The 15 Best Game Boy Games of All Time

(Image credit: Credit: Benjamin B/Shutterstock)

It’s officially been 30 years (!) since the Nintendo Game Boy hit the U.S. in July 1989 and revolutionized portable gaming forever. This was the console that let us play full-fledged versions of Mario, Zelda and Metroid on the road for the very first time, and kicked off a long line of Nintendo handhelds that eventually paved the way for the beloved Nintendo Switch.

While the original Game Boy’s adorably chunky design and olive monochrome display don’t hold up too well today, its games certainly do, from unique takes on established Nintendo IP to the birth of the Pokemon phenomenon. Here are the 15 best Game Boy games of all time -- and where you can play them today. 

 Yoshi 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Before Yoshi was starring in his own platformers, he had his own puzzle game. Released for both the Game Boy and NES, Yoshi is a simple puzzler in which you must clear out stacks of falling monsters by matching them together. While it’s not the Game Boy’s most memorable puzzle game, it’s a solid time-killer, and marks the first starring role for Nintendo’s beloved green dinosaur. - Mike Andronico

Play it now: Nintendo Switch Online 

Extra Bases  

(Image credit: Bandai)

The best Game Boy games found ways to work within its limits and confines, and still deliver madly addictive experiences. Such is the case with Bandai's Extra Bases, a baseball game made without any licensed players or teams. You'd aim your pitch or swing using the D-pad, and then it would be a matter of timing. Then, if you're lucky enough to land on base, you're going to be lured into trying to steal a base, or just depend on getting another hit or, even better, a dinger. It's a true arcade sports game, without much realism, and packing a lot of addiction. Beware of getting batter's thumb, though.  — Henry T. Casey 

Final Fantasy Adventure 

(Image credit: Square)

Technically, Final Fantasy Adventure isn't a Final Fantasy game at all; it's the first game in Square Enix's Mana series. But whatever you call it, the game is one of the best action/RPGs on the Game Boy. You take control of a young swordsman who befriends a variety of different party members as he journeys across a high-fantasy world. The plot is pretty standard stuff: stop a Dark Lord called, well, "Dark Lord" from leveraging the power of the legendary Mana Tree. Final Fantasy Adventure shines in the gameplay department, though, thanks to real-time combat and a variety of interesting bosses to tackle. - Marshall Honorof 

Castlevania Adventure II: Belmont's Revenge 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Castlevania games on the Game Boy were never quite as pretty as their NES counterparts (the GB characters didn't have faces, for one thing), but they still represent an integral part of the franchise's story. In Castlevania Adventure II: Belmont's Revenge, vampire hunter Soleiyu Belmont takes his trusty whip and sets forth to conquer four different castles: air, plant, earth and crystal. You can tackle the levels in any order, and collect various power-ups and sub-weapons as you go. The game is straightforward, but suitably challenging, and the final boss is still one of the tougher fights in the series. - Marshall Honorof 

Kirby’s Dream Land 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Kirby series doesn’t seem to get nearly as much love as other Nintendo sidescrollers like Mario and Metroid, and that’s a shame. What Kirby lacks in pure challenge, it makes up for in innovation and an irresistible sense of charm. Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy started it all for Nintendo’s lovable pink puff, offering a new type of platformer in which you could float like a balloon and swallow enemies whole. Dream Land went on to spawn an entire franchise of Kirby adventures on both home consoles and handhelds, but the original is still one of the best if you’re looking for a decidedly more relaxing platformer than what Nintendo usually delivers. - Mike Andronico

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

Mega Man V 

(Image credit: Capcom)

Whereas most Mega Man Game Boy installments simply copied their NES counterpart, the portable version of Mega Man V aimed to do something different by having its own set of bosses. You take on an all-different set of enemies named the Stardroids, each of whom are named after a different planet in the Solar System. Mega Man V is as solid as Game Boy platformers get, and proved to be a precursor to a long legacy of portable Mega Man games (including the new Mega Man 11). 

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

Super Mario Land 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Instead of simply trying to copy and paste Super Mario Bros. from the NES to the Game Boy, Nintendo delivered a fresh take on its 2D platformer that was better fit for small screens while debuting its own unique gameplay quirks. Set in the world of Sarasaland, Mario Land introduced mechanics such as bouncing projectiles, exploding Koopa shells and brief 2D shooter levels that had Mario pilot a plane. Super Mario Land would only get weirder and cooler in later installments (and would spawn the beloved Wario Land series), but the original is still worth a look. - Mike Andronico

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

 Pokémon Yellow 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

How do you make Pokémon Red and Blue even better? Have an adorable Pikachu follow you around, of course! Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition expanded on the original Pokémon game with one big twist: you start the game with a Pikachu that follows you around at all times and has a personality of its own, bringing the game more inline with the Pokemon anime that was red-hot at the time. As the final release of the original Game Boy, Pokémon Yellow sent off Nintendo’s handheld in a big way. And its legacy is still intact today, as 2018’s Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are essentially modern remakes of this RPG classic. - Mike Andronico

