Best Game Boy games
It wasn't the first handheld videogame system, but the Game Boy is the one that changed everything. Suddenly, everyone you knew had a Game Boy and was peering intently at that tiny screen the color of overcooked spinach. More than 800 games were released for the system, which is way too many to keep in your desk drawer, so it's important to know what the best Game Boy games really are. Whether you favored the old school brick or one of the new fangled Game Boy Colors (or both), these are the best Game Boy games of all time.
25. Dr. Mario
Released at the same time as the NES version, Mario got his MD and attacked viruses the only way he knew how: lining up color-matching pills. Even without the vibrant colors of the home version, the GB release still had the habit-forming gameplay and infectious music, a perfect remedy to boredom on long family trips.
24. R-Type DX
Bundling the first and second games, R-Type DX shrunk down the shooter in size but not scope. The screen-filling enemies, rain of bullets, and spectacular soundtrack all carried over splendidly to the handheld. Though there weren't a ton of memorable shooters on the Game Boy, R-Type DX is easily the best the system saw.
23. Mario's Picross
Using the logic-puzzle type known as nonogram, you're presented with a grid informing you how many spots in a grid line are filled in. Through the process of elimination you fill in the spots and see an image gradually reveal itself. Though Picross has been done better since, this Mushroom Kingdom-tinged original is still worth the time of anyone who wants to train their brain.
22. Pokmon Pinball
Much more than a cheap cash-in of the Pokemon license, this elaborate spin-off managed to provide a solid pinball experience while staying true to the gotta catch 'em all mantra of the main series. Each of the two tables (Red and Blue, naturally) contained various towns and caves you could visit via precise pinball strikes. Each area housed unique Pokemon you could catch with an even more challenging gauntlet of pinball tasks. The skill required made each and every successful capture a momentous occasion.
21. Gargoyle's Quest
What's this, a great Game Boy game that isn't a sequel to an already-popular franchise? Not quite--Gargoyle's Quest is technically part of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series, though the similarities essentially end with the main character: Firebrand is an enemy in the first GnG. Now a hero, Firebrand is supposedly the only one who can stop an even meaner demon from ruling the world. Cue some adventuresome 8-bit music, throw down some 2D levels and boom, you've got enough motivation for a Game Boy outing.
But there was more going on here than you'd expect from a Game Boy spin-off. Yeah there were 2D areas with bosses at the end, but Firebrand's ever-increasing abilities gave you more control than was typical at the time. Hovering, wall climbing, super jumping, platform creation... there was a lot to do! Then add overhead areas a la Dragon Quest, complete with (frequent) enemy encounters and NPCs who talk IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and you've got a remarkably robust handheld game for its time.
20. Mega Man V
Equipped with a new Mega Arm and saddled with a robo-assistant named Tango, Mega Man was sent on an entirely original adventure. Thanks to artist Keiji Inafune's Stardroids vision, the series entered fresh territory while keeping a solid foot in its time-honored Mega Man gameplay. All said, Mega Man V was different; and by that point in the robo-warrior's career, different was good.
19. Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
Somewhere between the NES classic and the misguided 2009 gruffquel, this bizarre one-off entry in Capcom's swingin' series landed on GBC with new characters and abilities. As was typical for GBC games, the fundamentals were NES era, while the character animations were surprisingly smooth; most importantly the feel of swinging from platform to platform was intact, making this a strange but fun side story.
18. Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land doesn't gets a pass out of nostalgia alone (though that is a big reason). Dust off Super Mario Land today and you'll still be treated to a lively platformer dripping with Gunpei Yokoi's off-kilter design. The Super Mario Land series evolved with each sequel, but thanks to this pioneer it got off on the right foot.
17. Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
Belmont's Revenge was a totally unique, Game Boy-exclusive edition that proudly carried the NES Castlevania traditions onto the portable. Sure, as a typical 2D walk-right-and-whip-baddies game, it wasn't a groundbreaking moment for the franchise. But it was a solid entry that made up for the weaker original and proved Game Boy could, on occasion, bust out a console-level experience with just four colors to back it up.
16. Pokmon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Gold and Silver were more than updated versions of Red and Blue; the new series introduced the concept of Pokemon breeding, opening up all-new ways to disappear into the Poke-world for hours at a time. Customized, honed teams could now be built based on more than just their type. Hold items appeared, adding yet another wrinkle to trainer battles. A day and night cycle was added, which meant some Pokemon would only appear during certain times of the day. The list of additions goes on, and each one, while sounding simplistic, drastically altered the core game and solidified Pokemon as a no-nonsense RPG experience.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Kirby's Dream Land 2
Kirby, the little fluff ball that could, made his debut on Game Boy in 1992 with Kirby's Dream Land. It was a fun and decidedly cute platformer, but it wasnt until the sequel came along in 1995 that Kirby reached his true potential. Dream Land 2 not only was a much bigger adventure, with more worlds to explore and enemies to fight, but it also added the ability to copy enemies that was introduced in 1993's Kirbys Adventure on NES. And it's impossible to deny the usefulness and the adorable-osity of Kirby's three new animal friends.
