Two months ago, I wrote an article about rare games that are actually worth their asking price on the Gamecube. I did this because like many collectors, I’ve noticed that there’s a glut of rare games out there that are so outrageously expensive not because they’re outrageously good games, but more often than not it’s because of things like limited quantities of a game, exclusivity, a certain version or cover or edition of a game, etc. Sure, there are plenty of rare games out there that are so rare because they’re such excellent games and everyone wants a copy–games like Chrono Trigger, Suikoden II, and .hack//G.U.–but then there are your Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak, Cheetahmen II, and Spud’s Adventure sort of games that are only rare and expensive because of the aforementioned reasons: The games themselves aren’t very good, they’re just elusive. I wrote my first Rare Games that Don’t Suck on the Gamecube because it’s arguably my favorite console of all time. Now, I’d like to tell you about rare games that don’t suck on what is by far my favorite handheld console of all-time, the Game Boy Advance.
Final Fantasy VI Advance
The first game I’m going to talk about is one that doesn’t really need much of an introduction. As the title suggests, it’s an enhanced port of Final Fantasy VI on the SNES. Final Fantasy VI Advance has been subject to critical acclaim, just like its SNES counterpart, with an 8.9/10 from GameSpot, a 9/10 from IGN, 9/10 from Eurogamer, a 31/40 from Famitsu and many more. On average, a complete used copy of Final Fantasy VI Advance is $59.48, with a brand new copy costing you about $80.
Final Fantasy VI is the story of a girl named Terra, who is captured by the empire and forced to fight against her will. She was eventually broken free and rescued by The Returners, who also want to use Terra for their own purposes in war, but they ultimately respect her freedom, and let her make her own decision. I’ll stop there because after that is when it gets really good. It has a fantastically told story, a truly unique world to explore, incredibly memorable characters, solid and consistent combat, and stunning visuals for what it has to work with. The limitations of the GBA caused a musical downgrade, but that’s really it. It’s still a faithful version of one of the greatest games of all-time.
Car Battler Joe
Car Battler Joe is one of the many, many hidden gems on the GBA. As a matter of fact a lot of the games on here are expensive because they’re hidden gems. Car Battler Joe is about this guy named Joe who is basically the standard kind of protagonist you’d see from a show like Beyblade or something, and that goes double for the game. It’s received relatively high acclaim from reviews (8.1/10 from GameSpot, 7.7/10 from IGN), and is one of my personal favorite GBA games. A used complete copy of Car Battler Joe will run you roughly $85. New copies for this game are incredibly hard to find, so getting an estimate on the overall price of a new copy is hard, but recently there was a copy sold on Ebay for $440.
You go around the world doing missions in your car, from fighting off bandits, to delivering packages, all the while collecting parts to either build new cars or upgrade your current one. These cars are equipped with various weapons that you can adjust and customize to your liking for combat. Basically think this weird version of that movie Death Race but if it were super anime, intended for children, and actually good. Mechanically speaking, it’s essentially a third person shooter/cart racer, but without the racing. In terms of sheer control, Car Battler Joe is fantastic. Each car controls differently and each weapon has different physics, and combining this with the tight controls means you’ll get consistently great gameplay. Customization is also complex, especially for a GBA game. The combinations of cars and weapons are incredibly varied, and just trying out different combinations will take up a lot of time in the game. It’s a truly fun experience.
Super Robot Taisen: The Original Generation 2
Alright, let me get this out of the way right now: I love me some mecha anime. Mechs are like the best things ever. Giant robots fighting other giant robots with high-adrenaline pilots and stupidly overpowered weapons? What’s NOT to love? Being a huge mecha fan, when I found out that there was a strategy RPG series about anime mechs fighting each other, I was all in. What I ended up getting was one of the best strategy games I’ve ever played, along with being loved by the others who have played it (8.5/10 from GameSpot, 85% from RPGfan). Good news, though! This is the cheapest game on the list. A complete used copy is worth about $45 – $60, and a new copy goes between $65 – $90. What a steal!
Super Robot Taisen: The Original Generation 2 (hereon referred to as SRT2) picks up right after the first game left off. I would explain the full story, but it’s so long and complicated that it’s not worth it. All you have to know is that in the first game, there was a war between our protagonists and a faction called the Divine Crusaders, along with an alien race called the Aerogators. What’s happening now is that the world is fixing up its mechs in case something like that happens again, and low and behold, something like that happens again. Only they’re much stronger than the Aerogators or the Divine Crusaders. The gameplay is just complex enough to encourage good decision-making and strategy, and it also has a really good difficulty curve; never getting too hard, but never being a total cakewalk either. The roster of mechs is diverse, and it offers many ways for you to build a personal team (mix and match pilots and mechs, upgrading mechs and weapons, etc.). It’s also absolutely gorgeous for a GBA game and has a fantastic OST.
CastleVania: Aria of Sorrow
Ho boy this game. This was back when CastleVania knew what it was doing. It’s no Symphony of the Night, but it gets pretty damn close, as shown in its ratings. 9/10s across the board from all sources. Everyone pretty much agrees that Aria of Sorrow is one of the best CastleVania games. A used complete copy of Aria of Sorrow will cost you around $70, where as a brand new copy will cost you more around $90. You play as Soma Cruz, who is basically the second coming of Dracula except not really, and you’re sucked into Dracula’s moon castle and are trying to get out while also stopping someone else who is also basically the second coming of Dracula except not really.
You’ve got your standard MetroidVania style gameplay, except much better in terms of controls. The previous CastleVania games, Harmony of Dissonance and Circle of Moon, didn’t control nearly as well as Aria of Sorrow. Soma has the perfect weight to him, feeling just floaty enough for the environment while still feeling like you have to move him around well to succeed. It’s got a soul-absorption system which basically gives Soma the powers of enemies he defeats, and then standard RPG stuff like armor and weapons. The game looks and sounds fantastic, though the story is fairly weak. Combat is incredibly satisfying, and the enemies and environments are very well-designed. My only real complaint is that it’s pretty short, but other than that, it’s fantastic.
There’s a chance you’ve heard of this one. It’s not incredibly popular, but those who have played it will say that it’s one of the best games on any handheld system ever. It’s received tons of ratings generally around an 8.5 – 9/10 from almost everywhere. But it’s also probably the single most expensive game in the GBA library, and by far the most expensive game on this list. A complete used copy of this game is worth an astonishing $356. What about a brand new copy, you ask? $515. Five hundred and fifteen dollars. And that’s not all. Even if you want just the cartridge, it’s still going to cost you over $100. This game is incredibly rare.
The game itself is a 2D stealth platformer where you play as a ninja, who can slash his sword and fling his projectiles. As you progress through the levels, you have to kill bad guys, rescue civilians, find keys to progress. You can use a grappling hook to traverse high ground, and also find power ups to make your attacks stronger and give you different projectiles. You really do feel like a ninja while playing this game; hopping up and stealth attacking opponents, catching them from behind to go for a kill, and sometimes even just running in guns blazing. The level design is top-notch, really lending itself to a slower-paced, more stealth and timing-focused style of game. Combine that with nice-looking graphics and a pretty nice soundtrack, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic game.
As I said last time, when you’ve got some spare cash, don’t be responsible and save it, go spend it on pointless video games!