Nintendo really kicked off an industry-wide trend with their first handheld gaming console- the Game Boy. It was a pocketable device with all-day battery life, capable of running several excellent games. And despite the monochrome low-resolution screen, this little guy provided plenty of enjoyment at its relatively affordable price tag.
Eventually, competitors to the Game Boy started showing up. Atari, Bandai, SNK, and SEGA all jumped aboard the handheld train. So Nintendo knew they were going to need something more advanced.
The Game Boy Color was designed in parallel with the Advance, even though both have completely different hardware. You can think of the GBC as an iterative upgrade on the basic model, but it’s also more than just a screen swap.
Compared to the original Game Boy, this new version could display more sprites on-screen thanks to its increased memory. And it sported a Zilog Z80-based CPU that was twice as fast as the original Game Boy processor. While screen resolution remained unchanged (160 x 144), you now had color.
Up to 56 unique colors could be shown at any given time, from a palette of 32,768. Color shading was also upgraded, with support for 7 or even 10 shades. However, the Game Boy Color still used a non-backlit screen (so you needed your own light source).
Today, I shall take a look at the top 70 all-time Gameboy Color games that you must play. These span many genres- platformers, shooters, RPGs, etc. I’m sure you’ll find something here that caters to your specific interests.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
Link’s Awakening is the very first Zelda designed for a handheld console. It was released in 1993 for the original Game Boy. Later in 1998, a “DX” (deluxe) version with upgraded visuals was made for the Game Boy Color.
Unlike previous Zelda titles, this one doesn’t feature Princess Zelda or the land of Hyrule. Instead, you wake up on a remote island that’s filled with monsters and treasures. There’s a guardian spirit called the Wind Fish, who guides you on your quest by providing helpful information.
Pokémon Gold/ Silver
The 2nd generation of Pokémon video games gave gamers a brand-new way to interact with their favorite virtual pets. Gold and Silver are two separate games, but part of one large adventure. You must play both to get the complete story experience.
If you love retro games and intrested in Game Boy as well than you must check out my other list Top 50 All-time Game Boy Games That You Must Play
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/ Oracle of Ages
Zelda developers saw the success of Pokémon and decided to create their very own multi-part game. Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are two different releases, containing the same universe and storyline. They use the same game engine but with very different gameplay mechanics.
Oracle of Ages features way more puzzles and casual activities compared to Oracle of Seasons which is an action game. Both of these games share design features with Link’s Awakening. So you get the same controls, spells, character sprites, sound effects, etc.
Metal Gear Solid
In 1998, Konami and Hideo Kojima took the entire gaming world by surprise when they released the very first Metal Gear Solid. Even today, it’s celebrated as one of the most influential and innovative stealth games ever created. This portable version retains the same story and characters while using a 2D overhead view similar to Metal Gear 2 (released in 1990 for the MSX2).
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
The original Mario Bros. was released in 1983 for arcades, and it didn’t feature the Mushroom Kingdom or Princess Peach. Super Mario Bros introduced all that, along with the ability to jump on your enemies. The Deluxe version features many hidden unlockables, one of which is Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (basically Super Mario Bros. 2).
If you love retro games and are interested in GBA Games as well then you must check out my other list Top 50 All-Time GBA (Gameboy Advance) Games That You Must Play
Donkey Kong Country
The old Donkey Kong has moved to a peaceful island and given his grandson the title. Meanwhile, a bunch of mischievous crocodiles led by King K. Rool has stolen the Kong’s banana stash. You can choose either Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong to play through 40 different side-scrolling platformer levels.
It’s Tetris, the original falling-block puzzler. But this time, it’s got some pretty colors and updated audio effects (compared to the regular Game Boy).
Tetris DX gives you two new game modes, one of which is a match against the CPU. There are also 3 different profile options along with battery-powered saves.
Wario Land 3
Mario is the quintessential good guy, he goes around saving princesses while beating up mega villains. Wario is his evil counterpart, driven by greed and hate. Wario Land 3 lets you play as the bad guy and shows that it can be really fun.
You’re trying to free a mysterious being trapped inside a music box. Wario has access to unique powers that let him change shape and size based by absorbing the enemy’s attacks.
