The 8 List: Best Original Game Boy Games of all Time.


Kirby’s Dream Land

Series: Kirby
Release: 1992

What made it so great?
Kirby’s Dream Land was a staple purchase for many who bought a Game Boy during its time. The game offered a unique spin on platforming which followed Kirby along his quest to defeat King Dedede in his first ever game. The gameplay was relatively simple, with just a tad amount of difficulty at times and it provided players with a memorable gaming experience, which is why it deserves a place on this list.

A Kirby Collection will be released on the Wii this year (2012) to celebrate the series’ 20th Anniversary.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Nintendo 3DS eShop ($6AUD).
Kirby’s Dream Land holds up very well. Its cute and charming visuals are just as rich as they ever were and it doesn’t fall into that area of past video games that are too difficult by todays standards. Kirby’s Dream Land doesn’t offer a large amount of gameplay, just like most games that were released early on in the Game Boys lifetime, but even today it still remains enjoyable at its core.


Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins

Series: Super Mario Bros.
Release: 1993

What made it so great?
Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins was a followup to 1990’s Super Mario Land. The game was a great step up from its predecessor and included a lot of elements from console Mario games that came before it. The game featured a world map, much akin to the one present in Super Mario Bros. 3, albeit in a much simpler form, as well as the exclusive power up; The Magic Carrot.

Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins was the first game to introduce Wario into the Super Mario Bros. series.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Nintendo 3DS eShop ($6AUD).
The game holds up much better than its predecessor, Super Mario Land, but compared to other games in the broader Mario series, it doesn’t hold up as well as Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. 3. Mario is rather floaty at times and he’s control differs to the majority of other games in the series.


Donkey Kong

Series: Donkey Kong
Release: 1994

What made it so great?
You begin the game in the very familiar original Donkey Kong stages. You complete them and then it suddenly hits you. This game is a LOT bigger than its arcade predecessor, Donkey Kong. The game featured a whopping 101 stages, proving that the handheld device, even having some very basic games, was entirely capable of delivering a high quality of last-ability and refinement.

A huge game for its time, Donkey Kong pushed boundaries for portable gaming.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Nintendo 3DS eShop ($6AUD).
You bet. The gameplay will always remain very straightforward and playable regardless of the era. Perhaps the only downside is its visuals and some minor unclarity with the controls. If you’re attempting to travel for a long period of time, Donkey Kong is a perfect game to get your classic-gaming fix, and make it last.


Mega Man V

Series: Mega Man
Release: 1994

What made it so great?
Every Mega Man game that was released for the Game Boy had a very similar overall gameplay style. Mega Man V was the last game in the Game Boy series and unsurprisingly was the greatest. The game played very similar to the NES console versions of Mega Man, but had a slightly different feel to it, as well as a more simplified package. Mega Man V introduced a new default weapon, the ‘Mega-Arm,’ as well as a new assistant character called ‘Tango.’

Mega Man V was able to replicate the console experience pretty well for its time, yet the console version always felt more tighter and precise.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Original cartridge - Current value wavers around $100.
Mega Man V reminds players of a time when portable games were sometimes hard to develop because of the limitations of certain systems. There are so many other Mega Man games out there that can be played on a portable device (such as Mega Man Powered-Up for the PSP) that it’s hard to suggest players choose Mega Man V over the other more recent games. That, coupled with the fact that the game cartridge is quite rare, makes it more wiser to enjoy some of the other, very similar games in the overall series.


Final Fantasy Adventure / Mystic Quest

Series: Final Fantasy (Mana series in Japan)
Release: 1993

What made it so great?
Many of history’s greatest video game series’ took a shot at Nintendo’s first handheld console and Final Fantasy was one of those. Although Final Fantasy Adventure was technically a game in the ‘Mana’ series, it still did a remarkable job at translating the well-loved series into a solid handheld RPG.

