With the Game Boy Color turning 20 recently, there’s no better time to talk about what made it so special.
As part of the fifth console generation, the Game Boy Color dominated the handheld market. In Japan, its only competitors were Bandai’s WonderSwan and SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket. In the U.S, the GBC ruled supreme.
There were two main reasons for this sales supremacy. First, the colossal success of the original Game Boy paved the way for its successor. The other reason, of course, was the game library.
Need a reminder? Here are the best Game Boy Color games in the console’s history.
9. Mega Man 5
By 1994, Capcom had released four different Mega Man titles for the GBC. The issue: they were all uninspired rehashes of the NES games. It wasn’t until Mega Man 5 that they finally buckled up and created something new.
MM5 isn’t the best the franchise has to offer, but it’s still a great platformer. With its excellent level and weapon design, this is a nice culmination of the GBC era. Due to its low print run, MM5 enjoys the status of a cult classic.
Speaking of platformers published late in the GBC’s life, Shantae is hard to ignore. By the time the general public took note of it, Shantae was almost impossible to find. As a result, it shot up in price to a ridiculous degree.
Though it couldn’t live up to its price, Shantae deserves a place on any list of top GBC games. It takes the best parts of Zelda and Metroid games, topping it off with its unique charm. Also, the animation is still incredible.
7. Wario Land 3
Once the first two Wario Land games got ported to the GBC, the third outing became a no-brainer. Released in 2000, WL3 remains the franchise’s finest hour. These days, it’s worth playing for its sense of innovation alone.
Of course, the core formula remained the same. Unlike Mario’s adventures, WL3 focused on exploration-based design and featured plenty of puzzles. Wario’s brand of aggressive physicality also contributed to the game’s appeal.
6. Donkey Kong
At first, the Game Boy version of Donkey Kong seems identical to the arcade original. Playing as Mario, you need to save Pauline by finishing four stages and defeating Donkey Kong. This time around, though, DK doesn’t stay down.
What follows is an incredible 97 new stages spanning nine worlds. Most of these stages are great action puzzles that expand on the original. In one game, Nintendo managed to give us a look at both their past and the future.
5. Super Mario Bros DX
It’s hard to understate the staying power of the first “real” Mario game. Not only it’s a fantastic game, but it works as a tutorial on the basic mechanics of platforming. Today, it’s considered one of the best GBC games ever.
Much like Donkey Kong, SMB DX goes beyond a simple remaster. This version adds new modes, new objectives, and even new mechanics. It also features a secret bonus that would later become known as the Lost Levels.
4. Pokemon Gold and Silver
As the first examples of the second generation, these games add 100 new Pokemon species. In time, Gold and Silver became system sellers, adding to the enduring Pokemon legacy. These are two stone-cold masterpieces.
Other than giving us Pokemon in color, these two games provide many quality-of-life additions. The biggest one was a real-time clock. With many events happening at specific times of day, Gold and Silver felt that much more lived-in.
3. Tetris DX
The original Game Boy would have likely sold like hotcakes no matter what. Still, bundling Tetris with the hardware package was a brilliant business move. Just like that, Nintendo proved that it knew what portable gaming was about.
So, how do you sell a remaster of a game that everyone already has? Simple: by adding new modes such as 40 Lines and Ultra Mode. For many people, this remains the definitive version of Alexey Pajitnov’s magnum opus.
2. Metal Gear Solid
Known as Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel in Japan, this game is the definition of a forgotten gem. If you’ve ever wondered how the franchise would look had it remained in 2D, here’s your answer.
The game takes place in a parallel universe, and it’s set seven years after the events of Metal Gear (1987). Despite the GBC’s limitations, it looks and controls very well. The stealth sections are particularly entertaining.
Though it never became a cultural phenomenon, the game was quite influential. In fact, it served as an inspiration to many 2D action titles of its era. These days, there are plenty of websites that allow you to browse these games.
1. The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
Recently remade for the Switch, Link’s Awakening is another example of Nintendo’s ingenuity. Capturing the feel of the Legend of Zelda and the depth of A Link to the Past, this game proved that the Game Boy was here to stay.
Link’s Awakening marked the first time that you could unequip your sword. In its place, you could use other weapons, a shield, or even a flying feather. The setting seemed to function on dream logic, adding to the game’s surreal tone.
The DX remake didn’t add a whole lot, but it did perfect the formula. Thanks to the use of color, we gained access to a color-based dungeon. Oh, and who could forget the hooks for the short-lived Game Boy Printer?
More on the Best Game Boy Color Games
In our opinion, these 9 titles represent the best the GBC had to offer. That said, no list is perfect — especially when it comes to the system’s back catalog.
Case in point: we haven’t even mentioned Toki Tori or R-Type DX. How about Resident Evil Gaiden, Capcom’s underrated GBC title? With over 660 games published for the system, the list of deserving candidates is endless.
Want to know more about the best Game Boy Color games of all time? Interested in other retro gaming stories? Take a look at our Gaming section!