What are the ten best Game Boy games to play now?

October 24, 2011

Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up and play today? This time, we’re looking at the library of the Game Boy (and Game Boy Color).

Andrew Passafiume: You can’t talk about the Zelda series without this game coming up. To call it one of the best Zelda games of all time wouldn’t be a stretch, and like a lot of games in the series, it holds up excellently. It has all of the Zelda trappings you would expect, but this time it’s wrapped in a rather strange story with some fairly interesting new mechanics. There really isn’t another 2D Zelda that is similar to this one, and that alone helps it stand out among the rest in the series.

Matthew Jay: Recently the number of JRPGs on home consoles have started to wane in favor of cramming other genres with “RPG elements.” Nine times out of ten this process feels ham-fisted, and doesn’t quite work. Usually it’s because the genre they decide to incorporate with stat boosts and RPG gameplay is so disparate from a traditional RPG that it just doesn’t mix well. Once in a while, though, a game comes along that does it exactly right and chooses the last genre you’d think to drop into an RPG world. The Gargoyle’s Quest series combines RPG overworlds, quest systems and level upgrades with platformer gameplay. Rather than random turn-based battles, Firebrand will have to leap over obstacles and defeat enemies with his magic spells to progress. Even with three games in the series and the main character’s inclusion in the upcoming Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, the Gargoyle’s Quest games have been very overlooked. Luckily for you, the first one is now available on the 3DS’s eShop.

Andrew Passafiume: What is there to say about Tetris that hasn’t already been said? The basic formula, present here as it has always been, is still simple and addictive and has rarely topped by any other puzzle games, even today. The original version is still Tetris, and that’s more than enough for me.

Gerry Pagan: There’s something to be said about a game that can still work as a platformer, but features a character who doesn’t take any damage or die. Wario Land 3 is a perfect example of a game that mixes up the formula, yet remains entertaining and faithful to its previous entries. Using contact with enemies to alter your shape and traverse through stages isn’t a concept that’s used a lot, and with the amount of replay value and content to go through, Wario Land 3 is still a game worth playing.

Gerry Pagan: In what has to be one of the biggest early twists in gaming, what starts off as an identical copy of the 1981 arcade game suddenly becomes one of Mario’s biggest adventures, with 97 additional stages spanning 9 different worlds. This was one of the earliest ambitious Game Boy titles, whose gameplay continues to pass the test of time with its ambitious nature and addicting gameplay.

Graham Russell: While these days we can’t turn our heads without finding another game with infused RPG elements, it’s only been that way for the past few years. So it was a big deal when Mario Golf released on Game Boy Color, essentially as an RPG with a golf-based battle system. The console versions were fun for parties, but the progression, story and ability to tailor your play style as you went along made the portable version a much more engrossing single-player experience. A GBA sequel saw release, but visuals aside, the GBC version is still best.

Chris Ingersoll: It may seem odd that Final Fantasy Legend is on this list over the early entries in the Pokémon franchise, but the presence of vastly improved modern remakes of those titles (as well as the original FF, which missed the cut on the NES list) made the original versions less desirable. FFL’s remakes only exist on mobile devices and the WonderSwan Color, so we thought giving credit to the first-ever handheld RPG was due. In addition to being the first game in the SaGa series (cousin title Final Fantasy Adventure was the first in the Seiken Densetsu series, better known as the Secret of Mana series), FFL’s mutant/monster evolution mechanics and limited-PP move selection eventually led to what we’ve seen in the Pokémon franchise. Spanning four worlds surrounding a central tower and ultimately culminating with the heroes confronting “the Creator” himself, FFL hopped from traditional fantasy to sci-fi punk, all set to a score from Nobuo Uematsu, cramming an impressive amount of gameplay, story, and sound into a mere 2MB cart.

Matthew Jay: The Game Boy, even after the addition of color, was never known for its graphical fidelity. Designer Gunpei Yokoi had the idea of using outdated hardware to save on cost and make up for it with wonderful games. That being said, few Game Boy games dazzle in the art department but one certainly stands out. Shantae came out at the very end of the Game Boy Color’s lifetime and was ignored in favor of the GBA’s launch lineup. It fell prey to what causes many classic titles to be missed by the public, like the Gamecube’s Pikmin 2 and now Solatorobo on the DS. Once companies finally start getting used to a system and learn how to make perfect games for it, they need to re-learn everything for the next generation. Shantae is an absolutely gorgeous game and could be mistaken for a GBA title.

Graham Russell: Super Metroid is often debated in talk of best game of all time, so it’s weird to suggest a title that came before. Here’s the thing, though: like the Castlevania series, early Metroid games were largely a completely different animal. Metroid II was the last game to use exploration as the main mechanic, rather than as the means to get to more compelling action sequences. The zoomed-in perspective just adds to the mystery: what’s behind the corner?

Chris Ingersoll: The beauty of pinball games is that their simplistic gameplay rarely shows signs of age. The Game Boy had several pinball-style games, including spinoffs from both the Kirby and Pokemon franchises, but (Kirby/Smash Bros developer) HAL Laboratory’s Revenge of the ‘Gator was the first and most “classic” entry, although it still had several aspects that are only possible in a video format. Similar to the basic NES Pinball but approximately twice the size (despite being on a 0.5MB cart), RotG featured a four-screen main table, plus three bonus screens, all filled with various targets and challenges (Pinball had only two main screens and one bonus).

Those are our picks. Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts! Next time, we’re looking at the PlayStation’s gems.