Nintendo is an odd company in many ways; deeply conservative in some respects, but also able to swing for the fences and invest money and resources in the pursuit of pure novelty. Time and again it puts out products that no other platform holder would have dreamed of, and more often than not those frivolities turn out to be delightfully entertaining. Not every idea can be a winner, though, and there are few more high profile failures in the Kyoto company's back catalogue than the Virtual Boy.
An odd concept for a console that delivered rudimentary (and very red) autostereoscopic 3D gaming through a built-in viewer, its development was led by legendary Nintendo engineer Gunpei Yokoi, the same man behind the Game & Watch handhelds and the all-conquering Game Boy. Virtual Boy launched in Japan on 21st July 1995, but performed very poorly, both at home and in North America. So poorly, in fact, that it never reached European shores at all; production was discontinued after only five months in its homeland.
With a catalogue of just 22 games released between both territories, it's an infamous example of one of Nintendo's more outlandish products completely missing the mark. But does it really deserve its reputation? Surely there are a couple of stone-cold classics in its library which would make tracking down a Virtual Boy worth it, no?
In honour of the console's 25th anniversary, we've ranked all 22 games in order of merit below. To hear more about each game, check out our reviews for each and every one. That these games never found their way to 3DS feels like a real missed opportunity, that's for sure - especially to poor Europeans for whom the Virtual Boy represents a tantilising missing piece of the Nintendo puzzle.
With the console now a quarter of a century old, perhaps it's time to dig through the cupboard here at Nintendo Life HQ and fire up the ol' Boy again...
22. Waterworld (VB)
And you thought the film was bad. Waterworld is an ugly, depressingly dull excuse for a game. The film might have been a box office bomb, but it really isn't as awful as its repuation suggests. The VB game is irredeemably poor, though, and you have our permission to label your mint boxed Virtual Boy library 'complete' with this one missing.
21. Virtual Lab (VB)
A soupily slow game that made our ears bleed, falling block puzzler Virtual Lab threatens to become passably fun at times. They're empty threats, though, and it never escapes its crushingly dull, repetitive loop. It's not insultingly offensive, but if you're after an excuse to splurge on a near-mint Virtual Boy on ebay, this ain't it.
20. Virtual League Baseball (VB)
Oh dear. Maybe we should have started at the top? Nestling at #20 we've got the first of several sports games available for the system. Some decent 3D effects can't disguise a game only its mother could love, and unfortunately Virtual League Baseball can't make up for its lacklustre looks with decent gameplay, either.
19. Space Invaders: Virtual Collection (VB)
3D Space Invaders might seem like the draw, but actually it's the 2D version included in this collection that captures the arcade original best. Still, there's no shortage of ways to play Space Invaders these days, so while this isn't terrible, it's hardly worth giving yourself a headache for.
18. SD Gundam Dimension War (VB)
Well-designed characters and decent 3D can't save this poorly-presented and repetitive Gundam game from the dusty depths of your wardrobe following its debut in your Virtual Boy's cart slot. SD Gundam Dimension War could have been worse, but not much.
17. Virtual Fishing (VB)
A Japanese exclusive, Virtual Fishing is far from the worst game on the system, although you know you're in trouble when that's the highest compliment you can pay. It struggles to find the right balance between presenting a challenge and becoming boringly easy when it comes to landing a lunker. Again, not awful but also not worth flaring up your glaucoma to play.
16. Insmouse No Yakata (VB)
A first-person horror game that suffers from similar issues of repetition as many of the console's other titles, but at least it tried something different. It all feels a little old-hat by modern standards, but as a curio in the Virtual Boy catalogue, Insmouse no Yakata may be worth a look if you're into old-school 3D dungeon exploration games.
15. Teleroboxer (VB)
Teleroboxer is the first of the Virtual Boy catalogue that could be legitimately, consistently labelled as 'fun'. Unfortunately, the experience is extremely short-lived, but while it lasts this first-person fighter isn't half-bad. Hardly a sterling recommendation, we know, but at this stage we'll take what we can get.
