Top 50 Game Boy Games
Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

Friday 21st April 1989 — the day that the Game Boy launched in Japan. 33 years ago the video gaming landscape would be forever changed as Nintendo opened up the new frontier of portable gaming to the masses. The company’s Game & Watch line let you take limited gaming experiences on-the-go, but the Game Boy was a different beast entirely.

The 8-bit machine with the 160x144 pixel LCD screen might have been modest in the specs department, but it was just powerful enough to offer deep gaming experiences, with the best examples rivalling those on home consoles. More importantly, its limitations proved to be strengths in the long run; that blurry monochrome screen used significantly less power than a backlit colour equivalent, and therefore gave the portable decent battery life – an essential factor to consider when your handheld relies on AA batteries to function away from a wall socket.

Gunpei Yokoi’s design philosophy – using proven, inexpensive components in new and interesting ways – continued through Nintendo's handheld line

Primarily the work of Satoru Okada and Gunpei Yokoi, the console was designed to a specific price point and goal; to be a practical portable device. Rival companies got carried away with the technical possibilities and contemporary handheld consoles with far superior specs fell by the wayside as Game Boy marched on. Gunpei Yokoi’s design philosophy – using proven, inexpensive components in new and interesting ways – continued through Nintendo's handheld line and carried over to its home consoles with Wii. The Switch itself, and novel experiments such as Labo VR, show that this approach continues to keep the Kyoto company in rude health.

Of course, it’s software which makes or breaks any console and the humble Game Boy could never have endured so long without its catalogue of incredible games. Obviously, it had the archetypal killer app in Tetris, and many still insist it’s the finest version of Alexey Pajitnov's puzzler. The story of its convoluted journey to the console is well worth investigating – a thrilling combination of guile, subterfuge and blind luck that went on to shape Nintendo and the video game industry at large.

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Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

Any video game company would be overjoyed to have a game with half the appeal of Tetris on its books, but after seven years – when you’d expect the console to be winding down – the Game Boy got the biggest second wind in video game history with the Japanese release of Pokémon Red & Green in 1996. A smaller, lighter revision of the hardware, the Game Boy Pocket, also arrived that year, and the console’s true successor – the Game Boy Color – would launch worldwide two years later alongside the western release of Pokémon. Although this marked a transition away from the OG hardware, the Game Boy line continued to enjoy almost 100% backwards compatibility up until the Micro variant of the Game Boy Advance in 2005.

While Tetris and Pokémon were the system sellers, there’s a vast library of games released for the system

While Tetris and Pokémon were the system sellers, there’s a vast library of games released for the system. The following list showcases the very best titles. You’re sure to find lots of ‘lands’ here — someone at Nintendo HQ decreed that the diminutive handheld simply couldn’t contain massive ‘worlds’, so Super Mario Land ushered in an era of ‘Land’ games from the likes of Kirby, Donkey Kong and Wario.

As with our lists of the 50 best Switch games and other Nintendo console Top 50 lists, the ranking here is governed by the game’s user rating on this very site. Just as before, logged in users can interact and rate the titles directly on these pages by hovering over the rating, or alternatively from each game's individual page. To be clear, the games listed here are for the original Game Boy only — there are no backwards compatible 'black cart' Game Boy Color games included (unless they happened to also receive a separate release for the original). If it says 'Game Boy Color' on the box, you won't find it below!

Can't see your favourite on the list? Use the handy search bar below to find Game Boy games and input your own ratings. Already rated your collection? Without further ado, let’s dive in…

Note. In order for games to become eligible, they need a minimum of 30 User Ratings in total.

50. Pinball: Revenge of the 'Gator (GB)

Pinball: Revenge of the 'Gator (GB)Pinball: Revenge of the 'Gator (GB)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: Mar 1990 (USA) / 1990 (UK/EU)

Pinball: Revenge of the 'Gator may lack the refinements showcased by modern pinball games, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored if you're a fan of the genre. The simplistic nature of the tables means you can give high-score chasing your full, undivided attention without being waylaid by distractions, and the ball physics are respectable enough to ensure you don't lose any games through anything but your own fault. HAL's effort may have been improved upon in recent years, but it's still an appealing and addictive pinball outing.

