Top Ten Tuesday 07

My Top Ten Gameboy Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.

Pre-List Notes

I received my first Gameboy in the Summer of 1991. My older brother had won the system as a door prize during his After Prom party. He bequeathed it to me, probably thinking video games were more for kids, and I worshiped him for it. Up to that point I had only played a few games on his old Colecovision like Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Q-Bert.

The Gameboy only came with one game - tetris, but that was enough to keep me glued to the little black and white and greenish screen. Over the next decade new home consoles came and went as well as new evolutions of my beloved Gameboy - the slim and sexy Pocket in 1996 and the fancy upgraded Color in 1998. For the purposes of this list, I'm lumping both Gameboy and Gameboy Color games together, as the first major system upgrade wasn't until the 32-bit Advance was released in 2001. While many Gameboy games were simple ports of NES games, the system soon had a vast and impressive library in its own right.


Top Ten Gameboy Games


10) Kirby's Dreamland

Kirby's big debut was on the tiny screen as a black and white cream puff. Despite the cutesy character and easier gameplay, Kirby was a hell of a lot of fun. For starters, instead of jumping on his enemies he simply devoured them, and navigating the world was a breeze when you could fly without the need for powerups. Like most of Nintendo's platformers the controls were rock solid and the gameplay was incredibly entertaining. It wasn't until I saw Kirby later advertised in magazines that I realized he was actually pink, which somehow just made him all the more endearing.


9) Ducktales

Ducktales was one of my favorite NES games, and its small screen brother was essentially the same game. The smaller screen made many of the aspects of the game much more difficult than need be, but the fact that I could play one of my favorite games on the go was enough to cement it on this list.


8) Yoshi

While Yoshi was essentially a Tetris clone using Nintendo characters (Mario villains, mostly), the player controlled the stacks on the bottom rather than the falling blocks. Switching the stacks so that identical monsters touched and disappeared or getting big points by sticking monsters in between a top and bottom egg shell caused the whole stack to vanish for huge points. Sure the gameplay was repetitive and luck based, but it scratched that Tetris puzzle itch nicely and I loved the Mario theming.


7) Final Fantasy Legend III

While my gamer history is somewhat hazy, I'm pretty sure this little gem was my first Final Fantasy game. I knew I had stumbled upon something special when the box contained a fold out map. The gameplay was your typical 8-bit or 16-bit JRPG with a party of characters, turn based battles with menus and a huge world to explore. Instead of choosing among various classes, however, a character could eat the meat of defeated foes, or install robotic parts to evolve. Eating meat would turn a character into a beast, while robot parts would create a cyborg. These classes would afford them new abilities based on the meat/parts that were used. Further more you could go deeper into the class and eventually evolve into full on monsters or robots, which would be much more powerful but completely uncontrollable by the player. It was an awesome system that I've yet to see reproduced. The story involved time travel and the classic final fantasy airship and provided a ton of gameplay for such a small cartridge.


6) Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins

The original Super Mario Land was a bizarre game. The series served as the primary Mario series for the Gameboy - the equivalent of the NES' Super Mario Bros - but the gameplay involved some bizarre powerups and weird gameplay segments including side scrolling shooters with Mario in a vehicle.

The sequel, however, was a proper return to form as Six Golden Coins took after SMB3's overworld map and awesome gameplay. Basically this was the closest thing to SMB3 you could get on the Gameboy, and it was not to be missed. Most importantly, it introduced a new villain into the Mario universe, a villain that would become popular enough to warrant his own game...


5) Warioland: Super Mario Land 3

Although Wario retained many of his nemeses platforming abilities, he was anything but a derivative clone. Wario was much more physical in his fighting, with the ability to pick up and throw enemies and smash into bricks. The traditional Mario gameplay also evolved as many of Wario's levels involved puzzles that used the enemies in unique ways rather than simply as obstacles. Warioland was the first game featuring the titular villain, and the plot was simply to amass as much money as possible while kicking everyone's ass.


