Obsession #2: Game Boy / Game Boy Color games

Oh god, this is a dangerous little obsession I've got here, very addictive! Admittedly this is a fairly recent obsession and my collection isn't half as extensive or exhaustive as many other gamer's collections will undoubtedly be... but this post is not about quantity, it is about a love of mine and sharing that love with whoever stumbles across this blog...

Below I will go into a little history of Game Boy, why I'm interested in Game Boy games in particular as well as detailing my personal favourite games for the system. There are believed to be over 800 (!) games for this system and so my small collection of 50 or so games only scratches the surface but hopefully you'll enjoy this little write up and perhaps it'll give you an itch to play Tetris again!

The Game Boy is one of the best selling games consoles ever released, selling around 120 million units through its many iterations, from the original iconic grey bulky Game Boy with its notorious green screen released in 1989 to the short lived Game Boy Color of 1998. To put these figure into perspective, Sega's competing handheld at the time, the Game Gear, sold a respectable 11 million units and SNK's Neo Geo Pocket and Pocket Color only sold a combined total of 2 million units. The only consoles to sell more units than the Game Boy are the Nintendo DS and Playstation 2 which both sold around 150 million units.

That it took Nintendo almost 10 years to release a successor to the Game Boy with the release of the Game Boy Color in 1998 is testament to the greatness of the Game Boy's design, and even then, it could be argued that the Game Boy Color isn't really a successor at all. It has the same amount of buttons, design wise it looked fairly asimilar and a lot of its games could be played on the original Game Boy... although the innards of the Game Boy Color were definitely an upgrade, allowing for faster processing, colour gameplay and games with larger file sizes. You could also play your old Game Boy carts in 13 different colour palettes. It wasn't a massive upgrade from the original Game Boy but an upgrade non the less, it wouldn't be until the release of the Game Boy Advance in 2001 that the classic 8bit style Game Boy would come to an end.

Nintendo struck gold with the Game Boy, a 16bit or 32bit successor may have come much sooner if it wasn't for the popularity of two games, Tetris and Pokemon, both of which it could be argued have allowed Nintendo the ability to take more risks with its hardware over the years. If it wasn't for these two games we may have never had a Nintendo DS or Wii. Tetris sold 35 million copies which means around 1/4 of Game Boy owners had a copy of the game. Pokemon was even more successful, if you combine the sales or Pokemon Red/Blue and Pokemon Gold/Silver it comes to around 46 million. Almost 1/2 of Game Boy sales! And even then Pokemon Red/Blue wasn't released in the west til 98/99, when the console was 10 years old...

I love this console, it's simply timeless... if you want to play Tetris this still remains the best console to play the stone cold classic puzzle game. The Game Boy is host to many NES conversions which stand up really well and keep the gameplay fairly simplistic and arcade orientated, perfect for a portable system. The Game Boy also got some really great sequels to NES classics like Balloon Fight, Metroid, Kid Icarus and Donkey Kong.

Buying for the Game Boy is one of the biggest draws for me, it's just so cheap at the moment to pick up some brilliant games, most games will only cost you around £3 on eBay although some games are extremely sort after and go for a lot more, game like Dragon Warrior, Metal Gear Solid, Shantae, Zelda, Pokemon tend to go for in excess of £10 unboxed, and considerably more if boxed and complete with manual. I have been buying mainly unboxed games and if I am particularly fond of a game or find it cheap I will pick up a boxed version for collecting purposes.

One other great thing about collecting for Game Boy aside for the cheapness of the games is the variety of games on offer, there are believed to be around 800 games for the system and all Game Boys are region free meaning you can play American and Japanese games on your system with no problem whatsoever, a fair few games were released exclusively for Japan, sadly not all of them are worth owning due to a language barrier (I'm looking at you For The Frog The Bell Tolls!) but some require no reading whatsoever like the amazing Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special. I've found certain games are more common in certain regions, for instance Metal Walker, which is pretty rare to begin with, tends to be cheaper if bought from America... they obviously have more copies floating around!

The Game Boy is a fantastic console to collect for due to the variety of titles on offer, there are many small bite size games for a quick 5 minutes here and there but then there are games like Pokemon and Donkey Kong which I would argue offer a lot more than a great deal of modern games. There really is something for everyone here, and there is something about the Game Boy aesthetic that is just really appealing, the stripped down nature of the games makes them instantly playable and likeable and seeing how creative some people could get with a limited tool set is pretty inspiring.

Although I used to own a Game Boy in the late 90's I've only been collecting games for the system again for around 3 or 4 months and in that time I've got myself around 50 games. There are a lot of games I am yet to play (even of my own collection) and so theses lists will include games I haven't played personally but come highly recommended by others.