14. Mario Clash (VB)
Okay, a Mario title - surely a harbinger of quality, no? Well, not quite. Playing much like an updated version of the original Mario Bros., Mario Clash is not exactly the killer platformer we want from the plumber, but it's in a whole other league to some of the dross we've waded through to get here.
To reiterate, this is by no means essential, but it's not bad. Our quest for the killer app continues.
13. Golf (VB)
Perhaps it's our affection for sports games with plain, unadorned titles, or perhaps it's tough to make a bad golf game, but we quite like Golf. Its lack of multiplayer and ability to save your progress hurts, not to mention its single course and inevitably repetitive nature, but the base gameplay here is solid and, as we've seen, you could do a lot worse. We give this three headaches out of five.
12. V-Tetris (VB)
The first of Virtual Boy's duo of Tetris titles, V-Tetris is Tetris and therefore hits a minimum level of quality almost by default. It's not particularly special in any way, and not being able to save your high scores is a significant omission, but we can comfortably say without fear of contradiction that this is in the top two Tetris titles on the system.
1. Wario Land
2-22. Everything else
Every single time I go to an antique store or a yard sale I look for a virtual boy even though I know I’ll never find one. Teleroboxer is still one of the classic games I really want to play!!!
Wasn’t wario land for the virtual boy the only game that was actually good, playable and worth it? Shame they didn’t remake it for the 3ds.
Wish Nintendo would at least release Mario Clash and Wario Land VB for the Switch as classics.
I love the vibrant color palette these games have
Wow, my brother and I got one of these back in the day. He loved it, but for me it was instant migraine, due to an eye injury I sustained in my youth. Nintendo was ahead of it's time with this thing, it's a shame they used such a harsh color tone, lol.
Is... is this NintendoLife's way of telling the mothership in Kyoto that we're desperate and scraping the bottom of the barrel?
... because, you know, us forlorn F-Zero and Wave Race fans can craft a top 10 list of tracks from each franchise, if we want to send NCL a message...
Great list! I know its not Nintendo, but this kinda makes me want to see a 32X list.
I owned Wario and Mario Tennis here. Sadly the system died when left in storage for too long...
You can side load vb emulator onto Oculus quest it’s pretty authentic
@darkswabber Good lord. Did you even read the article? No Wario Land on VB wasn't the only good game on the system. Jebus!
Really a nitpick, but Virtual Lab should be last because it literally wasn't finished before being released! It even manages to misspell Nintendo's name twice in two different ways!
It didn't officially release, but I'd say Bound High is the best game on the system. Tons of fun if you can get a chance to play it.
It is a real shame they never did a remake of that Wario game on 3DS, it was literally a shoe in for the system. A lost gem of a game that may never see a remake.
I always thought that Nintendo should have released some of these games on the 3DS eshop or put a bunch of them on a cartridge collection. I only played a Virtual Boy once, but I think the 3D effect on the 3DS would have done a respectable job of recreating the experience.
I remember buying one of these used from Blockbuster, in it's rental case. (Un)Surprisingly it was in great like new condition when I bought it. I picked up Wario Land, Teleroboxer, Red Alarm, Mario Tennis, Galactic Pinball, Panic Bomber, Virtual League Baseball, Mario Clash, and Golf. I remember playing but not owning Waterworld, and yes it was pretty bad. I regret selling my Virtual Boy collection but I was a kid and needed the money for the more N64 games in the late 90s. Each of the games were fun in their own right. I remember sinking a lot of time in Mario Tennis, Red Alarm, Panic Bomber, Golf, and even Virtual League Baseball.
@TheFox That's what I thought as well. Though viewing the contrast of bright lines on a dark background on the 3DS's stereoscopic screen kind of breaks down and you can see remnants that only the other eye should see. So it wouldn't be as good as seeing it in the Virtual Boy. Still I'm with you and would have purchased likely as many as were released.
