It seems the writing is on the wall for the poor old Wii U, with the recent announcement that purchases from its eShop will no longer be possible after March of 2023. An important thing worth noting which hasn’t got nearly as much attention is that you will no longer be able to add funds to your Wii U eShop account via credit card after May of 2022. That’s this year. On top of that, eShop cards for the Wii U eShop will no longer be valid after August of 2022. In short, if you think you might be wanting to buy some stuff on the Wii U eShop before next May, load up your account with credit now!
But what should you spend that credit on? Well, there’s a ton of stuff worth downloading — particularly on the Virtual Console front, since there’s a variety of retro games available there which are pricey to collect original copies of these days. Today we’re going to focus on the Game Boy Advance titles available on the platform, since these are starting to become particularly hard to find in their original format, especially complete in box. And in the case of Nintendo-published titles, short of Nintendo adding them to the Nintendo Switch Online offerings — which Nintendo are glacially slow to update — or doing a proper rerelease of them, we’re unlikely to see some of these games ever again.
So let’s get into it, then. Here’s ten of the best Game Boy Advance games you can download to your Wii U right now. If there’s any you think we missed, feel free to add them down in the comments!
You know how Metroid Dread went “Metroid 5” at the start and everyone was like “oh, they’re a numbered series?” Yeah, Metroid Fusion is Metroid 4, following directly on from Super Metroid (which is also Metroid 3). Not that it really matters, since each game stands by itself very nicely — but regardless, Metroid Fusion is an excellent Metroid game.
Originally released in 2002 the day after Metroid Prime came out on Gamecube, Metroid Fusion once again casts you in the role of Samus Aran, who is this time investigating a space station filled with shapeshifting parasites. The game was noteworthy for taking a mission-based structure that made the whole thing feel a bit more linear — not everyone was a huge fan of this, but it worked well in context, and it still plays great today.
Metroid Zero Mission
Metroid Zero Mission, meanwhile, is a remake of the original Metroid that was first released for NES. With the improved tech and greater storage capacity of the Game Boy Advance cartridges, this allowed Nintendo to return to the origin of Samus’ story as we knew it and explore it in more detail.
When compared to the original, Metroid Zero Mission features better visuals and sound, new items, additional areas, new mini-bosses, a selectable difficulty level and an increased focus on narrative development. It was also the first game to feature “Zero Suit Samus”, as there is a sequence where you control her without her Power Suit and all its special abilities. Definitely a great entry in the series, and still regarded as one of the best games on the Game Boy Advance.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
One of several Zelda games developed by Capcom, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap follows on from the stories of Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. Its core gimmick is the use of the titular Minish Cap to shrink Link down to small size, which affects his ability to get around and find items.
If you can make sense of the chaotic Zelda timeline(s), Minish Cap unfolds between Skyward Sword and Four Swords, so it’s somewhere around the chronological start of the series. It tells the origin story of Vaati and explains how the Four Sword was born — but unlike the Four Swords titles, this is a strictly single-player game.
Also known as Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, this is the seventh installment in the series as a whole, and is noteworthy in that it was the first to leave Japan and reach international audiences. It arrived in North America in 2003, and Europe and Australia in 2004.
Fire Emblem was previously thought too complex and difficult for western audiences, but the success of the Advance War series and the popularity of Fire Emblem characters in the Super Smash Bros. games convinced Nintendo to give it a chance. It ended up being received well both critically and commercially, and thus nearly all subsequent Fire Emblem games have made it overseas.
Golden Sun/Golden Sun: The Lost Age
Developed by Camelot, the Golden Sun games are regarded as the best role-playing games on the Game Boy Advance, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re immaculately presented, well-written, full of memorable characters and built atop solid RPG mechanics. And people have been crying out for the series to get the acknowledgement it deserves for years now — fans of the first game’s protagonist Isaac have felt continually snubbed by Smash Bros. Ultimate character announcements, for example.
Both Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age are all-time classics of the Game Boy Advance era, and sold well in their day. Sadly, Nintendo DS follow-up Golden Sun: Dark Dawn didn’t do nearly as well, and the series has laid dormant for the last 12 years as a result.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
While some people aren’t as much of a fan of this game as the original “War of the Lions” Final Fantasy Tactics game on PS1 and PSP, this is still an excellent strategy RPG with a frightening degree of depth in terms of character customisation and progression — plus it helped to establish a number of new species to Final Fantasy canon, who have subsequently been seen in other titles including Final Fantasy XIV.
One interesting wrinkle in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance’s mechanics is the Laws system, where Judges oversee the battlefield and may forbid the use of certain actions, items or status effects. These force you to consider how to fight in different ways when subject to restrictions; while it can be frustrating at times, it also makes for some intriguing puzzle-like battles to figure out.
Get a copy here. It’s the law.
Kuru Kuru Kururin
It’s that game where you control a spinning stick and try not to hit the walls. That’s probably all you need to know, aside from the fact it’s more fun than it sounds, monstrously addictive and teeth-gnashingly frustrating.
On its original 2001 release, the game oddly skipped North America; the Virtual Console release for Wii U was the first time North American players saw an official release of the game.
Mario Golf Advance Tour
The Mario Sports games for Nintendo handhelds are really fun in that alongside the arcade-style sports action, they typically incorporate a substantial RPG-style mode in which you take control of a custom character, improve their skills and eventually take on the Mario all-stars in the sport of the hour.
Mario Golf Advance Tour for Game Boy Advance is no exception, and like Camelot’s other sports games, it’s a really solid, enjoyable and accessible take on ruining a good walk.
Head over here “fore” a copy. Do you get it? DO YOU GET I– I’m sorry, it’s been a long day.
Mario vs Donkey Kong
Here’s an unusual one: this Game Boy Advance game is a spiritual successor to the 1994 Game Boy version of Donkey Kong, which in turn was a massively expanded take on Nintendo’s early ’80s arcade game. It’s a puzzle platformer in which you control Mario and must find keys, open locked doors and rescue Mini-Marios.
Don’t expect a standard sprawling Mario adventure; this is all about small, self-contained puzzle levels, and consequently is eminently friendly to quick play sessions. It’s an oft-forgotten Mario title, but well worth your time if you fancy exercising both your brain and your dexterity a bit.
Finally, we come to a title developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo — and one which is considered by many to be one of the best Game Boy Advance games of all time. Taking on the role of the cute but eccentric Jill and her Drill Dozer, you’ll need to work your way through seventeen stages of action, making use of the Drill Dozer in a variety of creative ways.
Interestingly, although the game was localised into English and brought to North America, it never made it to Europe on its original Game Boy Advance release, making the Wii U Virtual Console release in 2016 the first time European players had had the opportunity to purchase it without importing.
Drill down and really understand the– look, can I go home yet? No? All right. Buy it here.
So there’s ten top picks for you! Any more? Let us know down in the comments or via the usual social channels.
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