Looking for the Best Game Boy Games? Look no further!
If you grew up in the 90’s, you probably had a brick — and by brick, we mean one of the original Game Boys. These giant game systems were the coolest things ever. Who cares that they didn’t have backlit screens? They sold bulky additions to help with that. Who cares that they were only black and white? Who needs color when you’re gaming on the go?
It was a simpler time when games were willfully harder, and tutorials weren’t something that existed. You figured it out, or you failed — that was all there was to it. The range of games wasn’t as big as you might expect from modern video games, but there were enough to give us options when we were picking out some pretty awesome favorites for this list!
Final Fantasy Adventure
A Final Fantasy game more in name than in actuality. Final Fantasy Adventure is the first Square game in the Mana series and would later branch into a whole wide range of sequels. This game was a lot like Legend of Zelda in gameplay in that it was a top-down adventure, but it also introduced more of a role-playing element. The game sucked you into the plot and kept you through the final boss fight.
Let’s not forget the basics. Tetris is the greatest puzzle game of all time. It is still, 30 years later, the highest selling game of all time (this is across all platforms) and has sold 170 million copies. The gameplay is simple: stack blocks. The compulsion to play one more round drove the addiction well into the nineties and beyond. Just the mention of the game can get the catchy music stuck in past addicts’ heads and resurface the itch to play. Tetris was fantastic because it was simple enough that even your grandma could play it, but challenging enough that it felt satisfying to finish a level.
Harvest Moon GB
If you ever got into farming games on Facebook, then you understand the addiction of crop care. It seems weird that maintaining animals and watering your plants could be so engrossing, but even when you told yourself you’d just keep it up for “five more minutes,” the next thing you knew it was five hours later and you’re starting to go cross-eyed. The simplicity of the Game Boy version of this classic really made it. Where many games of the era were hard hitting platformers, Harvest Moon offered a more relaxing experience. If you never played it, it’s a peaceful way to pass an afternoon.
Batman the Video Game
Game Boy lent itself to shorter form storytelling, but Batman never felt short. The platform restrictions gave Bats a shorter and stouter look than most of us were used to, but this game is still a favorite for a lot of fans. Being able to take the world’s greatest detective with you in your pocket (who are we kidding — no kid had pockets big enough for an old-school Game Boy) was the best thing ever.
Metroid II: Return of Samus
You know a game is iconic if it gets a modern remake — and that is precisely what happened to Metroid II: Return of Samus. In 2017 they released an updated remake called Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS — not exactly an inspired renaming, but that’s okay. The newer version has many of the things that made the Game Boy version great, with the benefits of modern graphics and color. It isn’t the one we played back in the 90’s though, and the main thing it accomplishes is making us want to find our old cartridge and blow off the dust. The environment and clever use of graphics make this one a must play.
Donkey Kong Land
Many Game Boy games were direct sequels to popular NES games, and this Donkey Kong platformer was no different. Donkey Kong Land takes place directly after Donkey Kong Country (another great game). The plot is really tongue in cheek with Kranky Kong straight up insinuating that Donkey Kong Country only did so well because of the NES’s superior graphics and sound. He goes on to say it would never work on the 8-bit Game Boy. Donkey Kong is understandably pissed, and sets out to prove him wrong. The game has a lot of what made Donkey Kong Country great, just scaled back a bit for the limited capability of the system. As with all Donkey Kong games, it’s a tricky platformer and very satisfying to beat.
Kirby is one of the most iconic Nintendo characters ever to be created, and this was his very first game. Kirby’s Dreamland was a delightfully pleasant game in a field of dark and attitude-filled games. Kirby was a friendly face and a welcoming place for new gamers to find their feet — but don’t let that cute round exterior fool you, this game was tricky. While he could not yet steal the powers of his enemies, this game set the stage for all future Kirby games. It’s got high replayability, so blow out your cartridge and drift into a replay.
Super Mario Land
This was THE game you had to have on Game Boy to be cool in the late 80’s. Finally, there was a way to make Mario portable. It was shorter than the original, and due to the limitations of the system, some corners were definitely cut. Sure there was that whole weird UFO theming, and the kind of odd enemies (not to mention the shooter levels). But these things made the game really quirky and cemented it as a classic for the Game Boy. It maintained the tricky platforming the game was known for, even if it was a shorter form game.
This was our first ever experience in the world of Pokemon. People wonder why Pokemon is still a favorite, and there are a few pretty good theories why. In part, it’s because they took the traditional turn-based RPG and added in collecting elements. It was hard to get bored when you could build your team thousands of ways. We love the challenge of making our team and the effort to raise it up and beat the Elite Four — not to mention Giovanni and Team Rocket! While the sprites were very limited, and the battles didn’t have much animation outside of attacks, it’s still an incredible play.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Anyone who played this game will agree it was one of the most epic, most interesting, and most engaging games to ever get released for Game Boy. As one of the few Legend of Zelda games that don’t take place in Hyrule, it stands out from the series and gives a new look at life within the world as a whole. The music is incredible, the gameplay is engaging, and nothing about it feels lessened by being on the very limited Game Boy. This is still a long-standing favorite of many Zelda fans and if you haven’t played it yet, do it. Do it as soon as you can. It’s worth your time.