The Game Boy Advance (GBA) was home to some of the best role-playing games (RPGs) of its time. With its powerful hardware and vibrant library, the handheld console offered an immersive RPG experience like no other. In this article, we will take a closer look at the top GBA RPGs that captured the hearts of gamers worldwide.
Check out more GBA Games in our other collections:
- Best Pokemon GBA Games
- Best GBA Platformers
- Best GBA RPGs
- Best GBA Puzzle Games
- Best GBA Action Games
- Best GBA Sports Games
Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen
Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen, enhanced remakes of the original Pokemon Red and Green games, served as a nostalgic trip down memory lane for fans of the franchise. With their updated graphics, improved gameplay mechanics, and additional features, these games breathed new life into the Pokemon universe.
Embarking on a journey as a Pokemon Trainer, players explored the vast Kanto region, capturing and training Pokemon creatures to become the ultimate Pokemon Champion.
The games offered a rich storyline, memorable characters, and addictive gameplay, making them a must-play for any GBA RPG enthusiast.
Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald
The Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald trilogy introduced players to the mysterious Hoenn region, expanding the world of Pokemon with new features and Pokemon species.
Building upon the success of the previous Pokemon titles, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald introduced double battles, contests, secret bases, and the Battle Frontier. These additions added depth and variety to the gameplay, ensuring countless hours of exploration and strategic battles.
Golden Sun enchanted players with its unique blend of RPG and puzzle-solving elements. As a young adept, players embarked on a quest to protect the elemental stars and save the world from impending doom. The game featured a compelling storyline, memorable characters, and stunning visuals.
By harnessing the power of Djinn, elemental creatures with various abilities, players engaged in turn-based battles, unleashing awe-inspiring spells and summoning colossal creatures.
With its engaging puzzles and challenging dungeons, Golden Sun kept players enthralled from start to finish.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age
In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, players continued their adventure from the first game, this time taking control of a new group of protagonists. The game expanded upon the lore set in Golden Sun, delving deeper into the world’s mythology and introducing new regions to explore.
The Lost Age introduced ship navigation and allowed players to cross perilous seas, uncover hidden treasures, and encounter fierce opponents. With its interconnected storylines and complex gameplay mechanics, The Lost Age proved to be a worthy successor to its predecessor.
Mother 3 (only released in Japan, but fan translations exist)
While Mother 3, the highly anticipated sequel to EarthBound (Mother 2), was exclusively released in Japan, dedicated fans took matters into their own hands by creating fan translations. This allowed English-speaking players to experience the emotional and thought-provoking journey the game had to offer.
Depicting the tale of Lucas and his friends, Mother 3 explored themes of loss, family, and environmentalism. With its unique combat system and innovative rhythm-based mechanics, the game left a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to play it in their native language.
Final Fantasy VI Advance
Final Fantasy VI Advance, a port of the beloved Super Nintendo RPG, brought the epic tale of the Gestahlian Empire and its rebellion to the GBA. With its engrossing storyline and memorable cast of characters, the game captivated players from start to finish.
Featuring enhanced visuals and additional content, Final Fantasy VI Advance breathed new life into a classic. The game’s Job System, which allowed players to customize their party members’ abilities, added a layer of strategy to the traditional turn-based combat. With its emotional storytelling and immersive world, Final Fantasy VI Advance is considered a timeless masterpiece.
Final Fantasy V Advance
Final Fantasy V Advance, another port of a Super Nintendo classic, introduced players to the adventures of Bartz and his companions as they embarked on a quest to protect the Crystals from evil forces. With its lighthearted tone and memorable characters, the game offered a refreshing take on the traditional Final Fantasy formula.
The game’s innovative Job System allowed players to mix and match various classes, granting them unique abilities and strategies. This flexibility kept battles engaging and encouraged experimentation. Final Fantasy V Advance’s charming visuals and addictive gameplay made it a standout title in the GBA library.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance combined the strategic depth of the original Final Fantasy Tactics with a whimsical and light-hearted storyline. Players assumed the role of Marche, a young boy transported to a fantastical world and thrust into a conflict between rival clans.
