#50 - Mario's Picross
Chosen by: Zeloz, TJF588
Zeloz - Puzzle games seem to be a genre naturally fitted for the Game Boy, especially those of the "I've got 5 minutes to kill, so I'm just gonna play this" kind. You're given a grid, number sequences on the sides, buttons to fill and mark squares, and a time limit. Once you get the hang of how to play, it has that sort of addictive simplicity that makes Tetris so good. There's also a Japan-only sequel, but I've found it to be only just as good as this one. This one gets a pass because it's actually been localized and stuff.
TJF588 - There's good reason we've never seen Mario's in future titles: these puzzles don't need him. Sleepless nights were spent on my 3DS, burning my eyes out not on Skylanders or Ocarina, not even Theatrhythm, but a grayscale grid surrounded by numbers. One after another, like sugar pills. Happened to me again, with Paint It Back on iOS. Someone, help me, I'm obsessed with pictograms!
#49 - Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
Chosen by: Remnant, Irish
Remnant - It's Super Mario Bros 3. Only portable. With a battery-save option.
If you aren't convinced of this game's excellence, you must not have read the above line correctly.
Irish - I often say that I feel the Super Mario franchise peaked with this entry. It was just so perfect, incredibly fun with oodles of secrets, mini-games, awesome power ups and ideas, It just blends in a way that the games have never quite managed to attain since. Getting the game with the upgraded graphics from the SNES compilation and a battery save just made it all the sweeter.
#48 - Gargoyle's Quest
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Irish
FreezingInferno - Well, didn't this come out of nowhere. Someone at Capcom decided to give that red little gargoyle shit from Ghosts n Goblins a game. Then they decided to give it odd RPG elements. Then, just to finish off, they made it good. It's a weaker game than its two sequels on NES and SNES, but for what it is it's pretty damn good. It may be a little linear and it may start out too hard for its own good, but it's far easier than mainline Ghosts n Goblins. Trust me on this one.
Irish - Another game that did all it could to stand out. While other games were delivering shovelware and sub par titles, this game had some great design ideas, like having levels scroll in all directions instead of left to right, which most games did not have back in the day. And the graphics were a step or two above as well. I get pretty blue that no one updated the gargoyles quest games for this era.
#47 - Wario Land 4
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, Crono Maniac
Pixel Crusher - The very first Game Boy Advance game I've played and damn, does it still look good. While it lacked the treasure hunting that made the third one so special to me, it had some really fun mini-games and featured awesome escape sequences everytime you activated the frog clock at the end of a level.
Crono Maniac - I'm extremely thankful that I played this game before discovering online walkthroughs, because scouring every level for secret collectibles was remarkably rewarding. I also love how ugly a lot of the bosses and enemies are, which definitely helps the game establish its own identity separate from the Mario series.
#46 - Breath of Fire II
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Carmichael Micaalus
Pauncho Smith - I was never able to get my hands on this when it first came out for the SNES, so I relished the chance to snag the GBA port. How does it hold up to some of the other classic 16-bit RPGs? Not as well as I would've hoped. The translation can be laughably bad at points, and you'll spend a considerable amount of time grinding if you hope to get to the end of this thing. With that out of the way, it still has a lot to offer. The characters that comprise this game's roster are chock full of abilities that come in handy during battle and whilst exploring the overworld and dungeons (sometimes to game-breaking effect), and can be further fine-tuned via the shaman system. You also have the option of establishing your own township, and can recruit prospective citizens from across the globe. The story's not too shabby either (even though the aforementioned translating gets in the way). Maybe not the most polished or realized example of the genre, but a worthy contender nonetheless.
Carmichael Micaalus - The running feature added to the remake of this was a very nice addition, along with the quick save, exp/gold increase, and the single panel cutscenes. If... only they had reworked the translation. Despite the... questionable translation, I've always loved this game, even if there are ones out there better than it. Dunno what it is about it, but it's always held a spot in my heart.
