The 5 best Virtual Boy games

With the 3DS less than a week from launch, it can be easy to forget that the handheld – while extremely impressive – isn’t Nintendo’s first attempt to make a 3D system. After its success with Game & Watch and the Game Boy, Nintendo launched its third portable system in the mid-‘90s, when virtual reality was seen as the future of gaming. Envisioned as a successor to the Game Boy, the Virtual Boy would deliver true 3D gaming at an affordable price. It would also be widely considered the single worst piece of hardware Nintendo ever produced, if not the worst game machine ever produced, period.

Above: Marketing an already-weird system with threatening ads probably wasn’t the best idea

As misguided as the Virtual Boy was, it was the product of a long list of well-intended compromises. Going full-color with two displays would have been prohibitively expensive in 1995 – and according to Virtual Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi (who also headed development on the Game Boy), test users were unable to see depth using a full-color headset. So to cut costs and make the 3D more visible, the Virtual Boy went from full-color to one-color. And because it stood out better than any other, Yokoi decided that color should be bright, eye-searing red.

Yokoi also thought a motion-tracking headset might cause motion sickness, so out went the accelerometers. In fact, he found that wearing the VB as a headset at all was heavy and uncomfortable, so he put it on a little two-legged stand instead. However, we may never know why he decided that – in an era when “virtual reality” already meant “3D polygons” – anyone would want a VR headset to view Game Boy-caliber graphics.

Above: Seriously, what’s with the creepy Terminator ads?

The end result was a pile of good ideas that, when added together, equaled one very bad idea. The Virtual Boy had outdated graphics, felt awkward to use, sported a weird controller with dual d-pads and– after more than a few minutes of staring into its laser-like displays – could cause eyestrain and headaches. That’s probably why the VB is the only Nintendo system to offer users automatic breaks every 15 or 30 minutes.

Above: Srsly

By now, most of you probably know the Virtual Boy was a disastrous flop, and that Yokoi (who also gave us the d-pad and Metroid) was forced to resign from Nintendo shortly after its release. However, as undeniably, painfully godawful as the thing was, the 14 games that made it stateside weren’t entirely terrible – and in fact, a handful of them were actually great. So while Nintendo gets ready to give 3D a second try, let’s look at the best games to (sort of) get it right the first time.

Nintendo DS Game Boy Advance | Game Boy Color | Virtual Boy | Game Boy | Game & Watch


Teleroboxer is far from the VB’s best game, but it is the one everyone wanted to play when the thing launched. It’s not hard to see why, either. Staring down a punch-happy robot in first-person as its 3D fists come swinging into your face seems like a much better use of the technology than, say, making a 2D Mario hop between different layers of onscreen depth.

Essentially a robot-centric take on Punch-Out!!, Teleroboxer pitted players against a succession of in-your-face opponents with increasingly weird abilities. IT also caught some criticism for its difficulty, which came partly from trying to figure out how to use the VB’s dual d-pads to block and aim punches effectively, but mostly from sudden, brutal spikes in opponent toughness and speed. Even so, this was still more about figuring out your opponents’ patterns than it was about actual brawling, meaning that victory, no matter how difficult, still came down to paying careful attention. Once you had that down, slamming a pair of floating gauntlets into metal faces could be remarkably satisfying.

Mario Clash

As the only Virtual Boy action game starring Mario (whose only other red-and-black appearance was in the VB’s pack-in game, Mario’s Tennis), you’d think Mario Clash would have been a must-have at launch. Even then, however, this was a hard-sell concept on a hard-sell system. Essentially a remake of the original 1983 Mario Bros., Mario Clash featured a decidedly un-super Mario working to clear single-screen sewers of koopas, spinys, goombas and other small-fry monsters, mainly by hurling shells. Making matters worse, its 3D was seemingly limited to some perspective tricks with pipes and two layers of onscreen depth.

However, those who turned up their noses at this missed out. Whether 2D or 3D, this was still a Mario game. Developed by Yokoi’s R&D1 team (also responsible for the Mario Land games), Mario Clash seemed simple at first, as Mario jumped on turtles and simply threw their shells at spiked enemies, but it quickly got tougher. More puzzle game than action game, it actually made brilliant use of 3D, as most enemies could only be knocked out by shells thrown from a different plane of depth (and aiming shells from the foreground into the background, or vice versa, was a challenge). The level designs featured a huge amount of variety, and figuring each one out was enormously fun. As weird as this one was, we certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it make a comeback – maybe on the 3DS?


  • Japanaman - March 22, 2011 3:54 p.m.

