The Game Boy Advance is a popular handheld console and has plenty of great game options. While it doesn’t have as much power as large consoles like the Xbox of PlayStation 2, it was extremely well-loved. Even though it was also popular before sandbox and open-world games saw their rise to fame, it still has some great options for people who want to play those kinds of games.
Let’s get into the best sandbox games for the Game Boy Advance!
What are Sandbox Video Games?
Sandbox video games are a type of game that allows you to have a degree of freedom to explore and interact with the environment. The most popular sandbox game ever is Minecraft, which allows players almost unlimited freedom and the ability to interact with both the environment and things like creepers.
How are Sandbox Games Different From Open-World Games?
Sandbox and open-world games are often lumped into the same category because they are pretty similar. The main difference is that open-world games focus on exploration while sandbox games focus on interaction. Since those two often go hand-in-hand, most open-world games also fall into the sandbox category and vice versa.
Both types of games tend to have a non-linear storyline with plenty of side quests, but it’s not always necessary. For example, recent Pokemon games have featured open-world gameplay but still have a structured plot.
Was the Game Boy Advance Known for Sandbox Games?
The Game Boy Advance was a great console with a lot of great games. While it wasn’t known for sandbox games, it did introduce a lot of adventure and games similar to the open-world genre. Still, the GBA was first released in Japan in 2001, before sandbox and open-world games became popular. In fact, Grand Theft Auto III was also initially released in 2001 and is often claimed as being the first best-selling open-world game.
Needless to say, the Game Boy Advance is a classic console in gaming history, and it’s still well-known today. But what are the best games to play on this beloved handheld? Without further ado, here are the top five Game Boy Advance sandbox games of all time.
#5: emDriver 2/em
- Race to the finish line in Disney presents a Pixar film, Cars, the video game. Join Lightning McQueen as he trains in Radiator Springs for the upcoming Piston Cup race season. Play as your favorite...
emDriver 2/em is a surprisingly popular sandbox game on the Game Boy Advance. It’s a driving game that lets you cruise around in a variety of vehicles and explore the city.
The gameplay is simple but addicting. You play as Tanner, an undercover cop, moving around in multiple cities with tons of action and car chases, but there is also plenty of time for exploration and discovery.
emDriver 2/em was a popular game on the Game Boy Advance, and it’s easy to see why. The game also has an interesting scoring system that rewards you for completing tasks in the most efficient way possible (such as ramming into other cars for damage points). This makes it one of the best Game Boy Advance games for advanced players who are looking for something more complex than your average Mario Kart or GTA clone.
The main feature that puts it into the sandbox genre is the free “take a ride” and other playing modes. In them you can do almost anything, like stealing cars and, of course, getting chased by the police. Still, the focus is — as the name implies — driving. It is also a fun game for people wanting a retro multiplayer experience since up to four people can play together.
If you like Driver 2, you can also play Driv3r on the GBA. Driv3r has a similar premise but is set in Florida and France. Since it came out a bit later, the game also has significantly better, 3D graphics.
Check out emDriver 2/em on Amazon here.
#4: emHarvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town/em
- Harvest Moon Friends Mineral Town 1
- Applicable products: Work With Game Boy GBM/GBA/SP/NDS game consoles.
- Video game rating: entry level, elite, fever class, ashes class.
- Support language: English.
One of the most beloved franchises in gaming history rose to fame on the Game Boy Advance with emHarvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town/em (and later Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town).
It’s easy to see why this series has captivated players for so long: it combines farming tasks with RPG elements and dating simulation elements into an extremely fun experience that lets you live out your farming fantasies while also building relationships with other people in town!
The plot for this game is nothing spectacular. If you’ve played a farming simulator before, you know the drill — an old farmer leaves his once great farm to you. Now it is your duty to restore it to its former glory since it has slowly fallen into disrepair. From there you earn income from crops and other farm tasks in order to grow and repair the farm. Along the way you make friends and uncover secrets. In this game, you can even get married.
emHarvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town/em came out a bit later than the initial game but has very few changes. The main difference is that your character is female, rather than male like in the base game. There are a few other changes, including the character’s origin story and small quality of life changes, but the game is primarily the same. So, if you want your character to be a boy, go with the base game. If you’d rather play a female character, go with More Friends of Mineral Town.
