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GBA SP Redux: AGS-101 and 10 GBA games you should play.

I tore into the Game Boy Advance SP a few weeks ago and received a bit of criticism of my review. Particularly some readers thought that I did not give enough props to the brighter model the AGS-101. The AGS-101 was released in 2005 and featured a brighter screen but is otherwise identical to the Original GBA SP. Since that time I picked up a GBA SP AGS-101 and I must admit that the system feels considerably different then the original despite the fact that the only difference is the screen (see comparison bellow). Sure it is totally unnecessary for a DS owner to pick up the AGS-101 however, if they plan on playing a lot of GBA it might be worth it for the slightly smaller size and the fact that the GBA SP fits GBA carts all the way inside the unit. This begs the question, are there really enough worthwhile games on the GBA SP to justify the purchase of a AGS-101. The answer is a resounding yes.
From casual games, to deep RPGs, to excellent old school side scrollers and even some simple 3D shooters and racers the GBA has an amazing library. I’ve tried to avoid games that have not aged so well such as the 3D racing or shooting games. The list bellow is more of a top 10 games you should play and that are just as fun today as anything the Nintendo DS or PSP have to offer.
10. Metroid Fusion
Yeah it’s a Metroid game. I’m trying to avoid the obvious on this list but damn it, Metroid games are so great. Fusion is no exception. It is difficult to go wrong with a Nintendo IP they make timeless classics that continue to be fun for years after other games become unbearably lame. I’m going to try to keep the Nintendo IP games you might already know and love off the list but I can’t promise anything.
9. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Almost as revered as Nintendo for their games is Square Soft. Final Fantasy Tactic Advance is the worst of the Final Fantasy Tactics series. With the recently released Final Fantasy Tactics game released on both the DS and PSP Tactics Advance may have lost some of it’s luster. It is however an excellent game despite an annoying judge system. The judge system involves a jackass who mediates each fight but only cares that the combatants do not breaks some stupid arbitrary rule. Anything else goes. It’ll be like, no pocket knives! People are hacking at each other with swords calling down Shiva to smite their enemies then the player forgets the stupid no pocketknives rule for a second… My characters spent more time in jail for breaking the stupid rules then they did adventuring. Fortunately every thing else about the game is flawless.
8. The Lost Vikings
Blizzard was recently touting some big news about a new game coming out and I was pulling for Lost Vikings. The Lost Vikings is a classic SNES game ported to the GBA. It is a puzzle game disguised as a platform game. The player has 3 Vikings which they must control individually in order to navigate maze like trap filled levels in order to get all 3 Vikings to the exit. The game is enjoyable because of it’s perfectly put together levels and silly but likeable characters.
7. Super Bust-A-Move
Super Bust-A-Move is a decent port of Puzzle Bobble or Bust-A-Move that originated in the arcades of the 90s. It is a puzzle game where the player shoots colored bubbles to make matching sets. It has many handheld iterations however it is the best version that is available on a current handheld. The DS version has a stylus based control scheme and uses both screens as a play area. The DS version is a totally different creature and does not feel right. Super Bust-A-Move however aces gameplay.
6. Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland or Kirby & The Amazing Mirror
I can’t keep the games straight. One of them has friends that can be called and the other does not. Beside Kirby Canvas Curse and the N64 Kirby game Kirby games are fairly interchangeable to me. Kirby games all feel basically the same primarily because Kirby is such a unique character. He is a small pink flying sphere shaped monster which in no way makes him unique as this describes several Pokemon. The uniqueness comes from the variation of gameplay and the way that the player can solve simple puzzles using a large range of abilities. By using a type of suck attack Kirby feasts upon the flesh of his enemies to steal their powers, much like the Wendigo of Algonquian myth. Describing a Kirby game in a paragraph does the games a disservice
5. Gunstar Super Heroes
Gunstar Super Heroes is a sequel to Gunstar Heroes which is one of the best games ever to grace the Sega Genesis. It is not quite as good a game as the original is but is still quite excellent. It is a side scrolling action platform shooter in the vein of Contra that features lots of enemies and large complicated bosses. The original is considerably easier outside of the boss battles and was balanced perfectly for a fun and action packed experience. Gunstar Super Heros mixes gameplay up while retaining the feel and humor of the original. This game is well worth tracking down.
4. Wario Ware, Inc.:Mega Microgame$ or Wario Ware Twisted
I’ve already ranted about Wario Ware. It is still awesome.
3. ChuChu Rocket
ChuChu Rocket is a puzzle action game that was originally released on the Dreamcast. It is one of the proverbial easy to learn but difficult to master games. There are several modes some of which are simple puzzle modes and some that have a very action puzzle feel. The object of the game is to guide robot mice (Chu being Japanese for mouse) around a board into rockets while avoiding, or feeding monster cats. The mice and cats all move in predictable paths always turning right when hitting a wall or by following corners unless turned by a player placed directional arrow. Each level manages to have it’s own unique feel despite the controls being placing a generally limited set of arrows.
2. Fire Emblem
Fire Emblem is quite similar to Final Fantasy Tactic Advance, it is also very similar to Ogre Battle, Advance Wars, Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, Fire Emblem II, and any of several other turn based tactics games. The genre works so perfectly on the GBA so I had to include at least one more on the list. Fire Emblem does not bog the player down with tons of plot and keeps the action as the focus.
1. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
It was this or Mario, or Zelda or some other first party Nintendo game. Seriously the selection of first party games available of the GBA is awesome. The games on the system have a distinct classic feel but still hold up today and will probably hold up for years to come. Played on the AGS-101 they really do shine. You don’t have to play them on the AGS-101 but you should take the time to check them out.
Screen: 9/10 The AGS-101 screen looks really nice with two levels of brightness and decent resolution. There are better systems but this is up there
Sound: 7/10 Has one speaker that sounds decent enough. System has no headphone jack and requires an adaptor to use headphones. I repeat, this is stoopid!
Controls: 8/10 Great controls but a little close together. The controller is classic Nintendo.
Availability: 8/10 Available new online or used at your local Pawnshop.
Price: 7/10 Anywhere between $35 used on Ebay and $160 new.
Library: 10/10 All the Gameboy, Gameboy Color and GBA games are playable. Awesome!
Overall: 9/10 The AGS-101 model of the GBA SP is a great system.


