The Game Boy Advance stands as one of the greatest handheld gaming systems ever created. Released by Nintendo in 2001, the GBA built upon the foundations of the classic Game Boy to deliver a major leap in graphics, performance and game library.
One of the GBA‘s strongest features was its support for multiplayer gaming. The system could link up wirelessly using Game Boy Advance Game Link cables, allowing up to 4 players to connect their systems together and play multiplayer games. This opened up a whole new world of competitive and cooperative gaming on the go.
In this guide, we‘ll highlight the absolute best party games released for the Game Boy Advance during its lifespan from 2001-2008. These are the must-have titles you‘ll want to break out when getting friends or family together for some quality bonding time!
Mario Kart: Super Circuit – The Multiplayer Mario Kart Handheld Debut
The addictive Mario Kart series made its handheld debut on the GBA with Mario Kart: Super Circuit in 2001. The game built upon the racing and battling foundations of previous critically acclaimed entries on SNES and N64 while adding some new twists into the mix.
Playing as one of 8 iconic Nintendo characters including Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Bowser, you‘ll speed through over 40 different tracks while unleashing wild items against opponents. 16 of the tracks are completely new designs made specifically for GBA, while 24 are revamped retro classics from the beloved original SNES Mario Kart.
New offensive items like Red Shells and Poison Mushrooms join returning classics like Bananas and the invincibility-granting Starman to liven up the action. The single player progression was also improved from previous Mario Karts with proper Cups to compete in like the Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup and Star Cup spanning across four tracks.
But Mario Kart‘s excellence has always been defined by its multiplayer mayhem. Up to 4 players can wirelessly link systems and battle it out for first place using Mario Kart‘s polished racing gameplay and brilliant balancing of power up items. With over 9 million copies sold worldwide, Super Circuit nailed the Mario Kart formula on handhelds. It remains one of the highest-rated GBA games on review aggregator Metacritic with an average score of 91 out of 100.
The only real downside is you‘ll need to supply your own cartridge copy for each additional player. But it‘s a small price to pay for what still stands as the quintessential multiplayer kart racer on handhelds even today.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! – Wacky Bursts of Multiplayer Madness
The outrageously wacky WarioWare series of "microgames" debuted on GBA in 2003 with Mega Microgame$!. Rather than a traditional lengthy game, it‘s packed with over 200 5-second "microgames" requiring lightning quick reflexes and rapid fire thinking.
The microgames feature Wario and his eccentric friends in various absurd and hilarious situations. One moment you‘re picking a robot‘s nose, the next you‘re bashing moles with a mallet before frantically dialing a phone number. You might have to zap spaceships as a sci-fi hero, swat flies inside a fast food joint, bounce balls off targets, or pull off dozens of other seemingly random tasks.
With only a few seconds to react, microgames challenge you to rely on instincts and snap decision making. As you progress through the levels, the games increase in speed and complexity adding to the frantic fun.
With its wacky personality and pick-up-and-play appeal, Mega Microgame$! is a blast in both single player and multiplayer. Up to 4 players can connect systems and either take turns trying to beat each other‘s high score, or "pass and play" on the same device. No gaming skills are required thanks to the accessibility mixed with rapid fire challenges. Just a few rounds of Mega Microgame$! and you‘ll be hooked on the zany, fast-paced mayhem.
Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire – Trading and Battling Pocket Monsters
The Pokémon franchise exploded from being a Nintendo handheld exclusive to a worldwide phenomenon in the late 90s. When Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire launched worldwide in 2002, they shipped an astonishing 15 million copies in just five months. The titles would go on to sell over 15.85 million units apiece, making them two of the top 10 best-selling Game Boy Advance games of all time.
Ruby and Sapphire introduced 135 new Pokémon creatures from the Hoenn region to catch and train, while retaining the addictive monster battling gameplay formula of prior games. Additional gameplay elements like double battles also helped to evolve and expand the Pokémon format.
But trading and battling Pokémon with friends is where these titles really excel. Using link cables, up to 4 players can easily trade Pokémon between versions and engage in competitive battles. Building the ultimate Pokémon team requires trading with others to obtain version-exclusive and rare species, encouraging social play.
