25. ‘Baseball Advance’
Sports sims, especially those that lean into realism, have never done well on handhelds. Smilebit, a defunct division of Sega, changed that with 2002’s Baseball Advance. With licenses for every MLB team and player, Baseball Advance served as a worthwhile counterpart to console sims of the time. Sharp visuals combined with solid hitting, pitching, and fielding mechanics made for playing through a 162 game season a grand and exciting endeavor. Not counting Mario sports titles, Baseball Advance was easily the most impressive sports sim to come to GBA.
24. ‘Kirby & the Amazing Mirror’
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror released at the very end of the GBA’s life cycle in 2004, and it reworked the Kirby formula in surprising and welcome ways. Abandoning the traditional level-based progression system, Amazing Mirror was structured more like Metroid games, featuring nine distinct worlds connected by a winding labyrinth that gradually unfurled. Amazing Mirror kept all the series’ cutesy charm, but it had a level of depth that few Kirby games both before and since have seen.
23. ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’
A spiritual successor to Donkey Kong, Mario vs. Donkey Kong was a clever rebranding of the classic puzzle platforming formula. Featuring a dearth of content — 48 levels and a bevy of secret challenges — Mario vs. Donkey Kong tested both your platforming and puzzle solving skills. The basic premise: securing keys, packages, and adorable mini-Marios en route to clearing rooms. Nintendo and developer NST even threw in classic boss battles against DK himself. The whole sub-series is great, but Mario vs. Donkey kicked things off in exciting fashion.
22. ‘Mario Tennis: Power Tour’
Mario Tennis: Power Tour brought back the RPG mechanics seen in the GBC’s Mario Tennis. Playing as Clay, an up and coming tennis star, users navigated their way through the Royal Tennis Academy in the Mushroom Kingdom. The leveling system promoted longevity and the core tennis gameplay shined in both singles and doubles matches. We’re not quite sure why Nintendo has largely abandoned the excellent RPG elements in recent Mario Tennis games, but Power Tour remains fun even today.
21. ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’
It’s still shocking just how good the GBA port of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 turned out. Besides a few minor tweaks, THPS2 came to GBA fully featured, including the superb career mode that tasked skaters with working their way through levels completing ten objectives within a time limit. The GBA port used an inspired isometric perspective that really hid the limitations of the GBA hardware. THPS2 remains one of the greatest extreme sports games of all time, and it held its own and then some on Game Boy Advance.