Don your capes and grab your finest blade, for we are about to uncover the best GBA RPGs ever made for Nintendo’s portable powerhouse!
Quite an epic line to start an article with, I think you’ll agree. That’s the feeling that all of the games in this list instill, the excitement of adventure and losing one’s self in another dimension where anything is possible.
See, I’ve even started using one’s in sentences now; I’m one step away from becoming a High Elf Mage… or something like that.
Picking the best GBA RPGs is a tough business. It’s easy to just stick in Square’s entire back catalogue, but there are lots of stand-alone games and epic ports that made their way to the GBA over the years.
Many readers will no doubt be familiar with the following titles, though some of you may be coming to them for the very first time. Whether slotting into a Game Boy Micro or firing up an AGS-101 SP, the following games will defeat boredom and delight fantasy fans in every realm imaginable.
Onwards, brave warrior!
Table of Contents
1. Golden Sun/Golden Sun: The Lost Age (2001-2002)
Golden Sun/Golden Sun: The Lost Age take the joint top prize on this list of the best GBA RPGs of all time! These two games more than deserve the accolade of being the ultimate portable RPG thanks to their continuity, their incredible storylines, and the fact that they are fun from start to finish.
It’s fair to say that Nintendo hasn’t had the best luck when it comes to games following on from one another. I range the Nintendo hotline so many times about that bloomin’ Ice Key in Banjo-Kazooie, the game that was supposed to link up with Banjo-Tooie but never quite managed it.
Golden Sun/Golden Sun: The Lost Age follow on perfectly from one another. Both games must be played in succession in order to to fully grasp what’s going on. Imagine it as the last two Harry Potter films mushed into one with all that mucking around in the tent thrown out, and you’ll get the idea.
Gamers embark on a mission to prevent alchemy and the powers that fuel it from destroying the world of Weyard. As well as the usual tun-based battles and tonnes of collectables to find, players can look forward to upgrading an impressive array of characters and wielding impressive magical abilities.
The first Golden Sun game ends on a serious cliffhanger, so we’d advise buying both titles at the same time to avoid an annoying wait. It’s why we binge watch series these days; no one wants to be left hanging!
These games bring pure fantasy to your fingertips, and they’re two of my favourite GBA titles of all time.
2. Riviera: The Promised Land (2004)
No, this isn’t that TV show that Idris Elba keeps advertising on Sky Atlantic, it’s Riviera: The Promised Land!
Die-hard Dodo fans may already know that this game began its life on the WonderSwan, Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi’s final console series. The game ported to the GBA and the PSP and quickly garnered a strong following.
What is exciting about Riviera: The Promised Land is that the game has a full voice acting cast. It sets the title apart from 99% of the other GBA games and helps to drive the already epic storyline. It’s beautifully illustrated too, creating a title that sticks in your brain long after you’ve finished playing.
Riviera boasts six characters to chose from, each with their own qualities, characteristics, and mysterious backstories that make them unique.
The world of the game, ‘The Promised Land’, borrows heavily from Norse Mythology and, in some respects, Tolkien’s interpretation of the Valinor.
Get ready to experience lots of hard to pronounce places, wizardry, turn-based battles, and hair styles that only RPG characters could feasibly pull off.
3. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (2003)
Now, I know what you’re thinking; a Mario game in a list of RPGs? Well, as the spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Superstar Saga sees the plumbing bros. embarking on another epic turn-based role-playing adventure.
This game is one of the most addictive in my entire collection. I don’t think it ever left my SP back in the day. Apart from the times I played the other games in this list, of course…
What makes this game so exciting is the difficulty of the enemies. They take a serious beating, and seeing Mario and Luigi working together to pull off crazy ‘bros’ moves is more than worth the second-hand retail price of this title.
The comedy elements between Mazza and Luigi twinned with vibrant graphics make this a fun and engaging game to play. The top layer might have a Mushroom Kingdom sheen to it, but this is an RPG title right down to the very core.
Improve abilities, obtain better moves, work in unison, and knock back monsters that make Bowser look like that Bernie Sanders meme floating around the internet. Give it a go; you’ll thank us later.
4. Mother 3 (2003)
Mother 3 still remains one of my all-time favourite games on the GBA. It’s a shame I didn’t get to play this until I was a little older, but it had such an impact on me that it instantly ranked high up in my collection.
Some of you might already know that this is the same series as Earthbound, though it’s called Mother in Japan. Unsurprisingly, Mother 3 is the third title in the series. It released in 2006 after twelve years of development work.
I’m certainly glad that this game came out for the GBA and not the 64 DD as planned. It’s the best in the series, in my humble opinion,
For those unfamiliar with Mother 3, this isn’t a game about some kid’s mother cooking tea or doing the school run. It’s an epic adventure featuring, Lucas, a child with psychic powers that some of you may have used on Smash Bros. Ultimate alongside Ness.
