Kirby has always existed to present an appealing leaping-in point for beginner players, a job he has performed well for nearly two dozen years now. And yet, many of the players who helped cut their gaming teeth on a Kirby title still stick with the series after all this time. As more games are added to the Kirby collective, connections and callbacks to the past only grow stronger and more plentiful. He may be a simple pink puff at heart, but Kirby runs a solid thread through the gaming histories of many.
As Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush finally sees release in Europe this week, let's hop on a warp star and cruise back through the line-up of Kirby games appearing on Western shores. Please Note: Game titles and release years apply to both Europe and North America, unless otherwise indicated. Games that include Kirby but do not feature him in a primary role (e.g. Super Smash Bros.) are not included. All references to Kirby are assumed downright adorable by law.
The gaming world met Masahiro Sakurai's Kirby for the first time on 27th April, 1992 with the Japanese release of Hoshi no Kābī, or "Kirby of the Stars". Western markets would know this as Kirby's Dream Land, the box art depicting a marshmallowy white rendition of the hero as opposed to the true pink version seen in Japan. This has been attributed to confusion over colour choices and was corrected in later games.
Kirby's Dream Land set the pleasant atmosphere for its descendants and introduced nemesis/rival/friend King Dedede, who steals Dream Land's food. The stellar soundtrack was composed by Jun Ishikawa, and there are very few Kirby games that don't include some rendition of "Green Greens."
Notable: The secret to finding a hidden room in Kirby's Dream land has been honoured in several titles since. If you see a crescent moon, it's always worth trying to fly into it.
Kirby was not only granted the iconic copy ability in his first colour outing, but also given an impressive 25 powers to play with (not including Mix). Long-standing abilities such as Fire, Stone, and Sword first show up here. Kirby's Adventure also marks the first appearance of the enigmatic Meta Knight, as well as the first of many times King Dedede is fought even though he isn't the real baddie of the game.
Notable: The bouncy intro jingle that teaches how to draw Kirby comes from a Japanese commercial for Hoshi no Kābī.
Kirby is round. Pinballs are round. Why not? Kirby takes on three Dream Land-themed boards as the ball in order to earn the right to take on King Dedede. Falling isn't always the end, as a springboard can set you back into the action with a well-timed press of the A button.
Notable: Those who like Pinball Land should also take a look at Revenge of the Gator Pinball, HAL Laboratories' previous portable pinball game.
Kirby is round. Golf balls are round. Why not? This unique title blends mini-golf with Kirby's copy abilities in a puzzle-like manner. All enemies on a hole must first be destroyed, with the last turning into the cup.
Notable: Some sound effects in Dream Course are the same as those in EarthBound, only played at different speeds. HAL had been working on both titles around the same time.
Kirby's second Game Boy platformer introduced beloved animal friends Rick the Hamster, Kine the Fish, and Coo the Owl. Kirby's copy abilities could be combined with his new buddies in a variety of ways, effectively multiplying the number of attacks in the game's arsenal. Dark Matter, an evil, spherical creature with one eye, first appears in this title. It and others of similar ilk appear in further games down the line.
Notable: Coo's Theme. Heck yes.
Kirby is round. Puyo Puyo is an easily re-skinnable and adaptable puzzle game. Why not? The gameplay of the Japanese Super Puyo Puyo was given a Kirby makeover as a move to appeal more to worldwide audiences, with Kirby taking on Dream Land characters as opponents. Almost always quiet, Kirby is actually shown to speak in this game via text between rounds.
Notable: Kirby's Avalanche is not the only Puyo Puyo clone out there. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine was Sega's version of the puzzle game. But which emerged first? That's right! In 1993, it was Dr. Robotnik's Mean Be--oh.
Release: 1996 (NA) / 1997 (EU)
Super Star is one of the most memorable titles of the Kirby series. This is largely due to its varied selection of nine games ranging from the Dream Land-like Spring Breeze to the adventurous treasure hunt of The Great Cave Offensive. This also marks the point where Kirby begins wearing a costume or headgear for every copy ability, as well as the introduction of baddies serving as AI- or P2-controlled helpers.
A remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra, was released on the DS in 2008 (NA) and 2009 (EU). This version features enhanced graphics and adds 6 new games, including a much tougher version of Spring Breeze.