    To me, there were only 4 really good games on the system and all of them were super cheap. The Virtual Boy was like $30 at Wal-Mart which came with Mario Tennis which was a good game for its time. Then Toys R Us had Red Alarm, Teleroboxer, and Galactic Pinball for $10 each. I rarely saw any other titles anywhere for sale, but there wasn't anything worth buying unless you just had to have a Mario or Wario game for the system.
  • philipshaw - March 22, 2011 12:09 p.m.

    Oh my eyes
  • AuthorityFigure - March 22, 2011 8:39 a.m.

    I've been promoting Mario Clash for years and years.
  • super0sonic - March 22, 2011 8:29 a.m.

    I have really been enjoying these articles but i was not expecting to see VB. To be honest it makes a lot of sense.
  • EroticInvisibleMan - March 22, 2011 6:57 a.m. I prefer this list.
  • 59009Upsidedown - March 22, 2011 5:01 a.m.

    I spent so many hours playing red alarm. I thought galactic pinball was good as well, but that might just be nostalgia talking
  • KarateJezus - March 22, 2011 2:12 a.m.

    I remember the only reason I got a virtual boy was because I found one on sale at Toys R Us that was marked about 75% off. It came with Teleroboxer and I played the hell out of that game and got so into that when I finally pulled my head away from the virtual boy, it felt like my eyes were sweating from the strain of trying to cope with the hellacious tints of red and black... And although I can probably attribute my loss of vision, in some way or another, back to the virtual boy; I did have a whole lot of fun playing Teleroboxer the one or two nights it took to beat it.
  • DVTClark - March 22, 2011 1:51 a.m.

    my goodness, I was wondering what that Jack Frost was doing in the picture, so they were all from the older Atlus games eh? wow, that's awesome, and uh,, my eyes, goggles do nothing! haven't said or heard this in awhile.
  • Silentboy - March 22, 2011 1:48 a.m.

    Weren't there only like 5 games for the Virtual Boy anyway?
  • Im2awesome - March 22, 2011 1:48 a.m.

    Bah, shoulda had Mario Tennis on this list too :D But the others were just as good, and you left Red Alert up there, so I forgive you. I loved the Bomberman game on there too, even if it was just a tetris puzzle rip-off.
  • hester2 - March 22, 2011 1:38 a.m.

    Jesus, the screenshots hurt my eyes. I can't believe I used to own one of these. Correction: I still own it, it's in the attic back at my parents' house.
  • gopikmin - March 22, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    I thought you already did a similar article
  • garnsr - March 22, 2011 12:50 a.m.

    I may have played a demo at a Toys R Us, but otherwise I never touched a VB. It came out long after I felt like I needed to love Nintendo.
  • RebornKusabi - March 22, 2011 12:25 a.m.

    I played 3 out of 5 games on this list (Teleroboxer, Jack Bros. and Wario Land) and they were indeed great games. My favorite of those three was Teleroboxer because of it's Punch-Out!! vibe (Arcade version specifically), your left and right hands were controlled by the D-Pads which was pretty neat and unique and your death animation/"Game Over" screen was incredibly awesome (Metroid Prime had a quite similar game over screen as well). Other than that, I predict the 3DS is going to have a better reception than Virtual Boy did... Hell, the pre-release reception to the original DS was just as "interesting" as the reception has been so far towards the 3DS anyways lol
  • thecakeisapie - March 22, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    just looking at these still frames strains my eyes. i can't imagine having a device strapped to my head and playing this
  • Nap1400 - March 21, 2011 11:42 p.m.

    Uh...yeah, I'll just wait for the best GBC games list. The atrocity that was the Virtual Boy is not a subject I like to bring up, even if the list is complimenting it.
  • WelcomeGhosts10 - March 21, 2011 11:26 p.m.

    Very nice! I had all of these except for Jack Bros. I can remember very vividly sitting at my kitchen table trying to lean in to see the games and how awkward it was for my neck and back, but the whole time I loved every minute of it especially Red Alert! Though, I am sad that Mario Tennis was not on the list, I was a huge fan of it :D
  • Rubberducky - March 21, 2011 10:58 p.m.

    I remember wanting one of these. Seeing how just looking at the screenshots above kinda makes me squint I can imagine that actually playing the game would've been like jamming pencils into my brain...
  • Baron164 - March 21, 2011 10:30 p.m.

    Man, Mario Tennis on the Virtual Boy is still one of my favorite in that series. Also VTetris and Galatic Pinball were also really good if not very unique.
  • CatrParrot - March 21, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    I didn't realize there were even five VB games worth mentioning.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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