The lights are on
Newer handheld systems like Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Vita might be garnering a lot of excitement, but all their innovation is built on the backs of the handheld systems that have come before. Though it had lesser predecessors, the undisputed granddaddy of handheld gaming is Nintendo’s first Game Boy system. Not only did this tiny toy help popularize portable gaming with its accessibility, but its little green screen was home to a wealth of amazing games. Join us as we take a look back at the 25 greatest Game Boy and Game Boy Color games of all time.
Before we begin it should be noted that in issue 59 of Game Informer (March 1998), we put together a similar list. Check out our original list below and see how it compares to our modern update. It’s interesting to note the absence of titles like Pokémon – Pokémon Red/Blue was still a few months from its North American release when we crafted our original list. And be sure to check out many of the original commercials that enticed customers to buy these classic games in the following pages.
Note: This story originally ran on June 24, 2011. We've republished it in honor of the Game Boy's 25th anniversary. The handheld was first released on April 21, 1989 in Japan, before making its way to North America on July 31, 1989. A European release followed on September 28, 1990.
1. TetrisFirst Release: August 1989The world’s most legendary puzzle game came as a pack-in title for the original Game Boy system. Not only is its addictive nature apparent to anyone who starts moving falling blocks into place, but Tetris helped push Game Boy sales, making the system a household name, and vice versa. The Game Boy version of Tetris alone has sold over 35 million copies.
2. Pokémon seriesFirst Release: September 28, 1998 (Red/Blue), October 19, 1999 (Yellow), October 14, 2000 (Gold/Silver), July 29, 2001 (Crystal)Considering Pokémon’s long-lasting success, it’s hard to image that there was a time when people thought this crazy Japanese critter catcher was just a fad, but buried under Pokémon’s kid-friendly façade lies a solid RPG. Whether you started with the original Red and Blue release, or later with Yellow, Gold, Silver, Crystal, or the myriad other additions to the series, at some point in your life you’ve likely felt the urge to catch them all.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening First Release: August 1993Link’s Awakening may be a rarity in that it doesn’t feature Princess Zelda or the Triforce, but that doesn’t detract from the game’s overall quality. After waking up on the shores of a mysterious place called Koholint Island, Link begins a puzzle-filled quest to collect eight musical instruments that will awaken the sleeping Wind Fish and allow him to escape the island. A 1998 DX release updated the game’s graphics and expanded the quest with an exclusive color-based dungeon. The game is so influential that Nintendo released the title as the first entry in 3DS’ virtual console.
4. Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins First Release: November 2, 1992Super Mario World released on the Game Boy Advance in 2001, but a decade earlier portable-minded games got the next best thing with Six Golden Coins. This follow-up to Super Mario Land eschewed the strange creatures and vehicle segments of the original in favor a world map, awesome power-ups like bunny ears, and some of the most creative levels the series has ever seen. Mario gets swallowed by a giant fish, explores a gigantic mechanical version of himself, and even goes to the moon. Six Golden Coins also marked the first appearance of a new antagonist: Wario.
5. Mario Picross First Release: March 1995By cleverly throwing Mario’s face on the cover, Nintendo slyly introduced us to the nonogram logic puzzle. We loved it. Using math to knock out blocks aligned on a grid and create pictures has never been more fun.
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.