When you mixed the abilities of Rick the Hamster, Coo the Owl, and Kine the Ocean Sunfish with Kirby's other powers, you had a surprising amount of variety. As Kirby fought his way through seven worlds, eventually battling his old nemesis King Dedede to restore peace back to Dream Land, you were treated to some of the best 2D levels the Game Boy ever saw. It cemented Kirby's place among Nintendo's top franchises, and despite some great console games, proved Kirby fits best in the palm of your hand.
4. Donkey Kong
The original arcade Donkey Kong is undeniably a classic, but by 1994 players were going to need more than a spiffy remake for the influential title to be worth picking up on Game Boy. Fortunately, Shigeru Miyamoto and his development team had something else planned. Once you beat the original four stages, the real adventure began. A seemingly unending number of ingenious puzzle-platforming stages followed, as you chased DK through cities, forests, and caves.
Starting with Mario's original DK control scheme, the devs added nearly every trick the plumber had learned since. He picked up items and enemies, he did back flips, Mario even climbed ropes and vines just like Donkey Kong Jr. To match those powers, the levels had so many different tricks and ideas that the game stayed amazingly fresh and challenging for the 100 levels it lasted. Perfect in bite-sized installments, Donkey Kong was a monster success in game design and fit the Game Boy like one of Mario's white gloves.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
After the SNES game Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the Zelda development team decided it was about time they made an adventure specifically crafted for the Game Boy. But since it was designed to be a side adventure for Link, the team took some liberties with the formula, and ended up with a Zelda whose gameplay was the same, but with a strange, engrossing plot unlike anything LoZ fans had seen before.
After Link shipwrecks on a strange island, he awakens in the land of Koholint where everything feels slightly off compared to Hyrule, and it's filled with people that remind Link of characters he's met before. Throughout the game Link must find and explore eight dungeons to collect the sacred instruments to wake the fabled Wind Fish so he can go home. But what happens to Koholint when it wakes up? Link's Awakening kept the series' winning gameplay and mixed it with a Twin Peaks vibe to create one of the most unforgettable games ever, proving that Zelda could be just as astonishing even at a smaller scale.
There's a story in Nintendo's history that goes like this: When deciding what game to pack in with the Game Boy (remember when you'd get a free game with a brand-new system?), a Nintendo executive said, if you want to sell this to boys, pack in Mario. If you want to sell it to everyone, pack in Tetris. The moment Nintendo saw the USSRs enigmatic puzzler, they knew it was the perfect game to sell the system, and worked tirelessly to get it.
A title some have called the perfect game, Tetris and its seven simple shapes are the epitome of the design philosophy "easy to learn, hard to master." All you had to do was place those shapes in a certain order to complete a line and then clear it, like you were building a puzzle from scratch, but every puzzle felt different. It was understandable to any new player, and addicted people to such an extent it invaded their dreams. Even with all the different versions that have come in the two decades since, the original portable release is just as playable today as it was when it made the Game Boy a huge success right from the start.
1. Pokmon Red/Blue
What can be said about Pokemon that hasn't been already? It long ago expanded well beyond the realm of games and has become a way of life for many, with products spanning seemingly every type of merchandise and spin-off imaginable. When Game Freak first decided to create a monster-capturing game that was inspired by a childhood bug-collecting hobby of one of the devs, it just wanted to make a good RPG, and it succeeded beyond its wildest dreams.
Pokemon's catch 'em all mentality kept players mesmerized as they tried to accumulate all 151 of the adorable creatures. At the time Game Boys had gone from slightly low-tech to positively ancient compared to what was on home consoles, but Pokemon's strengths as an RPG made it ideal for the handheld. Players could take the hunt wherever they needed to and the ability to trade with friends further deepened the surprisingly complex title. Pokemon almost single-handedly doubled the Game Boy's lifespan, keeping the system relevant and in the hands of gamers long after all its challengers were collecting dust.
What do you think?
Obviously not every game could make the list--there are only so many games that can be labeled the absolute best. We're sure that some of you have games you think should have been added, cut, or rearranged, so let us know in the comments below what you would change about our list of the Best Game Boy games of all time.