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The original Super Mario Land was a fine introduction to the Game Boy's capabilities, but it didn't really capture what fans loved about Mario games on the NES. But then, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins came along. With big, detailed character sprites, six worlds with branching levels and a variety of new power-ups (including the underrated Bunny Ears, which let Mario float), the game felt much more ambitious, coherent and fun than its predecessor. More importantly, Super Mario Land 2 also introduced us to Wario: Mario's mustachioed frenemy, who simply wants gold and couldn't care less about kidnapping princesses. He'd soon become an even bigger part of the franchise. - Marshall Honorof

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Wario's debut as a playable character remains one of the very best games on the Game Boy. In this side-scrolling platformer, Wario isn't rescuing anyone or saving anything; he just wants gold, and lots of it. In Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, Wario sets out to steal a vast hoard of treasure from Captain Syrup and her Brown Sugar Pirates. To do so, he'll explore big, branching levels and don three powerful helmets. A bull helmet lets Wario ram into his enemies; a Dragon helmet lets him set them on fire; a Jet helmet lets him fly right over them. Just finishing the game isn't too tough, but tracking down every last optional treasure is worthwhile. If you do, Wario gets his very own castle. - Marshall Honorof

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

 Metroid II: Return of Samus 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Metroid II: Return of Samus dared to do something different. In an era when many Game Boy games were just half-hearted copies of NES adventures, Metroid II was a full sequel with a whole new world to explore. In this game, intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran travels to planet SR388 in order to hunt down every last Metroid. To do so, she'll have to collect a whole arsenal of weapons, armor and accessories, as well as learn how to grapple with increasingly powerful permutations of giant, armored Metroids. The game's graphics are a little primtive, but the explorable world is suitably large, and there are plenty of secrets to find. - Marshall Honorof

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console, Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS Remake) 

Donkey Kong ‘94 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

With Donkey Kong for the Game Boy (or Donkey Kong ‘94, as its best known), Nintendo took its simple 1981 arcade classic and transformed it into something much more. Donkey Kong ‘94 starts out much like the original version, as you take control of Mario and try to reach the top of each stage to rescue Pauline from the game’s titular ape. But a few levels in, Donkey Kong transforms into a sprawling puzzle-platformer, with a total of 101 levels that have you do everything from find hidden keys to straight-up battle Kong himself. Donkey Kong was also one of the first showpieces of the Super Game Boy adapter, and its considered by some to be the best Donkey Kong game of all-time thanks to its sheer inventiveness and breadth of content. - Mike Andronico

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

Tetris  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Think back to your first time playing Tetris -- it was probably on the original Game Boy. A launch title for Nintendo’s handheld, this version of Tetris helped immortalize the iconic puzzle game, in no small part thanks to its sharp chiptunes soundtrack (which you’re probably hearing in your head right now). Tetris was also one of the first showcases of the Game Boy’s multiplayer capabilities, allowing you and a friend to duke it out via Link Cable. Tetris’ easy to learn, hard to master gameplay holds up better than just about any video game out there, and this 1989 version is still a delight to play today. - Mike Andronico 

Pokémon Red and Blue  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Who knew that a basic role-playing game about catching, evolving and battling little monsters would turn into a worldwide phenomenon that’s still relevant more than 20 years later? Pokémon Red and Blue are the games that started it all, setting you loose in the vast Kanto region where you’ll catch wild Pokémon, battle gym leaders and eventually take on the Elite Four in your quest to be the very best. With its simple-yet-strategic combat and the addictive allure of catching, battling and trading all 150 Pokémon, Red and Blue was a revelation for Game Boy owners when it launched nearly a decade into the console’s life. And while these games spawned endless sequels and spin-offs, the originals still hold up pretty well. - Mike Andronico

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is one of the strangest games in Nintendo's long-running series. But it's also one of the most fondly remembered, thanks to its offbeat premise. Instead of rescuing Princess Zelda, fighting off Ganon and reassembling the Triforce, Link finds himself on the dreamlike island of Koholint. He embarks on a quest to awaken an entity called the Wind Fish, even though doing so could jeopardize the island's quirky, affable inhabitants. The story and setting are the most memorable parts of Link's Awakening, but the traditional Zelda gameplay made the journey to Game Boy more or less unscathed. There are plenty of items to find, including the first appearance of Link's bomb arrows, and eight puzzling dungeons to explore. And now that Link’s Awakening is slated to get a full remake for Nintendo Switch in late 2019, a whole new generation will see what made Zelda’s first handheld outing so special. - Marshall Honorof

Play it now: 3DS Virtual Console, Nintendo Switch Remake (Sept. 2019)