On top of trading and battling, the games support connections with older Game Boy and Game Boy Color Pokémon titles via the Link Cable or GameCube accessories. This lets you transfer monsters from previous versions like Red/Blue and Gold/Silver into Ruby/Sapphire, preserving your collection. There‘s no better way to show your Pokémon dedication than whipping out those shiny level 100 Pokémon you‘ve trained up all the way from the original Red/Blue!
Overall, Ruby and Sapphire exemplify multiplayer Pokémon, making them an easy choice for one of the top handheld party games.
Mario Party Advance – Zany Multiplayer Mini-Game Madness
The Mario Party franchise is known for its zany cast of Nintendo characters competing in virtual board games filled with wacky unpredictability. Bringing that formula to handhelds, Mario Party Advance released in 2005 stuffed in more than 50 unique mini-games optimized for multiplayer mayhem.
Some examples of the eclectic mini-games include Bob-omb Breakers where players try catching Bob-ombs thrown by opponents, Beach Volley Folley with 2-on-2 volleyball matches between iconic Mario characters, and Root for the Home Team, a quiz game testing your Mario universe trivia knowledge versus friends.
From a pool of over 50 mini-games, a rotating selection of 4 are available after each play session, with approximately 12 games active at any given time. This provides great variety across multiple game sessions and ensures the party never gets stale.
While Mario Party Advance takes a handheld-friendly approach by focusing on quick pick-up-and-play mini-game bursts, a surprisingly lengthy single-player Story Mode offers hours of RPG-style adventure gaming too. Guiding a customized avatar, you‘ll embark on an epic quest spanning over 10 hours of game time. You‘ll tackle quests, recruit party members, and of course play and unlock tons of mini-games.
But the multiplayer mode is where Mario Party Advance really shines as a party game. The mini-games are fun, fast, and intuitive for gamers of all experience levels. Combined with the quirky Mario Party personality and exclusively handheld-tailored games, this is one party game that can entertain a group on short or long game nights.
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land – Multiplayer Mayhem as Kirby
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is a 2002 handheld remake of the beloved Kirby‘s Adventure game originally released for NES in 1993. The side-scrolling platformer adventure follows Kirby as he endeavors to stop King Dedede from spreading nightmares and terror throughout Dream Land.
Vibrant stage designs, fun copy abilities letting Kirby mimic enemies, and an upbeat soundtrack made this a triumphant comeback for Kirby on Game Boy handhelds. On top of enhancing the great single player experience, the remake adds an exclusive multiplayer mode for up to 4 players.
The multiplayer mode lets you race through levels or battle each other using Kirby‘s signature copy abilities gained from enemies. Having up to 4 differently colored Kirbys on-screen at once keeps gameplay lively and unpredictable. And Nightmare in Dream Land still provides a respectable single player quest with 7 extensive levels to play solo too.
Selling over 1.8 million copies, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land currently holds a Metacritic average review score of 85 out of 100. If you‘re looking for classic 2D Kirby platforming with a dose of multiplayer madness, this excellent remake nails that combination.
Game & Watch Gallery 4 – Classic Nintendo Mini-Game Mashup
Game & Watch Gallery 4 is a collection of classic LCD-style mini-games from Nintendo‘s Game & Watch handheld series mixed with some new ones starring Mario characters. In total it packs in 29 different bite-sized games spanning a wide range of genres and challenges.
Some examples are Manhole, where you help pedestrians cross a busy street, and Judge, where you smash criminals with hammers as they pop out of windows. Others feature Mario characters, like Mario Cement Factory which has you keeping cement flowing, and Donkey Kong Hockey, bringing classic arcade DK action to GBA.
Each short and sweet game provides great score attack pick-up-and-play gameplay. The diversity keeps players on their toes, as you never know what kind of mini-game will come up next in the shuffle. Plus Game & Watch Gallery 4 supports between 2 and 4 players depending on the selected game for competitive high score battles.
If your get-together needs a quick and varied mix of multiplayer games, Game & Watch Gallery 4 fits the bill. You‘ll be hard-pressed to get bored with nearly 30 games packed in. And the ability to also play any game solo provides nice flexibility if you‘ve only got yourself to entertain!
Mario Golf: Advance Tour – Mario Sports with RPG Progression
For a multiplayer sports game with a twist, check out Mario Golf: Advance Tour from 2004. It blends the Mushroom Kingdom characters and power-ups of Mario sports games with an RPG-style character and golfer progression system.