Nintendo should reproduce these as a limited novelty item, like the SNES Classic. Give people a chance to experience the library, considering how costly it is to find one of these and snag a few of the games.
I have 16 titles and two systems.
The first one, one of the lens not working anymore.
My favorite is Wario Land. Awesome game.
Jack Bros is very good too!
There is no game on this list that justifies buying a Virtual Boy--at least not when it came out. I remember it cost about $200 for a system that wasn't much better or portable than a SNES. It made so much more sense to buy the $100 Yoshi's Island cartridge than a $200 virtual boy. Also, it looked bad that all-around that Nintendo was coming out with this system as their response to the Sony Playstation. At school, when we talked about the new videogames it felt pathetic to bring up the new virtual boy when talking about the new Playstation. I think that timing also soured the value of the Virtual Boy.
This is a terrible list! You don't have the full top 100 like this list does
(please note this is a joke comment)
@potomas I too have done this and it seems like the closest I will get to playing an original one. What did you think of it?
I'd have written this article in three words:
They're all gopping.
I remember demoing one of these in a store. After about five minutes or so, I was done. It just wasn't for me.
I’m pretty sure the game is called Innsmouth no Yakata, not Insmouse.
@Nico07 If they really wanted to do it right, the 3DS rereleases could have done something with the colors to make them more pleasing on the eyes. Of course then you get into the argument of authenticity vs having an improved port.
How did this piece of junk even make it past product testing?
@Glassneedles yeh as you say it’s possibly the closest you’ll get. I enjoyed it, gave me a chance to play the only Nintendo console I never had.Probably good reason for that lol.
Yeh if you have Quest google it, it wasn’t that hard to do obviously you get the full 3D effect and can use Xbox joypad.Getting roms on the other hand.......
for Dark Magician
I guess the most enduring legacy of the Virtual Boy is inspiring a great joke in Luigi's Mansion 3.
My favorite VB game was teleroboxer.
I see I do not agree with the ranking.
@Jokerwolf it boggles my mind that the Wario Land franchise is nowhere to be seen. Wario Land truly deserves the “Link’s Awakening remake” treatment.
@Andymad I would love the first 3 games remade and in one package.
I have all 14 Virtual Boy games released in North America, and this list is pretty accurate.
@COVIDberry Haha, it is sad that we are at this point of knowing almost nothing about Nintendo's plans for the second half of the year. We've got (possibly) New Pokemon Snap, and Pokemon DLC, and that's about it for first party. We could see the Bravely Default title, but that could easily slip to 2021 as well.
Feature: Every Virtual Boy game ranked.
1: Mario Tennis
So what did you think? Do you agree with this ranking? Let us know in the comments below!
What a strange coincidence. I literally just bought a Virtual Boy and six games from a friend yesterday. Now I find this list on my go-to Nintendo news site. Have uh... have you guys been watching me?
Am I the only one who wants a Virtual Boy Collection with every single game?
@Averagewriter well, that makes a lot more sense now.
This device is very fascinating. I really think some games could be revamped over to the Switch or 3DS.
This is interesting because Virtual Boy was never released here so we only know the games because of magazines and the internet.
@MarcusIsCool There is an emulator for (New) 3DS. Unfortunately, the system is not powerful enough to output a decent frame rate. The idea is cool though, it's real 3D again.
I was playing Virtual Boy in the backseat of a van when we were hit by another car. Pretty sure it's the reason i wear glasses. Funny enough they did studies on the effect of virtual boy on eyesight and it was actually helpful in some cases. The warnings all over the box were a huge reason why the VB flopped which could have been avoided if they waited a couple months. It was probably doomed to fail either way but I'm glad to say I owned one.