#45 - Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Chosen by: Carmichael Micaalus, Voodoo Groove
Carmichael Micaalus - Yes, it's a watered down version of the original, with a story of a kid who wants to leave a magical fantasy world which has everything he and all his friends could ever hope for, as opposed to a story of two kingdoms vying for power in the midst of an oncoming apocalypse from messing with powers beyond their understanding. Unlike the original though, I could beat this one. I also sunk probably somewhere near 100 hours into it, and it was really nice to have on jury duty. Needed more Agrias, though.
Voodoo Groove - Yeah, it's not nearly as good as the original Tactics (or its own sequel, even). But hey, Tactics on the go! I was glad to see the inclusion of some of my favorite Final Fantasy classes that were absent in FFT, such as blue and red mages, and truth be told I like a lot of the classes' outfits and designs.
#44 - Final Fantasy V Advance
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, TJF588
FreezingInferno - Okay, so GBA had a lot of ports of SNES games. Lots. It's nice that they did that, but this is the only one to make it. Why? Well, a quick glance at the other FF games on GBA will demonstrate. Dawn of Souls? They made FF1 a video game for babies, and FF2 is trash. FF4 and FF6? They're good as ever, but they aren't the definitive versions. FF5 Advance is the one that got it right. This is the best possible version of Final Fantasy V for you to play. It's got new jobs to toy with and its translation wasn't done by idiots. Otherwise it's the same dumb Super Nintendo game with that addictive as hell JOB SYSTEM you all know and love. It's one of the best RPGs ever though, so I don't feel bad putting it up this high.
TJF588 - My sole "Finest Fantasy for Advance" title on this list for making up on past mistakes (its debut PS1 localization) while not falling prey to much of its own (unlike FFIVA, which had a second Japanese release it was so borked). As attested on SMPS.Net, FFV is a goofy game, though not without its moments (Galuf is equal parts). One in particular was realized for me very well. Midway into the game, you're aboard an ally fleet (of regular, sea-faring ships) under siege. The "Battle at the Big Bridge" is playing. The camera's flitting from one ship to another. Mind, all this with chibi-proportioned, clearly pixelated characters. But when Galuf and Xezat were surrounded and went back-to-back, "circling" about while spouting retorts to each other, I could not get over how PUMPED I was despite the relatively low fidelity of everything. Even their motions were blocky, but everything in the situation fed into itself, and no one part so glaringly dissociated from the rest to disrupt the whole. "Dynamic" is the word, and this game, spiffed up a bit assets-wise, spiffed up a bunch text-wise, and crisp & clear on the GBA SP's backlit screen, I FELT the energy of that scene. It's just not as impressive to pull that off with modern production values. And this presentation lends well to the range of melodrama to wacky hijinks that the game bounces about to. FFV Advance was rather true to its identity, and drew me in to whatever it was up to.
#43 - Shantae
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Carmichael Micaalus
FreezingInferno - Alright, it had to get on here somewhere. I admit that I have not beaten this game, but I have sunk time into it. This is the Earthbound of the Game Boy Color. Nobody gave two shits about it when it came out, and it quickly became a cult classic that sold for too goddamn much on Ebay. Then it came out on the Virtual Console this year and everyone could get it for like, 5% of what it would cost to get a real copy. It's by Wayforward! God did they make some good games. This is one of their first big hits, and it really reminds me of Simon's Quest done right. I mean, I love Simon's Quest but I must admit it's deeply flawed. This ain't flawed. It's good. It's also a damn steal on the 3DS E-Shop. It might belong higher, but it belongs for sure.
Carmichael Micaalus - Just picked this one up recently on the e-shop thing, but I can see why this one was a cult hit; it's pretty neat! The way the town is handled reminds me of Shining in the Darkness. It took me awhile to get used to the handling, but it's a pretty good one.
#42 - Golden Sun
Chosen by: Carmichael Micaalus, TJF588, Irish
Carmichael Micaalus - It has your standard rpg save the world from evil bad dudes plot, but it was still a fun one. I've always had a partial affinity to psionics which may be why I kinda liked this one, too. Didn't get too far into the sequel; trying to type in that 30 character password may have had something to do with it...