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Tara’s Adventure & Cobi’s Journey
This is a slightly different experience from the regular Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest) games. It combines two different worlds into one, much like Pokémon Gold/ Silver. You train your personal team of pet monsters to engage in battle with the creatures of other trainers (just like Pokémon).
It’s the last 2nd generation Pokémon game, and also the final Pokémon title to be released on Game Boy Color. In many ways, it improves upon the storytelling and game mechanics of Pokémon Gold/ Silver. At the start, you can choose your main character’s gender.
When battles begin, a little animation is played to get you hyped up for the fight. Animations are unique to each Pokémon. There is also a location called the Battle Tower that hosts stadium fights.
Dragon Warrior III
The Dragon Warrior series is simply a localization of Dragon Quest, and this is the 3rd mainline game. One of the earliest RPGs, Dragon Warrior is something that a lot of 80s and 90s kids played during their childhood. It introduced concepts such as leveling up characters with experience points, doing missions with party members, equipping items, etc.
Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble
One of the cool things unique to cartridge-based game design is the ability to add custom hardware. It could be specialized graphics processors or sensors. These are things you simply can’t do on a disk, because of the standardized construction and form factor.
In the case of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, the game cartridge has a built-in accelerometer. It’s one of the earliest games to use motion tracking for a player character. You control Kirby, as he chases Dedede while collecting stars in each level.
Pokémon Trading Card Game
Since the Pokémon series of video games were so popular, a physical tabletop card game was released based on the same franchise. And from this physical tabletop, we got a Game Boy Color card game. It features cards from the first 3 sets of the tabletop, along with exclusive cards that aren’t available in a physical format.
Dragon Warrior Monsters
Pokémon spawned a whole bunch of copycats. Some of these were cheap cash grabs. While others genuinely innovated upon the role-playing formula of Pokémon and in the process, forged their own unique identity (Digimon, for example).
Dragon Warrior Monsters is an example of the latter, it copied many of the basic systems from Pokémon. But this game also features a richer breeding and training system, allowing for greater player involvement. The game features Terry and Milly (from Dragon Quest VI) in their childhood.
Elevator Action EX
An updated version of the original Elevator Action. EX adds color and lets you choose between 3 different playable characters. “Guy” is the slowest of them but has the most durability.
Sarah is the fastest, but also the most fragile. And Mike sits right between the other two in terms of stats. You make your way through 30 platforming levels while trying to avoid enemies.
Revelations: The Demon Slayer
It’s known as Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible in Japan. And Revelations: Demon Slayer is the only English installment of the entire series.
This is a role-playing game set within a fantasy world with monsters. Both physical and magical attacks can be used to defeat enemies. You have a party that levels up by fighting battles, and money is used to buy better armor/ weapons.
A weird mix of Pokémon-style creature combat and top-down mech action. Metal Walker lets you control robots, but only by bouncing them off other objects such as walls and enemy robots (it plays like a game of pool). You can also throw healing, traps, scanners, etc. onto the battlefield which will be picked up by any metal walker that passes over these items.
Before Farming Simulator, we had Harvest Moon- a game about managing your very own patch of land in a rural town. You plow the land, plant seeds, add fertilizer, water, etc. to grow crops. Plants have designated seasons during which they grow, and you must buy supplies from your local market.
It’s Mario in a golf game, with fun side activities and several unique game modes. The Game Boy Color version is different from the regular Game Boy version. It supports cross-play with Nintendo 64 using the Transfer Pak accessory, letting you share characters and scores between the two consoles.
Yet another variant of good old Pinball, but this time it has Pokémon! The game makes several references to previous Pokémon titles (for example- the two tables are named red and blue). On each table, there are play areas with Pokémon that can be captured (these play areas are allotted randomly).
Hey, remember how Mario has his own arch-nemesis called Wario who is the polar opposite of everyone’s favorite Italian plumber? Well, Mario’s brother Luigi has one such rival too. And he is called Waluigi, shown for the first time in this tennis game.
You use the A and B buttons to spin the ball in different ways. Striking a button twice will put more power into your strike. Mixing up the order of your button presses will produce different types of strikes.