I read the entire list hunting for Wario Land, as it’s the only game I regret not having had the chance to play because I never saw a real life Virtual Boy
I won a Virtual Boy through a contest GamePro magazine did right around it's launch. Along with the system it came with Red Alarm, Mario Tennis and Wario Land. I wanted one so bad when I got the call (they called you back then!) that I won I seriously remember feeling like my life was complete.
I was obsessed with Red Alarm and Wario Land. Wario Land was so good I made sure to 100% that one. Red Alarm was another one of those games where I can only get so far but played it nonstop to keep getting to the same spot.
I had it in storage for many years but pulled it out and sold it a couple years back. When I first fired it up the image was all janky. After playing around with it for some time it seemed to fix itself and play as normal. I made sure the buyer knew that there's absolutely no guarantees that it won't turn itself into a overpriced paperweight at anytime. I seriously wonder if it still works or the guy turned around and sold it for a even bigger payout.
Teleroboxer should be number 2. It's still fun to play, and arguably is the only game that made ample use of the 3D effect and controller. Red Alarm is nearly unplayable with the lack of textures on the walls, it should be near the bottom.
Much as this system did wrong, I actually loved it back in the day. Being in a small house with a lot of family, it was the only game system I could play with no one butting in or backseating. And if it hadn't failed, my poor family wouldn't have been able get one for me as a birthday gift for next to nothing in 1996.
Wow, poor Mr. Kevin Costner. He can't even do better than an unfinished trash game that was thrown out the door to (they say) meet Nintendo's (or was NINTENNDO?) submission deadline.
And now it's TWO THOUSAND DOLLAR garbage!
(like look at the boxart online and say that, aside from the spelling mistakes, complete lack of information or screenshots about the game on it isn't proof of that? The only text on there is (probably obligatory) health warnings and copyright information.)
I think I have permanent neck damage from Panic Bomber.
Having a virtualboy nostalgia app that worked with the switch vr would be pretty slick. I doubt they would do it for risks of people vomiting but it would get me to buy one of those kits.
The Virtual Boy got 22 games? I thought there were much less. I unfortunately get motion sick rather easily (Starlink was a nightmare) so I'll probably never try any of them sadly.
Well, Jeremy Parish review of Virtual League Baseball mentioned one major problem: the fact that no link cable was released meant there was no possibility of a two-player mode, which meant you could only play against the CPU.
And CPU AI is sports games would tend to go two directions: either really dumb or way too smart for its own good, a force that would remind you it knows all the math to calculate all the perfect plays correctly. He said this game was towards the latter.
@robr That is a shame.
Well at least a decade later Konami offered condolences by making it playable again in North America on what is regarded as the SECOND worst-selling Nintendo console, the Wii U.
Red Alarm seemed like it would be a pretty cool game... on physically better display hardware. I remember playing it on the store demo consoles back in the day and I could not tell what was going on. Higher resolution and a less eye-searing color palette would probably help digest it.
@GX_64 14 games released in North America, plus an additional eight Japanese exclusive (with four of those making the most wallet-destructing games in the entire library).
I wanted one of these soooo bad when I first say it in a magazine lol. Crazy that it was such a failure and just essentially got swept under the rug.
Wario Land and Teleroboxer are the only games worth mentioning in this list
Got one of these for $50 at Target when they got blown out. It is a cool little curio but unfortunately the only comfortable position I can seem to play it in is flat on a bed. Sitting at a table with it is just a excuse for neck pain.
Jack Bros baby!!
Virtual Boy Wario Land is the best Wario Land game, hands down. Every one I've played since has failed to capture the same magic and simplicity. Despite the neck pain and headaches, the Virtual Boy was the best $20 ever spent on the Walmart clearance aisle in 1996 (along with the $5 Virtual Boy games... had I only known that Jack Bros. would be rare).
Let’s not forget the little Metroid Easter egg in galactic pinball where you get to control Samus’s ship. I logged in many hours on that game!
The sad thing is we're more likely to get these Virtual Boy games for having Switch Online than N64 ones.