TJF588 - Make note: these games are rather generic, and have text cutscenes from hell (were they always as excruciating as Dark Dawn's've been?), but I think I was in for the world design, including the characters (who, no doubt, I named after my friends and me). This game doesn't overcomplicate itself, so it's very easy to get into, with what I guess would be "Zelda-like" puzzly dungeons and olde school turn-based battles. The greatest customization is also its greatest collection quest (even extendable into the duology's followup). The djinn are elementally-themed critters which either provide a special technique, go into standby for a related summon attack, or sit by in recovery 'til they're refreshed, whereupon they return to boosting your stats and, in the right combination of critters per party member, change your class, allowing you to switch up team roles. Not-too-bulgy visuals, good music, and a grand, rambling scope see this through to a climactic ending with plenty of cliffhangers (okay, a few fell off before the credits rolled, but that's for another game...
Irish - I've never quite caught on to the Golden Sun series the way many others have. Oh, sure they practically ooze presentation values and the gameplay system is outstanding, but the story seems designed for the Dr Seus crowd with hardly any appeal for older gamers whatsoever. Sure it belongs on a list like this, but at the bottom.
#41 - Fire Emblem
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Crono Maniac
Pauncho Smith - I would imagine like most folks, my first exposure to the Fire Emblem series came in the form of Super Smash Brothers Melee, which contained Marth and Roy as unlockable characters. I had never heard of these guys before, and hadn't a clue why they were there or where they came from. As it turns out, Marth and Roy were from a long-running tactical RPG series that never left Japan. It wasn't until 2003 that the US was graced with its first installment of Fire Emblem for the GBA (which was actually the seventh game in the series, but honestly, who's keeping count?). Was it worth the wait? You damn betcha.
Fire Emblem (with invisible subtitle "The Blazing Sword") was unlike any other RPG I had played at that point. You have a MASSIVE roster of characters at your disposal, each of which have their own abilities, uses, strengths and weaknesses. This is a game where you absolutely need to know your troops inside and out because those archers who can take down flying units in one shot are sitting ducks to any ground-based unit with a decent weapon. Faced with axe-wielding barbarians? Break out the sword masters, but make damn sure there aren't any units armed with lances in the vicinity. Are those new promoted units that just joined your squad looking good to you? Just say no, they'll hog up all the experience points your unpromoted units desperately need. And you'll really want to keep you favorite units alive, because if they go down in battle, they're gone for good (like in real war, hur dur). This aspect more than anything makes Fire Emblem a ferociously challenging and anxiety-raising experience.Take heart though, as there's little else that's more rewarding than getting to the end of the game with all your warriors still alive (something I would have done had Oswin not gotten his fat armored ass incinerated by the final boss).
Crono Maniac - A razor-sharp entry in a razor-sharp strategy series, Fire Emblem on the GBA was the perfect entry to work as an introduction to the series for western audiences. It's comparatively forgiving, at least at first, and it captures the essence of what makes this sort of game so thoughtful and engaging.
#40 - Solar Striker
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Crono Maniac, Rhete
FreezingInferno - Boy howdy, we've gone way back here. This is one of the early Game Boy games, and it shows. Most of them haven't aged too well or were outdone by sequels. Solar Striker somehow survives, and remains pretty fun. I think what I like best about this game is its simplicity. There's no crazy power up system, nor any curtains of bright purple dots coming at you to dodge. It's just a vertical shmup. You get a power up that lets you shoot more lasers. That's it. It's the shmup stripped down to its very core, and slapped onto a pea soup green screen in your hands. I suppose its selling point in 1990 was "OH MAN A SHMUP IN THE PALM OF MY HAND!". Today's selling point? OH MAN A SHMUP WITHOUT ALL THAT OTHER BULLSHIT! It's simple. It's fun. I like it.
Crono Maniac - One of the very few shmups released by Nintendo. I tried this game a few months ago thinking it'd be fun to mess around with for a few minutes. I ended up playing it every chance I got for the next week until I managed to beat it. Then I played it again. It's simple, and that's exactly what makes it so rich and rewarding. (It was designed in part by Gunpei Yokoi, if that says anything.)