One of the most well-known names from the Golden age of arcade gaming, R-Type got a Game Boy Color release in 1999. It’s a horizontally scrolling shooter in which you pilot the R-9 “Arrowhead” starship to protect humanity from a hostile race of aliens. You clear waves of enemies using your guns and energy shields, until you reach a giant boss at the end of each level.
Resident Evil Gaiden
I don’t know how they managed to get a Resident Evil game running on Game Boy hardware, but it’s a real thing. Resident Evil Gaiden uses a top-down perspective, so it lacks the claustrophobic feeling of early RE titles. Nevertheless, it still carries a horror-themed atmosphere and the music can be genuinely creepy at times.
Pokémon Puzzle Challenge
This is a game modeled after Puzzle League, (also called Panel de Pon in Japan) with characters from Pokémon Gold and Silver. Certain famous Pokémon like Chicorita and Pikachu are playable characters. You can battle with rival trainers to unlock new Pokémon, and there is a wide range of game modes.
This game is called Survival Kids in the US, and it’s one of the earliest survival games ever made. You’re stuck on a deserted island, trying to find tools for crafting clothes and shelter. There are various meters for hunger, thirst, etc. that show how close your character is to dying (hunting and gathering are necessary to survive).
A rather unique platformer in which you control a female genie with long magical hair. Shantae can use her hair as a weapon, extending it to generate a whipping effect on enemies.
There are upgradeable moves you can learn after defeating enemies across 5 different towns. And the money you get from these enemies can be used to purchase healing potions.
Game & Watch Gallery 3
Game & Watch 3 is a collection of minigames that feature characters from multiple Nintendo game franchises in a crossover format. One of the minigames is called Mario Bros., but it isn’t about platforming. Instead, you’re tasked with moving cakes along a conveyor belt.
There is even a Donkey Kong Jr. minigame in which you try to free the original Donkey Kong from a cage while fighting against Goombas and Piranha Plants. By default, there are 5 minigames available. But you can accumulate points to unlock 5 more “hidden” minigames.
One of the earliest and rarest RTS games for a handheld console. Warlocked lets you choose from one out of two playable sides-humans, or aliens. The game has 2 unique campaigns for both species.
A Fog of War effect hides enemy units until you come within visual range. You have multiple unit types, including archers and wizards. Wizards can cast spells that spread the plague among enemies or turn them into harmless critters.
Tomb Raider- Curse Of The Sword
An impressive technical feat was accomplished by Core Design when they managed to get this game running on the Game Boy Color. It’s a fun Tomb Raider platformer in which Lara goes on an adventure to stop some cultists from replacing her soul with that of an ancient witch. Curse of The Sword looks better than most other Game Boy Color games, and it provides you with a wide range of weapons/ moves to defeat your enemies.
Metroid II- Return Of Samus
This is the first-ever Metroid to be released for a handheld game console. Return of Samus has a darker, more sinister vibe to it when compared with the original Metroid. In this one, Samus is tasked with finishing off the remaining Metroids at their home planet of SR388.
Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
The first Bionic Commando game to feature two different protagonists. Rad Spencer is replaced with a mysterious male commando and a similarly mysterious female commando.
Player characters have new moves compared to the previous Bionic Commando game, and some levels also involve the use of a sniper rifle. The story is similar to 1988’s original Bionic Commando game, but with a few twists and turns.
Harvest Moon 2
Another harvest moon game in which you have been tasked with managing farmland inherited from your grandfather. This one has some additional features compared to Harvest Moon 1. You can now buy a sheep pen and build a greenhouse on your farm (the town can also be freely roamed in).
Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins
It’s something in-between a shooter and platformer, with similarities to games such as Mario. Only, the Goombas and Piranha Plants have been replaced with fire-breathing demons. And your character isn’t nearly as nimble or athletic as Mario, since he is wearing a giant suit of armor that slows him down.
Lufia: The Legend Returns
A fantasy roleplaying game with strategic turn-based combat in which you control up to 9 characters during fights. Randomized encounters can give you experience that is used for unlocking skills unique to each main character. To use special abilities, you need “spiritual force” (these abilities are obtained by reading ancient texts hidden within dungeons).