Harvest Moon is a little limited as far as sandbox games are concerned, but there is still plenty to do. You can also change a lot about your farm and are able to interact with many different objects. If you enjoy slice-of-life or farming simulator games, this is a great option!
You can find it on Amazon right here.
#3: emGrand Theft Auto Advance/em
- Explore and exploit Liberty City -- its sprawling streets & buildings are in the palm of your hand
- Dozens of vehicles to find and drive - compacts, sports cars, delivery trucks, taxis, swat vans, even tank
- Try to handle the unpredictable weather, unique pedestrians and changing times of day and night
- Choose from hundreds of side missions - Become a taxi driver, paramedic, fire fighter or street racer
- Go on Rampages to blow away your enemies and earn points by doing it in a set amount of time
emGrand Theft Auto Advance/em is a game that takes the Grand Theft Auto series back to its roots. It’s a top-down adventure game that is inspired by the original Grand Theft Auto game, which came out in 1997, but with some new features that make it stand out.
emGrand Theft Auto Advance/em is very similar to the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series, and it’s a classic in its own right. The game, sometimes marketed simply as Grand Theft Auto, has fun retro graphics and has many of the features of modern GTA games. The game is set in Liberty City, which is modeled after New York City. Even if you haven’t played GTAA, you may recognize the setting from Grand Theft Auto III. Although the graphics are very different between the two games.
emGrand Theft Auto Advance/em has a lot of missions, so you’ll be busy for a while. You can also go on dates with your girlfriend and such. If, of course, you want to take some time off from stealing cars and killing people. Like almost all versions of GTA, this game has a lot of mature content. Unlike most versions of GTA, this game can be a bit difficult to find and actually isn’t listed on GTA‘s official website.
Grab a super rare copy of emGrand Theft Auto Advance/em on Amazon here.
#2: emThe Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap/em
- This renewed game will not come with the original case or manual; cartridge only. It has been cleaned, tested, and is in nice condition.
emThe Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap/em is an action-adventure game for the Game Boy Advance that (of course) follows the story of Link, who must save Hyrule from an evil wizard named Vaati.
This game is related to the story from Zelda: A Link to The Past and Four Swords, which is also available for GBA. The gameplay for both games is similar but with some distinct differences. The most notable change is Ezlo, a talking hat-like creature. Ezlo is actually where the game gets its name since he can shrink Link down to the size of Minish, which are sprites about the size of your thumb. Having the ability to shrink gives the player the ability to go into areas and through portals that would have otherwise been impossible.
Despite having such a fun concept, the story is a bit boring. Thankfully, the graphics and characters are memorable. If you like sandbox games, you will also enjoy how you can interact with this world from multiple perspectives and interact with many new items.
Check it out on Amazon here.
#1: emThe Sims 2/em
- Control your Sims through all of the fully customizable locations - each one unique per platform
- Create thousands of your own food recipes, clothing designs, potions, inventions, and even personal music tracks and paintings
- Tell your own stories and directly control your Sims lives to build their worlds, excel in their careers, and fulfill their wants while avoiding their worst fears!
emThe Sims 2/em is one of the most unique games in the series, and that’s saying something! For this game you star in a TV show with a twist — the citizens don’t know they are in a TV show. It’s quite a bit different from normal Sims games in that there is a story for you to play through while you are also trying to make a good TV show.
Naturally, the game is divided up into episodes that you play through. In between episodes you train your skills, interact with other characters, decorate your home, and do other activities you might expect from a Sims game. You can interact with almost everything, so there is plenty to do! Plus, there are plenty of puzzles and minigames you can play through and enjoy.
The biggest drawback to this game is the final episode, which is now nearly unplayable since it requires you to connect with another player who has this game. It is also quite a bit different from other Sims games, so it might not appeal to avid fans of the franchise. If you like the Sims, you might try their other GBA games. The Sims: Bustin’ Out, The Urbz: Sims In The City, and The Sims 2: Pets are also available for this handheld console.
You can get it for yourself on Amazon here.
While the GBA doesn’t have a ton of games that strictly fall into the sandbox category, it has plenty of early open-world games. If you are looking for more GBA games that might fall into this category, check out these other titles that didn’t quite make our list:
- Pokémon Emerald
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
- MegaMan Zero
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age