Game Boy Advance has been a secret haven for pioneering gamers

Photo of the article titled The Game Boy Advance was a secret haven of technically groundbreaking racing games

Photo: Adam Ismail |

Racing Games on the Game Boy Advance – It’s a coupling that feels like a bad time. GBA, beloved despite having many great titles in its library, was at its core a system designed to play 2D games. Driving a car is an experience that makes great use of a third dimension. It’s amazing how many publishers have ever bothered with this type of mobile game, however, my rough estimate for not quoting is that there have been about six times more racing games released on GBA than on the Nintendo Switch now. Why are we even talking about it?

Look, last week I got my hands on analog sine I requested to return in December. (Two-word review: It’s awesome.) The Pocket is simply a Game Boy clone, except that it has an infinitely better display, a rechargeable battery, and can power cartridges from many different old portable systems, not just the Game Boy. And in the past several days since I received mine, I’ve been re-acquainted with a few of the racing games I owned for my GBA during my youth, such as GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing, Mario Kart Super Circuit and F-Zero Maximum Velocity And the Top Gear Rally.

I didn’t think much of these games when I initially played them, other than that they were toned down the kind of runners I enjoyed on home consoles. I was too young to know it Super Circuit And the maximum speed – GBA launch window versions – they were really just improved versions of the original Mario Kart And the F-zero Super Nintendo. I don’t remember playing for long either. The 3D-rotating “Mode 7” effect was disappointing even on a handheld device, at a time when Grand Touring 3visible The Force Tour that was on PS2, was the current craze.

I found out later GT . progresswho was thinly veiled try to take advantage of it The desire to grand tour-Like the on-the-go experience. As silly as that may sound on paper, the result was surprisingly competent. Sure, the driving was physically deficient, but the game’s roster of 90s and 2000s Japanese performance is a mainstay as the Toyota AE86 (completely initial d trim, mind you), the then-new Nissan 350Z and even oddities like Mitsuka Orochi And the ASL RS01 / Tommykaira ZZII liked me to it. and right grand tour Fashion, you can even upgrade your rides.

But then things got really exciting for GBA racing games and here we come to the inspiration for this memory lane hike. Top Gear Rally It was the last game I remember getting in GBA, and the one I played the most. Now that I’ve got the Analogue Pocket, it’s the most I’ve revisited too. Developed by Tantalus, Top Gear Rally It was impressive enough to catch Nintendo’s attention, so the Game Boy maker took it upon itself to spread the title everywhere except Japan..

through time Top Gear Rally GBA hit in 2003, many developers were experimenting with 3D polygonal graphics – especially for shooting games and racing games. Not everything was done well, but Top Gear Rally He was a shining star of the era, delivering a fairly smooth, 32-bit console experience that was on par with something you might have played on Sega Saturn six to seven years ago.

at Mario Kart, F-Zero And the GT . progress, you have driven a pre-rendered vehicle on a rotating plane of flat sprites. There was no terrain for the track and no scenery, and the vehicles occupied a small portion of the screen space. Top Gear RallyIt, by contrast, was fully polygon with 30fps of gameplay and 3D car models that roll dynamically into corners, handle reasonably well and can leave the ground. Of course this is all weird by modern standards, but the fact that Tantalus has been achieving these things on machines made mostly for side-scrolling and puzzle games 19 years ago was amazing. I certainly never expected to play a racing title like that in GBA when I got it in 2001.

And the Top Gear Rally He wasn’t the only GBA racer to have achieved such feats. mobile port V-Rally 3Developed by Velez & Dabill, it’s usually the example retro fans turn to first when asked to highlight their GBA punching tournaments above their graphic weight. While the player’s car was in V-Rally 3 It was previously introduced in contrast to the polygonal form in Top Gear RallyHowever, the detail is higher, and the 3D environment is more complex, resulting in more diverse views. Velez & Dabil also included an in-camera view, in the form of a raster dashboard layer over the 3D field. V-Rally 3 He looked so good in GBA that he put some of the early PlayStation racers to shame; Hell, it is arguably the best version of that game released for any platform.

There have been more examples of GBA pushing beyond its limits, especially for racing games. Stuntman, Sega Rally Championship, Colin McRae Rally 2.0, Need For Speed ​​Underground, And the Toca International Touring Cars They all got ports to the platform. Admittedly, some of these were cruel; Sega Rally He’s a poster child for ambition over technical prowess, but at least he has Bit crush versions from my country Preferred Sega Rally melodies.

The Analogue Pocket motivated me to revisit many of these forgotten runners, and I’m so glad I did. very much like What was happening in the halls in the early ninetiesThis was an era of gaming where it felt like developers were breaking boundaries on a regular basis. Sure — there’s a degree of nostalgia, but the gains have been routinely huge, all in just a few years.

If you would like to know more, YouTuber minimme has taken an extensive dive into the history of 3D graphics on GBA Linked above where you’ll see a number of the games mentioned in this article explored in a more temporal context, so you can better monitor the progress. I highly recommend checking it out, and dusting off your old Game Boy to revisit the pocket-sized racer of your choice when you have the time. They were small masterpieces.