Games That Defined the Nintendo Virtual Boy

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It may be the most awkward gaming device from a major manufacturer, but there is just something about Nintendo’s Virtual Boy that draws you into its headache-inducing display.

In the mid-1990’s the hottest buzzword in the gaming industry was virtual reality (it was even hotter than the Full Motion Video games on the Sega CD!)

The Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s infrared 3D binocular system was, for the most part, considered a failed experiment. However, those who are less discriminating will find that it still has quality games and the idea that you’re playing them in REAL 3D is innovative enough to give it a try.

There has actually been a bit of a resurrection of interest in the Virtual Boy as of late. Maybe it is spawned by the creativity Nintendo has shown with the DS and the Wii. Harcore gamers are now giving another look at the past creative risks Nintendo has taken.

Anyway, I’ve surveyed the limited Virtual Boy library to pick out the best games that represented the system. I haven’t played them all, but from what I’ve pieced together, this should be a good starting point for those looking to invest in the most famous VR system ever.

(Digg This Story)

 Wario Land
Wario started off as a successful spin-off of the Super Mario Land games on the original Gameboy. With that success, Wario was a prime candidate for a headlining game for the Virtual Boy. Surprisingly the Virtual Boy Wario Land was Wario’s best sidescrolling effort up until the Gamecube’s Wario World. It shared many characteristics with the Wario Land Gameboy titles such as clever level designs combined with the unique ability to jump between background and foreground areas in certain parts of the game (that’s where the 3D comes in).

Much like in the first Wario Land game, you can collect hats that increase your chances of survival – Bull Hats make you strong and heavy, Eagle Hats let you fly, and Water Dragon Hats let you breathe flames. Once you collect all of the hats in a stage, you can utilize the King Dragon Hat which combines the powers of the entire hat collection.

If you are looking for a well-rounded platformer to get your Virtual Boy collection started, Wario Land is the place to go. Unfortunately, the game is so good it may result in extended game sessions and the head and neck aches that follow.
Wario Land Commercial
Full Review of Wario Land

 Mario’s Tennis
While it is not as good as its successors on the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance, the Virtual Boy version of Mario Tennis is still quite fun and has the ever-important factor of being easy to play, but difficult to master. The controls are simplistic and the tennis action is at a suitable pace resulting in a game that is good for beginners, but is deep enough to keep you entertained.

The title makes good use of the Virtual Boy’s strengths as the the impressive 3D effect gives the court depth. Unfortunately, instead of seeing the well-designed charater models or sprites you may be used to in the newer Mario Tennis games, the characters in the Virtual Boy title are rather flat-looking, but it is still a enjoyable.
Mario Tennis Gameplay Video
Full Review of Mario Tennis

 Galactic Pinball
This high-quality pinball title has unique levels, simple gameplay and entertaining objectives. The difficulty level is quite balanced, so you won’t die from cheap losses or hard-to-avoid mistakes, however, the in-game events are quite clever and give some unique character to the game.

The game featured four different boards, each with distinguishing elements and targets. The Colony board featured a mini-game where the user shot down various meteors, using the 3-D feature to give the user an interesting perspective of three dimensional shooting.

In the UFO board, you initially start with a large UFO at the top of the board, which will fly away to reveal triggers that open two holes that players can temporarily get the ball into to access such bonuses as center posts and kickbacks.

Metroid Prime Pinball for the DS is considered by some fans as the successor of Galactic Pinball. This is because both are space-themed pinball games and Galactic Pinball has a cameo appearance from Samus in a mini-game on the Cosmic board of Galactic Pinball.
Full Review of Galactic Pinball

 Mario Clash
This Virtual Boy title isn’t the traditional Mario platformer that you might anticipate. Instead, Mario Clash goes back to the original Mario Bros. Arcade game. Mario Clash takes many of the concepts and design cues from the arcade game and gives it a 3D treatment in addition to some subtle gameplay enhancements.

The objective of Mario is to knock all the enemies in a particular level off ledges by using Koopa shells. The majority of Mario’s enemies need to be hit on the side (i.e. with a shell thrown from the background while the enemies are in the foreground or the reverse).

It is also notable for being the only Virtual Boy game so far to be made into a microgame in the Wario Ware series. (Red monochrome color and all)
Mario Clash Gameplay Video
Full Review of Mario Clash

 Red Alarm
Essentially the Star Fox of its system, Red Alarm is a wireframe 3D shooter with excellent level design, familiar controls, and enemies-a-plenty. The game is set in a full 3-D environment and utilizes wire frame graphics. The illusion of 3D that is generated by the Virtual Boy’s unique setup helps to determine how close the ship is to an object. While this is still difficult to tell in a monochrome, wireframe environment, it was certainly much clearer than in an earlier game of this type, such as Super Glove Ball for the NES.