#39 - Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Crono Maniac, Zeloz
FreezingInferno - Yeah, it's not really Ninja Gaiden. It's Shadow Of The Ninja by Natsume, with the name Ryu tossed in at the start. This should not concern most normal people. The real question is, is this a good game? It is. Why else would it be on the list? It lacks the quick pace that Tecmo's ninja games had, but that's fine. It works for this game, and that's what matters. Ninja Gaiden Shadow is good. Go play it.
Crono Maniac - The leaner, more forgiving cousin to two (just two) of my favorite NES games, Ninja Gaiden Shadow is a pleasant little game that moves along briskly and doesn't waste your time. It might be a little too forgiving, but the last few stages are easily intense enough to earn its namesake.
Zeloz - Yes, I think we all realize at this point that this isn't really a Ninja Gaiden game. What it is, however, is better than Shadow of the Ninja. Which itself isn't too shabby of a game, I think, but I feel this game works a lot better with the technology it runs on. The level design and game speed seems ideal for the small, blurry Game Boy screen, and while that translates to an easier, slower Ninja Gaiden, it also means less cheap deaths and other things that made both Tecmo's and Natsume's NES offerings frustrating at times. Also, freaking Hiroyuki Iwatsuki does the music. Seriously, this guy is perhaps one of my most favorite things about Natsume. The soundtrack's no Chaos World or Shatterhand, but it's still really good.
#38 - Tales of Phantasia
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, Irish
Pixel Crusher - Of all versions of Tales of Phantasia out there, this is the one I found to be far more playable than the SNES original. Plus, I loved the fact that, with the right Arte combinations, you could pretty much spam attacks non-stop and mincemeat the toughest of bosses in ten seconds flat.
Irish - Alright, confession time. My favorite PS1 RPG is NOT any of the Final Fantasy titles, it is NOT a Square title, it is NOT one of the Lunar games, it is actually Tales of Destiny 2. I love the Tales franchise with a passion, so when the original Tales got announced for a translation on the GBA, well it was kind of a no brainer it was going to end up as my favorite rpg for the system. A good story, awesome battle system, good characters and some of the best 16-bit graphics ever to come out of the era. Nothing but awesome sauce all around.
#37 - Nemesis
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Rhete, Remnant
Pauncho Smith - This one can easily be summed up as Gradius on the go. There weren't a great deal of shmups in the early Game Boy library, so this and R-Type filled the void nicely. I also appreciated the option to jump around from stage to stage in the options (especially given my less than stellar history with the genre).
Rhete - This is pretty much Gradius on the Game Boy, though I actually played it before Gradius. If anything, this game taught me one of the coolest English words.
Remnant - The first Game Boy game I ever owned and solid side-scrolling shoot-em-up to boot.
#36 - Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon
Chosen by: Carmichael Micaalus, Irish
Carmichael Micaalus - This game got a pretty big overhaul - altered story, new characters, original characters appearing in different areas, some kind of card system thing that seems to be the rage or whatever, and altered artwork, too. The game also confirmed my ship of Tao and Max, so that's also a plus! *thumbs up*
Irish - I make it no secret that I love the first Shining Force game above its sequel. While SF 2 had a better system, a longer quest, and more characters... it just lacked a certain atmosphere the first one had. Something about the design of the maps, the music, the evolution of the enemies, the weapons, the various characters, all of it just gelled and always made me feel like I was on a truly epic quest in a way its sequel just doesn't succeed in doing. This cartridge updates the Genesis classic, and while I'm not terribly fond of some of the changes to the story, I cant argue against having some of those bugs being ironed out from the genesis version. Like the random ways characters would, or wouldn't at all, gain stats when you leveled up.
#35 - Pokémon Trading Card Game
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Crono Maniac, TJF588
FreezingInferno - Okay so Pokemon was a monster. A POCKET MONSTER. HA HA HEE HEE HOO HOO HA. So much so that even the spinoff titles got caught up in the mania. You had your Stadium and your Snap, but this is one of the really good ones. The Pokemon cards whipped an entire generation of children into a fucking frenzy. I know. I was there, man. I shamefully must admit to going without recess snacks for a period in the late 90's to fuel my CARD COLLECTING. Thank fucking lord for this thing. All the cards, in digital form. Taken in the context of that mania, it was great. Outside of it, it's still pretty fun and a little easier than the main Pokemon games.
