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I’ve replaced my Switch with a Game Boy Advance SP

My GBA SP has become my go-to console to tote around

Hand holding a blue Game Boy Advance Photo: Ana Diaz/Polygon
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

I used to be convinced that nothing could wrench my Nintendo Switch from my hands. After roughly four years with it, I still can’t believe I can play giant games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or old favorites from my PC like Stardew Valley whenever, and seemingly wherever I wanted.

And it’s not like companies aren’t vying to give me other options. This year will bring all sorts of shiny new toys like the Steam Deck and PlayDate. But the thing that got me to put my Switch down was my Game Boy Advance SP.

What brought me back to the GBA SP was convenience. I realized that I don’t really bring my Switch around with me in my day-to-day life. I would never bring such a chunky-but-delicate console around with me outside. The PlayDate seemed like something that could fill this role, however, after spending a bit of time thinking about pre-ordering it, I realized that I already had a fun, cute-colored handheld in my basement: my SP.

I wasn’t inspired to dig it out until I listened to an in-depth, and surprisingly moving conversation on the best Game Boy Advance games from a podcast called Into the Aether, I finally felt behooved to fish out my Game Boy Advance SP from my growing collection of assorted gamer crap in my basement storage unit.

I now realize that part of what brought me to love the Nintendo Switch is what now is bringing me back to the Game Boy.

I’ve spent the past three years pouring my time into incredible indie games like Iconoclasts and Stardew Valley on my Nintendo Switch. These are games that were informed by games I loved on the Game Boy Advance, like Metroid Fusion and Harvest Moon: Mineral Friends of Town. The Game Boy Advance still has some of the best, most inventive entries for well-established Nintendo franchises (see The Legend of Zelda Minish Cap and Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga.) We’re now seeing a resurgence of the Game Boy Advance era on the Switch with games like Wario Ware: Get It Together!, the Advance Wars remaster, and Metroid Dread.

I just love that I don’t need to be delicate with it. I can snap the clamshell closed and not have to worry about it being in my bag. It’s all one piece so I don’t have to deal with my Joy-Con sliding off, which happens all the time with my Switch. My GBA still doesn’t have any drift issues, either. And while I wish I could use my headphones with it, there’s something nice about not having to deal with another piece of tech. I just keep it next to my keys and grab it on my way out and stuff it in the oversized pocket of my denim jacket. It has the same kind of pleasure as bringing around a small, hand-sized book that fits into most purses that I can pull out whenever I run into a bit of time.

My point here is the Game Boy Advance rules, and my SP rules. The Switch getting these games now feels like a recognition of that. I was looking for the handheld console of my dreams, but I had it all along with my SP. I’ll let it clang around in my bag with no cares, and play its games any day.

The next level of puzzles.

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