Here are the seven best racing games for the Game Boy Advance, a portable console that’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
Thanks to the booming retro/modding scene, Game Boy Advance has seen quite the revival lately.
You can (waitlist to) buy an analog pocket to play original carts on modern, state-of-the-art hardware, or you can buy modified original hardware from companies such as RetroSix.
I’ve done both, but currently only have the latter – a gorgeous Game Boy Advance “Prestige Edition”, which features renewed original circuitry thanks to an ultra-bright, high-refresh backlit display, a new built-in louder speaker, replaced buttons, new shell and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for USB charging. I love it.
But what racing games should you play on such marvels? Or even on original hardware in all its dark screen glory? We’ll take a look.
7. Sega Rally Championship
Let’s be completely honest here: there should never have been a conversation about trying to port Sega Rally Championship to GBA, but here it is.
To say it’s rough is a massive understatement; it’s a complete mess visually, with ultra-pixelated visuals thanks to low-res rendering – the one that allowed Doom to be ported to the machine.
But, surprisingly, once you get used to the visuals (and figure out which car is better), there’s a really good Time Attack game here, and the battery backup and ghost mode mean it’s there is always something to beat.
It also sounds amazing, with versions of the tunes from the Saturn version. Don’t try to play it in link, because you can overtake your rival on your screen without being ahead of theirs. It’s completely crazy, but I love that it exists.
It’s almost like a Mega Drive version. Imagine if Virtua Racing 16 bit had texture mapping – this is what it looks like. Waste. Surprising.
6. TOCA World Touring Cars
It is arguably the most realistic racer in the system and certainly among the most ambitious. Real-world tracks including Sugo, Monza and the Red Bull Ring (here the A1 Ring, of course) are drawn with Mode-7 style flat tracks, but there are also 3D elements, like barriers on the side.
The game even manages to simulate reflection effects on wet tracks and leave dry lines and skid marks behind cars by changing the tiles on the track surface. Very clever, and an effect used in Codemasters other racer, Colin McRae Rally 2.0.
But what’s smartest of all is the car’s handling, which manages to simulate inertia, which is especially evident if you’re venturing onto grass, resulting in the best revs on the system , with animated window reflections as your car turns in front of you.
Running smoothly even with loads of cars on screen, it’s a tour de force for the system and still very playable.
5.Konami Krazy Racers
Known as Wai Wai Racing in Japan, it was available at console launch, so a lot of gamers picked it up, essentially hoping for a handheld Mario Kart.
They weren’t disappointed, and the game remains a true showcase for hardware. With abundant transparency effects, a slew of weapons mirroring Mario’s arsenal, and a few (rather) familiar Konami characters, including Solid Snake, it seems to have been a labor of love for the development team.
With voice samples in its music, 60fps gameplay, and a charming 90s PC Desktop UI, there’s a lot to like here. And to be able to see its graphics now on a backlit screen after sitting directly under my bedroom light just to see the thing on the original GBA is literally an eye opener.
Turns out it was ultimately good. I knew it!
4. F-Zero Max Speed
It’s long been said that GBA is essentially a handheld SNES and it’s never more obvious than playing F-Zero on it.
The 360-degree rotating track surface lets you turn and back around the circuit, which blew away gamers on the Super Famicom back in 1990. Gaming is even better on GBA, thanks to a new parallax layer in the ground graphics. , which makes the track appear elevated above the city below.
With on-track acceleration boosters, ramps to hit, and that iconic energy lane to recover lost HP, it’s pure F-Zero gameplay that players have loved for over 30 years now.
Also worth noting is its sequel, F-Zero GP Legend, which features a story mode based on the Japanese anime series. Super fast, super smooth and super playable, both are pure class and will always be brilliantly playable regardless of age.
3. Sega Arcade Gallery
This is a compilation of four Sega arcade games, two of which are runners: OutRun and Super Hang-On.
These games need little introduction, coming from the golden age of sprite-scaled pseudo-3D. But despite the power of the GBA, these aren’t simple arcade ports. Oh no, these are actually bespoke renditions made for the GBA.
So you get a beautifully smooth version of OutRun with charming low-res road graphics and slightly smaller than they should be environmental sprites, coupled with an incredibly fast version of Super-Hang-On, with the undulating road, explosive motorbikes and turbo boost.
The games both run like greased weasels, which is very fast in case you were wondering. If only the cartridge had a backup battery for your best times that would be great, but as things stand there is very little reason to remove this cartridge from your GBA.
just wonderful portable games. Too bad it’s quite expensive these days, but it’s worth it and the money. You will not be disappointed.
2. V-Rally 3
It’s really unbelievable. V-Rally 3 on Game Boy Advance somehow manages to deliver near PS1 quality 3D driving on this little handheld. And it does so well.
Smooth visuals, different handling on different types of terrain, two views including a pseudo-3D cockpit camera, and even weather effects. The career is long, there are so many steps to take and he feels so much more assured than most other GBA runners.
If a criticism were to be leveled at this, you could say the car doesn’t slide as much as it should, and it can get a bit easy and quiet once you get the hang of the controls.
But with a punishing and nuanced mechanical damage system that needs to be dealt with over multiple stages, and manual gears to master if desired, it’s a complete rally experience that should be in every GBA owner’s library.
1. Mario Kart: Super Circuit
It’s the best runner on Game Boy Advance, hands down. Whether solo or with friends, this is a beautifully crafted video game with no noticeable compromises.
Link-up play with a single kart is available if your companion wants to be just Yosh, or multi-kart play with the full character roster is also there. Sitting in a small circle with link cables connecting you to your friends is, for many, one of the most enduring memories of handheld gaming in the 1990s.
The game itself is a smoother version of the original Super Mario Kart on SNES, even including all of its tracks as unlockables. It’s faster than you probably remember and a lot harder to do well thanks to the twitchy handling and unforgiving track design, but once you pick up the pace you’ll understand why it worked so well. .
It’s just classic gaming fun in perfect miniature form. When I reviewed this in 2001 (in my very first published review – have I really been doing this for 20 years?!), I said “Your GBA needs this like you need this. air”, and I maintain it at 100%.