They are still beloved even today
The Game Boy was Nintendo’s first entry into the Game Boy handheld lineup. First launched in 1989, the 8-bit system was weak by modern standards and featured a dot-matrix screen with only five buttons: a D-Pad, Start, Select, A, and B.
It also had an adjustable contrast dial on the right side of the screen. But what people remember the Game Boy for isn’t its technology, but the games.
The handheld looked like a brick and weighed nearly as much, but it had a lineup of titles that are still beloved today. In fact, many of the greatest titles on the Game Boy have seen modern-day remakes in the past several years.
Here are our picks for the best Game Boy games of all time. Also, if you want to see some gameplay and hear us talk about some of our favorite Game Boy games, check out our YouTube video.
Pokemon Red & Pokemon Blue
When Nintendo launched Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue in North America in September 1998, no one could have predicted the adorable fighting creatures would birth a franchise worth $92 billion.
Pokemon doesn’t need much introduction, having suffused the cultural consciousness as it has. Although the series actually launched two years earlier in Japan, its wildfire spread did not start until it came to America. Pokemon Yellow was the next entry, with its unique mechanic of having Pikachu follow the player around.
It’s worth noting that Pokemon Gold and Silver also entered the world near the end of the Game Boy’s lifespan.
The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is well-known among fans because of how different it was. Many consider it one of the best Game Boy games. While still solidly a Zelda game in terms of mechanics, the title took place outside of Hyrule on the strange island of Koholint.
The original title launched in 1993 and tasked players with finding eight magical, musical instruments that would wake the sleeping Wind Fish—no mention at all of Ganon, the Triforce, or any of the usual elements.
Link’s Awakening saw a new release in 1998 for the Game Boy Color with additional content, but remained largely the same as the original game. Recently, Nintendo released a remastered version of Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch.
Tetris was one of the first titles for the Game Boy. It launched in July 1989 and went on to sell more than 35 million copies. The simple-yet-addictive gameplay loop of matching shapes and aiming for a high score kept players hooked. Even as new versions of Tetris have entered the market, the formula remains the same.
As Tetris offered easy entertainment with little time investment, it appealed to players from all walks of life. In 2008, Nintendo even listed Tetris DX, a later release, as the best Game Boy/Game Boy Color game of all time—but that would not have happened were it not for the original killer app.
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
The first Super Mario Land title was Mario’s first adventure on the Game Boy, but it was clear that the developers were still learning the capabilities of the system. While a fun romp, it lacked substance compared to other titles in the series.
On the other hand, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins left a mark on history. Not only is it the first appearance of Wario, Mario’s evil alternative, but it became one of the most popular titles on the entire Game Boy and sold over 11 million copies.
The game features an overworld map like Super Mario World 3 rather than Super Mario Bros and features multi-level stages, giving it a much more open world feel than many games of its day.
Harvest Moon GB
The original Harvest Moon debuted on the Super Nintendo to much popularity and acclaim from players. The Game Boy version of the game is not as complicated, forgoing the marriage system and even a fleshed-out town in favor of a more focused system of harvesting crops, upgrading your tools, and trying to meet the expectations of your deceased grandfather.
Even so, Harvest Moon GB is one of the single best Game Boy game titles for its portability and the simple, yet fun, gameplay.
Final Fantasy Adventure
Final Fantasy Adventure is a unique title in the series. Rather than the turn-based battles of its brethren (until recently, anyway), Final Fantasy Adventure plays much more like a Legend of Zelda title. Its popularity lies in the seeds it planted, however—seeds that would bloom into titles like Secret of Mana.
Although those later titles are known for their gorgeous artwork, this original adventure managed to capture the hearts of players on a tiny little screen.
Kirby’s Dream Land
No Nintendo platform would be complete without the pink puff making an appearance. Kirby’s Dream Land is a fantastic addition to the series and builds nicely on the NES release. If you played later titles first, this one may feel a bit simple in comparison, but the early titles show the foundation for what the Kirby franchise would later become.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back, fun title that isn’t overly difficult, Kirby’s Dream Land is a great pick.
Mega Man V
There are a lot of Mega Man titles on the Game Boy, but a good number of those are ports of games that were released on the NES. Mega Man V is the first wholly original Mega Man title released on the Game Boy and stands out as one of the greatest Mega Man titles.
The platforming action feels familiar and fresh, although it is slower compared to titles played on more powerful hardware. When it comes to taking the Blue Bomber on the go, however, Mega Man V is an awesome pick.
These eight games represent the cream of the crop for the Game Boy. There are a total of 1,055 games in its library, but thankfully, emulation options are plentiful from sites like EmuParadise. If you feel the need for a nostalgic stroll through gaming history, give some of these blasts from the past a try.
What are your favorites for best Game Boy game titles? What makes them stand out from the pack? Let us know in the comments below.