GameBoy Advance is dead

I guess it’s official now, the GameBoy Advance is no longer with us. At least as a product. Yesterday, I was shopping downtown. I was looking for some games for my newly re-discovered love for the GameBoy Micro. I was surpised when I found out that every store removed its GameBoy department. In some stores, I was able to find some crappy shovelware in a bargain bin. Also, I found some used games in a GameStop and a role-playing store I frequently scourn for used Video Games.

So I guess it’s only used games from here on. By the way: there are some peculiarities about used GameBoy games. First, you will NEVER get the packaging. They are almost ALWAYS sold just as a bare cartridge. I wonder why. Could it be that people discard boxes because they are ugly? Or is it because the boxes were of cardboard and get used and broken quickly? Or is it just an economical thing so you can display A LOT of games at a time.

Another thing is the pricing. When games are new, everything is sold at the same price, regardless of quality. As soon as the used market kicks in, the prices start to become dictated by demand (and at least partially by quality). So shovelware drops to 5€ and even less. On the other hand, I saw Super Mario Advance 2 for over 30€! And it was WITHOUT packaging or manual and the sticker on the cartridge was rubbed off. Obvously, this is madness but it makes sense: Mario games were always the most important games of Nintendo Systems and especially when there is no marketing anymore, they remain attractive.

So in my grief, I started searching the web for used GBA games to snatch up some elusive titles. I think I’ve spent too much money. That’s alway the problem with ordering on the internet: you don’t see the money go and you don’t get the product immediatly to distract you from your desire to buy more. So I’ve got myself:

I realized that the GBA was actually not a very good system, was it? The game selection is pretty much dominated by re-realeases, remakes and shovelware. There are almost no original titles associated with it. What do you think? What are your highlights?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

7 responses to “GameBoy Advance is dead”

  1. Yu-Chung Chen

    Great, I wanted to play those Bit Generation game too :)

    My highlights… lemme try to find the non-remakes:

    Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga. One of the greatest J-RPGs in my opinion. Besides the great humor, the leveling puts more emphasis on real-time player skills (good timing when executing) than dull time-investment.

    Not entirely original as it was evolved from Super Mario RPG, but most of the gameplay and the all of the contents were still new.

    Some decent sequels – not remakes but not original either: Zelda the Minish Cap (where’s my module, anyway?) and the Castlevanias. Same goes for Metroid Fusion, while Metriud: Zero Mission brought a refreshing extra episode in addition to the updated Metroid 1.

    Golden Sun was fun, too. I think it was an original development for the GBA.

    Astroboy was a solid old-school side scroller, Treasure-style (”like Gunstar Heroes” though I’ve never really played that). Another game gone from my collection. Kurwa.

    Ah, WarioWare is TEH innovation on GBA I guess.

    Oh and let’s not forget the Ace Attorney series which started on the GBA. Btw I still find it awkward not to mention it as Phoenix Wright.

    I wanted to link to Gamespot pages and realized they no longer have GBA as a category. Dead indeed.

    Now, where are my missing games…

  2. Yu-Chung Chen

    Oh, Advance Wars was considered a must-buy for GBA, especially before the sequel came out. Although it was actually a sequel, most didn’t know/play the Famicom predecessor. I’ve never played it much though.

  3. Krystian Majewski

    Mario & Luigi – good call. Forgot about that one.

    Golden Sun – Yeah, I've got to. It was ok but especially the fighting and character Development was very dull.

    Astroboy – I've played it very shortly and wasn't impressed. What do you like about it?

    WarioWare – Obviously. But with all the remakes for different consoles it's not so special anymore. Most of the time, you are better off to just play it on the DS or Wii or GC.

    Same goes for Phoenix Wright.

    Metroid Zero Mission is awesome but a remake. Fusion was rather meh. I only tried castlevanias on my flash cartridge and wasn't blown away.. hm..

    I've got a Minish Cap cartridge. I believe it's yours. It looks nice and polished but I've got the sense that this isn't the kind of Zelda I remembered. Maybe I'll give it another try. By the way, the Zelda games are also still expensive if you buy them used.

  4. Yu-Chung Chen

    Golden Sun: Yeah I guess you’re right about the fights. I had more fun solving the environmental puzzles. The ability to combine your Jinns is nice to a certain extend, a pleasant balance between complexity and ease-of-use, but barely. Though the second game was very predictable to me.

    Astro Boy: The graphics ;) Well it’s nothing with big depth, the action is very straight forward. The variety and the pacing are nicely tuned. Slight upgrade mechanics adds a bit of that RPG reward schedules. Also the game is designed with multiple playthroughs in mind, there’s a slight Metroid-effect in place when you revisit levels and discover new rooms/ events depending on your other discoveries.

    WarioWare: well, it was special back then… Might be “corrupted” now but still a highlight for GBA in my book.

    I didn’t realize your question was also “what else is worth bouying now;) (typo intended)

    Castlevanias have been very “Naughty Dog”: nothing special, “just” well executed. Though the first on the GBA didn’t interest me enough to actually play it, now that you make me think about them again. The second and the third got incrementally better though. I find the RPG-esque upgrades and Metroid-style exploration do work.

    Might be simply not your cup of tea, but on a (speculative) tangent thought, getting it on flash cartridges could lessen the appreciation.

    Oh there was this “Ninja Cop” or something you mentioned a few times. It occured to me that the swinging is derived from Bionic Commando, maybe?

  5. Krystian Majewski

    Ninja Cop: It was fun but not a highlight.

    Castlevanias: My gosh, how many are there?

    Castlevania – Aria of Sorrow
    Castlevania – Harmony of Dissonance
    Castlevania – Circle of the Moon

    Which one is the first, second and thrid?

  6. Yu-Chung Chen

    1 Circle of the Moon
    2 Harmony of Dissonance
    3 Aria of Sorrow

  7. Krystian Majewski

    Hmmm… I’m tempted. But I’ve bought already soooo much :-(
    I hate ordering via Internet!

    By the way: we forgot Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Both were pretty neat.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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