Brendan Schroer

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Last Active 12-23-22 6:13 pm
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Top 15 Favorite Gameboy Advance Games

Alright, so I'm covering for Caliggy on this one. The GBA was one of my absolute favorite consoles growing up, so I'm always gonna have incredibly strong memories with the following games. Also, as a bonus, I'll be adding a little description/reason for each. Enjoy!
15Medal of Honor: Infiltrator

Who knew that Medal of Honor could translate so well to a top-down view? This gameplay style is what makes Infiltrator stand out from the other entries in the series. For those who have ever played Commando or Ikari Warriors on the NES - or have watched AVGN suffer through the latter in his video - this is basically in the same vein, just with better combat and more balanced difficulty. Aside from that, the gameplay is pretty self-explanatory: play through 15 missions in famous World War II settings, in classic Medal of Honor fashion. There’s also a survival mode once you complete the game, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect from the name; survive as long as you can and keep trying to beat your previous high score. I guess it’s just refreshing to play a Medal of Honor game that deviates from the franchise’s first person shooter format so much, and the top-down view gives more of an arcade-like quality to the experience. In any case, it’s a really fun title.
14Bomberman Tournament

This might just be the most unique game in the Bomberman series, due to having a single player quest with a fleshed out story. But it’s also one of the finest in the franchise, as the gameplay is as fun and addictive as ever. On top of your typical combat - the whole top-down, bomb-laying routine - there’s also (as the title gives away) a tournament mode that features battles between creatures known as Karabons; basically, they’re this game’s version of Pokemon battles. On top of being a great game in its own right, this one also benefits from being there for me during some hard times as a kid. My family and I had to evacuate from our home after a massive fire broke out in the San Bernardino mountains (look up the Old Fire on Google… that’s what it was). This was such a comforting game to play during that time and really helped me when I needed it, so I have quite a personal connection to it.
13Klonoa: Empire of Dreams

And here we have the sleeper. The Klonoa series, despite being a hit with critics, never managed to garner much attention from the gaming public during its original run. It’s a damn shame too because these were some of my favorite platformers, easily rivaling the likes of Mario and Sonic back in the day. Unlike its 3D home console entries, Empire of Dreams is a 2D platformer with Kirby-esque visuals and opts for a simpler gameplay style. Regardless, many of the Klonoa trademarks still remain intact: the ability to hover for a short period of time, drawing enemies in and throwing them projectiles, etc. It’s simple, but addictive. The overall presentation, while a bit lacking in places, has the same kind of whimsical charm you get from a lot of these GBA platformers. Thankfully, a remastered compilation of the first two Klonoa games, Phantasy Reverie, was just released this month; I highly recommend getting it if you’re looking for some excellent platforming. You won’t be disappointed.
12Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

This is not only the first handheld Mario RPG but also the first Mario & Luigi game, and damn, did they hit it out of the park. What I appreciate about this game - as with the rest of the Mario & Luigi games - is that it’s not afraid to subvert typical RPG tropes. Sure, you’ve got certain things that adhere to the genre, such as an experience point system, overworld exploration, etc. But I love the fact that everything about the gameplay and presentation still screams “Mario” despite not being one of the series’ traditional platformers. The graphics are whimsical and cartoonish, the dialogue is extremely lighthearted and comedic, and the combat utilizes familiar Mario weapons/items and moves like the hammer, jump attack, and the 1UP mushroom. Also, fun fact, but did you know that the composer for Kingdom Hearts - Yoko Shimomura - also composed the music for this game? That’s just icing on the cake.
11Yu-Gi-Oh! Eternal Duelist Soul

This would have to be my second favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! Game behind Duelists of the Roses, as well as possibly the most advanced (no pun intended) title in the series up to that point. There’s not really much of a plot; just hover over a character and select him or her to engage in a duel. But does it really matter? The gameplay is what makes Eternal Duelist Soul shine. It astounds me that Forbidden Memories and this game exist in the same franchise, as the depth of the latter is leaps and bounds ahead; then again, I believe the progression of the video games was coinciding with the trading card game itself, so that makes sense. Each tier presents a new set of duelists, each harder than the last; however, unlike a game like Reshef of Destruction, there’s not nearly as much grinding to get the good cards, nor is the difficulty nearly as cheap. This game is balanced, has a nice steady progression, and is all-around fun as hell.
10Mega Man Battle Network 2

While I maintain that MMBN3 is still the best in the series, BN2 was such a leap forward from the original that it’s kinda ridiculous. The net was much more fleshed out this time around, especially with the addition of “Netsquares”, hub environments that allow you to buy items and read bulletin boards. The story was also vastly improved: sure, it still had the typical “take over the world” plot, but you can tell that the writers reveled in providing more interesting narrative twists this time around. Speaking of the writing, I’m surprised that this game was given an “E” rating by the ESRB… the amount of cussing is a bit surprising. There’s one villain who literally yells “damn it to hell!” Well, I suppose a little edge isn’t a bad thing. Anyway, the gameplay is similar to the original, but everything surrounding the gameplay is what made it such an improvement; again, the worldbuilding, plot, quality-of-life changes in regards to exploration, etc. Overall, it’s an incredibly solid RPG.
9The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords

The reason I have this one a bit lower on the list is that, well, it might be cheating to have it here at all. But seriously, how amazing is it that we were able to play (arguably) the best 2D Zelda game on a damn handheld back then? Obviously now we have stuff like the Switch or emulators, which have made portable gaming significantly easier, but having A Link to the Past on the GBA was a godsend back then. Top that off with a solid multiplayer component in Four Swords (provided you have the right setup to play it), and buying this was an absolute no-brainer.
8Golden Sun: The Lost Age