A fun, colorful platformer that sticks with the basics introduced by prior legends such as Mario and Donkey Kong. However, Rayman also introduces a bunch of new mechanics and abilities that very few platformers had back in 1995 when this game was first released. For instance, Rayman can use a telescopic fist to punch enemies from a distance.
He can also shrink down in size to access spaces that he can’t in his normal form. Rayman can even make weird facial expressions that serve no tactical purpose other than to get a laugh out of the player. Power-ups give you increased speed, strength, etc.
Mega Man Xtreme
Part of the Mega Man X series, Xtreme is a Game Boy Color exclusive that retains many of the gameplay systems found in SNES Mega Man games. It tells the story of “Maverick” androids in the 22nd century who are destroying major sections of the world. X can run and jump in addition to climbing walls (you engage enemies with your buster arm-cannon).
You see, the original Bomberman is a maze-puzzler with a player character who defeats enemies using bombs. However, Pocket Bomberman is an action-platformer and plays very differently. It’s like someone took Mario, and gave him the ability to spontaneously create explosives so he could blow away enemies instead of jumping on them.
Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warriors
Well, it’s Dragon Ball Z on a portable handheld console. Sure to be tons of fun, right? You get to fight all the classic villains such as Piccolo, Frieza, Vegeta, etc. in action-packed battles that take place on scenic backgrounds.
However, this isn’t a fighting game. Instead, it’s a card game with turn-based fighting. Your character has certain stats such as HP, Ki, etc., and there are both melee attacks as well as energy blasts.
Wacky Races is based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the same name that aired on Saturday mornings in 1968. It’s a story about 11 different speed freaks who are all vying for the title of “World’s Wackiest Racer”.
The game uses tracks and locations from the show, plus each car has its own unique stats for acceleration, handling, etc. To add an extra layer of craziness, the developers threw in special gadgets/ weaponry inspired by Mario Kart.
Toy Story Racer
Toy Story was insanely popular during the 90s and early 2000s, this game was designed to take advantage of that buzz. It’s an officially licensed product, featuring characters from the first Toy Story. The Game Boy Color version is a kart racer with 2 modes- quick race, and tournament.
Asterix & Obelix
This game is based on the Asterix & Obelix comic book characters. They are a couple of fierce Gaul warriors who roamed around the world, fighting Romans in the era of Julius Caesar. In the game, you start with Asterix and travel through various side-scrolling levels in countries like Helvetia, Greece, Hispania, etc.
Inspector Gadget: Operation Madkactus
Inspector Gadget is a clunky cyborg detective who routinely gets himself into sticky situations due to his foolish ideas. Operation Madkactus lets you play as the titular detective, who is fighting against Dr. Claw- a mad scientist. You’re armed with a variety of advanced gadgets, some of which are lifted straight from the TV show.
A game that was originally intended to be part of the famous Dig Dug series, but eventually fractured off into its own IP. Mr. Driller is very similar to Dig Dug. You’re piloting a drilling machine and digging deep into the Earth.
While searching for treasures, you drill through breakable blocks that look different from the regular ones. But be careful, some of these blocks can collapse and crush you. You also have to look for oxygen pockets in the earth else you will suffocate.
Star Wars Episode 1: Racer
Based on the Tatooine pod racing scene from the first Star Wars prequel movie (Phantom Menace). This game contains all the vehicles and characters from that specific part of the movie, in addition to the racecourses. There are also new racecourses located on other planets from the Star Wars universe.
Return Of The Ninja
If you played Tenchu and wanted a similar experience, but in a mobile form factor- this is it. Return of the Ninja was released for the Game Boy Color in 2001, so it’s definitely a bit dated by today’s standards. Controls feel clunky at times, but you can tell that the stealth-platforming gameplay is still sharp and razor-focused.
Toy Story 2
On Game Boy Color, this plays very differently when compared to its PS1 and N64 versions. On those, it’s a 3D action-platformer depicted from a 3rd-person perspective. On GBC, it’s a 2D side-scroller.
