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The best Game Boy games of all time

15. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe

Nintendo could have simply ported over the original Super Mario Bros. and sold a million copies. Instead, it packed in enough new content to justify playing this all over again, and managed to get us excited for a 14-year-old game like it was brand new. There's no denying Nintendo's marquee title, especially when it's updated with new features, modes, and two-player simultaneous action. The only real downside to SMB Deluxe is the camera; its pulled in tight, limiting your view of much of the area. This is unavoidable due to the disparity between the resolution of the GBC screen and the NES, so theres only so much Nintendo could do.

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14. Wario Land 3

Wario Land II was one of the better-received Game Boy/Game Boy Color games, as it transformed Wario into an indestructible anti-hero. Instead of dying when crushed, burned, or beaten, Wario gained the attributes of his would-be killer; being crushed flattened him, while burning set him ablaze and so on. These new powers could be used to progress through the games many worlds. Wario Land 3 used the same successful formula, and benefited from GBCs slightly better visuals.

Each level housed treasure to collect, but in true adventure game fashion, some couldnt be reached without a bit of backtracking or clever use of Wario's newfound immortality. This unique execution of power-ups and exploration, two well-worn aspects of 2D games, helped make Wario Land 3 one of the best games on GBC. Add in some nice animation, fun music, and a not-totally-throwaway story and you've got a sequel worth of being called one of Game Boy's best.

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13. Final Fantasy Adventure

Technically this isnt a Final Fantasy at all. Before being rebranded internationally, Adventure was the first entry in the Seiken Densetsu or Secret of Mana series, which explains why its style is more Legend of Zelda than Final Fantasy. Still, the top-down adventure was a little more complex than Zelda's NES original, with a bigger focus on stats and leveling up than Link had. With some pretty high-end GB graphics for the time and a soundtrack from Square's top composer Nobuo Uematsu, Adventure was ahead of its time.

The plot focused on a young boy out to save the Mana Tree from being destroyed by the Dark Lord, a story closer to the uncomplicated Zelda mythos than the increasingly dense Final Fantasy series. But the large number of items to collect, along with the ability to specialize where stat points went when leveling up, made Adventure a bit deeper than its Nintendo counterpart. Sure, its translation wasn't the best, but it was a great title that was at home on the Game Boy and is worth another look, whether in its original version, or the Sword of Mana remake for Game Boy Advance.

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12. Metroid II: Return of Samus

By today's standards, with its black-and-white graphics, labyrinthine corridors, and complete lack of a map, Metroid II is indeed a hard game to praise. Yet despite all these setbacks and criticisms, the inherent sophistication of the story (and how it affected the entire series) makes this undoubtedly one of the most important Game Boy games of all time, if not quite one of the best.

After defeating Mother Brain and her army of life-sucking Metroids, bounty hunter Samus Aran took the fight to SR388--the Metroid homeworld. Return of Samus provided eerie insight into the alien planet, revealing mutated versions of the titular creatures that could now grow legs and leap around the screen, as well as a gigantic queen alien that hatched Metroid after Metroid. Once the queen and her planet of babies is vanquished (no thanks to the fuzzy Game Boy screen), Samus discovers a single surviving Metroid and can't bring herself to kill it. This one act, tucked away in the ending of a fairly crappy Game Boy game, set up Super Metroid, as well as Fusion and Other M. It was unusually coherent and literal storytelling in a time when Nintendo tended to avoid locking its characters down into one timeline, plus the very topic--genocide--seemed awfully edgy for a game meant for 10 year olds.

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11. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages

It's hard to believe any adventure game could match Link's Awakening, but the oft-overlooked GBC-specific duo of Seasons and Ages came pretty darn close. Released just before the GBA launched, these two oddball Zelda games each picked a theme and ran with it; Seasons was more action-based, and played more or less like a modernized version of the very first Zelda, while Ages offered more devious puzzles. Both, of course, were chock full of the usual Zelda excellence.

But why two games on the same day? Seasons and Ages actually talk to each other via a cumbersome password system or link cable, so they combine to form one complete tale. Beat one game, for example, and you receive a password you can input at the beginning of the next that notably alters the experience. Most importantly, the final battle will feature Ganon instead of newcomers Veran and Onox, making this feel more like a legit Zelda instead of another weirdo side story. 