Crono Maniac - When I was a little kid, my Mom and I would make a point to go on a personal outing together once a month. For a while, this entailed riding our bikes to Waffle House, ordering a huge breakfast, and playing the Pokemon Trading Card game. The Game Boy Color adaptation is a nice translation of a game that holds a special place in my memories, and my heart.
TJF588 - I'll be honest, it's the music which has stuck with me the most. Not only are there solid compositions here, but the sound is unlike the main games proper, pre- and post-GBA. While there aren't many visuals, the game has deep colors and catching portraits. The biggest pains with trading card games have to be collecting cards and keeping track of the rules, and video game incarnations -- especially in this age predating rampant "DLC" -- nixes both. I unfortunately only had one copy of this, so it was always the AI for me. Now the TCG exists on the web, but the dedicated little world for this incarnation of it, including expy Gyms and Elite Four, will be missed. Why'd we never get the sequel, again?
#34 - Mega Man Zero 2
Chosen by: Crono Maniac, Irish
Crono Maniac - If the Mega Man Zero series only had the best sword mechanics I've ever seen in a 2D action game, then I would love it. If it only took the focus on wall-climbing and dashing in the Mega Man X games and polished it to a mirror sheen, then I would love it. If it only had a smarter, more mature story than any of the other Mega Man games, then I would love it. Mega Man Zero is all of these things and so much more. And I love it. And this one is my favorite.
Irish - I've resolved myself to including only ONE game from a respective franchise on this list. Otherwise the best four entries would be the MegaMan Zero hour. It's really brutal trying to choose from the four games. The first one introduces us to a brave new world where reploids are outlawed and all considered Mavericks. X is evil and rules the world, Zero is found at the start of the gaming as a ruined wreck of himself, the game does a great job of letting you know this new world has gone to hell in many interesting ways, and introduces a great many questions that later get answered. The third would have freaky revelations about the world and explained in an awesome way just what happened to Zero. Seriously, I love how the third game can't go one level without throwing in more backstory about Zero's history. The last game had a refined Cyber Elf system (thank you) and ended the series in an epic style. Personally, I know its not a huge compliment given the competition, but I think Dr Weil (Vile in the Japanese) is probably the most interesting and overly sinister villain Mega Man ever gave.
But the second game is truly my favorite as It has some insane level designs and incredible bosses, Also it's the game where you find out why the torch had to be handed over to Zero, and just what happened to X.
Yet despite how great the story is, it's the gameplay you come for. And the Zero saga embodies everything that is great about Mega Man. Level designs loaded with secrets and deadly layouts, bosses that require technique and platforming skill to conquer, an arsenal of cool weapons to wreak havoc with, and sweet presentation values. Everything you could ask for from a quality platformer is here. The press of course hated it, decrying the series as too hard and brutal. But that's the Mega Man motif, separating the true gamers from the Halo/Call of duty crowd. Mega Man Zero is a game that will either make a true gamer out of you, or show you why you should take up a different hobby. Either way, I wouldn't have it any other way.
#33 - Advance Wars
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Carmichael Micaalus, Voodoo Groove
Pauncho Smith - Shinny happy war for shinny happy people! The first edition of the Famicom Wars series to see an American release, Advance Wars unleashed hours of turn-based strategic plotting, striking and general BLOW THAT SHIT UP on GBA owners. You have a mind-boggling amount of foot soldiers, tanks, ranged-weapons, ships and aircraft at your disposal. On top of this, you have the opportunity to use a variety of commanding officers, each with their own super-special abilities that range from stat boosts to environmental effects to attacks that can damage every enemy unit on the screen (makes me wonder what kind of boosts Napoleon or Eisenhower might've graced their miniature forces with). Battles can go for hours (especially when you get deeper into the game) and it's always quite satisfying to conclude a grueling mission by capturing that fortified enemy base or wiping out that last cruiser cowering in the corner of the map.
