The best Game Boy games of all time

It wasn’t the first handheld videogame system, but the Game Boy is the one that changed everything. Suddenly, everyone you knew had a Game Boy and was peering intently at that tiny screen the color of overcooked spinach. More than 800 games were released for the system, which is way too many to keep in your desk drawer, so it’s important to know what the best Game Boy games really are. Whether you favored the old school brick or one of the new fangled Game Boy Colors (or both), these are the best Game Boy games of all time. 

25. Dr. Mario

Released at the same time as the NES version, Mario got his MD and attacked viruses the only way he knew how: lining up color-matching pills. Even without the vibrant colors of the home version, the GB release still had the habit-forming gameplay and infectious music, a perfect remedy to boredom on long family trips.

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24. R-Type DX

Bundling the first and second games, R-Type DX shrunk down the shooter in size but not scope. The screen-filling enemies, rain of bullets, and spectacular soundtrack all carried over splendidly to the handheld. Though there weren’t a ton of memorable shooters on the Game Boy, R-Type DX is easily the best the system saw.

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23. Mario’s Picross

Using the logic-puzzle type known as nonogram, you’re presented with a grid informing you how many spots in a grid line are filled in. Through the process of elimination you fill in the spots and see an image gradually reveal itself. Though Picross has been done better since, this Mushroom Kingdom-tinged original is still worth the time of anyone who wants to train their brain.

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22. Pokmon Pinball

Much more than a cheap cash-in of the Pokemon license, this elaborate spin-off managed to provide a solid pinball experience while staying true to the gotta catch ’em all mantra of the main series. Each of the two tables (Red and Blue, naturally) contained various towns and caves you could visit via precise pinball strikes. Each area housed unique Pokemon you could catch with an even more challenging gauntlet of pinball tasks. The skill required made each and every successful capture a momentous occasion.

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21. Gargoyle’s Quest

What’s this, a great Game Boy game that isn’t a sequel to an already-popular franchise? Not quite–Gargoyle’s Quest is technically part of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, though the similarities essentially end with the main character: Firebrand is an enemy in the first GnG. Now a hero, Firebrand is supposedly the only one who can stop an even meaner demon from ruling the world. Cue some adventuresome 8-bit music, throw down some 2D levels and boom, you’ve got enough motivation for a Game Boy outing.

But there was more going on here than you’d expect from a Game Boy spin-off. Yeah there were 2D areas with bosses at the end, but Firebrand’s ever-increasing abilities gave you more control than was typical at the time. Hovering, wall climbing, super jumping, platform creation… there was a lot to do! Then add overhead areas a la Dragon Quest, complete with (frequent) enemy encounters and NPCs who talk IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and you’ve got a remarkably robust handheld game for its time. 

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20. Mega Man V

Equipped with a new Mega Arm and saddled with a robo-assistant named Tango, Mega Man was sent on an entirely original adventure. Thanks to artist Keiji Inafune’s Stardroids vision, the series entered fresh territory while keeping a solid foot in its time-honored Mega Man gameplay. All said, Mega Man V was different; and by that point in the robo-warrior’s career, different was good.

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19. Bionic Commando: Elite Forces

Somewhere between the NES classic and the misguided 2009 gruffquel, this bizarre one-off entry in Capcom’s swingin’ series landed on GBC with new characters and abilities. As was typical for GBC games, the fundamentals were NES era, while the character animations were surprisingly smooth; most importantly the feel of swinging from platform to platform was intact, making this a strange but fun side story.

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18. Super Mario Land

Super Mario Land doesn’t gets a pass out of nostalgia alone (though that is a big reason). Dust off Super Mario Land today and you’ll still be treated to a lively platformer dripping with Gunpei Yokoi’s off-kilter design. The Super Mario Land series evolved with each sequel, but thanks to this pioneer it got off on the right foot.

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17. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge

Belmont’s Revenge was a totally unique, Game Boy-exclusive edition that proudly carried the NES Castlevania traditions onto the portable. Sure, as a typical 2D walk-right-and-whip-baddies game, it wasn’t a groundbreaking moment for the franchise. But it was a solid entry that made up for the weaker original and proved Game Boy could, on occasion, bust out a console-level experience with just four colors to back it up.

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16. Pokmon Gold/Silver/Crystal

Gold and Silver were more than updated versions of Red and Blue; the new series introduced the concept of Pokemon breeding, opening up all-new ways to disappear into the Poke-world for hours at a time. Customized, honed teams could now be built based on more than just their type. Hold items appeared, adding yet another wrinkle to trainer battles. A day and night cycle was added, which meant some Pokemon would only appear during certain times of the day. The list of additions goes on, and each one, while sounding simplistic, drastically altered the core game and solidified Pokemon as a no-nonsense RPG experience.

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Click ‘Next Page’ to see titles 15-6 in our countdown of the best Game Boy games. 

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