  1. On Fire Emblem you say Breath Of Fire 2 again. It's near the end, but other then this you got yourself a solid blog. Now if only there were more ninja games on handhelds, you'd think that being a "portable" gaming fix that ninja would have them where ever they go...

  2. Fixed! There are tons of ninja games on handhelds! You just don't notice them until they are right on top of you.

  3. I don't know if they're not on the list because they're too well known, but just have to say...
    advance wars, advance wars, advance wars, advance wars, advance wars
    (I, II, whatever)

  4. I mentioned Advance Wars but decided to list Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics instead. It would be easy and tempting to fill the entire list with tactical RPGs. There are so many on the GBA worth playing.

  5. Great review of the 101. In fact, it got me to go out and track one down. You mentioned the exact reason I want one even, The DS is too big. I don't even know why I own a DS anymore, I don't even like any of the games on it, save Elite Beat Agents. I think Golden Sun and it's sequel deserved a spot on your top ten though. High five.

  6. 2 reasons why a DS owner would need an AGS-101

    1. Plays GB and GBC games (the DS CAN'T)
    2. Can play multi-player games! (the DS CAN'T)

    The AGS-101 is the best IMO

  7. i nearly cried when i didnt see any pokemon games on the list when i think of the gameboy & portable gaming i always think of the pokemon, pokemon really should have been on the list.................. but thats just my opinion

  8. why is jigglypuff on kirby nightmare in dreamland???

    in my opininon there should have at least been one pokemon game but in my opinion the 3rd gen pokemon is poorly made leaf green and fire red are good but the spirit of pokemon is blue, red yellow, gold, silver, & crystal

  9. (same person who did the previous 2 comments)

    i have never played a metroid game or am i a fan of metroid i have 2 questions please answer
    1.is metroid 2 return of samus any good
    2.what would be a good metroid game if i would want to try metroid
    systems: GBA,GBP,GCN,WII,DS,N64,SNES,NES
    (please list a game at an affordable price under 20$)

  10. (same person in previous 3 comments)(please answer)
    ive considered getting metroid 2 return of samus for my gameboy pocket i have a few questions
    1.is it any good
    2. would you recommend it
    3.would you recommend it to someone who is not a fan of metroid
    4. would it be a good game to be introduced to metroid
    (please answer)

  11. (same person from previous 4 comments)
    i saw one of these gameboys for 35$ im saving up for it and needed a good review of it anyway.. great review....................... sorry for filling up your blog with so many comments

  12. im just wondering but do you think this would be a good price for my DS lite 75$
    1.extremely good condition screen (screen protector on screen)
    2.about 1 year old
    3.comes w/ pokemon platinum
    4.comes with DS lite case including the gamestop rag in a bag, lint cloth for the screen,
    5.Comes with 2 chargers
    6.comes with 4 ds game case (holds the games not the ds)
    anyways would that be a good deal i think it is but i think just the screen on my ds is a really great thing i only used it 2 or 3 days without a screen protector so it has about 1 extremely light scratch on the screen or no scratches i cant tell because it has the screen protector on

  13. i would get this just for the retro games finally something with a decent screen size , color and a backlight i gotta say the gameboy pocket size screen was good but the gray brick and the gameboy color s screen sizes were ridiculous

  14. im the person who posted the previous 7 comments i dont know why i guess im just bored but noone will probably respond to any of my questions so i guess im just bored and thats why im writing

    (search keyboard cat on youtube please and if you can please search keyboard cat reincarnated for instant lolz)

  15. i got a "Gameboy Player" for gamecube and its awesome. its great playing GBA games on a big screen TV.

    the great thing about Gamecube is that between "compilations" and SNES "remakes" you can play every single game ever made in a series!

    i play:
    MegaMan anniversary + MegaMan & Bass GBA + Megaman Zero

    Zelda collection + Link to the past GBA
    (N64 & Nes & Snes)

    Metroid Prime + Metroid Zero mission GBA

    Final Fantasy + II + III + IV + V + VI

  16. Anonymous from 2010, I am sorry for not answering your questions. I hope you found the answers you were looking for... And I hope you played Advance Wars for the GBA. Man that is a great game! I have been playing it on my Gameboy Micro and it is almost more addictive than Persona 4 Golden. The campaign is way too short but otherwise it is excellent. I had been playing Great Little Wargame on android and enjoying it, touch controls are great for turn based tactical RPGs like these, and Advance Wars is a superior game.