Carmichael Micaalus - Never played any of the grimdark sequels, but I had fun with the original. Nice little tactical rpg that makes war fun! Aside from all the murder.
Voodoo Groove - Advance Wars taught me that just because you could power your way through Final Fantasy Tactics, that didn't mean you were a tactical genius. Humility is a valuable trait. Many a lunch period was spent planning out the perfect move against my friends in battles that took weeks to conclude.
#32 - Mega Man V
Chosen by: computercat, Crono Maniac, Zeloz
Crono Maniac - The clear stand-out of the Game Boy Mega Man games, V embraces IV's refinements in play control and narrative while moving away from its obsession with ultra-long stages plagued with instant-death traps (an obsession shared by I and III). It's also the only Game Boy Mega Man with original stages and bosses, and it's the first entry in the whole franchise where Wily isn't the final boss!
Zeloz - The first portable Mega Man game that wasn't a rehash of old boss masters, and it's actually a good bit more challenging than the last two NES iterations. No longer will a knowledge of the NES games translate to skill here; having to contend with entirely new stages with unique gimmicks and boss fights requires mastery over another set of skills fit for a smaller screen and a slower-moving Mega Man. The addition of the Mega Arm and the reintroduction of P-chips and upgrades makes this game more comparable to Mega Man 7 or 9 than 6. All in all, this is perhaps the best classic Mega Man game on a portable system... unless Powered Up or that WonderSwan game somehow manages to be better.
#31 - The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Chosen by: Miller, Pauncho Smith, Remnant
Miller - Seriously, this game is super-smooth in every way possible - progression, controls, graphics. I liked how the collectables were actually useful as they led to bomb upgrades and other goodies.
Pauncho Smith - If nothing else, The Minish Cap deserves credit for finally giving that stylish green cap a bit of back story. I felt it was a bit of a peculiar thing to do at the time, but it was still better than Yoshi's Island attempting to retcon the Mario Bros' Brooklyn heritage out of existence (those cocks). Minish Cap is still the same top-down experience we've all come to know and love, but as with any title in the series, there's a bit of a wrinkle to the proceedings, namely the fact that you have the ability to shrink and explore the world as a bug-sized fairy boy. This is handy skill to have in communicating with the Picori (adding yet another race of critters to the Zelda multiverse) but maybe not so useful if you don't much care for getting mauled by newly-giant cats. I didn't feel that this particular game was as grand in scope as some of the other franchise entries, and maybe another dungeon or two wouldn't have been asking for too much, but it's still a colorful little romp.
Remnant - I love the whimsy of it all. Link has a magic hat that shrinks him down to Lilliputian size and there's all kinds of cool puzzles and places to explore as you go back and forth between sizes. As normal size, you get townspeople to return checked-out library books so that you can go into minish form and walk across the top of the stacks to access a new area of the library...what other game does stuff like this?!
#30 - Final Fantasy VI Advance
Chosen by: Carmichael Micaalus, Remnant, Irish
Carmichael Micaalus - I liked the SNES version, and I liked the GBA remake. Some people were upset about the changed translation; I thought getting a slightly changed/updated script was a nice thing to give someone who just dropped another $20~40 on a game they've bought before.
Remnant - Take one of the best JRPGs of all time and add in some bonus content, a graphical upgrade that smoothed things out without messing up the art assets, bug fixes, a touching-up of the Woosley translation without robbing it of what made it good, and the ability to play it on the go. This is, to me, the definitive version of the game, and I love it so very much.
Irish - Not even remotely a contest between this and the other FF GBA titles. Sorry, FFVI is forever my favorite final fantasy, even today. It is awesome having this little baby to play anywhere I want. Do I gotta say why? Seriously? Does it even need to be said after all these years why this game is so epic? Ok fine. The score is the series best. Bar none. Dancing mad is pure epic chaos in audio form and even as a midi it utterly destroys One Winged Angel. The story still grabs me and blows me away. And Then there is Kefka. Its on overly used line, but Alfred in the Dark Knight nailed it when he said "some people just want to watch the world burn." And unlike the Joker and Sephiroth, Kefka was successful in doing just that. He's as psychotic as the Dark Knights Joker, arguably more powerful than Sephiroth, and just plain awesome as the games main antagonist.
