A Game Boy version of the SNES original, this was developed by Factor 5, the studio behind the Super Turrican games on the Super Nintendo and the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series. The levels and overall structure were altered and a password system was added but it still manages to deliver a serviceable game of Contra on a system with the processing power of a modern day toaster.
Going by that instruction book story, the idea that this game would prove Donkey Kong Country was more than just a pretty face is demonstrated rather nicely. Whilst visually it can't come close to the SNES title, by Game Boy standards these are definitely “fancy graphics”, and that doesn't really matter as fans can rejoice in what is basically an extra 34 levels of DKC. Tight controls and a variety of locations and enemies make for an enjoyable platformer. Add in the challenge of finding everything and Donkey Kong Land is a fun game that will keep players occupied for some time.
38. Parodius (GB)
Originally an arcade parody of the company’s Gradius series, Parodius showcases Konami’s lighter side by taking the former’s shooting gameplay and mixing in characters from across Konami’s catalogue with remixes of public domain (mostly classical) music. Although this was supposedly down to an impossible-to-meet developmental deadline, it contributed greatly to the joyful absurdity of the game and the Game Boy version captures that spirit very well.
Metroid II: Return of Samus expands on the original title nicely. There's still no map for the game's giant world, which isn’t necessarily a problem due to the game’s linearity, although it can be an issue if you put it down for a while and don’t remember where you got to. There's a decent amount of exploration and hidden items to find, and the hunt to find and kill the 39 Metroids is fairly fun. Although nowhere near as refined as the 2D masterpiece that is Super Metroid, Metroid II has held up better than the original NES game and as such is still very much worth playing. Of course, the 3DS remake is arguably the best way to play the game these days, but the original still has its lo-fi charm.
Because of its complete break away from genre convention by emphasising swinging over jumping, Bionic Commando is one of those games that you either love or hate. Nothing else plays quite like it, and this portable adaptation is a surprisingly robust and polished entry in the series. It might take some time getting used to the mechanics, but once your brain has rewired to Bionic Commando's method of madness, you'll find a real Game Boy gem.
Nominally an update of Rareware’s original NES game, Super R.C. Pro-Am did an excellent job of scaling down the isometric perspective racing onto the Game Boy’s monochrome display. Sure, the blur and size of that screen made racing a little more challenging, and the gameplay could quickly get repetitive, but it still delivered some nail-biting multiplayer contests with up to three friends and link cables.
34. Mega Man IV (GB)
Mega Man IV improves on its source material to an unbelievable degree considering the hardware its running on. Alternate routes, optional pickups, a store system, completely redesigned levels and the meatiest Wily experience yet in the handheld series make this an unfairly overlooked outing for the Blue Bomber. This was the last of the Mega Man handheld games to remix stages and elements from the NES titles, but it's a brilliant end to that series before the following game branched out into something new altogether.
The game may have a fairly basic appearance as a result of being released in the early years of the handheld's life, but Sunsoft managed to add some variety to the locations and the gun-toting Batman sprite is amusing in its own way. The game gets tougher later on but it doesn't feel overwhelming, and the Batwing levels are a great addition to the excellent platforming action found in the rest of the game. Overall, Batman: The Video Game on Game Boy is a decent facsimile of its bigger brother on NES and still a lot of fun to play through.
32. Picross 2 (GB)
Nintendo's main objective with Picross 2 seemed to be to up the challenge and include new, helpful features. It succeeded in both of these - aside from the Easy and Quick Picross puzzles, all of the puzzles are bigger and tougher than those found in Mario's Picross, with some having multiple parts to solve. The music might be a bit of a miss, but that problem is easily solved these days. Compared to the touchscreen variants available today, it’s a little bit cumbersome, but the base puzzles are as great as ever and with nearly 800 puzzles compared to the original game’s 250, you're certain to get months - if not years - of enjoyment out of this sequel.
Super Mario Land was impressive when it was first released for the Game Boy. The sequel might have made this original seem inadequate by comparison, but it's still a very fun Super Mario experience, albeit a short one. Just about the time things are really getting good, the credits roll, but if you haven't played Super Mario Land before, you owe it to yourself to give it a try - it's still worth playing through at least once, if only to see where Mario's portable adventures began. Cracking music, too.