses is beyond us. I once visited Nintendo’s offices to ask why this was the case, but Iwata-San just chortled maniacally and went back to his game of bingo; Miyamoto didn’t even look up from tuning his banjo, and Shigesato Itoi just quietly wept in the corner of the room. Until they decide otherwise you can get hold of Mother 3 via an import site and use one of the excellent FAQS available on the interweb. Or you can get a hold of it by more dubious means but we didn’t tell you that. Incidentally the wonderful guys at have just finished their English translation of the game, so the patch for those less legal copies should be available shortly. Hooray for ultra-dedicated fan-bases!

In a word: Mamma mia

Expect to pay: £20

Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald

The third generation of Nintendo’s money-spinning collect-em-up took players off to the land of Hoenn in search of Pokemon glory. All your favourites like Surskit, Volbeat and Spheal are here and waiting for you to beat them to within an inch of their lives and trap them in a life of servitude. Extra features included force feeding your ‘mon berries and the chance to create a secret base that could be decorated with the hollowed out carcases of wild Pokemon – gotta love that Snorlax skin rug.

In a word: Gotta catch ‘em all

Expect to pay: £20

Super Mario Advance 1-4

I’ve lumped these together as one entry because writing about them individually would have taken ages, and more importantly I shouldn’t need to explain how good they all are. Nintendo may be more content to repackage former glories than create new ones but in this case we’ll forgive them as each cart holds some of the best platforming action you will ever find. Mario Bros 2 may be the ugly duckling of the group but it’s still a challenging platformer; Mario 3 redefined the genre; Mario World polished all the aspects that made 1&3 so much fun and added Yoshi to the franchise; Yoshi himself got a chance to shine in the best of the bunch, Yoshi’s Island.

In a word: Super

Expect to pay £10-18

Tales of Phantasia

The first of Namco’s long-running RPG series came shipped on the largest SNES cartridge ever made (it was even bigger than some N64 carts). It was an absolutely gorgeous adventure, even out-performing the Square titles on the format in graphical terms and featured a soothing score from series composer Motoi Sakuraba (who went on to work on Star Ocean, Mario Tennis and Baten Kaitos). It also had a battle system totally unlike any RPGs at the time; turn-based battles were replaced with a system more like a side-on beat-em-up. This GBA port is quite poorly put together but seeing as the original was never released outside of Japan this is the only chance PAL gamers have of playing this gem.

In a word: Phantastic

Expect to pay £20

Warioware Inc.

Mario’s nemesis had already had his own line of fun platform games before he got this series, which has become one of Nintendo’s biggest new franchises in recent years. The simplistic five-second mini-games were perfectly suited to the play & go nature of handheld gaming, and were hugely addictive. The surreal themes meant that games based around shaking hands with dogs, jumping over hot dog cars and keeping cats dry were all par for the course. This saw a rerelease on the GameCube in the form of Warioware Mega Party Games.

In a word: Ware do I sign up?

Expect to pay: £15

Warioware Twisted

Those evil bar stewards at Nintendo UK still have this on their release schedules, taunting us poor UK gamers with the faint hope of a release on these shores. This is the best game in the series, thanks mostly to the gyroscope built-in to the cartridge, which puts a whole new spin on many of the mini-games from the original. The gentle rumble gives a tactile pleasure as you tilt and twist your way through the selection of games. Get down to your local importer and get a hold of this genius game.

In a word: Twist and shout

Expect to pay: £20


There we go – the near definitive list of essential DS GBA slot-filling GBA games that no one else has ever thought of. If you think I’ve missed anything off the list or if you want to chat to someone in complete confidence about an embarrassing GBA related problem, please get in touch.

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