The game featured a robust job system, allowing players to customize their clan members to suit various battle situations. Battles took place on isometric grid-based maps, requiring careful planning and positioning. With its engaging strategy, memorable characters, and vibrant visuals, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance became a fan-favorite among GBA RPG enthusiasts.
Fire Emblem, the first entry of the series to be released internationally, introduced Western players to the tactical RPG gameplay that the franchise is known for. With its compelling storyline and permadeath mechanic, the game delivered a challenging and emotional experience.
Players assumed the role of Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector, as they battled against a rising threat to their homeland. They formed bonds with a diverse cast of characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. With its strategic battles and engaging support conversations, Fire Emblem set a high standard for tactical RPGs on the GBA.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, a standalone title in the Fire Emblem series, continued the tradition of strategic battles and character-driven storytelling. Players followed the twin heirs of Renais, Eirika and Ephraim, as they fought to liberate their homeland from a ruthless empire.
The Sacred Stones introduced a branching class system, allowing players to choose unique promotions for each character. This added an extra layer of customization and strategy to battles.
With its engaging narrative, memorable characters, and strategic depth, The Sacred Stones solidified Fire Emblem’s position as a premier GBA RPG.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was a delightful RPG that introduced players to the hilarious dynamic between the famous plumber brothers. The game’s engaging story takes place in the Beanbean Kingdom, where Mario and Luigi team up to rescue Princess Peach’s voice.
With its innovative combat system that allows players to control both characters simultaneously, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga offered a unique and enjoyable gameplay experience.
In addition to the compelling storyline, the game featured vibrant visuals and catchy music that perfectly captured the spirit of the Mario franchise. With its witty dialogue and clever puzzles, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is undoubtedly one of the best GBA RPGs.
Sword of Mana
Sword of Mana, a remake of the classic Game Boy game Final Fantasy Adventure, enchanted players with its charming world and engaging gameplay.
Set in the fantasy realm of Fa’Diel, the game follows the journey of the hero and heroine as they try to prevent the resurrection of an ancient evil.
The game’s unique real-time combat system, combined with its immersive storyline and beautiful graphics, made Sword of Mana a must-play for RPG enthusiasts.
Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire, a renowned RPG franchise, found success on the GBA with its first installment. In this game, players assume the role of Ryu, a dragon descendant with the ability to transform into various dragons.
As Ryu embarks on a quest to rescue his sister and save the world, players encounter a vast cast of colorful characters and explore a richly detailed world.
The game’s turn-based combat system, deep character progression, and captivating storyline made Breath of Fire a standout RPG on the GBA.
Breath of Fire II
The sequel to the original Breath of Fire, Breath of Fire II further expanded upon the franchise’s success on the GBA. Once again, players embark on a gripping adventure as Ryu, this time accompanied by a diverse group of companions.
With its improved graphics, refined gameplay mechanics, and intricate storyline, Breath of Fire II built upon the foundations set by its predecessor.
The game also introduced new features such as the ability to build a town and recruit additional characters, adding depth to the gameplay experience.
Shining Soul marked the entry of the Shining series into the realm of action RPGs. The game allowed players to choose from different character classes and venture into dungeons filled with monsters and treasures.
What set Shining Soul apart was its multiplayer functionality, allowing friends to team up and tackle dungeons together. This cooperative gameplay added a new layer of excitement and replayability to the game.
With its fast-paced combat, loot-driven progression, and multiplayer capabilities, Shining Soul provided countless hours of entertainment to GBA players.
Shining Soul II
Building upon the foundations laid by its predecessor, Shining Soul II continued the action RPG goodness with new content and enhancements.
Players once again took on the role of warriors, exploring dungeons, vanquishing enemies, and collecting powerful loot.
Shining Soul II expanded on the multiplayer aspect, allowing up to four players to join forces and embark on epic cooperative adventures.