#29 - Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Chosen by: Master of AFTER, Carmichael Micaalus, Mash
Master of AFTER - If you put a gun to my head and told me to find fault with 'Aria', I'd probably say that it almost plays a little too similarly to Symphony of the Night. You also had to keep up a brisk pace to keep things challenging; spend too much time mowing down enemies in one spot and you'd notice your numbers had shot up enough that the enemies in the next section you were set to clear out didn't put up as much of a fight as you might have liked. The late-game areas especially became so dependent on stats and the contents of your inventory that your reflexes practically ceased to factor into the equation.
Circle of the Moon was a far different beast. It remains a wholly unique installment in the Castlevania franchise in how its gameplay blends aspects of the Metroidvania design with equal doses of oldschool platforming and twitch combat that harkens back to the action-centric origins of the series. The result was a seamless marriage of RPG-style exploration and satisfyingly intense combat that never became dependent on excessive grinding (unless of course you were determined to complete the Battle Arena, in which case have fun leveling for three months). If you ever found your ass getting beat in this game, it was because you weren't it playing well enough. Unless you got incredibly lucky in finding a pair of ability cards that gave you an early boost in power, there was nothing to help you scale the game's steep difficulty curve except your drive to keep hitting continue and try that much harder to memorize the enemies' patterns.
Aesthetically, COTM raised some controversy with its dark, earthy color palette. Personally, I always felt the rather gloomy appearance of most areas was well suited to the interior of a haunted castle - much more so than the Andy Warhol-inspired graphics of Harmony of Dissonance, at least. The moodier lighting also had the benefit of making the character sprites and hit effects pop in a more dramatic fashion than most 2D Castlevania games released for any of Nintendo's handhelds.
Overall, this is a fantastic game that sadly fails to get the recognition it deserves. With so many fans having gone on to be captivated by later handheld Castlevania releases, I think a lot of them have probably forgotten that COTM was the sole reason they bought a GBA in the first place. If nothing else, this is easily one of the best third-party launch titles for any system.
Carmichael Micaalus - This was the only Castlevania game I played on the Gameboy Advance/DS, but I found it to be really fun. Much more fun than any of the Castlevania games on the Nintendo or SNES. The magic system was neat, and I liked the exploration and item collection aspect.
Mash - I got the original, eye straining GBA (didn't help that this was a dark game too) just for this game-it was totally worth having to wear glasses now. Did the best job of combining the Metroidvania style gameplay with the challenge of the classic Castlevanias. Still kind of annoys me that you had to play each of the extra modes to unlock the next one though. And of course the only one I was really interested in just had to be the last one, didn't it?
#28 - The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Chosen by: Miller, Pauncho Smith, Remnant
Miller - Solid, old-school Zelda-title. I put Seasons over this because some of the puzzles in this game just drove me insane, and the water dungeons are no favorites of mine.
Pauncho Smith - The Use Your Illusion II of the Game Boy Color, Oracle of Ages saw the Zelda series flourish in Capcom's capable hands with this two-part follow-up to the marvelous Link's Awakening. All the familiar gameplay is there; you hack and slash foes, solve puzzles, and cavort with the locals. A few new wrinkles are present, such as the ring system which can grant you new stats and abilities, a trio of animal friends who are glad to give you a ride (Rocky the boxing kangaroo being my personal favorite) and the password system through which extra items AND the true ending for this and Oracle of Seasons can be achieved.
Unique to Ages is the time travel mechanic (quite similar to warping between light and dark worlds in A Link to the Past) and a story which sees evil sorceress Veran possess the goddess Nayru (the blue girl) and returning to the past to wreck havoc on Labrynna. It was quite engaging to see how Link's actions in the past would have on the denizens of the future. Ages certainly had a better story and main villain than Seasons, but I felt the time travel could be cumbersome and bit tedious. I also didn't much care for the Tokay creatures; their blunted intellect and fetish for "stink bags" (hey, whatever gets you off, buddy) made things more than a little uncomfortable for me.
