When Nintendo released the Game Boy 30 years ago, it was a grey block that looked more like house-building material than the video game systems that we know today. By its end, it had become "Advanced" and it took the form of a Micro version and an SP, which gave us a rad, mid 2000s flip-phone approach to gaming. And between these, it left us with a pantheon of fantastic games.
My first video game system was a purple Game Boy Color and my first game (of what would become a pretty extensive library) was Pokémon Red. Six years later, I would nearly be fired from my summer job because I wouldn't stop playing Pokémon Fire Red on the clock. In short, I loved the Game Boy line. They were little bricks of happiness, and today, I'd like to celebrate them and the tinier game-containing bricks that you could shove into them.
This is all my opinion, by the way, so don't get mad at me when Tetris is at the bottom of the list. Oh, look at that...
Tetris was bundled with the North American and European releases of the original Game Boy, so it gets legacy points for that. It also gets points due to the fact that, even in 2019, Tetris is addicting as hell. You can lose hours trying to prevent those blocks from hitting the ceiling. In an age where every video game seems to be trying to create an open world that's the size of the Milky Way and create graphics that are so life-like that you could confuse the game for a documentary, it's a good reminder that sometimes all you need is blocks.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
An RPG that's mostly based around the book rather than the movie, Chamber of Secrets is probably the most fun that I've had with Harry Potter anything. The enemies are colorful and varied, the combat is a VAST improvement over the last game, and Hogwarts is actually fun to explore. And for a Game Boy Color game that could've easily been a quick cash in, there is a nice array of extra stuff to do and collect. If you want to be transported back to your childhood, pick this up and lose yourself for about 20 hours.
Pokemon Trading Card Game
Considering that you have actual games in the series where you can run around and catch living critters, a game that just consists of travellng around a small island and challenging people to play cards with you shouldn't work as well as it does. But Pokémon Trading Card Game defies all expectations by not only being a worthy bearer of the "Pokemon" name, but by also being absolutely enthralling. Sure, you could go play the physical card game with friends in a place known as "the outside," but if you have this game, why would you?
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
The Minish Cap, when it came out, seemed like an odd addition to the Legend of Zelda franchise. "So it's just Link with a weird bird on his head? First of all, why? Second of all, nope, never." But if you give The Minish Cap a chance, you'll find that it is a classic Zelda experience through and through. The gameplay is great, the visuals are warm and consistent, and the score is one of the best in the entire series.
I'm just gonna put that whole score at the top there. Give you a nice soundtrack for the rest of the article.
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II
The first Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku isn't awful. It's just so clunky that you can't really enjoy it at all. Big difference. The sequel, simply titled The Legacy of Goku II, is an improvement in almost every way. The combat is actually worth taking part in, the controls help you to not die every six seconds, the graphics are watchable, and the storyline that it takes its plot from (It adapts the Android/Cell saga, which is waaaay better than the Saiyan or Frieza saga, don't @ me) lives up to the classic anime.
Kirby: Nightmare In Dream Land
Fun fact to bring out if the conversation is dying and people start chatting about Westworld or something: Did you know that Kirby's classic copying ability wasn't in the original game (Kirby's Dream Land)? Yeah, the best thing about Kirby in the Super Smash Bros. series wasn't available until the second game, Kirby's Adventure. And even that wasn't even originally on the Game Boy (It was for the Nintendo.) But it did get an upgrade on the Game Boy Advance (this time called Kirby: NIGHTMARE IN DREAM LAND), and you need to get on it if you haven't played it yet. It's delightful.
Few games have felt as new to me as the first time that I played Advance Wars. The battle system was intricate, yet easy to master. The graphics were simple, colorful, and effective. And the story was complicated enough so that I didn't get bored with "Send in tanks and tank accessories to destroy other tanks and tank accessories." Its sequel, Black Hole Rising (also for the Game Boy Advance), is very good as well. Check it out, if any of this sounds even remotely appealing.
Wario Land 3
There are few villains as awesome as Wario. He looks like Mario if Mario ate three other Marios. His mustache looks like someone left it in the dryer for too long. And his brutish attitude can only be described as "I had one too many drinks one too many drinks ago." So he's the perfect candidate to get his own game series. Others will bring up copious Mario games in a list like this, but I've always been a Wario guy, and Wario Land 3 is the best Wario game ever made.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy is a series that I've always struggled to get into, at least when compared to some of my friends who pray at the altar of Final Fantasy IX every night before they replay more Final Fantasy IX. But Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, while more, well, tactical than most other RPGs in the series, became my gateway into a franchise that had previously felt impenetrable. The involved gameplay and the interesting job and character customization system has kept me coming back to Tactics Advance over and over again throughout the years.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
The Harvest Moon games tend to blend together for me, and if you were to ask me to name more than two, I'd probably end up naming this one, Harvest Moon, and then start saying stuff like "Harvest Moon: Friends n' Towns n' Plants n' Stuff." But there's a reason that Friends of Mineral Town stands out: It takes what is usually a pretty niche series and makes it unrelentingly pleasant for everyone. It's never overcomplicated, nor do you feel like it's holding your hand. It's just a nice, fun life on a video game farm. And that's all we want in the end, right?
Do not play Yoshi for the Game Boy. I know that it's just you stacking Mario enemies on one another and hoping to hatch Yoshi eggs. I know that it seems like something that you can just "put down." But you can't. It will consume you and you will lose everything.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
In 2019, it doesn't seem like a Game Boy Advance Mario Kart would be fun to play. The series has come so far since then, and to some, Mario Kart: Super Circuit probably belongs in a museum where young gamers can point and say "THEY PLAYED THAT, MY FATHER WHO IS ALSO A CYBORG? HOW QUAINT! INJECT ME WITH MY DAILY MEAL SO THAT I MAY LISTEN TO THE NEXT SPEECH FROM PRESIDENT JOHN K. INSTAGRAM. HAIL DISNEY."
But Super Circuit is fun, y'all. With five different game modes, eight different characters, and a nice selection of stages and items, it's one of my favorite Mario Kart games. And that's high praise, considering that Nintendo hasn't made a less-than-perfect Mario Kart game in over 20 years.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
I'm still not quite sure what the title means and it might as well be called "Castlevania: Some Cool Words," but that doesn't take away just how fun this game is to play. It successfully blends an action/adventure system with a light sprinkling of RPG aspects, and it also has the coolest array of bosses available on the Game Boy Advance.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons
Link's Awakening is the more popular Legend of Zelda handheld title, but my heart has always belonged to Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. The former is more puzzle based, while the latter is action-focused, but they're both incredibly underrated and were my first exposure to the franchise as a whole. Even when I played things like the whimsical Wind Waker or the immense Breath of the Wild, I kept wanting to go back and revisit Ages and Seasons. You're doing yourself a disservice if you write these off as lesser Zelda entries.
Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow are great. Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald are endlessly playable. Fire Red/Leaf Green set the standard for what a Pokémon remake should be. But Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal? They're perfection.
It contains two regions, a revolutionary day/night cycle, a world that feels full and changing and true, an array of monsters to pick from that never gets old, bright, unforgettable gameplay and a score that's still one of the best in the series. Pokémon Crystal is the best game on either Game Boy or Game Boy Advance, and might be the best handheld game of all time. I love it and I want to be buried with it. Play the Route 42 music as my funeral march.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for SYFY WIRE, among other sites. You can find him on Twitter.