Best Game Boy Games – Nintendo Life

Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

It’s the Game Boy’s 33rd birthday, so what better time to reacquaint yourself with its very best games? Enjoy!

Friday 21st April 1989 — the day that the Game Boy launched in Japan. 33 years ago the video gaming landscape would be forever changed as Nintendo opened up the new frontier of portable gaming to the masses. The company’s Game & Watch line let you take limited gaming experiences on-the-go, but the Game Boy was a different beast entirely.

The 8-bit machine with the 160×144 pixel LCD screen might have been modest in the specs department, but it was just powerful enough to offer deep gaming experiences, with the best examples rivalling those on home consoles. More importantly, its limitations proved to be strengths in the long run; that blurry monochrome screen used significantly less power than a backlit colour equivalent, and therefore gave the portable decent battery life – an essential factor to consider when your handheld relies on AA batteries to function away from a wall socket.

Gunpei Yokoi’s design philosophy – using proven, inexpensive components in new and interesting ways – continued through Nintendo’s handheld line

Primarily the work of Satoru Okada and Gunpei Yokoi, the console was designed to a specific price point and goal; to be a practical portable device. Rival companies got carried away with the technical possibilities and contemporary handheld consoles with far superior specs fell by the wayside as Game Boy marched on. Gunpei Yokoi’s design philosophy – using proven, inexpensive components in new and interesting ways – continued through Nintendo’s handheld line and carried over to its home consoles with Wii. The Switch itself, and novel experiments such as Labo VR, show that this approach continues to keep the Kyoto company in rude health.

Of course, it’s software which makes or breaks any console and the humble Game Boy could never have endured so long without its catalogue of incredible games. Obviously, it had the archetypal killer app in Tetris, and many still insist it’s the finest version of Alexey Pajitnov’s puzzler. The story of its convoluted journey to the console is well worth investigating – a thrilling combination of guile, subterfuge and blind luck that went on to shape Nintendo and the video game industry at large.

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Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

Any video game company would be overjoyed to have a game with half the appeal of Tetris on its books, but after seven years – when you’d expect the console to be winding down – the Game Boy got the biggest second wind in video game history with the Japanese release of Pokémon Red & Green in 1996. A smaller, lighter revision of the hardware, the Game Boy Pocket, also arrived that year, and the console’s true successor – the Game Boy Color – would launch worldwide two years later alongside the western release of Pokémon. Although this marked a transition away from the OG hardware, the Game Boy line continued to enjoy almost 100% backwards compatibility up until the Micro variant of the Game Boy Advance in 2005.

While Tetris and Pokémon were the system sellers, there’s a vast library of games released for the system

While Tetris and Pokémon were the system sellers, there’s a vast library of games released for the system. The following list showcases the very best titles. You’re sure to find lots of ‘lands’ here — someone at Nintendo HQ decreed that the diminutive handheld simply couldn’t contain massive ‘worlds’, so Super Mario Land ushered in an era of ‘Land’ games from the likes of Kirby, Donkey Kong and Wario.

As with our lists of the 50 best Switch games and other Nintendo console Top 50 lists, the ranking here is governed by the game’s user rating on this very site. Just as before, logged in users can interact and rate the titles directly on these pages by hovering over the rating, or alternatively from each game’s individual page. To be clear, the games listed here are for the original Game Boy only — there are no backwards compatible ‘black cart’ Game Boy Color games included (unless they happened to also receive a separate release for the original). If it says ‘Game Boy Color’ on the box, you won’t find it below!

Can’t see your favourite on the list? Use the handy search bar below to find Game Boy games and input your own ratings. Already rated your collection? Without further ado, let’s dive in…

Note. In order for games to become eligible, they need a minimum of 30 User Ratings in total.

Golf (GB)
Golf (GB)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Release Date: Feb 1990 (USA) / 1990 (UK/EU)

While certainly basic, Golf doesn’t have many overt flaws, the disabled two-player mode notwithstanding. For its small price, you get a simple game conducive to short bursts that controls well and looks quite good. But you also don’t get much that will keep you coming back: with only two courses and no surprises along the way, the game starts to feel very repetitive very quickly. If you love golf games, you probably have something better to play already. And if you don’t, this isn’t the place the start.