Lucas must stop an army from outer space from destroying the planet. The levels have a Zelda/Pokémon feel to them and are a joy to play through. The characters are what makes this game though, with Lucas’s incredible abilities immediately making every player wish they had super powers!
Everything about this game is a winner, and with graphics and a story as good as this, it’s not hard to see why critics continue to rate it so highly.
5. Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn Of Souls (2004)
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls stands as a portable remake of the very first Final Fantasy adventure.
With new dungeons to explore, improvements to the graphics and gameplay, and more creatures to battle, this GBA RPG is one that you don’t want to miss out on.
The original Square production for the NES released back in 1987. It’s crazy to think how popular this series has become now; Final Fantasy is probably the first name that comes to mind whenever the phrase ‘RPG’ is mentioned!
The story revolves around four teens dubbed as the Light Warriors. They carry elemental crystals (a little bit like Captain Planet), though the crystals have been defiled by four evil villains. Players must defeat dark powers, restore the crystals, and bring light back to the world.
Is anyone else feeling a ‘Dark Crystal’ vibe right about now?
As the game that started the epic series off, this remake just had to feature in our list. Not only is it a stunning remake, but it’s a slice of gaming history!
6. Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand (2003)
Up next in our list of the best Game Boy Advance RPGs is Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, an action-packed adventure starring Django the vampire hunter.
I guess the D is silent in his name too!
While having the sun in your hand might make applying sun cream very difficult, the game had no problems becoming one of my absolute favourites. It’s one of the most ingenious titles for the GBA too, though I’ll come to that in a minute.
So what’s this game all about? Well, the age of darkness is in full swing, and the world as we know it is about to end. Players control Django, a hunter wielding a solar gun that fires bolts of pure light into enemies.
That’s not the coolest bit, however.
The game cart for Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand features something called a photometric light sensor. This means that the game can actually pick up and detect sunlight.
If Django’s weapons run out of juice, then players can step out of their houses and charge them back up again using the real-life sun no matter where they are!
Not only is this game ingenious, but it’s promoting clean vampire-killing energy too!
If the sun is sleeping (otherwise known as night time), then Django has to avoid enemies until the dawn. This is one of the most immersive storylines I’ve had the pleasure of playing, and the sun-charging feature really draws gamers into the heart of the action.
7. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (2004)
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is a classic title and only the second Fire Emblem game to see a release outside of Japan.
Like the original Fire Emblem, this game is a brain tickler. Gamers need to keep their wits about them if they want to emerge victorious from this epic RPG.
Sacred Stones takes the 8th spot in the official Fire Emblem series, though it’s the second game that we Western gamers got to play. It’s a shame we never got the previous 6, though we’ve not one too badly since.
Moving away from Elibe, sacred stones takes place in Magvel, a fantasy country divided into five states. While the story is different to the first offering, all of the same battle features return as well as the general gameplay style and a storyline Tolkien would fall in love with.
To say that Nintendo teased us with Sacred Stones is an understatement. This is the last FE title they brought out for the GBA, and we all had to wait SEVEN YEARS until the next title dropped on the DS. It’s fair to say I played this game a lot in the interim; I could probably do it with my eyes closed now.
Fans went ape for Fire Emblem, and with well over 320,000 copies sold in its first year, the game quickly garnered a loyal following. The local-link-up multiplayer was a nice touch too.
It’s the game that keeps on giving!
8. Final Fantasy VI Advance (2006)
It’s time to return to swords, spears, and magic with Final Fantasy VI.
I know I’ve eluded to this fact a lot through this article, but FF titles really do make classic games. FFVI is choc-a-bloc with ghouls, spells, fights, weapons, and quests from the very beginning.
Honestly, I don’t know how they manage to keep it all locked up in such a small cartridge!
Not only is it considered to be one of the finest titles ever made for any console, but it’s also the final game that Ninty produced for the GBA. It marks the end of an era!
The GBA is such a powerful handheld that the portable version of FFVI actually looks better than the PS version of the game. It also trumps other versions by including a Japanese translation function, allowing the subtle nuances of the language to be reproduced a lot more closely, making for a better gameplay experience.
Expect tonnes of enemies to battle, magic and sorcery to control, and a vast world to spend hours searching through as you explore the wild and wonderful FF universe. It’s so good that you’ll never want to leave!
And while the GBA port might not come with any slick videos or crisp cut-scenes to watch, it’s still the best port for overall gameplay and player satisfaction.
9. Pokémon Ruby/Emerald/Sapphire (2002-2004)
Next up is Pokémon Emerald/Sapphire/Ruby, three of the greatest RPGs of all time for the price of one. Not bad, right?
