The 5 best Virtual Boy games

Red Alarm

Now we’re getting somewhere. Out of the Virtual Boy’s launch library, only Red Alarm looked even vaguely like the public’s concept of how VR games should look. It used wireframe graphics instead of polygons, sure, and its 3D space-shooting action wasn’t exactly Star Fox, but Red Alarm was as close as the Virtual Boy ever got. And if you can get over the short draw distance, the weird controls and the occasional confusion over which objects are solid and where things are in relation to each other, it’s still pretty fantastic.

The illusion of depth helps a lot, obviously, but underneath the technical flaws is a great 3D action game struggling to get out. The straightforward rail-shooter levels were interspersed with more open, arena-like levels (a fight against a giant wireframe robot was an early highlight), which kept things from getting monotonous, and the designers packed a surprising amount of detail into the environments, including little wireframe people and hidden Easter eggs. As a launch game, it was a flawed glimpse at what the Virtual Boy could have delivered down the road, and if any game makes us a little sad about the system’s demise, it’s this.

Jack Bros.

Another 2D game that looked out of place on a 3D system, Jack Bros. was a dungeon crawler/twin-stick shooter hybrid that tasked players with guiding one of three “fairies” –Jack Lantern, Jack Skelton or Jack Frost (later of the Shin Megami Tensei series) – home after Halloween. This meant navigating a series of floating, multi-floored mazes, with the 3D effects limited to displaying the next floor deep in the background.

It wasn’t anything jaw-dropping, but it was an excellent, solidly designed maze-crawl, and it was (and still is) substantial enough to keep us playing long enough to develop red-tinted eyestrain. And really, what more can you ask from a Virtual Boy game? It also featured what’s probably the best soundtrack on the Virtual Boy, with memorably chirpy tunes that made the eyestrain even easier to ignore. Here’s my favorite, from the Grim Reaper’s Cavern level:

Virtual Boy Wario Land

Virtual Boy Wario Land may be the least “3D” of all the games in the Virtual Boy’s library, which may or may not have something to do with it being the best. Whatever the case, Virtual Boy Wario Land is a legitimately awesome platformer – so awesome, in fact, that it’s the topic of all 100 entries in this list. If you’ve ever played a Wario Land game before, you already have an idea of what it’s like: fat, greedy Wario dons an assortment of power-granting hats as he beats up little monsters and hunts for treasure.

The “virtual” hook here came mainly in the form of little-used 3D effects that sent hazards careening from the background to the foreground, as well as areas in the far background that Wario could leap to by uncovering hidden jump pads. Otherwise, it was a long, involving platformer – the kind unwary fans might have expected Mario Clash to be – with lots of unique graphical touches and cool secrets to uncover. That it was on a system completely unsuited to long bouts of play was unfortunate, but that didn’t keep smashing through walls, bowling over enemies and ferreting out secrets from being the best experiences the Virtual Boy had to offer.

Mar 21, 2011

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  • Cleanser247 - March 21, 2011 9:47 p.m.

    Great list Mikel! It brings back good memories : )
  • Redeater - March 21, 2011 9:50 p.m.

    This is sad I know but if asked I would have said there was only 5 games in total for the VB library. Goes to show my interest level in this when I was a lad.
  • CatrParrot - March 21, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    I didn't realize there were even five VB games worth mentioning.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • gopikmin - March 22, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    I thought you already did a similar article
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Silentboy - March 22, 2011 1:48 a.m.

    Weren't there only like 5 games for the Virtual Boy anyway?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • EroticInvisibleMan - March 22, 2011 6:57 a.m. I prefer this list.
  • 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.
  • AuthorityFigure - March 22, 2011 8:39 a.m.

    I've been promoting Mario Clash for years and years.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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