Known as Panel de Pon in Japan, Tetris Attack was released on Game Boy and Super Nintendo, although it’s Tetris in name only – the actual game bears almost no resemblance to the portable’s killer app. The western version also saw characters from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island co-opted in an effort to attract an audience. Despite this blatant marketing ploy, Tetris Attack is a cracking block-swapping puzzler in its own right and well worth checking out alongside its more famous Russian namesake.
Final Fantasy Legend III is a fitting end for the trilogy of Game Boy games; a very solid RPG experience that features a surprising degree of depth. If you like your quests long and your combat systems very basic and traditional in design, you’ll find much to like in this release, although you might find it a little tedious if you've got used to more modern RPG trappings. However, RPG enthusiasts are old hands when it comes for flirting with tedium in classic titles, and there’s still plenty to enjoy in this game – the final in the SaGa series to carry the 'Final Fantasy' moniker in the west.
The second game in the SaGa RPG series (rebranded as 'Final Fantasy' in the west thanks to that series’ popularity), Final Fantasy Legend II provides a party of four characters as you explore the world searching for shards of MAGI, a divine magical substance that grants the bearer immense power. Its challenging turn-based battling went down well enough to warrant another follow-up and then some, with over a dozen entries in the SaGa series to date.
While it’s certainly true that many monochrome Game Boy titles haven’t aged particularly well, playing Belmont’s Revenge today is a humbling experience. Like so many games of the era, the gameplay is pure, unhindered by modern concerns such as plots, 3D visuals and other fripperies. With superb level design, tight controls, engaging gameplay and a soundtrack that is so good you’ll seriously consider obtaining it on CD, Belmont’s Revenge ranks as one of the utterly essential Game Boy games and is as enjoyable today as it was all those years ago.
With more levels to play through and extra items to collect than its predecessor, Donkey Kong Land 2 is certainly a bigger game, although it’s a little similar to Diddy's SNES outing, which might take the shine off for people who have played that entry in the DK canon. Luckily the varied bunch of levels and enemies ensure that the game is still fun to play through. There's some cracking music, too, and with the amount of content Rare managed to cram into the game there's enough here to keep players occupied for some time.
Beautiful in its simplicity, satisfying in its depth and assured in execution, Gargoyle's Quest is one of the best games on the system and a solid indication of how potent a gaming platform the Game Boy was, even during its fledgling years. Technically a Ghosts ‘n Goblins game, it actually plays much more like The Adventure of Link, with top-down overworld gameplay giving way to side-on platforming battles. This is a truly timeless release that should be experienced by gamers of all ages.
14. DuckTales 2 (GB)
Scaling down the NES sequel as the original game did, the Game Boy interpretations of Capcom's classic platformers did an excellent job of giving Ducktales fans a version of the game to keep themselves occupied in the back of the car on the weekend trip to the grandparents’ house. With solid gameplay and great music, it’s worth tracking down if you only know the NES version – the level layouts are very different and there’s a plethora of items not found in the home console game.
13. DuckTales (GB)
Another GB version of a NES classic, the portable version of Ducktales scales the look of the original down very nicely to the Game Boy’s monochrome screen and manages to include all the mechanics you’d expect, remixing the levels but retaining much of what makes the NES version so special. It’s a challenging little game, but another winner from Capcom in the Game Boy catalogue and Disney or Ducktales fans shouldn’t overlook this port.
The original Super Mario Land was a solid start for the series on Nintendo's Game Boy system, but nothing could prepare gamers for what the developers were able to do with this sequel. They managed to improve every aspect of the game and even made the adventure a much longer and more rewarding experience this time around. The difficulty is perhaps a bit on the easy side, but it's still one of the best Game Boy titles ever released and a testament to just how capable a game system the Game Boy truly was. If you're a Super Mario fan, you absolutely must play this game; if you're not, this legendary release is good enough to make you one.
11. Kid Dracula (GB)
Kid Dracula might not be quite as lengthy or quite as diverse as the Famicom release, but you still have to give Konami a lot of credit for being able to cram so much platforming goodness into one Game Boy cartridge. It’s a delicious piece of self-parody from Konami poking fun at the Castlevania series. Great visuals with big sprites, a catchy musical score, and some of the tightest play control seen on the system all come together to form one of the most charming and playable platformers available on the portable. The cartridge has become quite rare over the years, so you'll likely have to do some serious searching in order to land a copy, but once you give it a try, you're sure to find the effort well worth it.