The addition of new character classes and improved graphics further enhanced the gameplay experience, solidifying Shining Soul II as one of the best multiplayer RPGs on the GBA.
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story combined RPG elements with crafting mechanics to create a unique and engaging experience. Players assumed the role of a young Craftknight, tasked with uncovering the truth behind mysterious events and honing their swordcrafting skills.
With its charming character interactions, deep crafting system, and enjoyable combat, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story offered a refreshing take on the RPG genre.
Players could forge their own weapons and participate in thrilling tournament battles, ensuring plenty of excitement throughout their journey.
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2
The sequel to Summon Night: Swordcraft Story continued the saga with an expanded crafting system, a diverse cast of characters, and an engaging storyline.
Players once again delved into the world of weapon crafting, battling powerful enemies, and uncovering the secrets of their Craftknight heritage.
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 introduced new features, such as partner characters and enhanced combat mechanics, adding depth to the gameplay.
With its captivating story, enjoyable crafting mechanics, and lovable characters, the game solidified its place as one of the best RPG experiences on the GBA.
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis combined strategic gameplay with deep storytelling, captivating players with its intricate plot and challenging battles. Set in the continent of Valeria, the game followed the journey of Alphonse Loeher, a young knight caught in the midst of a power struggle.
With its turn-based tactical battles and branching storyline, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis offered a high level of customization and decision-making. Players had to carefully plan their moves, manage their units, and navigate complex moral choices, making every battle and story development impactful.
While not strictly an RPG, Advance Wars deserves a spot on this list due to its engaging gameplay and strategic depth. This turn-based strategy game put players in command of military forces as they battled enemies and gained control over territories.
Advance Wars offered a compelling single-player campaign, challenging players with missions that required careful planning and resource management. Additionally, the game’s multiplayer mode provided hours of intense battles against friends, further increasing its replayability.
With its addictive gameplay, charming characters, and strategic depth, Advance Wars demonstrated the versatility of the GBA and showcased how a non-traditional RPG could captivate players.
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
If you are a fan of strategy games, Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising should be at the top of your list. While it leans more towards the strategy genre, this game features RPG elements that enhance the overall experience.
Engage in tactical battles, command powerful units, and outsmart the enemy in a gripping storyline that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The game offers a wide variety of units to command, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. From infantry and tanks to aircraft and naval vessels, you’ll need to carefully consider your unit composition and placement to gain the upper hand in battle.
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is a must-play for fans of strategy games. With its engaging storyline, deep gameplay mechanics, and multiplayer mode, the game offers hours of strategic fun.
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II
For all the Dragon Ball Z fans out there, The Legacy of Goku II offers an RPG experience like no other. Step into the shoes of your favorite DBZ characters and explore a vast open world filled with iconic locations and challenging adversaries. Unleash devastating combos, level up your stats, and relive the epic battles that made the anime series so popular.
Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury
In Buu’s Fury, the Dragon Ball Z saga continues with an enthralling storyline that follows the events of the Buu Saga. Embark on a quest to save the world from the destructive force of Majin Buu.
Train with familiar characters, acquire new abilities, and witness the fate of the Dragon Ball universe unfold in this action-packed RPG.
Lufia: The Ruins of Lore
Embark on a quest to uncover ancient mysteries and battle against dark forces in Lufia: The Ruins of Lore. As the descendant of the legendary hero Maxim, it is up to you to wield the Dual Blade and protect the land of Alekia. With its engrossing storyline and challenging puzzles, this RPG will keep you hooked from start to finish.
Riviera: The Promised Land
Immerse yourself in a fantastical world in Riviera: The Promised Land. As the Grim Angel Ein, venture through the cursed land of Riviera and uncover the truth behind its dark past.
With its gorgeous visuals, memorable characters, and engaging gameplay, this GBA RPG is a must-play for any fan of the genre.
Take a leap back in time with Lunar Legend, a remastered version of the classic Lunar: The Silver Star. Join the young adventurer Alex on his journey to become a Dragonmaster and save the world from an ancient evil.