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10. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

With its cartoony look and detailed sprites reminiscent of Super Mario World, a plethora of different-themed worlds, and original, but understandable power-ups, Super Mario Land 2 gave Mario fans what they wanted and did so brilliantly. (Dear Nintendo: Rabbit Mario needs to make a comeback.) SML2 brought lovable rube Wario into all our lives, as the jerky doppelganger steals Mario's castle (Mario owns a castle?), and the mustachioed one has to beat some tough monsters to collect the six Golden Coins and defeat the chunky ne'er-do-well. It wasn't the easiest game ever, but Super Mario Land 2 is still one of the best platformers in portable gaming history.

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9. Mario Tennis

Developer Camelot was known for RPGs when it joined up with Nintendo to make Mario sports games for N64, but anyone who played Mario Tennis and Mario Golf can attest to the team's ability to make an athletic game anyone could enjoy. Camelot excelled with the portable GBC versions too, and not just because it made simple, intuitive controls that worked with the system's limited inputs. Camelot succeeded because the dev infused Mario Tennis with its substantial RPG expertise.

Though the story wasnt particularly deep, it followed a new recruit at a premier tennis school slowly working their way through different leagues and courses, which gradually taught you all the rules of tennis. As you worked your way through a diverse number of challengers, you leveled up and could distribute ability points to specialize the character; this custom-made hero could then be transferred to the N64 Mario Tennis. Though the Mario crew only appeared as the final challengers in the story and could only be played in exhibition mode, this Mario sports game was truly great because of their absence.

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8. Shantae

Oh, poor Shantae. This beautifully animated adventure didnt make it out the door until 2002; at that point, the notably superior Game Boy Advance was already a year old and home to several of its own gorgeous games. Had Shantae arrived just a year sooner, it could have become a well-known classic, possibly igniting a whole new franchise. Instead, it had to compete with a flashier handheld and ultimately failed to make an impact. Circumstances don't change how solid the game is, though. Shantae's filled with typical 2D platformer stuff (running, jumping, grabbing power-ups, etc.), but it's all done remarkably well and with a visual flair the GBC rarely saw. 

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7. Dragon Warrior III

Though it was the third in a series of NES remakes, Dragon Warrior III (Dragon Warrior was the US name for Dragon Quest until 2005) was hardly a down-and-dirty port. DW3 is arguably the most popular game in the series, which made Enix go the extra mile when adding stuff like new collectibles, side quests, minigames, and not one but two extensive post-game dungeons. You'd  have to play at least 150 hours to see everything. However, even if you stripped all that away, you'd still have a game that was the pinnacle of 8-bit RPGs.

Though the story follows the usual destined hero must destroy ultimate evil, it takes some really interesting turns, the biggest of all being its twist ending. This second sequel, which seems completely unrelated to the previous two Dragon Warrior games, is revealed as a prequel late in the adventure. The story takes a backseat for good reason though, as DW3 introduced the series' stellar job system, in which the hero and their teammates leveled up special types of skills (like thief, fighter, mage, etc.), with mastery of a new job making random encounters all the more worthwhile. DW3 was a great introduction to what made the series so popular, and is perhaps the best straightforward RPG on the Game Boy.

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6. Metal Gear Solid

No, we arent talking about the PlayStation title that redefined action games; this is the similarly named GBC release Konami created specifically for Nintendo's portable. Taking place in an alternate timeline, this is a direct sequel to the first Metal Gear for the NES and takes a similar approach with top-down, 2D gameplay. Still, it picked up a few tricks from the PS title, including almost all of the weapons and some new stealth enhancements like moving the camera to look around the corners.

The story takes a familiar path of betrayals and twists as Snake is called out of retirement to invade what was formerly Outer Heaven and stop a separatist group that has stolen the newest Metal Gear codenamed GANDER. You fight new assassins with their own ridiculous names and cool gameplay hooks, and once the engrossing tale is complete, there's a huge amount of bonus content, including numerous VR missions to attack. MGS was proof that just because you were making a portable spin-off didn't mean you had to half-ass it.

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Click 'Next Page' to see the top 5 titles in our countdown of the best Game Boy games.  

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