Pinball: Revenge of the 'Gator (GB)Pinball: Revenge of the 'Gator (GB)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory

Release Date: Mar 1990 (USA) / 1990 (UK/EU)

Pinball: Revenge of the ‘Gator may lack the refinements showcased by modern pinball games, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored if you’re a fan of the genre. The simplistic nature of the tables means you can give high-score chasing your full, undivided attention without being waylaid by distractions, and the ball physics are respectable enough to ensure you don’t lose any games through anything but your own fault. HAL’s effort may have been improved upon in recent years, but it’s still an appealing and addictive pinball outing.

Motocross Maniacs (GB)Motocross Maniacs (GB)

Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release Date: Jan 1990 (USA) / 1991 (UK/EU)

A side-on motocross platforming game from Konami, Motocross Maniacs blends classic Excitebike-style controls with tricky courses to negotiate that position it as a precursor to Ubisoft’s Trials games. The simple but addictive gameplay suits the handheld very well, although it’s a shame that the cartridge’s lack of onboard memory means your best times are lost every time you switch the console off. Still, this is a very fun way to pass an hour or two.

Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman! (GB)Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman! (GB)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Hudson Soft

Release Date: Nov 1994 (USA) / 29th Jun 1995 (UK/EU)

Wario Blast is a Bomberman crossover that sees the our favourite antihero dropped into the world of Hudson Soft’s brilliant top-down bomber. Released in Japan as Bomberman GB, you get the classic maze combat of Hudson’s game with a dusting of Nintendo’s IP and Wario’s dastardly antics. Sounds good, no? Yes, it is.

Balloon Kid (GB)Balloon Kid (GB)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Pax Softonica

Release Date: 5th Oct 1990 (USA) / 31st Jan 1991 (UK/EU)

Sequel to the NES game Balloon Fight, Balloon Kid isn’t without its charms, but those charms are undeniably superficial: the graphics are nice and the music is fun, and the nods to Balloon Fight are all worth a smile, but there’s not a huge amount of depth. That said, it nails the mechanics of the original game and expands on its endlessly replayable Balloon Trip mode, making it ideally suited as a portable experience.

R-Type (GB)R-Type (GB)

Publisher: Irem / Developer: B.I.T.S.

Release Date: 1st May 1991 (USA) / 1st Dec 1991 (UK/EU)

As with any port to the Game Boy, cuts are inevitable, but this still delivers an authentic R-Type experience. A slower speed, fewer enemies on screen and the omission of two levels make for an easier version. However, this port still manages to provide a challenge and it works well on the hardware it was designed for, with good controls and clear visuals. It may be a shorter gaming experience on the Game Boy, but it’s still a very good one.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs' Big Break (GB)Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs' Big Break (GB)

Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release Date: Feb 1992 (USA) / 1992 (UK/EU)

A fabulous portable cartoon platformer, Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs’ Big Break is another example of a fine licenced game with excellent audio and solid visuals on the Game Boy. The charm of Tiny Toons might be the thing that grabs your attention, but the gameplay is remarkably good and Konami once again demonstrates why we’re so sad they don’t really make video games any more. Looney, indeed.


Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Minakuchi Engineering

Release Date: 24th May 1990 (USA) / 28th Sep 1990 (UK/EU)

QIX is a classic game that suffers — if it suffers at all — from being born too soon. You essentially draw lines to cordon off areas of a rectangle for points – the larger the area, the better your score. Sounds simple but it’s a great deal of fun, and satisfyingly simple to learn. This is definitely a game that some will find divine, while others will be puzzled by its popularity. It’s quick to learn, easy to play and impossible to truly master. We can’t promise you that you’ll like this game, but if the game sounds even slightly appealing to you, we’d confidently say that it’s worth the risk.

Solar Striker (GB)Solar Striker (GB)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Release Date: Feb 1990 (USA) / 28th Sep 1990 (UK/EU)

A first-party vertical-scrolling shmup, Gunpei Yokoi and Satoru Okada – the two designers primarily responsible for the Game Boy itself – were deeply involved in the development of Solar Striker. Released in the Game Boy’s first year on sale, its hectic action showed just what the modest machine was capable of and, while it hasn’t gone down as a celebrated classic in Nintendo’s annals, it’s still a quietly solid game with an excellent soundtrack.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (GB)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (GB)

Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release Date: 1st Dec 1991 (USA) / 21st May 1992 (UK/EU)

The sequel to Fall of the Foot Clan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers gives the player the choice of the four turtles at the start of a level and it’s Game Over once you’ve gone through the lot. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Mikey all control slightly differently and with chunky sprites and rockin’ music, Konami managed once again to deliver satisfying Ninja Turtle action on the Game Boy.

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