Final Fantasy Adventure was titled Mystic Quest in Europe and Australia.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Original cartridge - Current value wavers around $20,
Remake: Sword of Mana - Game Boy Advance.
Classic Role-Playing games don’t tend to hold up as well nowadays and this, mixed with the aged visuals and sounds, make Final Fantasy Adventure a difficult game to get into now. There is an alternate version however, a remake titled Sword of Mana which was released for the Game Boy Advance. On top of this, there are also many, many other portable games in the Final Fantasy series now (with most even retaining the original style and feel of the series) that offer a much better experience with all aspects considered.



Series: Tetris
Release: 1990

What made it so great?
Tetris was originally packed in with the first Game Boy bundle. It provided almost perfect play for different types of people and kept players hooked no matter what their age. It was a great entry point for people to get into portable gaming, but at the same time offered hardcore gamers a challenge.

The Game Boy version of Tetris is easily one of the best available even to this day.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Nintendo 3DS eShop ($6AUD).
Remake: Too many to list.
Most definitely. Tetris is probably the most playable game on the list today and it’s easily one of the greatest ways to play the Tetris game. The overall concept of the game is perfect for ‘on-the-go’ play and it’s hard to think of a better way to play Tetris than the original Game Boy version (which can of course be played on the Nintendo 3DS today). The designer of the original Tetris concept has gone on to say that the Game Boy version of Tetris is his all time favourite.


The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Series: The Legend of Zelda
Release: 1993

What made it so great?
Take all the adventure, fun and gameplay from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, mix it with a unique and bizarre story, cram it into a Game Boy cartridge and what you end up with is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy. The story is one of the grandest adventures ever on the Game Boy system and has a lot of elements that found their way into later entries in one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises.

New characters and items found its way into the series, including Owl and Roc’s Feather.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: The Game Boy Colour enhanced version is available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop ($9AUD).
Link’s Awakening is not only extremely fun and playable today, it’s an essential purchase from the Nintendo 3DS eShop. The game was re-released for the Game Boy Colour and included a full colour palette and an all new dungeon. The Game Boy Colour version is the most definitive version, however the original still has everything that made it so great to begin with.


Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow

Series: Pokémon
Release: 1998

What made it so great?
Pokémon Red/Blue began one of the biggest crazes ever. Even to this day, the franchise continues to be a dominating force in the video game, anime and trading card game industries.

The game offered such an expansive collection of ‘pocket monsters’ to collect, train and of course, trade. These individual creatures were all memorable and had such character and style to them. By collecting and training these ‘Pokémon’ you were able to move forward through the game and collect all 8 gym badges, which would allow you to challenge the ‘Elite Four’ and become a true ‘Pokémon Master.’ The basic story worked so phenomenally well that it has barely been changed at all today.

It all began with this image.

Is it still great today?
Play it now: Original cartridge - Current value wavers around $25
Remake: Pokémon Fire Red / Leaf Green - Game Boy Advance
Pokémon Red and Blue remain great games today, even though there are some errors and glitches (including the infamous Missingno Glitch) that are present. When the games were released, these didn’t necessarily hinder the experience though, with many finding the Missingno Glitch a really fun and interesting glitch that became as famous as the game itself. Pokémon Yellow was released a year later and attempted to follow the TV series’ story a tad closer. This version included characters and certain story elements that were in the show, with the most notable inclusion being the different starter Pokémon ‘Pikachu.’ This version removed the Missingno Glitch, which also removed the ability to have unlimited items.

Some of the moves in the original game were broken and there were some overpowered Pokémon types such as ‘Psychic,’ but the original formula for the game has been completely refined today and by playing the most recent Pokémon games (Pokémon Black and White) you get the most full-bodied experience available. However, if you’re after an experience that only the original story can provide, playing the Game Boy Advance remake is a more improved way to experience it.

Pokémon Red/Blue was born to be one of the best ways to experience portable gaming with friends or alone. There is so much contained in the game and it all remains truly memorable to this day.

Written by - Michael Villalon for The VG Island.