Nintendo should colorize (not an actual word, I know) some of these and release them on Labo VR. at the very least, it would be a fun way to revisit a piece of Nintendo history, even if most of the games are terrible.
Nintendo completely blew the chance to bring these to the 3DS. It was the perfect, non-retina-burning, platform. They could have even offered full color versions of the games but that time is long gone. What a wasted opportunity.
I finally got a Virtual Boy last fall after 24 years of wanting one. I’ve only got Mario Tennis-but I can’t wait to stumble across other games.
I love my Virtual Boy, and I like this list. Fun article! Wishing for a good VB Wario Land remake to give the Labo VR a second wind.
It's the only Nintendo console I didn't own. And I've never had the feeling I missed out on anything special.
@JoakimZ Ninja'd, lmao I was just about to comment that.
Also, in Red Alarm you can see a Virtual Boy hidden in the game.
I always say, and I'm glad to see other people say it too, that Nintendo missed the opportunity to bring Virtual Boy titles to the 3DS with a Virtual Console based on Virtual Boy. 3DS was the system to do it, given that it was the second (and presumably the last) time the 3D effect was a trend. I was very disappointed when I saw they didn't do it.
Next y'all should rank E Reader games!
I feel slightly ill just looking at the pictures. I get sick quite easily with VR type stuff anyway and just the awful contrast of red on black - why not green? - is a bit grim.
It's a shame that the failure of VB contributed to Yokoi leaving the company though, I'd have liked to have seen how he might have contributed to future Nintendo efforts.
I own a working VB and many of the games above. I can say,
1. the rumors about headaches and eye strain are very overrated (I've never had a headache after 1+ hour of playtime) and eyes sometimes feel funny for like, maybe 2 minutes, after a long session. Like i was staring at something too close to me. Notthing major.
Teleroboboxer is hard as heck but similar to Punch Out---and should be higher on the list. Its far more ambitious and interesting than, say, Bowling.
If you want a great article on VB, check out (retronaut) Benj Edward's article here:
@mattesdude look into getting a Flashboy. I have one. Its a ROM card. There are a lot of interesting homebrews available at Planet Virtualboy (quality varies) but also will save you $$$ on buying Jack Bros or Waterworld (i own both, but the Flashboy is far cheaper).
I think it was a HUGE MAJOR MISSED OPPORTUNITY that Nintendo chose not to do a color port of Wario Land to the Nintendo 3DS, heck they did them 3D classic thing were they turn classic games like Kirby's Adventure and Kid Icarus into 3D with a bunch of visual enhancements, they should have gone and done the same for Virtual Boy Wario Land! Why does Nintendo have to disappoint us like that...
I Played one of them before they where really good, i thought.
Thanks for the suggestion! I will do that!
I ordered a Virtual Boy off ebay from Japan. It arrived a couple of months ago. It came with 5 games, Mario's Tennis, Teleroboxer, V Tetris, Panic Bomber and Galactic Pinball.
I have since bought Wario Land, Mario Clash, Virtual League Baseball, Red Alarm and Golf.
I love the Virtual Boy. To be honest I dislike none of my games, some are obviously better than others. I am looking to get the whole collection, might never happen, but we'll see. If anybody has any of the other games and is interested in selling them, feel free to let me know. Message on here, reply to comment or email me, [email protected]
Virtual Bowling, Nesters Funky Bowling, Insmouse no yakata, Vertical Force, Virtual Lab, Virtual Fishing, Jack Bros, SD Gundam Dimension War, 3D Tetris, Space Squash, Space Invaders virtual collection and Waterworld.
I am glad the Virtual Boy has a good cult following now and feel it's a shame it is under rated and has a bad reputation. Thanks for reading.
While Wario Land might be almost everyone else's favorite for the system, my personal favorite is Galactic Pinball. I almost bought a VB for that game alone.
❗️Such a WASTED opportunity to bring these Games to the 3DS...
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