Notable: Super Star is arguably the Kirby game most frequently challenged by the speedrunning community, with fast fingers putting the Plasma and Jet abilities to efficient use.
Release: 1995 (EU) / 1996 (NA)
A variation on the Breakout or Arkanoid style of brick busting, Block Ball once again shakes up a formula by adding copy abilities to the mix. You can catch a Warp Star out of the main action at times to play mini-games such as Air Hockey or Star Catcher.
Kirby's animal friends are back! In block form! This original puzzle title from HAL involves stacking said blocks so that two similar friend blocks encompass either side of a line of stars. Modes include Round Clear, Vs., Challenge, and Time Attack.
Notable: A remake of Star Stacker was released only in Japan on the Super Famicom.
Release: 1997 (no original EU release)
The last SNES game to be published by Nintendo in the US, Kirby's Dream Land 3 went back to the foundation of Dream Land 2. The three original animal friends returned and were now joined by Chuchu the Octopus, Pitch the Bird, and Nago the Cat. Gooey, a dark blob who would sometimes appear as a placeholder for animals in Dream Land 2, makes a full appearance as a P2-controllable character with many of the same powers as Kirby. Dream Land 3's end-of-console release, limited availability, and deviance from Super Star's variety makes it one of the lesser considered main Kirby games, but its sketch-like art style makes it visually unique.
Notable: Several of the attacks combining Kirby and Chuchu involve them holding hands (appendages?) and generally appearing to enjoy each other's company. Canon mentions nothing about this, but we are still calling OTP on the account that both are pink.
Release: 2000 (NA) / 2001 (EU)
This 2.5D platformer allows Kirby to combine two equal or different abilities together to form a new power. King Dedede, the artist Adeleine, and a friendly Waddle Dee lend their support during the adventure in various ways (teammate Waddle Dees would go on to wear helpful identifying bandanas in later games). The final boss, 02, is of a surprisingly disturbing design.
Notable: This is the only game to date in which Kirby can be turned into a refrigerator. Use this knowledge wisely.
Game Boy Color
Release: 2001 (no EU release)
Kirby meets motion controls for the first time, controlled by a tilt sensor located in the game pak. Players tilt the system to navigate the puffball around obstacles, with an upward jerk causing him to jump and turn enemies into helpful items. Another of the less-remembered Kirby titles due to limited availability and the unique controls restricting its playing options.
Notable: Seriously, playing this in a GBA SP flips the controls entirely. And if you want to use the Game Boy Player, the entire Gamecube becomes your controller.
Release: 2003 (NA) / 2004 (EU)
A Kirby racing game? You bet! The basic controls of an air ride machine are relatively simple, but mastering performance often proved another matter entirely. This title is likely best remembered for City Trial, in which players roamed a vast open area to collect power-ups for use in an endgame challenge. Smash Run in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS borrows much from this mode.
Notable: This was Sakurai's final Kirby game as a member of HAL Laboratories.
Amazing Mirror deviated from the standard Kirby platformer by having a more open, maze-like world to explore. Up to 4 players could link up to search for the mirror shards to save Meta Knight from a dark version of himself, but the additional Kirbies can also be called by cell phone in single-player mode.
Notable: Master Hand and Crazy Hand from the Super Smash Bros. Series can be fought in this game. Inhaling Master Hand will grant Kirby his Smash moveset!
Hailed as one of the most creative titles in the Kirby series, Canvas Curse was an early exhibitor of the DS's potential. Kirby, cursed to be even more ball-like than usual, must be controlled by drawing lines on the touch screen. Enemies can also be stunned and copy powers activated through the use of the stylus, but certain obstacles may limit line-drawing abilities and require different plans of attack.
Notable: Medals can be acquired to unlock other cursed characters including Waddle Dee Ball, Meta Knight Ball, and Dedede Ball, each with their own characteristics.
Release: 2006 (NA) / 2007 (EU)
A more standard Kirby platformer, the hero seeks to track down the fiends who stole his strawberry shortcake (you don't mess with Kirby's sweets!). The touch screen is used as a representation of the inside of Kirby's gullet, storing extra powers and food for later use. This title also introduces the Squeaks, a band of rogue mice who are battled throughout the game, as well as new abilities such as Animal, Bubble, and Ghost.
