After years of fans asking for it, Nintendo has added Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance titles to Nintendo Switch Online. Being able to play these legacy Nintendo handheld titles was also possible on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U previously. However, with the shutdown of the 3DS and Wii U eShops imminent, it was looking like they would become unavailable once again. Fortunately, a selection of titles have been made available on the Nintendo Switch Online service – but only a small handful for now.
The games we have now are great, don’t get me wrong. But that being said, it’s far from the amount that were made available on the 3DS, with some notable omissions. One advantage that Switch Online has, however, is the inclusion of GBA titles. Despite many years and several revisions, no 3DS models were ever compatible with Game Boy Advance games (With the exception of the ambassador program for early adopters). Only the Wii U could play them – and it distinctly lacked the portability of the GBA. As such, this list will be dedicated to those solid 32-bit games that can be freed from the shackles of a television once again.
Metroid: Zero Mission
Considered by some to be the greatest title on the system, Metroid: Zero Mission was conspicuously absent from the line-up of GBA games being added to Nintendo Switch Online. Being a remake of the original NES Metroid, it looked, sounded and controlled better in every regard. Not to mention, it added a considerable amount of new content, forming the definitive way to play the original adventure. When it comes to flaws, the only thing that comes to mind is the relatively short length compared to other entries.
So where is it? Metroid 2 and Metroid Fusion are both confirmed to be coming to Nintendo Switch Online, but Zero Mission is not. We can only speculate as to why; it’s possible Nintendo simply wants to stagger major additions to the service. There’s also the possibility it’s timed to coincide with the release of the perpetually delayed Metroid Prime 4. One possible complication is the fact that the original Metroid for NES is included as a bonus feature. This could clash with the fact that Metroid is already available for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers – but it really shouldn’t. It’s probably not an emulation issue either, as the feature works on Wii U just fine. Hopefully, all we have to do is wait.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Square Enix was on the top of their game back in 1997, putting out Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics under 6 months apart. Both were beloved to the point of spawning their own sub-franchises. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance would release 6 years later for the Game Boy Advance. It wasn’t a remake, nor a direct sequel, but followed the same style of excellent tactical gameplay. One other notable aspect is that it’s one of the few Final Fantasy games to take place in the same world as other titles, such as Final Fantasy XII and the otherwise unrelated Vagrant Story. Critics gave incredibly positive reviews, and it sold incredibly. Heck, it even got its own radio drama in Japan.
While it saw release on Wii U, it’s not yet confirmed to be joining Nintendo Switch Online. Admittedly, the Final Fantasy Tactics series has been missing since a short-lived mobile game in 2013. But then again, why is that? Are Square Enix too afraid to compete with the likes of Fire Emblem? Rumours have persisted that a remaster of the original Final Fantasy Tactics is on the way – perhaps Advance can join it on Nintendo Switch Online? Square Enix have also been offering collections of their older games recently, so perhaps it’s being saved for one of those. I’d be highly surprised if we’ve seen the last of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
For this one, we might as well just consider the entire trilogy here. Sonic Advance was a set of game that started in 2001, developed by Dimps. While Sonic struggled to retain favour with critics and fans on consoles, these handheld games would be far more positively received in the meantime. They blended the modern aesthetics with traditional 2D platforming, forming a solid successor to the classics. Speed has always been the main appeal of Sonic, and Advance saw him go faster than ever before. Some criticism has been given towards the level design, but these remain beloved games.
So where have they been? Well, basically nowhere. Since their initial releases, the three games have only been ported once each. That was to the Wii U Virtual Console, unsurprisingly, but only in Japan. Given that Sonic has always been more popular in the West, this remains truly baffling. Sega doesn’t seem to be doing anything with them, so I would think it’s high time they come to Nintendo Switch Online. There might be issues with the GameCube-enabled features, but that didn’t stop them before.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong
A fight almost as old as gaming history, Mario and Donkey Kong fought once more on the GBA. Back in 2004, this new spin-off series began, spawned from the Game Boy remake of the original Donkey Kong. Both that game and Mario vs. Donkey Kong were actually puzzle platformers, rather than the standard barrel-jumping affair. As Mario, you’d explore levels for keys, save mini-Marios, and find the exit door. It made for a great change of pace compared to the normal Mario affair, and reviewed particularly well. Future games would shift into a more Lemmings-esque style of gameplay, but this is specifically about the original entry.
Once again, this title made it to the Wii U Virtual Console (in all regions this time…after many years). Being a first party Nintendo game, there’s surely nothing stopping it from reaching Nintendo Switch Online, too. So its omission (for now) feels odd – I mean, where has Donkey Kong been anyway? The last mainline Donkey Kong game was in 2014! Since then, it’s only been ports of the Donkey Kong Country Returns games, and the to-be-expected appearances in multiplayer games. Could that be something to do with it? Did Donkey Kong do something illegal? Where are they keeping him? We can only wait and hope that both he sees the light of day again soon – preferably with Mario vs. Donkey Kong in tow.
What else to complete this list but the best selling games of the system? The third generation of Pokémon saw a lot of new features for the long running creature-collector series. Without it, we wouldn’t have had double battles, the Battle Frontier, and of course lots of fan-favourite Pokémon to collect – among them were arguably some of the best legendary Pokémon of all time. A shout-out should also be given to FireRed and LeafGreen, remakes of the original Pokémon Red and Blue that brought them up to then-modern standards.
The recent Pokémon Presents dropped some nice new info, but nothing about these GBA titles coming to Nintendo Switch Online. It’s weird that they’re not on the way, given past events. The 3DS eShop made the entire first and second generations of Pokémon available, while Ruby and Sapphire arrived on Wii U. Meanwhile, FireRed, LeafGreen and Emerald are nowhere to be seen.
The benefits of having any of these games would be great; Generation 3 with online play for the first time? Sweet! But FireRed and LeafGreen might be ruled out due to Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! being more modern remakes of the first generation. There’s surely no need to worry about Ruby and Sapphire overlapping with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire though, because they’ll be gone for the foreseeable future within a month.
Overall, there are a lot of standouts in the GBA library, and it may take some time to see them arrive on Nintendo Switch Online. For this list, I aimed specifically at games that are reasonable. Licensed games or games that are currently purchasable elsewhere are likely a no-go, no matter how much we beg. Of course, it’s early days for the Switch Online GBA library, but for now let’s hope these five(ish) make it there sooner rather than later. Got any other GBA hits you think should arrive on Nintendo Switch Online? Be sure to let us know what you think!