I would wager that the GBA is probably the greatest gaming system of all time. It has a massive variety of games, ranging from some of the best platformers (Wario Land 4 and the Super Mario games) to amazing RPGs (Yggdra Union, Kingdom Hearts, and Mario and Luigi) as well as everything in between. While it had a terribly short life compared to the original Gameboy, it was a haven for great games (as well as shovelware). And this thread right here on NeoGaf is an epic compilation of the greatest GBA games.
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I think I prefer DS to GBA, but then again I got my GBA late. GBA did start off the Advance Wars and Wario Ware series though (in the US anyway,) two of my favorites. Mario & Luigi is one of my favorite RPGs EVER and of course the two Metroid games and three Castlevania's and two Fire Emblem's and some others are pretty sweet.
But GBA is definitely high up there. The DS is just insane right now, I still love my Dreamcast, and the Wii is awesome...
The only one I can rank for certain right now is the SNES. I mean, think about it: the Mario games you mentioned either originated or had their best version on the SNES (All-Stars, Super Mario World 1 and 2).
Personally, I still prefer the SNES to GBA. Barely, but it does beat it out. Dynablade, I am kicking myself over Yggdra on the GBA, too, and I am always on the lookout. I am getting itDay 1 on PSP. You guys need to check out that list that I linked to, though. It is an epic list.
I never had a GBA so I was more than happy that the DS has the backward compatibility to let me play some of the games that I had missed. That and the fact that the DS has Advance Wars: Dual Strike, which I picked up again and now have 180+ hours on, as well as some other kick ass games I would have to vote for the DS over GBA.
Deciding which system is the greatest is really tough. I have really enjoyed them all. I'm hoping that in a few years time the best answer to this question will be the Wii... I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the awesome games to keep on coming!
Track it down. NOW! Wow. I have made so many GBA pickups lately. This past week: Wario Land 4, Advance Wars, Shaman King Master of Spirits, Shaman King Master of Spirits 2, Drill Dozer, Megaman Zero, and Astro Boy. Yes, I know, I put some anime licensed games on there, but the Shaman King games are Metroidvania style games that are really fun, and Astro Boy is a Treasure developed platformer. I am going to make some compilation posts on here.
Astro Boy is awesome on GBA, I have it. It totally feels like an old school Sega beat-um-up / platformer to me... which is weird to say because I never played many old school Sega games and it isn't even Sega developing it (just publishing it.) Still though super fun, and a big challenge on the harder difficulties.
I...actually wasn't a huge fan of the GBA. I mean, I got it at launch, I still like it and I still play its games, but there're way too many SNES ports (to date, the only Nintendo system without an original Mario platformer besides the Virtual Boy) and not enough great original stuff. The Metroids were a highlight, and Castlevania was decent for awhile before they ran it into the ground, but I can't really think of any "best games ever" on the GBA, with one exception.* Additionally, I never got into strategy games (like Fire Emblem and Advance Wars), and Golden Sun was a big disappointment for me. Even so, Mario Kart, Wario Land 4 (yep, I own this one and it's fun), WarioWare, Minish Cap (solid, but no Link's Awakening) and Mario & Luigi all made for a decent portable library, even with all the ports.
*MOTHER 3! <3 (which incidentally, never came out here)
EDIT: Geez, I didn't even notice this thread was made in 2008. Grant, you crazy!
The original Game Boy was better, IMO. GBA was somewhat of a disappointment for me. Sure, there were many good original games for it, but they seldom seemed to rise above whatever other game on other Nintendo consoles you could draw a comparison to. I could make a list of exceptions, and the list would be of a decent length, but still, my overall perception of the machine is that it's the Nintendo portable with the weakest library, excluding the transitional ones like the GBC or DSi.
I actually DO think the GBA was probably the greatest system ever. I looooved the GBA. It was right in my wheelhouse. A return to the glory days of 2D, with tons of representation in my beloved 'Action' genre, among so much other goodness. I have a shitload of GBA games. It's tremendously fun to knock some GBA games out the ol' backlog every once in a while, especially in the summer, when my jacket buckles under the weight of my DSi. I 100%'d Donkey Kong: King of Swing a month ago, and last year, I did the same with Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland.
I really wish the Wii had some kind of GBA Player. I love playing GBA games on the big screen (and through the home theater). They scale very well to a widescreen display. At least they do on my TV. Zoom Level 1 cuts the borders off just about perfectly. And sometimes, if I feel like a particularly swanky GBA experience, I plug an Arcade Stick into the Gamecube. It's awesome, and it fits the classic, arcadey nature of many GBA games very well.
I hate playing GBA games on DS, because the symmetrical diamond button layout was invented by the Devil (Miyamoto?). I really want a GBA SP+, but it would probably be prohibitively expensive to get a new one. Ah, well.
My main complaint with the GBA was the absolutely shitty sound quality. Bleah. So compressed and hissy.