Notable: When playing on the birthdate entered into the DS system, a special screen will appear with fond wishes. And cake.
Release: 2010 (NA) / 2011 (EU)
Kirby takes on a textile world in a game that focuses on near-soothing gameplay and a visually marvellous experience. Simple even as Kirby games go, this one takes away the risk of death and Kirby's ability to inhale, replacing it with a yarn whip and a bevy of creative transformations. Developer Good-Feel has shifted and enhanced Epic Yarn's aesthetic to the upcoming Yoshi's Woolly World on Wii U.
Notable: Prince Fluff, the P2 character introduced in this game, was originally made to be the main character but nudged aside when Nintendo saw the potential in adding Kirby. The working title was originally "World of Fluff."
This largely touch-controlled title sees Kirby split into 10 weaker Kirbies by an evil wizard's spell and nearly snuffed out one by one, only to have the last saved by a star that represents his disembodied heart. Yeah, the story is a tad dark for what amounts to some rather kooky gameplay. The max 10 Kirbies you get to control can't inhale, but they can gang up and beat the fruit out of their enemies!
Notable: The setting for Mass Attack is the Popopo Islands, making reference to the original name for Kirby.
After yarn and multiplicity, Kirby returns to his standard platforming roots -- but not without a few surprises. Up to four players can now play simultaneously, either taking up different colours of Kirby or Meta Knight, King Dedede, and Waddle Dee. New abilities such as Whip and Leaf arrive, in addition to over-the-top Super Abilities such as Ultra Sword and Grand Hammer.
Notable: Return to Dream Land had a tumultuous development cycle, originally announced for the GameCube in 2005. It was eventually scrapped for a new build on the Wii.
Release: 2012 (no EU release)
A compilation of the three Dream Land titles, Kirby's Adventure, Kirby Super Star and Kirby 64 in honour of the main puff's 20th anniversary! The disc also includes extra challenge rooms for Return to Dream Land and a museum section featuring a history of the games. A real-life soundtrack CD and a small book are also included.
Notable: Nintendo celebrated Kirby's 20th anniversary by breaking the Guinness World record for "most people blowing a chewing gum bubble simultaneously." They came in at 536, but the record has since been broken.
Sticking with tried and true Kirby platforming style, this game takes advantage of its systems 3D capabilities to add some fun visual flourishes. New abilities include Beetle, Bell, and Circus, but Triple Deluxe also introduces the Hypernova ability, exponentially increasing Kirby's inhaling power to accomplish puzzle-like tasks and generally terrorize Waddle Dees. Two sub-games, Dedede's Drum Dash and Kirby Fighters, would later have "deluxe" versions made for the 3DS eShop.
Notable: 256 keychains can be collected in Triple Deluxe, depicting characters from the game history to date. All can be rotated to view the HAL Laboratories logo on the back. They should also be real.
A spiritual successor to Canvas Curse that takes a page from Epic Yarn's crafty style, only this time depicting the world in clay. A player on the GamePad can once again guide Kirby by drawing rainbow ropes, while extra players can hop in as standard-controlled Waddle Dees to guard the rolling pink ball.
Notable: Players can collect clay figures along the journey, as well as a collection of remixed songs from past games. Heck yeah, again!
Kirby's legacy contains much more than could be put here, including cancelled games, only-in-Japan releases, merchandise, and an anime. What are your favourite experiences with Nintendo's squishiest hero, and what would you like to see in his inevitable future? Let us know by voting in the poll below!
Which is your all-time favourite Kirby title? (240 votes)
Kirby's Dream Land (GB)
Kirby's Adventure (NES)
Kirby's Pinball Land (GB)
Kirby's Dream Course (SNES)
Kirby's Dream Land 2 (GB)
Kirby's Avalanche / Ghost Trap (SNES)
Kirby Super Star / Fun Pak (SNES)
Kirby's Block Ball (GB)
Kirby's Star Stacker (GB)
Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES)
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)
Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble (GBC)
Kirby Air Ride (GC)
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (GBA)
Kirby: Canvas Curse / Power Paintbrush (DS)
Kirby: Squeak Squad (DS)
Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii )
Kirby Mass Attack (DS)
Kirby's Return to Dream Land / Adventure Wii (Wii)
Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition (Wii)
Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)
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