Packed with charming characters, beautiful cutscenes, and a gripping narrative, this GBA RPG will capture your heart.
Phantasy Star Collection
The Phantasy Star Collection brings the beloved Sega RPG series to the GBA. This compilation features three classic Phantasy Star games, offering hours of immersive gameplay and epic storytelling.
From exploring vast galaxies to battling formidable foes, this collection is a treasure trove for any RPG enthusiast.
Megaman Battle Network series
The Megaman Battle Network series offers a unique twist on traditional RPGs. Set in a futuristic world where humans and digital beings coexist, follow the adventures of Lan and his NetNavi companion, Megaman.EXE.
Engage in exciting real-time battles, collect powerful chips, and save the world from virtual threats in this thrilling GBA RPG series.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
No list of best GBA RPGs would be complete without mentioning The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Join Link on a journey to rescue Princess Zelda and restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.
With its charming visuals, inventive puzzles, and epic bosses, this Zelda adventure is a masterpiece that should not be missed.
Yu Yu Hakusho: Tournament Tactics
Speaking of the 2000s, no anime, other than Dragon Ball Z, had captured the imagination of kids and teenagers than Yu Yu Hakusho. Yu Yu Hakusho is a manga/anime featuring a brash teenager who was brought back to life to become a Spirit Detective.
Yu Yu Hakusho: Tournament Tactics is a Tactical RPG in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics.
The game was mostly set in a tournament where teams battle to the death. There were battles that were fought outside of the tournament. Most of the battles in the anime were 1v1. This game allowed players to bring five characters into the battlefield. There were several win conditions. It was not limited to wiping the enemies off the map.
Yu Yu Hakusho: Tournament Tactics was obviously a fan service. If you are not a fan of the anime or have yet to watch it, you can still enjoy the game because of its simplicity and easy-to-follow mechanics.
Tactical RPGs especially coming from Japanese developers tend to overwhelm players with systems that were too complex but not this one. For fans of the anime and who also enjoy tactical RPGs, this game was indeed a perfect marriage that no one expected.
- Developer: Sensory Sweep Studios / Screaming Games
- Publisher: Atari
- Release Date: November 18, 2004 (North America)
- Platform: Game Boy Advance
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II is another licensed game based on an anime/manga. This is not a tactical RPG, instead, this is an action-RPG that tends to be fitting with its source. Prior to The Legacy of Goku, there had been several RPG games using the Dragon Ball Z property.
Many of them, however, have never seen an English-language release. The Legacy of Goku II is, obviously, a sequel to the Legacy of Goku, which is, honestly, a terrible game. This sequel improved from the original by a lot.
- Developer: Webfoot Technologies
- Publisher: Atari / Infrogames
- Release Date: June 17, 2003 (North America)
- Platform: Game Boy Advance
This will cover the two Golden Sun, the eponymous title and Golden Sun: The Lost Age. It is pretty mandatory to play the games in successive order because the first game ends in a cliffhanger. Also, your progress from the Golden Sun transfers to The Lost Age, unlocking specific things that are otherwise missable if you decide to play the second game without completing the first game.
The Golden Sun games in the GBA may look like a couple of pretty standard turn-based RPG affairs. However, there was a certain degree of complexity in customizing your characters. Golden Sun featured Djinns, summonable entities that not just help in battle but also dictate the character class, providing skills or spells and yielding stat boosts.
The battle system though was as vanilla as it could get. There was nothing groundbreaking. Good thing that puzzle-solving in dungeons and towns was fantastic. Your characters can have certain skills that you can cast in the environment to move obstacles and reach triggers.
- Developer: Camelot Software Planning
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release Date: Golden Sun – November 12, 2001 (North America), Golden Sun: The Lost Age – April 14, 2003 (North America)
- Platform: Game Boy Advance
These are just a few of the incredible RPGs that made the GBA such a cherished handheld console. Whether you are a fan of strategy, action, or traditional RPGs, the GBA has something for everyone. So dust off your handheld or fire up an emulator and embark on unforgettable adventures in these best GBA RPGs.