Obviously, these changes were made due to hardware limitations. You control Buzz while he tries to rescue Woody (each of the 11 levels is taken from locations within the movie). Actions include running, jumping, and firing your arm laser at enemies.
Back when this game was released, there was nothing like it on any handheld console. Colorful, with large open-ended levels that were filled with minute details and collectibles.
Croc 2 has a central hub, through which you can access 4 unique villages. Each village contains different activities, like racing cars and rescuing people.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Duel Stories
A card battle game designed within the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe, with duels between two masters who use monster cards. Much like Pokémon, each one of these monsters has different stats and some cards counter others. As you progress through the story, you get rare cards that help you build up a stronger deck.
Donald Duck: Goin’ Quackers
It plays very much like Crash Bandicoot and features excellent character designs along with music that sounds like it was taken straight from the TV shows. You have 4 different “warp rooms” each containing 6 levels for a total of 24. Every warp room has its own theme and is set within a location from the Donald Duck cartoons.
Pocket Bomberman was a platformer, this one’s an action-adventure game. You have multiple levels, each containing a large map that can be explored freely. You beat up small monsters, so you can reach the final boss.
This game lets you equip items and accessories that you find in each level. There are different enemy types, each with some kind of weakness that you can exploit.
An action RPG with a really wacky plot, Crystalis presents its world from a top-down perspective so you always have good situational awareness. You’re armed with a weapon and various magical powers, in addition to armor that can increase your resistance to various types of damage. There are 4 special swords that you must find, each controls one elemental power.
A puzzle platformer, Toki Tori is about a baby chicken who is trying to rescue his unhatched siblings. You have to navigate through a puzzle level, using specialized tools to lift up eggs and transport them to safety.
There are different tools, each designed to work within a specific level. Enemies have basic patrol paths, going back and forth between walls (you immediately die upon colliding with an enemy).
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Based on the movie of the same name, this is an action RPG with some elements that remind you of classic LucasArts adventure games. Combat is turn-based, and you have a party to help you along the journey. You play Harry, learning new spells during your stay in Hogwarts (and acquiring new items that can be given to party members).
Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!
I don’t know if you watched the Hamtaro anime, but this game uses the very same characters and plotlines as that show. And here’s another cool fact- this is the final game that Nintendo published for their Game Boy Color. The game is basically Hamtaro going around talking with various people to fill in words for the Hamchat dictionary (with occasional puzzle-solving).
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
This game is based on the first Harry Potter movie, and it shows Harry during his first year at Hogwarts. You go around learning new spells, meeting people, and solving puzzles with your friends. Hermione and Ron will help you out in various situations, and there are memorable locations from the movie depicted accurately within this game.
The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Wild Adventure
Based on Disney’s Jungle Book cartoon, this game takes you through Mowgli’s journey as he becomes ruler of the wild. You are given 20 platforming levels, each filled with trees and vines for Mowgli to climb/ swing on. Sometimes, Mowgli will learn new tricks such as rolling up into a ball or throwing objects at enemies.
Mickey’s Racing Adventure
Mickey Mouse is on a quest to become the fastest racer, both on sea and land. You also have Minnie, Donald, Goofy, etc. along for the ride, who are unlocked as you progress through the game’s story. You can use spells while racing and upgrade your car to get better performance (races are viewed from an isometric perspective).
The Black Onyx
The Black Onyx is very different from traditional JRPGs, both in terms of design and storytelling. That’s because it’s actually a western RPG, that was eventually localized for Japanese computers and home consoles.
It’s got this mature, dark fantasy feel to it. Offensive weapons are melee-only (no bows). For defense, you get shields and suits of armor.
Tanner is an undercover police officer, looking to infiltrate a sinister crime syndicate by pretending to be a getaway driver. The cities in this game are modeled after their real-life counterparts, and driving is done from an overhead perspective. There are 30 different levels, each with different goals that you must meet in order to progress the story.
Turok 2: Seeds Of Evil
This isn’t the original Turok 2, which is a 3D FPS (a sequel to Dinosaur Hunter). Turok 2 for the Game Boy Color is an action-platformer shooting game with side-scrolling levels that feature enemy designs inspired by the original game. Much like the first Turok, you are equipped with a wide variety of weapons- bows, shotguns, grenades, etc.
