Game Boy

Having completed my lists for Nintendo’s home consoles (excepting the WiiU, which hasn’t been out long enough to have a Top 8), I’ve decided to move on to their handhelds. I’ll openly admit that these lists will probably be more debatable to most people because I’m still a console first guy and missed out on some of the more revered handheld games. I do think I managed to catch the gems, especially when the Super Game Boy launched and allowed me to play them on the Super NES. Also note that I’m including both Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on this list. I feel that the Game Boy Color was more of an improvement on the existing system versus an entirely new handheld.

Yeah…No: Blaster Master: Enemy Below, Mega Man Xtreme, Castlevania Legends, Donkey Kong, The Final Fantasy Legend, Kirby’s Dream Land 2, Pokemon Gold/Silver

Gargoyle's Quest8. Gargoyle’s Quest
It’s very surprising that Capcom decided to give the Red Gargoyle (Firebrand) from Ghouls & Ghosts his own game, but anyone that’s played this title is probably happy they did. Blending RPG elements (world map, random encounters) with side-scrolling platforming levels, this game  is not only quite unique, but quite a bit of fun as well, and very ambitious for Nintendo’s Game Boy. Firebrand controls well and has the ability of limited hovering. I also give some bonus points to this game for spawning a sequel on the NES and the wonderful Demon’s Crest on the Super NES.

SML 27. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
As different as Super Mario Brothers 3 is from the original, that’s how different this game is from Super Mario Land. Super Mario Land 2 has quite the leap in graphics and gameplay from the original, leading to a much richer and varied experience. While featuring traditional power-ups (mushroom, fire flower), Mario Land 2 introduced the carrot, which gives Mario bunny ears and allows him to float as well as levels where you travel in a bubble and in an outer space setting, complete with Mario in a space suit. This title also marks the first appearance of Wario, who has taken over Mario’s castle (?!) in Mario Land 2. Wario has since become a regular character in Nintendo games, even having his own line of games on the Game Boy.

Zelda Oracle6. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons
The Game Boy seems very close, power wise, to the NES, so these two titles bear a strong resemblance to the original Legend of Zelda, but don’t think these titles are retreads. Both carve their own niche in the Zelda franchise. I included these two as one entry because they are truly linked titles. Literally. After completing one title, you can enter a password into the other to essentially bring your game over. This also lets you battle a true final boss that would otherwise remain unseen. Both games also feature a strong puzzle mechanic. Seasons allows you to change through the seasons, opening up new areas via melted snow, ice, etc… Ages similarly allows you to move from the past to the present, which will open up new paths as well, and allow you to influence the presence via actions in the past. Both are very strong titles and are both available on the 3DS e-shop, so there is no excuse to miss either one of them.

Wario Land5. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Honestly, I wasn’t very thrilled at not playing as Mario in this game when it came out. It was a Mario game, so I wanted to be Mario. That’s how it works. Thankfully, I still gave this game a chance and it turned out to be one of my personal favorites, and one of the best platformers on the system. Playing as Wario is a ton of fun with his dash attack and array of hats that give him different powers (Dragon flames, Flying, etc…). Also, the game is packed with secret exits and hidden treasures to be found. The treasures, along with all the coins you collect, determine the size of Wario’s castle at the end of the game. It was gratifying to finally have a reason besides extra lives to collect coins in a Mario game.

Mega Man V4. Mega Man V
The Game Boy Mega Man games had always been a rehash of the NES games when Mega Man V came out. Instead of following that trend, Capcom instead came up with an original story as well as original boss characters for Mega Man to face, each one named after a planet in the solar system, while dropping the traditional “Man” part of the boss name. This game easily stacks up against any of the NES entries. The platforming is very tight, the weapons and upgrades are fun to play with, and the boss battles have the same challenge to them as the NES games. I’m not sure what motivated Capcom to get original on the fifth entry, but by doing so, they gave us the best Mega Man game to grace the system.

Metroid II3. Metroid II: Return of Samus
I’m hard-pressed to think of what to say about this game. I fully believe it belongs here, but it’s hard, in hindsight, not to compare it to its sublime sequels and see where its faults are, which really isn’t fair. For its time, Metroid II was a pretty amazing game. It added to Samus’s abilities from the original game, and had her attack the Metroids directly on their home planet of SR388. This game also introduced the various mutations and evolutions of the Metroids, meaning that what we saw in the NES game (and in games since, sadly) was only the tip of the iceberg. Metroid II smartly included a battery save system, dropping the cumbersome password of the original. To be blunt, this game is extremely hard, and can be confusing due to the lack of an in-game map. Speaking of, I’ll always remember this game as the first I played that had me sketching my own map on a drawing pad. It wouldn’t be the last time I would do that.

Pokemon2. Pokemon Red/Blue
In hindsight, these games seem very basic and bare bones compared to today’s Pokemon games, but for their time, they were amazing. Hidden behind a very simple premise (Gotta Catch ‘Em All) was an extremely deep game. An RPG that wasn’t like any other RPG. I can still remember the excitement of encountering a new Pokemon that I hadn’t yet caught, or finally being able to snag that pesky Abra. The game was designed brilliantly. It was deep and offered a different playthrough each time you revisited it (assuming you chose to use different Pokemon). The ability to trade with friends to get Pokemon unavailable on your copy, or to snag all three starters was a genius move by Game Freak. Few games captured my time and attention the way this game did many years ago.

Link's Awakening1. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Being the first Zelda title to follow A Link to the Past on the Super NES was never going to be an easy task, but Nitnendo’s developers answered the call and gave us Link’s Awakening. Placing Link on an island outside of Hyrule, you must guide him through multiple dungeons to gather instruments that can wake the Windfish that rests on top of a mountain to get Link home. It makes a bit more sense in game…I think. Anyway, while graphically Link’s Awakening is closer to the NES than Super NES, the gameplay easily fits alongside A Link to the Past. This game also introduced the Roc’s Feather which allowed Link to jump for the first time, along with other new items for his quest. While the original release is fine for this title, if you’re looking to pick it up, I’d suggest purchasing the DX version which as been modified to take advantage of the Game Boy Color system, even adding a new color based dungeon to explore. This game may not match A Link to the Past in greatness, but it is still a great game and the best to grace the Game Boy system.

  1. Mason says:

    Good list! I would include Tetris, even though it is a straight port. Nothing like having Tetris on the road.

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