Most of our readers know about Pokémon by now. Anyone still not sure probably shouldn’t be here in the first place, so I’ll skip the ‘pocket monsters explanation’ and get right to it.
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are the third generation of Pokémon games. Emerald is an enhanced version that featured Pokémon from Gold and Silver too, something that fans complained about while playing Ruby and Sapphire.
These games changed the way we play Pokémon forever, adding new features such as double battles, improving your connection with Pokémon, and upping abilities with berries. They’re the first games co-published by the Pokémon Company and three of my favourite for the console.
Set in the Hoenn region, players control a Pokémon Trainer from a top-down perspective, battling little critters and building up a Pokédex. It follows the same ‘battle trainers and become champion’ vibe as Red and Blue, and the gameplay is just as epic too.
Any fans joining the series at Sword and Shield who want to find out where some of their best-loved features first came from should check out Emerald, Ruby, and Sapphire as soon as Pokémonly possible. While Ruby is my favourite, Emerald has the advantage of hosting more Pokémon which is never a bad thing!
10. Tactics Ogre: The Knight Of Lodis (2001)
Tactics Ogre: The Knight Of Lodis is one of those RPGs that people either love or hate. I’m in the first category, and I spent hours getting lost in the mesmerising action of this game back in the day,
If you know your RPGs from your Platformers (of course you do, that’s why you’re here), then it’s not hard to see this game’s merits. While tough, it had an incredible storyline and lots of exciting features to pull out in the battles.
As with all of the best RPGs on the Game Boy Advance, Tactics Ogre comes with a storyline more sophisticated than Patrick Stewart reciting Shakespeare in the bath. It’s turn-based team fighting of the best kind and a necessity for the gamer that likes to think.
Or the gamer who enjoys moving tanks, troops, and minions around a Risk board with a fork while pretending to be a general.
Like the previous titles in this list, the abilities the characters wield and the upgradable features are just as important and exhilarating as the plot itself. Improving characters and learning new skills is what RPGs are all about, and Tactics Ogre pulls this off so well.
Working together with your party provides the best results; there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ after all…
… but there is an ‘I’ in tactics, so maybe I’m wrong?
11. Lunar Legend (2002)
Lunar Legend sees the events of The Silver Star retold in a different way. Developed by Ubisoft, this foray into the Lunar Universe features all the original characters from the first game with new features and wonderful visuals.
While essentially the same as the Sega offering, Lunar Legend was described by many as a ‘powered up’ version for the portable powerhouse that is the GBA. Larger character sprites make up for the lack of voice acting, and the gameplay keeps true to the original game.
Die hard fans such as those voting for the new game release (which we urge you to do) will undoubtedly prefer the original home console offering, though Legend has a subtle charm that is hard not to appreciate.
This game could be seen as an entry into the world of Lunar. It’s not too difficult and provides a taster of what is to come.
12. Sword Of Mana (2003)
Next up is Sword of Mana, yet another action RPG made by the genius minds at Square. If one company could be said to have monopolised the RPG genre, then it’s definitely these guys.
Defending the Mana tree is the aim of the game in this title. It’s high D&D-style fantasy action from the word go.
It’s also a remake of Final Fantasy Adventure, though many of the original FF features first used in the Mana series have been omitted.
Players follow a hero or heroine through on an epic quest through richly textured levels in a world where character interaction is key. Like Resident Evil 2, gameplay sometimes revolves around following one character storyline before switching to both characters working together.
While the hero is stronger, the heroine has better magical attacks and aim, giving players multiple ways to play.
While the plot is a little basic and the idea isn’t new, the game itself is great fun to play. I’ve completed it a dozen times and still find something different every time!
13. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (2003)
It would have been tantamount to retro gaming treason not to include this game in our list. Like Fire Emblem, it takes the mind of General Tacticus (shout out to the Pratchett fans) and the patience of a hundred saints to win in this game.
Players must assemble a troupe of hardened warriors and partake in a series of exciting turn-based battles.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance tracks the story of four children from a sleepy town. They find a magical book, stick their noses where they shouldn’t, and end up landing in some sort of parallel world.
Seriously, hasn’t Harry Potter taught people anything? Don’t mess around with magical books!
Square certainly have a winning formula when it comes to knocking out Superb RPGs, and Tactics Advance is perfect for feeding the little grey cells.
Anyone looking for a brain exercise while slaying enemies over a cup of tea will love this game. Unless that’s the description of your day job, then have a go at Pokémon instead.
14. Fire Emblem (2003)
Smash Bros. fanatics out there know Roy and Marth pretty well by now. They quickly became many gamer’s fighters of choice on the GameCube, a fact that pushed Fire Emblem to be finally be released outside of Japan.
