The Game Boy is one of the most iconic pieces of hardware ever to exist, and though not the very first handheld, it signalled the true advent of handheld gaming, proving that the portable device could provide exciting and different experiences to home consoles, and the titles have a charm all of their own. So whittling down a list of the best Game Boy games is going to be tough work.
Luckily for this article (but bad for me), I was the perfect age for the Game Boy, growing up with the gaudy grey brick and travelling everywhere with a collection of batteries, screen magnifiers, externals lights, and much more, all in the hope of spending a few more precious moments with my Pokémon party. So trust me when I say I know what the best Game Boy games are, and let me take you on a trip back to the time of pogs, Pokémon, and Jurassic Park. If you want to check out which games you can play on your Switch right now, be sure to read our guide to the Nintendo Switch Online Game Boy games next.
Let’s dive into our list of the best Game Boy games.
Best Game Boy games
Quite possibly the best videogame ever made. It’s hard to overstate the cultural impact of Tetris, a puzzle game so perfectly designed that it’s still addictive and compelling over 30 years later. While the title continues to evolve over the years, the original Tetris has everything you need – stacking blocks and clearing lines is so enthralling that we’ve never looked back.
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
While not quite as sprawling as its console counterparts, the handheld versions of Mario’s platforming adventures have a lot of charm. If Super Mario Land was a test run, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins is the true handheld Mario experience everyone wants to play. Featuring fun worlds, different powers, and a distinctive style, Mario has done it again, but this time on the go.
We’re all very used to Mario sports titles by now, but this little oddity from the Game Boy era is much better than you might imagine, and for a first attempt at a handheld sports title, it has a lot to explore. Golf is likely a much easier sport to shrink than others as it doesn’t demand lightning reflexes, but that shouldn’t diminish the fact this is a loving version of the sport with lots to do, along with bags of the trademark Nintendo charm.
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins is actually the first appearance of the now-infamous enemy Wario, and he quickly became a hit after the game’s launch. So much so that Nintendo created a game focused on him that swaps saving the princess for grabbing bags of cash. It also swaps Mario’s idyllic attitude and cute powers for gross-out humour and a protagonist with some power. If you love the other handheld Mario titles, you owe it to yourself to experience this quirky game next.
Kirby’s Dream Land
The pink puffball’s first adventure may look quaint in hindsight, but Kirby’s Dream Land is still a cute and compelling title that proves why Kirby remains such a beloved character. Though the design is for younger players with multiple jumps and charming gameplay, there’s still a lot of tight and fun gameplay for anyone to enjoy, and it’s always fun to suck up enemies and find out what the different powers do.
The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
The Simpsons were everywhere in the 90s (and still are), so it’s no surprise there are countless titles based on the IP littered through history. What is a surprise though is that this unassuming Game Boy title is a lot better than it has any right to be, with a gorgeous pixelated conversion of the show’s style, and solid platforming mechanics that take from the best in the biz. The Treehouse of Horror episodes are some of the most fun anyway, so it’s fitting that they make for such a great game.
What do you say about Pokémon now? The juggernaut franchise still shows no signs of slowing down nearly 30 years later, but it might be surprising to see just how many of the essential elements of the Poké-formula are right there from the beginning. Red, Blue, and later Yellow took the world by storm, and they feature a cast of iconic Pokémon to catch, gym leaders to battle, and music and visuals that live rent-free into the brains of anyone alive in the 90s.
The original motto of ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ is still a rallying cry, daring every young player to get out there are find all 150 of the cute creatures. Pokémon is also just a regular RPG in its bones, but it’s the successful layering of fun mechanics over this that has stood the test of time, and it’s the reason young players are still addicted to catching them all so many decades on.
Ok, so imagine Pokémon, but bigger and better. Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal expand on not just the world of Pokémon, but also the mechanics. With over 100 new ‘mon to catch, including some of the very best creatures ever to be created (Lugia, my boy), the second generation features a deeper story that feels like a genuine step up from the originals, and there’s even a whole other world to explore when you finish.
Exploring both Johto and Kanto in these titles is still a blast, and the pixel style especially pops on the Game Boy Colour, bringing those pesky Pokémon to life like never before. For many Pokémon fans, this is still their favourite generation, and thanks to iconic locations like the burned Brass Tower, Slowpoke Well, and the incredible Lake of Rage (and the shiny Gyrados within), this region will never be forgotten.
Pokémon was clearly hot property back on the Game Boy, so spin-offs were inevitable. Don’t discount Pokémon Pinball though, as the pinball gameplay features so much charm and depth thanks to the catching mechanic fans know and love. With either a red or blue table and a whole Pokédex of ‘mon to find and catch, this is a pinball game like no other. It even came with a rumble pack, a very rare occurrence on the Game Boy!
Pokémon The Trading Card Game
Look, I know, even more Pokémon, what a surprise. But hear me out. The Pokémon trading card game was almost as successful as the videogames back in the day, and somehow Nintendo and The Pokémon Company created a videogame version that features the entire original set, the full mechanics of the card game, and an interesting RPG story all of its own! If you’re a fan of the series who’s yet to play this one, you’re in for a real treat.
Alright, folks we hope that our list of the best Game Boy games has set you on your way to some thrilling retro gaming. If you are in the mood for even more great portable experiences though, be sure to check out our guide to the best portable gaming consoles next.