49. James Bond 007 (GB)

James Bond 007 (GB)James Bond 007 (GB)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Saffire
Release Date: 15th Dec 1998 (USA) / 15th Dec 1998 (UK/EU)

There are a few problems such as invisible barriers blocking bullets, and visually it's not the most ambitious Game Boy game, but the simple look works well as does the music. Overall, James Bond 007 is an exciting, fun game that should provide players with plenty of entertainment.

48. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (GB)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (GB)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (GB)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 16th Sep 1993 (USA) / 2nd Dec 1993 (UK/EU)

47. Nemesis (GB)

Nemesis (GB)Nemesis (GB)
Publisher: Ultra Games / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Apr 1990 (USA) / 1991 (UK/EU)

46. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (GB)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (GB)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (GB)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 1st Dec 1991 (USA) / 21st May 1992 (UK/EU)

The sequel to Fall of the Foot Clan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers gives the player the choice of the four turtles at the start of a level and it’s Game Over once you’ve gone through the lot. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Mikey all control slightly differently and with chunky sprites and rockin’ music, Konami managed once again to deliver satisfying Ninja Turtle action on the Game Boy.

45. Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (GB)

Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (GB)Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (GB)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date: 5th Nov 1991 (USA) / 21st May 1992 (UK/EU)

If you're a fan of the original Kid Icarus you owe it to yourself to pick up the sequel. Not only does it capture the same magic found in the NES release, but it also builds on many of the great gameplay ideas featured in the original. The difficulty has been toned down to make it a bit more accessible, but there's still plenty of challenge to be found and a fairly lengthy adventure. Highlighted by some fantastic boss fights, Kid Icarus: Of Myths & Monsters is a great prelude to Kid Icarus: Uprising.

44. Quarth (GB)

Quarth (GB)Quarth (GB)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Dec 1990 (USA)

Quarth has its share of issues to be sure, but it's certainly good for short bursts of puzzle-oriented fun. Repetitive gameplay and a missing two player mode hold this one back from being a solid recommendation, but for a time-killing Virtual Console title, you could do worse. Its simplicity is either its biggest problem or its main selling point, and that's something you may have to decide for yourself.

43. R-Type (GB)

R-Type (GB)R-Type (GB)
Publisher: Irem / Developer: B.I.T.S.
Release Date: 1st May 1991 (USA) / 1st Dec 1991 (UK/EU)

As with any port to the Game Boy, cuts are inevitable, but this still delivers an authentic R-Type experience. A slower speed, fewer enemies on screen and the omission of two levels make for an easier version. However, this port still manages to provide a challenge and it works well on the hardware it was designed for, with good controls and clear visuals. It may be a shorter gaming experience on the Game Boy, but it's still a very good one.

42. Balloon Kid (GB)

Balloon Kid (GB)Balloon Kid (GB)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Pax Softonica
Release Date: 5th Oct 1990 (USA) / 31st Jan 1991 (UK/EU)

Sequel to the NES game Balloon Fight, Balloon Kid isn't without its charms, but those charms are undeniably superficial: the graphics are nice and the music is fun, and the nods to Balloon Fight are all worth a smile, but there’s not a huge amount of depth. That said, it nails the mechanics of the original game and expands on its endlessly replayable Balloon Trip mode, making it ideally suited as a portable experience.

41. Game & Watch Gallery (GB)

Game & Watch Gallery (GB)Game & Watch Gallery (GB)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date: May 1997 (USA) / 28th Aug 1997 (UK/EU)

The Game Boy was, in many ways, the natural evolution of Nintendo’s Game & Watch line of one-shot portable devices, so the ability to play those games on one cartridge seemed like an acknowledgement of that handheld legacy. If you liked the originals, this collection is a must-have. Both the originals and remakes, which combine simple gameplay and subtle strategy, are here to enjoy and the newer versions play differently enough that you're quite likely to consider them new experiences in and of themselves. The musical and visual presentation is fantastic as well, and the entire package serves as a relic of a truly magical time in gaming. Or, perhaps, two truly magical times.