The game starts with your own custom character enrolling in golf school and earning experience points to improve your skills over time. As you level up from novice to pro, you‘ll be able to enhance your character‘s stats and abilities. Once ready, you can compete in tournaments across different courses and conditions.
When you hit the virtual links courses, Mario Golf: Advance Tour offers traditional golf gameplay with Mario-themed courses and power-ups thrown in to shake things up. Top-down camera angles make judging distance and trajectory intuitive, and the fundamentals of swinging, putting and course navigation are handled very well.
There‘s plenty for solo players, with tournaments to enter, challengers to beat, and side activities like mini-golf to test your short game. But multiplayer allows up to 4 players to tee off together on one cartridge, making for competitive matches between friends. With review scores averaging 80%, Mario Golf: Advance Tour is considered the best choice for golf fanatics seeking a portable game on the go.
Super Mario Ball – Fast and Fun Mario Pinball Battles
Released only in Japan in 2004, Super Mario Ball is based on the Mario Pinball Land game for GBA but with a frantic multiplayer twist. Requiring only a single game pak for up to 4 players, it‘s perfect for parties.
The game cycles through each player in short 60 second rounds as you take control of the flippers and aim for a high score. You‘ll guide Mario around as the pinball, using mushrooms and fire flowers that alter the ball physics for a short time to pull off exciting shots.
With quick pick-up-and-play rounds, simple controls, and short turns, Super Mario Ball keeps everyone engaged as they await their next attempt. The fast pace combined with familiar Mario charm make it prime party material.
While only released in Japan, import copies of this hidden gem are fairly affordable and easy to find online. If you‘ve got a group that loves Mario and moving fast, add Super Mario Ball to your party game roster.
Sonic Battle – All-Out Brawls Across Sonic Franchise
Sonic Battle released in 2003 lets you brawl using characters spanning the Sonic the Hedgehog universe. The fighting takes place on dynamic 2D backgrounds with characters rendered in 3D models.
Iconic fighters like Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles have their signature moves and abilities copied straight from the console games. Sonic zooms around stages, Knuckles soars through the air gliding, and Shadow teleports rapidly with Chaos Control. Stages also contain items and environmental hazards to spice up the battles.
With fighting game complexity, an extensive single player story mode spanning several hours, and AI suited for solo play, Sonic Battle works great alone. But this fighting game truly shines when playing against friends. Multiplayer supports up to 4 combatants as you and your crew seek brawling domination.
Reviewers praised the graphics and representation of Sonic characters, but criticized the limited movesets. Overall Sonic Battle serves as a solid multiplayer fighter on handhelds.
Bomberman Tournament – Explosive Multiplayer Action
No party game roundup is complete without Bomberman! Bomberman Tournament brings the explosive bomb placement and dodging gameplay that the franchise perfected to GBA in 2002.
Up to 4 players guide Bomberman from a top-down view, laying bombs strategically to trap opponents in deadly explosions while avoiding getting caught in the blasts themselves. Frantic, fast-paced action develops as you attempt trapping the other Bombermen in a lethal maze of bombs and power-up items.
Tournament introduced new stage shapes like cubic and pyramid grids alongside the classic rectangular arenas to vary the explosive gameplay. The expansive single player mode provides a whopping 100 stages to clear for solo enjoyment. But multiplayer is where Bomberman thrives. Gather some fellow pyro enthusiasts for intense 10 minute battles!
Pac-Man Collection – Arcade Classics on the Go
Namco squeezed many of its popular classic arcade hits into Pac-Man Collection, released for GBA in 2001. The stellar selection of games includes the iconic Pac-Man maze chaser, Pac-Mania, Pac-Attack puzzle game, and the often overlooked Pac-Man Arrangement.
Pac-Man fans get a huge serving of quick pick-up-and-play dot chomping action through these four games. Each provides a nice change of pace and game mechanics while retaining Pac-Man‘s signature charming appeal. Players control Pac-Man from an overhead view except for Pac-Mania which uses an isometric 3D perspective.
The compilation also includes multiplayer options to play certain included titles together with friends on one system. Instead of taking turns, each player controls their own Pac-Man on one screen for competitive mazing! This collection is a nearly endless old-school arcade party source.