Fire Emblem incorporates gargantuan battles with item collecting and people with names that sound more magical than Gandalf’s left toe.
Oh, and did I mention that it has a load of dragons too. It’s everything an RPG lover could ever want; this beats playing Dungeons and Dragons on Zoom anyway!
If you can remember the joy of Roy appearing on Smash Bros. and want to journey back to where it all began for us PAL and American gamers, then check out Fire Emblem!
15. Shining Soul II (2003)
For those not in the know, Shining Soul II is hack ‘n’ slash at its very best. Eight characters, eighteen dungeons, and one epic storyline that should probably come with a rating for extreme addictiveness!
Like Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, warrior classes can be upgraded as the game progresses. Characters use up to three weapons to knock back enemies and clear areas while trying to stay alive.
It’s very similar to Baldur’s Gate and has a Diablo-esque multiplayer mode players can tap into via link cable.
The game takes place centuries after the defeat of Dark Dragon and bears little other connection to the original Shining Soul games apart from slight references. It received big licks from critics and still has a loyal cult following in 2021.
Looking for a way to blow off steam after work? I think you just found it!
16. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team (2005)
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team is up next in out best GBA RPGs list, proving that Pokémon don’t need trainers in order to make things happen.
Yep, all the humans have disappeared, and players take a human-turned-Pokémon on a journey to save other critters from trouble.
The game actually chooses which starter Pokémon you have when you start the game too. Answer questions and you’re matched with the pocket-monster most like you.
There’s no team or turn-based battling, it’s pure Pokémon RPG magic with the Pokémon taking the lead… just how it should be!
Adventure through dungeons, save your comrades from trouble, and be the best Pokémon you can possibly be!
17. Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow (2003)
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is an action/RPG, the best in the genre, in fact.
Ok, so we all know that this game is one of the best Game Boy Advance games of all time, but when it comes to RPGs, I’ve had to get a little more selective.
Aria of Sorrow manages to combine epic puzzles that mess with your synapses to scary skeleton enemies gunning for blood. It’s a stellar title that never fails to give me chills.
So what’s the deal here then?
Dracula is dead, but he’s rumoured to be returning to the case in the year 2035… which happens to be now.
Players take Soma through Dracula’s castle as they battle weird and wonderful monsters, ready to stop Dracula’s reincarnation.
Level up Soma’s skills, improve magic skills, and do everything you can to stay alive every second you play. It’s gothic, ghoulish and a ‘bloody’ good game – pun definitely intended.
18. Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories (2004)
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a direct sequel to original PS2 game and fills in the narrative gap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II!
After defeating Ansem in the climactic battle at the end of the first game, Sora, Donald and Goof arrive at Castle Oblivion, a mysterious, towering castle where not all is as it seems, and memories are easily lost.
As the trio venture further into Castle Oblivion, they’ll discover a wide array of dangerous new foes, the members of a shady group known as Organization XIII.
What follows is an emotionally intense rollercoaster as Sora must battle these new villains while protecting his friends and his rapidly fading memories.
The Game Boy Advance didn’t have the power to recreate the real time battles of the PS2 games so Square-Enix smartly adopted a fun and engaging card battle system for Chain Of Memories.
Cards play a huge role outside of battle too with players using cards to create and recreate rooms within Castle Oblivion as they ascend towards its highest floor.
19. Mario Tennis: Power Tour (2005)
I never thought that I would love an RPG tennis game, Mario Tennis: Power Tour proved me wrong.
Seriously, who thought that RPG tennis was a good idea? Players moving around an overworld area to visit tennis clubs and chat with NPCs shouldn’t be this good, but it is.
Now, I can’t get enough of Tennis. Seriously, this game has me addicted to the point that I fully believe I’m John McEnroe’s son…
The GBA isn’t a console that I would say is known for it’s out-of-this-world graphics, but Power Tour really is a good-looking game. It’s like a mini version of Mario Tennis 64 and has a story mode that is spectacular.
Yeah I said it; spectacular.
Play through the career mode or try your hand at the multiplayer. It’s all great!
20. Beyblade: G-Revolution (2004)
Beyblade: G-Revolution sits at number twenty on our list of the best GBA RPGs of all time.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a Pokémon or Digimon game, then you’re going to love Beyblade. It’s not as in-depth or intricate, but fighting with spinning tops that manifest battle spirits is certainly up there with one of the coolest ideas ever.
If you’ve watched the series, then this game compliments it perfectly. Ok, so it looks a little simple compared to games like Pokémon Emerald, but the gameplay is still fun to tackle.
And the best bit is that a second hand copy doesn’t cost the earth, so it’s not exactly an expensive gamble.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission.
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.