It’s hard to deny that portables are the perfect system for RPGs. To be more specific, turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy and tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem revolve at a slower pace. This makes it easy to multitask like while watching a show. An action game would make it tricky then to pay attention to something else while grinding for example.
Whether one agrees with that sentiment or not, the Game Boy Advance has a great library of RPGs. Most of them are still trapped on the system unfortunately. Whether they get ported off anytime soon is hard to say but let’s honor them anyway in celebration of the handheld’s 20th anniversary.
10 Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen
Both these games and the actual generational entries of Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire were good. All five including Pokemon Emerald were not huge leaps forward for the series though which is why the GBA games are usually ranked lower for fans. Still, the nostalgic pull of these remakes did have some significance. Besides, how could one make a RPG list without putting Pokemon on it?
9 Sword Of Mana
This was a remake of the first game in the Mana series, Final Fantasy Adventure. The biggest change, other than the graphics, was adding the ability to choose a gender. That’s not the only change as the scenario was reforged as well, adding in more story content for example. It’s not the best of the Mana games but it is indeed a fine action RPG on GBA.
8 Lufia: The Ruins Of Lore
Lufia has always been an RPG series most forget about since it debuted on the Super Nintendo. Lufia 2 is considered the best of them all, but this GBA entry is right up there with it.
The game is a classic turn-based RPG with a world map and everything. The easy to understand mechanics, catchy music, and colorful graphics make it well worth looking into even now.
7 Golden Sun
It’s hard to pick between this game and its sequel since they are both tied so integrally to each other. Either way both games are often considered top-tier Nintendo RPG exclusives. It’s a shame the last game was over a decade ago on DS and that there hasn’t been any word of a sequel since. What’s more it never made its way into consoles but there is always hope. Sad news aside, this mix of classic gameplay and puzzle dungeons akin to The Legend of Zelda made it stick out.
6 Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories
While some laude it for rehashing the areas of the first game, Chain of Memories is a top notch card RPG. Why did Square Enix need to put them in there in the first place when a normal action RPG like its predecessor could have worked just as easily? Who knows but one thing is for sure, this was a fun way to wait things out until the proper sequel. It is better than the PS2 remake thanks to the gorgeous pixel art.
5 Fire Emblem
This is another case where two games are almost tied with each other. The 2003 release, just titled Fire Emblem, should be applauded the most for being significant to the West. It was the first game introduced over here since the series debuted on the Famicom, or NES, in 1990 in Japan. This and its sequel though, The Sacred Stones, are some fine strategy RPGs for the handheld.
4 Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
This entry in the Tactics Ogre series is perhaps the first one that caught any sort of widespread attraction. That’s because it fell more in line with tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics. Most of the other Nintendo entries released in the West before this felt more experimental. To hammer it home, this is Final Fantasy Tactics but without the name and not as bloody as that first game.
3 Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
This may not have been the sequel most fans of the original were expecting. It wasn’t as dark and was instead more lighthearted. Plus the Judge system could be frustrating.
If one were to look past all that stuff though they would discover this GBA sequel was worthy of the name of Final Fantasy Tactics after all.
2 Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow
This might not be what one thinks of immediately when considering RPGs on the GBA, but this technically fits. Most Metroidvanias that fall more in line with Castlevania are RPGs thanks to leveling up. It is the best entry in this series on the GBA and in fact may even rival what some consider to be the very best, Symphony of the Night. Either way this game was great no matter where that argument falls.
1 Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
Paper Mario was an interesting spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG on the SNES. However, some fans felt it lacked that true RPG feeling of the original. There wasn’t much of a story and the party characters were a bit lackluster and didn’t participate as much in it. Even though the party only consisted of Mario and Luigi for this, it still felt a lot meatier. Everything from the visuals to the humor to the actual gameplay all make it one heck of an RPG. Play this one and not the 3DS remake.