Game Boy Advance turns 20 years old today: A look back

Game Boy Advance 20 years old GBA 20th anniversary

One thing we can say for certain is that Nintendo has always dominated the handheld gaming market. It struck gold with the Game & Watch series of handhelds in 1980, which kickstarted decades of Nintendo’s dedication to portable play. Fast-forward a little, and on this day 20 years ago, the Game Boy Advance was released in North America. GBA boasted a 32-bit microprocessor, 16-bit graphical prowess, and stereo digital sound, so let’s reminisce just a little bit now that it has turned 20 years old.

The original model of Game Boy Advance 20 years ago didn’t include an illuminated screen. I can remember trying to play the blasted thing in the dark, hiding underneath my covers at 2 a.m. Please don’t tell my parents! Two years later, in 2003, our prayers were answered in the form of the Game Boy Advance SP, which boasted a front-lit screen. I ended up getting the Game Boy Advance SP Tribal Edition for Christmas in 2003, and it provided some of my most memorable gaming moments. Nintendo would then follow up the SP with the Game Boy Advance Micro in 2005, an extremely small counterpart to its older brothers.

Game Boy Advance SP Tribal Edition
Game Boy Advance SP Tribal Edition

An amazing lineup of games

Game Boy Advance owners were treated to a robust lineup of quality games during its life cycle. Mario made his handheld RPG debut with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, offering a whimsical adventure alongside his younger brother. It was also an important game for expanding Luigi’s personality, just like with 2001’s Luigi’s Mansion on GameCube. Speaking of RPGs, the Game Boy Advance was home to a lot of them.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga gameplay
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

There is of course the Pokémon series, which received a ton of love on the GBA. We were introduced to the third generation of Pocket Monsters with Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald and returned to the Kanto Region in Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen. The West was also finally blessed with the Fire Emblem series, and we saw games such as Golden Sun, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Advance Wars, and Mega Man Battle Network, in addition to many ports of SNES games like Final Fantasy IV and Breath of Fire.

Advance Wars gameplay Game Boy Advance 20 years old GBA 20th anniversary
Advance Wars

Nintendo’s other franchises also arrived on the GBA, with my personal favorite being The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. No matter what genre you enjoyed playing, the Game Boy Advance always had something new and exciting to play, even at launch 20 years ago with titles like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. There was a ton of third-party support, with games such as the Sonic Advance series and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town.

20 years of Game Boy Advance

Game Boy Advance is one of the great Nintendo consoles because its library was extremely diverse. And 20 years later, I still continue to revisit some of my favorite GBA games, especially The Minish Cap. Nintendo is continuing to dominate the handheld market all these years later, with Nintendo Switch having unprecedented popularity. Hopefully, Nintendo will update Nintendo Switch Online service with Game Boy Advance games at some point. It’s still hard to believe that the Game Boy Advance is 20 years old!

Happy birthday to the Game Boy Advance! What are your favorite Game Boy Advance games? Let us know down below!

Jaimie Ditchfield
Freelance Writer. Work seen on GGRecon, Zelda Universe, and BackToTheGaming. Studied Games Journalism and PR for three years, and is relentless at spreading his love for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.