I’m not going to touch on this one too much, as most of what I have to say will be covered in the next entry. The Lost Age is quite similar to the first Golden Sun, with a few tweaks here and there such as more intricate puzzles and slightly improved production values. But since the original Golden Sun is so damn good and The Lost Age’s gameplay and Djinn system are pretty much identical to the former, it’s still quite a superb experience.
7Golden Sun

If there’s any RPG on the GBA that can actually stand toe-to-toe with its competition on the home consoles, this is the one. Golden Sun takes a lot of cues from more popular RPG franchises like Final Fantasy: random encounters, traditional turn-based combat, etc. However, what really separates the game from many of its contemporaries is the use of the “Djinn” system. These creatures are often the key to victory, as they can serve a wide variety of functions: changing a character’s class, buffing, healing, summons, you name it. They’re a really cool feature and, when combined with the rock-solid combat mechanics, make for a truly addicting experience. On top of that, you’ve got a solid story that takes place in a land inspired by themes of alchemy and the four classical elements. It’s not the most original stuff in the world, but it serves the rest of the game just fine; really, the gameplay and exploration are the true draws here. Still one of my favorite RPGs to this day.
6Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Oh man, this game brings me back. This was actually the very first Castlevania game I ever played, and I distinctly remember experiencing it while visiting my grandparents for Christmas as a kid. It was also my first time with a Metroidvania-style game, so the level of exploration and sheer detail was something I wasn’t ready for yet. I also loved how each action and attribute “card” was based on a figure from Roman or Greek mythology, as well as the fact that this mix-n-match approach could really shake up your playing style depending on part of the game you were trying to complete. I know a lot of people seem to prefer Aria of Sorrow, but I have to give a nod to Circle of the Moon for getting me into the series in the first place. What a shame that Konami decided to ruin Castlevania and discontinue it, just like most of their franchises…
5The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

While the Oracle games are the GBA Zelda titles I played the most when I was younger, I can’t deny that Minish Cap is still the superior game. It was the best handheld game in the series up to that point - even over Link’s Awakening - and still sets a high bar for modern 2D Zelda titles. Extremely well-designed dungeons, fantastic music, charming art style… it can all be found here. Then there’s the game’s main innovation, which is that you can now change size to accommodate certain battles or puzzles; it really adds an extra dimension to your otherwise typical LoZ gameplay. Other than that, it’s just an extremely solid adventure all around; definitely try it out if you haven’t.
4Mega Man Zero 3

Ah yes, the true refinement of the MMZ series. While I love the first game for more sentimental reasons, it was flawed as hell; the lives system was a complete joke, and it took an eternity to grind for cyber elves to get health powerups. MMZ2 was a huge leap up in terms of difficulty balancing and boss fights, but MMZ3 is where everything really fell into place. What began as a strong story in the first two games has now turned into a global conflict with prominent themes of genocide and questionable loyalties. The gameplay difficulty and control are just perfect in this one and, because of the reduced cheapness, it always feels like it’s YOUR fault if you lose instead of the game’s. Also, the cyber elves have received an overhaul: using them won’t affect your mission score anymore, and their benefits have greatly increased here. Combine that with a few other new features such as the addition of cyberspace areas, and this just feels like the most complete MMZ experience.
3Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

I know many people seem to prefer the original GBA title to Sacred Stones, but the latter is still my favorite on the platform. With an epic story that details the continent Magvel’s downfall via an evil energy that’s been cast over its six nations, you are tasked with preventing the final sacred stone (there’s one for every nation) from being destroyed by the Demon King. Gameplay-wise, this one’s quite similar to others in the FE series: turn-based gameplay, permadeath, seizing thrones or defeating all enemies to win, all that good stuff. But what really makes this one stand out to me are the relationships between the characters. I’m not sure why, but this game has always had my favorite overall roster of characters in the entire series; they’re just so charming and likable as they interact with one another. In any case, this is definitely a personal favorite of mine.
2Metroid Fusion

Possibly the darkest and creepiest game in the entire Metroid franchise, Fusion is a near-perfect blend of outstanding 2D gameplay and chilling atmosphere. Granted the game is a bit more linear than past entries, as well as a bit on the shorter side; however, there’s still plenty of exploration and a myriad of excellent powerups to be found. Plus, since Zero Mission was only a remake of the original NES title, Fusion was truly the series’ next big leap forward in the handheld market after the underrated Gameboy title Samus Returns. If you love 2D adventure games, and especially if you’re a fan of Super Metroid, this is a must-play.
1Mega Man Battle Network 3

As crazy as it may sound, this is my favorite Mega Man game of all time - and I’m saying that as someone who absolutely loves the classic, X, and Zero series. Mega Man plotlines are usually pretty basic: defeat eight robot masters/mavericks, defeat Wily/Sigma, and watch the fortress explode and crumble into the dawn. But BN3 has possibly the most complex and emotional story in the entire franchise, one that actually moved me to tears as a kid because of its ending. The brotherly relationship that the two main characters - Lan and Mega Man EXE - share is at its apex here, and while a certain familiar face is back as the villain, the rest of the narrative runs the entire gamut from tragedy to heartbreak to triumph to reflection to catharsis. Combine that with a refined battle system, the first use of the NaviCust program - with which you can equip extra parts to Mega Man - and the best postgame content in the series, and this is up there with my favorite games of all time.
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