Remnant - Take the Link's Awakening engine and create not one, but two colorful worlds of Zelda adventure. You did good, Capcom. Between the Oracle games and the Minish Cap, I would be happy to see the Capcom/Nintendo partnership bear more Zelda fruit.
#27 - Bionic Commando
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Miller, Zeloz, Irish
FreezingInferno - Who don't love Bionic Commando? BADD SYMPATHIZERS THAT'S WHO! Nah but really, Bionic Commando on NES was a fine game. How do you make it better? You... just make it better. Which is what Capcom did for the Game Boy Bionic Commando. It wasn't the only Bionic Commando on Game Boy, but Elite Forces pales in comparison to this. BCGB looks like less of a mess, and it still plays like the original game. Hell, they even tweaked some things. Like, now you're able to swap your equipment in the middle of a level. So if you go into a comlink room and get GA GA GA now you can actually get the hint. Stuff like that. Game's good. Held us over until Rearmed.
Miller - Recently picked this up and my God - it does everything that the original Bionic Commando did right, and then some. It also felt refreshing that I wanted to smash my SP into a table when swinging and dying through the last level - haven't felt such anger and joy with a game for many months.
Zeloz - When I think of good early Game Boy titles, I think Minakuchi Engineering. In 1990, they put out the decent-for-the-time shmup SolarStriker. In '91, they did Mega Man's first GB outing, which was flawed but still quite good. In '92, Capcom outsourced the second Mega Man to some other guys (which is painfully made apparent when playing), so what were these guys doing in the meantime? Well, they put out this game, and thus went from making pretty good Game Boy games to Really really good Game Boy games, starting here and concluding with Mega Man V.
For whatever reason, I've never been able to play more than three minutes of the NES version, so I can't say what precisely this port improves on. But I can say that it must've improved on something, because I've played the hell out of it. The fact that you have a password to record your progress this time around may have something to do with it, and the music's pretty great, too.
Irish - I have some fond memories of this title, the cinema scenes that were detailed and well drawn, the lengthy quest, the design, It all just really added up to a game that delivered a standout adventure.
#26 - Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald Versions
Chosen by: Carmichael Micaalus, TJF588, Voodoo Groove
Carmichael Micaalus - Introduced Gardevoir, that in itself earns it second place in my list. I'm sure it did other neat things, too. Still - Gardevoir.
TJF588 - Confession: Used a Premier Ball (my now standard to catch keepers in regular Balls or rarities and favorites in Premiers) to catch a female Gardevoir. Ended up having a Naughty nature. Nigh totally useless, practically, but an endearing quirk of chance. Now in Y, the same procedure saw up a Docile one. Bit too drastic...
Really, though, this was the culmination of what may still be the most drastic shift in the series, the Game Boy/Color entries being totally cut off from this and its immediate precedents. Painful as the music's sound quality could be, this did quite a bit for Pokemon's world-building and battle structure, the former seeing villainous Team activities tied in to story-centric Legendary 'mons, the latter seeing latent abilities switching up mere type-matchups. The presentation too became more vivid, especially in this more tropical setting, and established the modern look, most noticeably the Poke Ball motifs. FireRed and LeafGreen (the latter I've gone partway through) are their own throwbacks, but Ruby & Sapphire have nothing on Emerald's unified Team-vs-Team scenario and Rayquaza itself. Poor Elite Four, going up against that. The characterization of the E4 and the Gym Leaders could use some work, really. Maybe a remake, someday...
Voodoo Groove - Probably the beginning of the low point in the Pokemon series for me, but that doesn't mean I didn't spend a whole bunch of time with it. Props to Emerald for introducing the Battle Tower, so you actually had something to do with your level capped, EV trained, carefully bred team when your friends weren't around (or if they thought you were a ding dong for spending so much time on a damn Pokemon game).