4) Dragon Warrior Monsters

After the huge success of Pokemon in the late 90s, the concept of training and battle monsters appeared in a ton of games with varying degrees of success. Dragon Warrior Monsters was one of the first to capitalize on that gameplay by utilizing the world and monsters of the Dragon Quest series that was incredibly popular in Japan. While the game lacked the linear progression and exploring of the Pokemon games, it added randomized dungeons and multiple monster battles.

More importantly you had the ability to breed your monsters together, creating a new monster with abilities from both parents. A huge meta game evolved with strategies on how to get the best possible stats and monsters by breeding all the various crazy monster types together, from Dragons to Plants to Undead to Slimes, there was no shortage of monsters you could tame or breed. Unfortunately after breeding the parents would leave and the new creature would start at level 1, and the game's grind became apparent very quickly. Still the myriad of possibilities and the fun combat system provided dozens of hours of entertainment.


3) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

In 8th grade I took a class field trip to Washington D.C. and New York City. It turned out to be a great experience, and not just because I got to go to the top of the World Trade Center. While exploring the awesomely huge FAO Shwatrz in NYC, I went straight to the video game section. My little Gameboy had been getting quite the workout on this trip with all the bus rides and late night gaming, and I was hungry for something more. I had remembered seeing some friends play The Legend of Zelda games back on the NES and SNES, and I saw Link's Awakening there at the store. I pulled the trigger, using some of the precious money my folks had sent me with, and never looked back.

Link's Awakening was my first real Zelda game I ever played, and even then I played it years after it was released. The story was an odd little side adventure that brought Link to an entirely new world without Zelda or the Triforce, but all of the same classic Zelda gameplay that I experienced for the first time. The puzzle-filled dungeons, the world exploring, the classic items; everything was cherished, and it's kind of sad and kind of special that it's one of my most vivid memories of the trip. Had Link's Awakening simply been another Zelda game that I happened to play on the Gameboy, it would still be on this list because it was that good. But because it was my first Zelda game, it remains something special, even if the whole damn plot was really a dream.


2) Tetris

Who would have thought a Russian block puzzle game would become one of the greatest and most recognizable video games of all time? After Mario, there's tetris. Bundled with the original Gameboy System, the addictive game of falling blocks with its multiple difficulties, modes, and crazy catchy music quickly became a gaming phenomenon, and I was certainly one of the faithful. Throughout the years of great role playing games, platformers, and side scrollers I always found time to plug that Tetris cartridge in, and pray for that *** long piece.


1) Pokemon Red/Blue

It takes a real man to admit he likes Pokemon. Or something. Pokemon Red and Blue were released just as I was entering High School, and I was way above this kids stuff. Or, well, but the gameplay looked great, the TV show was stupid fun, the marketing was so damn effective. GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL! My first Pokemon game, Red, was love at first sight. Training and customizing my little pocket monsters, figuring out my favorites, learning the strengths and weaknesses of each type, it was nerd heaven. Beneath Pokemon's kiddy atmosphere beats the heart of a solid RPG - battling to get stronger, getting the best out of your group, defeating bosses, and of course the addictiveness of completing that Pokedex. Pokemon was the first game I bothered to use the cable that attached two Gameboys together, and I used it quite a bit to battle and trade with friends. Later generation games Gold and Silver were also awesome, but Red and Blue were my first foray into being a Pokemon Master and that will always make it my favorite Gameboy Game.


Wrap Up

That Gameboy I was given in the Summer of '91 was the first game system I could call my own (I got an NES that Christmas), and it'll always have a special place among my gaming pantheon. Likewise many of the games listed here are tied with special memories and unique times in my childhood. The original slab of brick with the green tinted screen served me well throughout the years, even shouldering the dorky accessories like the magnifying screen with a quiet dignity. It was as much a gaming console for me as any of its big brother home systems, and though I do a lot less bus rides and family vacations these days, I still find myself whipping out a portable game system on those nice outdoor evenings.