The best Game Boy Color games of all-time

The 10 best Game Boy Color games
(Image credit: Future)
Best of Nintendo handhelds

Sitting down with the best Game Boy Color games feels a lot like coming home. There's something about the nostalgia and familiarity that comes with soaking up a 2D adventure on its intended hardware, though the Switch's digital console emulator does a good job of bringing such classing GBC games newer audiences.

While the Game Boy Color may not have the reputation or longevity of its elder siblings, there's no doubt it plays host to some awesome games. It's the snazzier, more technicolor younger sibling of the Game Boy, with many of the best Game Boy games seeing vibrant follow-ups when the handheld was released worldwide in 1998. It was officially discontinued in 2003, two years after the unveiling of the technically far-superior Game Boy Advance, but we'll always have our memories – and the best GBC games of its time, to boot.

It was a good run for what is often considered a mere stop-gap in the Nintendo chain of handhelds, and with over 500 titles, there's never a shortage of games to play on the system. We've narrowed it down to what we think are the 10 best Game Boy Color games ever made, standing out today as some iconic entries in the Nintendo games legacy.

The 10 best Game Boy Color games ever are...

10. Mr. Driller

Mr Driller screenshot Game Boy Color

(Image credit: Namco)

Developer: Namco
Released: 2000

The concept behind Mr Driller sounds like a Hollywood pitch: it's Tetris meets Boulder Dash! The game's titular star is trapped in a world covered with mysterious blocks. Fortunately, as his name unsubtly suggests, he possesses a powerful drill and can dig his way to a fresh air supply. Converted from its own arcade game, Mr Driller is a challenging game that requires quick wits and reactions and helps confirm that the Game Boy Color is no less blessed with puzzle games than its illustrious predecessor. 

9. Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country screenshot Game Boy Color

(Image credit: RARE)

Developer: Rare
Released: 2000

Rare took on the challenge of converting its own Super Nintendo hit to the Game Boy Color and did an amazing job of squeezing the stunning platformer into the handheld. As with the original, Donkey Kong is on a mission to retrieve his stolen banana stash, battling the alliterative hordes of King K. Rool, such as Kritters and Krushas. While visual clarity is inevitably sacrificed, most of the gameplay survives, and there's even a bonus level entitled Necky Nutmare. Overall, an incredible technical achievement and the finest banana-collecting game on the Game Boy Color.

8. Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal

Pokemon Crystal screenshot Game Boy Color

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Game Freak
Released: 2001

Unfairly maligned at the time as a simple upgrade, the Game Boy Color's three Pokemon games subtly yet effectively introduce several noteworthy fresh elements. Top of the list of additions is the arrival of Pokemon breeding and a day/night cycle that means that some Pokemon can only be discovered at certain times. Combined with a range of other complimentary embellishments and the by-now familiar RPG experience, it adds up to so much more than a by-the-numbers update. In fact, this gen is now considered among the best Pokemon games of all-time.

7. Super Mario Bros Deluxe

Best Game Boy Color Games

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1999

It's a testament to the original NES game's perfectly refined gameplay that essentially the same game should generate another celebrated release 14 years later. Of course, there is more to Super Mario Bros Deluxe; this is Nintendo, after all. In addition to the almost-perfect replication of one of the best Mario games, there's a challenge mode where the player collects red coins and Yoshi eggs, The Lost Levels, and two race modes, one versus the Game Boy Color, and the other against a human opponent. When mixed in with the Toy Box bonus features and the delightfully sweet Super Mario Bros gameplay, it's an excellent value-for-money package.

6. Wario Land 3

Best Game Boy Color Games

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2000

Mario's gurning alter ego returned for a third outing in 2000, bringing with it the similar-yet-different gameplay of the series. Having crashed his biplane, Wario discovers a mysterious music box. Pulled into its world, he approaches a dark figure who offers to return him to his world – once he's found a set of five missing music boxes. Wario Land 3 has an incredibly flexible level design, with Wario constantly required to re-explore areas with a newfound ability, such as swimming. A superb alternative for anyone bored of the relentless platform games on the GBC.

5. Mario Tennis

Mario Tennis Game Boy Color

(Image credit: Camelot Software Planning)

Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Released: 2000

Released shortly after the Nintendo 64 game of the same name, the Game Boy Color does a splendid job of recreating the excitement of tennis. You can participate in an exhibition match from the main menu or select an RPG-type game where levelling up is achieved through practice drills and matches. Want a break from the game? There are plenty of areas around the courts to explore, and for a real challenge, Mario Tennis supports the link cable, enabling human players to battle against each other. Ridiculously fun and as delicious as a punnet of fresh strawberries and cream.

4. Shantae

Shantae Game Boy Color

(Image credit: Wayforward Technologies)

Developer: Wayforward Technologies
Released: 2002

This wonderful platform adventure was released at the end of the Game Boy Color's life and a year after the arrival of the handheld's successor, the Game Boy Advance. As such, it flew under the radar at the time, a shame for such a marvellously polished game. In truth, Shantae offers very little innovation in terms of gameplay, but it is put together with such panache, style and verve that it's impossible not to love. And indeed, there is no Game Boy Color game as beautiful as Shantae.

3. Dragon Warrior 3

Best Game Boy Color Games

(Image credit: Chunsoft)

Developer: Chunsoft
Released: 2001

This glorious RPG boasts a snaking plot full of twists and turns hidden behind its familiar tale of good heroes versus evil enemies. Away from the storyline, Dragon Warrior III is a traditional role-playing game with plenty of characters, skills, items and spells to discover. A hugely interactive world, minigames, new monsters and dungeons are also included, conjuring up a remarkable game that every Game Boy fan should play.

2. The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle Of Ages/Seasons

Best Game Boy Color Games

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Capcom
Released: 2001

This dual release for the Game Boy Color ensured the legend continued adeptly on the Nintendo handheld range. The Sorceress Of Shadows has stolen the Oracle of Ages and is using it to spread evil across Labyrnna. In the other game, Onox, General Of Darkness, is up to something similar, having imprisoned the Oracle Of Seasons, causing the slow demise of the land of Holodrum. The USP is the dynamic between the two games: beat one game, and you get a password, which then conspicuously alters the experience with the next one. The changing seasons of Oracle Of Seasons are particularly pleasing, but there's plenty to enjoy in what are undoubtedly two of the best Zelda games of the handheld era.

1. Metal Gear Solid

Best Game Boy Color Games Metal Gear Solid

(Image credit: Konami)

Developer: Konami
Released: 2000

Sharing the name of the PlayStation game, this is an unrelated, separate story from the main series. The gruff Solid Snake is called out of retirement to battle a terrorist menace that has appropriated the secret Metal Gear prototype mech weapon. The gameplay will seem familiar to fans of both the Sony game and the original series: Snake stalks across various scenes, using gadgets, weapons, or fists to silently take down guards or sneak past them unnoticed. Featuring all the twists and betrayals for which the Metal Gear games have become renowned, Metal Gear Solid also offers an extreme assortment of bonus content once the main game has been beaten. One of the greatest spin-offs of all time, on any format.

Looking for something a little more modern from Nintendo? Be sure to check out this list of the upcoming Switch games.

Freelance Writer

Graeme Mason is a freelance writer with an expertise in all things retro gaming. Alongside his bylines at GamesRadar, Graeme has also shared his knowledge and insight with Future's Retro Gamer and Edge magazines, as well as other publications like The Guardian and Eurogamer.

With contributions from