You play two different characters; both of their stories are progressed at the same time. There’s Gizmo, a Mogwai whose main goal is to find and capture all goblins in a town called Kingston Falls. Then, there’s Stripe- a Gremlin leader who wants to invade Kingston Falls with his army and transform Gizmo into a Gremlin.
Packed with corny dialogue, toilet humor, and explosions- Worms: Armageddon is like a military action movie with worms instead of humans. You control up to 8 earthworms on the battlefield, fighting an opposition army through turn-based combat. There is a wide range of weapons to use, along with several mobility options (teleport, bungee, jump, run, etc.).
Ever wondered what it would be like to deliver papers in a quiet, downtown neighborhood? Well, check out Paperboy if you want an entire video game based around that concept. You’re a kid handing out copies of The Daily Sun while pedaling a bicycle.
But there’s a lot more to the game. You carry out some pretty sketchy activities, like vandalizing the homes of people who aren’t subscribed (to scare them into paying). If you hit an obstacle on the street or delay your delivery, your paper will lose subscribers.
Legend of the River King
Legend of the River King is hard to describe since it’s simultaneously a fishing game and also an RPG. Gameplay-wise, there is nothing quite like it (if you like Harvest Moon, you might also like this game). The goal is to capture a magical fish that can heal your dying sister, but you must talk with people to find out its location.
Blaster Master: Enemy Below
A run ‘n gun game with dungeons. You control a super-soldier (Jason) who’s driving a hyper-advanced fighting vehicle (Sophia). Missions alternate between side-scrolling and overhead view.
Sometimes you control Jason, while in other sections you drive Sophia. Each level has dungeons and boss fights that reward you with upgrades for Jason and Sophia.
Mega Man Xtreme 2
A spinoff, the events of Xtreme 2 take place in between Mega Man X3 and X4. Remember the “Maverick” androids from Xtreme who were wreaking havoc on the planet? Well, it turns out that a couple of robot necromancers have been stealing the DNA of these guys to create their own army of zombie Mavericks.
Harvest Moon 3
At the start, you get to choose the gender of your character (boy or girl). Depending on the choice you make, the ending will vary. The game world is located in a mountainous region with grasslands and small villages.
If you want to buy tools/ fertilizer/ seed you will have to travel to the mainland via ferry. This can only be done on Mondays and Thursdays, so you have to plan your farming activities beforehand.
If you owned this game on an original Game Boy Color back in the day, you could pair it up with a 2nd device. And play with your friend in 2-player mode (in addition to the regular story and challenge mode). The gameplay is very similar to Puzzle Bobble 4, which is a falling block-style puzzler with tarot cards.
Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
Possibly the most visually impressive game ever released for Game Boy Color. It’s a survival horror shooting game, with a very creepy atmosphere and limited ammo (you have to be careful with target selection). The horror element is accentuated by a sinister soundtrack playing in the background and the noises of hideous monsters as they run towards you.
Grand Theft Auto 2
One of the best games of its time, Grand Theft Auto 2 is a top-down action-adventure. You work for various organized crime groups, stealing cars and shooting up rival businesses. Of course, you will have the police on your tail if you get too violent.
The town is split up into 3 visually distinct areas- downtown, residential, and industrial. If you successfully complete jobs with a certain gang, you get more respect and access to higher-paying jobs.
The Game Boy Color featured a brand-new infrared transceiver, something that would later be omitted from the upcoming Advance model. This infrared system functioned similarly to a Game Boy Link Cable. You just had to align the two infrared ports on a pair of Game Boy Colors.
And data such as high scores or character stats could be shared wirelessly. A cool party trick to impress all your friends who were still rocking their base Game Boy models. However, very few games supported this feature so it was discontinued in future Game Boys.
All things considered; the Game Boy Color was an excellent mid-life upgrade for the base version. It offered superior visuals (with colors) at a similar price point. You could even use your original Game Boy cartridges, making this one of the earliest consoles to support backward compatibility.
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