A quick list of games that every collection should have a few of... the no brainers.

- Donkey Kong
- Kirby's Dream Land 1 & 2
- Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening / DX
- Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages / Seasons
- Mega Man I-V
- Metroid II
- Pokemon Blue/Red or Gold/Silver
- Super Mario Land 1 & 2
- Super Mario Bros: Deluxe
- Tetris / Tetris DX
- Wario Land 1, 2 & 3

Games that are often overlooked but are classics all the same and come highly recommended.

- Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
- Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
- Contra: The Alien Wars
- Dragon Warrior I & II
- Dragon Warrior III
- Final Fantasy Legend II & III
- Final Fantasy Adventure
- Gargoyle's Quest
- Kid Icarus: Of Myths & Monsters
- Kirby's Block Ball
- Kirby: Tilt n Tumble
- Mario's Picross
- Metal Walker
- Metal Gear Solid
- Mole Mania
- Motocross Maniacs
- Pokemon Pinball
- Pokemon Trading Card Game
- Probotector / Operation C
- Shantae
- Tetris Attack / Pokemon Puzzle Challenge

This is a bit of a difficult one, I'm going to limit myself to games that I own and that I believe I've played enough of to really recommend. Sadly that means a game like Metal Walker that I would very highly recommend wont be in this list as I've only played it for around an hour. I will be doing reviews of some Game Boy games in the future so look out for those... but for now here are 8 games I've played a lot of and would highly recommend. Hopefully there will be one or two that you may not have played before!

Donkey Kong
Wow, what an amazing game, this one holds up amazingly after almost 20 years. It starts with the 4 classic Donkey Kong arcade stages but then moves on to around 100 more stages of platforming/puzzle bliss. Mario is surprisingly acrobatic in this game, he controls a lot like the Mario of Mario Galaxy which really surprised me. A hugely underrated gem of a game that demands to be played again.

Mega Man I & II
I have to admit, I wasn't very familiar with the Mega Man games before playing these two games, but I'm really enjoying these hardcore run and gun platformers. They have a logic all their own which was a bit off putting at first but I've grown to love these little quarks and just really enjoy the challenge of these miniature Mega Man games. I own the first two of these games but I've heard that the fifth game is the best as it was made from the ground up for the system rather than being a port of an NES counterpart.

Mole Mania
Oh god I love this one so so much, it comes across like the best of Zelda puzzles mixed with an odd hint of Bomberman... In this often overlooked Shigeru Miyamoto classic you play as a mole who has to basically navigate a boulder round a room of obstacles to break a wall that will lead to the next room, you have to think ahead and use your digging ability to work your way around these puzzling rooms and save your little mole family! It's hard to fully explain the gameplay so I suggest that you watch some footage on YouTube to get a better idea. This is easily one of the best Game Boy games I've ever played and is criminally overlooked, an absolute gem. Probably one of my favourite games on any platform.

Pokemon Blue & Gold
I love these games, they live up to the hype in my honest opinion and Gold/Silver added so much without ruining the winning formula, they really improved upon it with day and night cycles and a much tidier item system. They are fun little games to go through with a surprising amount of variety and depth.

Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special
Hard as nails SNK fighter that makes the Game Boy version of Street Fighter 2 look even worse than it already did. Takara did a fantastic job on this one, they didn't try to shoehorn the game in like Capcom did with Street Fighter, instead they worked with the limitations of the hardware and created something not unlike the classic pocket friendly fighters of the Neo Geo Pocker Color. Amazingly it still feels like a true SNK arcade title which is really commendable. Easily the best fighting game I've played on the console, although sadly this was a Japan only release.

Tetris / Tetris DX
Who hasn't played Tetris at this point? I love this game, the original Game Boy version is a 100% classic, the sound effects and music are perfect, the gameplay is addictive as hell, the game simply hasn't aged. The DX version for the Game Boy Color allows for multiple save files and a few different game modes. I prefer the DX version in many ways as I like that it saves your highscores... the only down side is the music, nowhere near as classy as the original Tetris.

Thank you very much for reading this far! I hope my enthusiasm for old school Game Boy games has got you wondering where the closest Game Boy may be. At the end of the day the reason I like these games so much is that they point to a time where life was simpler, where games could hook you instantly and charm you in a way that many games don't seem to be able to nowadays. There are so many Game Boy games out there, some real duds but some are absolutely fantastic and hold up incredibly well today.

I will end this with a few pictures of my Game Boy games collection, as I write this I'm waiting for Parodius - yes, that oh so Japanese shooter where you shoot giant women - as well as the classic Metroid II which I can't wait to sink into and another classic shooter, R-Type II. The collection is ever growing! Let me know if there are any games you think I've missed off my lists, any recommendations??

Posted 21st September 2012

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