Today, we take portable gaming for granted.
Think about it: we can download stunning games onto our phones and tablets, enjoying gorgeous visuals beyond any we grew up with, at any time, any place.
Still, decades ago, the Nintendo Game & Watch and other bog-standard LCD systems (anyone else remember Tiger Electronics?) were all people had for a little gaming outside the home. These were fun, but not exactly deep or immersive.
But then, 1989, Nintendo birthed the Game Boy – and revolutionised gaming forever.
This magical little grey box, with its magical little green screen, entertained millions upon millions of men, women, and kids across the globe. While it was updated over the years, the Game Boy, at its core, was a sheer delight: it was simple and fun to use, with hundreds of games to choose from and plenty of accessories to enhance the experience.
So, with such a vast selection of titles, picking the best Game Boy games is about as easy as trying to play the damn thing on a sunny day (the original model, anyway).
Still, we’ve given it a go – read on to discover what we chose …
Metroid 2: Return of Samus
Like hard games? This is right up your street.
Metroid 2 is generally known as one of the hardest games in the franchise. While it’s definitely tricky, you shouldn’t let this put you off trying it if you’ve never been near it. The visuals were impressive at the time, and it’s a fast-paced experience fans lapped up. It still stands up today, too.
Tetris is still going strong today, with mobile versions and – bizarrely – a trilogy of blockbuster movies heading our way (no, really, look it up!).
What else is there to say that hasn’t been said already? Tetris is addictive, deceptively simple, accessible enough for even your ham-fisted grandma, and that music bores into your brain like an industrial drill.
For gamers who couldn’t quite fall in love with Tetris, Dr. Mario is a fine substitute.
Rather than piecing coloured blocks together, Dr. Mario tasks you with matching pills and viruses in the right combinations. It’s that simple, but still has oodles of challenge. We wonder how many square-eyed kids decided to become doctors on the strengths of this game …
This big angry ape is a true Nintendo icon, and this 1994 version of his self-titled game is a classic.
While its first four levels are the authentic DK experience we all know (or not, depending on your age), the subsequent hundred or so stages are an entirely then-new platforming adventure. Playing as Mario, you get to jump through one beautiful, challenging level after another, all with gorgeously dynamic graphics.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
As the first Zelda title crafted exclusively for the Game Boy, Link’s Awakening is a side adventure set outside of Hyrule (another first for the series).
This is a gorgeous game with plenty to come back for. The graphics are sweet, the story is engrossing, and the gameplay is perfect for the handheld console.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
Over the years, Nintendo has released a slew of Mario games, and 6 Golden Coins is one of the most fondly-remembered.
As well as introducing some great power-ups and stunning level design (remember that enormous mechanised Mario?), 6 Golden Coins also brought us Wario for the first time. For this reason alone, this game is an integral part of the canon.
Kirby’s Dream Land 2
Without doubt, Kirby is one of Nintendo’s cutest, most visually-appealing characters, and his second adventure is a blast from start to finish.
Kirby’s ability to copy his enemies is a novel touch for the platforming genre, and his trio of animal helpers (Coo the Owl, Kine the Ocean Sunfish, Rick the Hamster) help to make this a bigger, better experience than his first outing. It’s perfect for the Game Boy’s on-the-move gameplay, too, providing a little pick-me-up wherever you are.
Mega Man V
As fun as Mario and Kirby’s unique brands of platforming are, sometimes you just want to blast things with a gun.
Mega Man is another icon who featured in his fair share of Game Boy games, and his fifth adventure is easily one of the strongest. With a nicely-chunky sprite, accessible platforming, and plenty to keep you coming back for, this mobile fun was worth every penny at the time.
Pokemon Red and Blue
Pokemon Go might have conquered the world already, but back in the mid to late 90s, Red and Blue were the must-have Pokemon games.
As we all know, the aim is to catch ’em all, but doing this is always easier said than done. The graphics were adorable in the top-down exploration mode, but every pokemon looked just as they should during the battle scenes. While you can get the full storyline just by owning one of the two releases, you have to trade with a fellow gamer to get your clammy mitts on the full 150-strong roster of pokemon.
These are classic games, which packed in a lot of content to enjoy on the move.
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
It’s fair to say that Wario is a more interesting character than Mario: we know we’re courting controversy, but he’s got a cooler costume and a cooler moustache. On top of this, his selfish goal of earning a better castle than Mario helps to make Wario Land a stone-cold Game Boy classic.
This came as a breath of fresh air after the classic ‘rescue the princess, beat the bad guy’ structure previous Mario games clung to. Since Wario Land, Wario has remained a key figure in the Mario franchise, and has starred in his fair share of titles.
What are your favourite Game Boy games? Let us know!