Despite the illusion of 3D there were some complications in Red Alarm when it came to depth perception. Players often became disoriented in a wireframe environment and would find that they ran full tilt into a wall, indiscernible from an open area. Because of its high quantities of action, Red Alarm can be quite challenging (and sometimes dizzying), however shoot-em-up fans should get quite a kick out of it.
Red Alarm Gameplay Videos
Full Review of Red Alarm

 Teleroboxer
If there is one game that I think utilizes the 3D element the best, it would have to e Teleroboxer. This Mech/Punch-Out hybrid game should be a welcome addition to any Virtual Boy game library. Much like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, you have different attacks, blocking ability, and the need to discover your opponent’s weaknesses and openings in their fighting patterns.

The Mech style is very fitting for the Virtual Boy’s graphical capabilities as the red monochrome graphics reminds you a bit of a retro-futuristic heads-up display of a large battle machine.
Teleroboxer Gameplay Video
Full Review of Teleroboxer

Honorable Mentions:
Jack Bros. – The Jack Bros. are two mascots for Japan’s Megami Tensei series and they are featured in an overhead style similar to the Gauntlet series with the addition of three-dimensional Virtual Boy enhancements and monochrome restrictions. Each of the six stages has a strict time limit, which is reduced every time you get hit. (Review)

Vertical Force – A 2D oldschool shmup that takes a clever idea of having a background and foreground level of flying, so there’ll be a variety of enemies in different areas for you to pick off. Good ol’ top-down space shooting. (Review)

Nester’s Funky Bowling – This isn’t really funky at all, just a pretty straightforward bowling game in 3D. It’s easy to learn how to play and a very simple game, but still very fun. The challenge mode where you pit yourself against specific pin combination is a clever idea.
(Gameplay Video)

Additional Virtual Boy Links
PressTheButtons’ Virtual Boyhood
Siliconera: Prototype Virtual Boy for Sale
Wikipedia’s Virtual Boy Entry (some information provided by wikipedia)

Related Links:
Games That Defined The Sega Dreamcast
Games That Defined The Sega Saturn
Games That Defined The Sega 32X
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16 Comments

  1. MattG says:

    Thanks for linking to my article on PTB. Unfortunately the link on your page here is broken. It should point to:

    http://www.pressthebuttons.com/2005/08/virtual_boyhood.html

  2. boohiss says:

    Wario Land for Virtual Boy is an incredibly fun platformer, I agree!

    I wish I had some of these VB games to play. I remember playing Tennis in a store and thinking that it was pretty darn cool.

  3. Bawitback says:

    I remember playing Teleroboxer at Toys R Us back then. I was kinda on the merge in buying one, but instaed I held tight and purchased a Sega Saturn.

  4. Tahir says:

    I never really took a interest in the VB but it does look pretty cool now. Wouldnt mind playing mario tennis

  5. Alex says:

    I was at Winter CES 95 when VB debuted. Nintendo had a big red and white booth with all sorts of “graphics” (in retrospect, they sucked) of future games projected on the inside walls of the booth. I was very much the Nintendo fanboy, but even I recognized how crummy the system was.

    Ultimately, I bought one for $20 in May 97 from a TRuS bargain bin. And yes, Wario Land is the system’s best game. Although I contend that two-player Mario Tennis with the never-released link cable would have been quite grand.

  6. daniel says:

    hi racket boy. do you think this is a good deal? it is someone selling a nintendo virtual boy system with one game red alert for $35. i can not find any information on the game red alert. can you give me an estimation of what these two items would go for on ebay?

    thank you

  7. racketboy says:

    It’s not a bad deal. If I knew somebody personally offering me that deal, I would take it.

    To find out actual prices, just search for it on eBay check the box for “Completed Auctions”

  8. slowslow325 says:

    So, half of the VB’s library were defining games…

  9. manaman says:

    I’ve heard a lot of people say they’ve become disoriented in Red Alarm. I feel that the 3D effect really makes it near impossible to get disoriented. Maybe it’s just me, but if you stretch the 3D distance in the game (under the options), everything should make sense.

  10. breakwind says:

    I can’t believe this short-lived(1995/96)poorly-conceived Nintendo system even deserves mentioning.The guy who design it(a long time Nintendo employee,who tragically died in a car accident in 1997)resigned due to the failure of this lone Nintendo stinker,hello!

  11. ZEXEL says:

    ES UNA CONSOLA MUY BUENA YO TENGO 5 CON TODOS LOS COMPLEMENTOS Y JUEGOS , FUNCIONANDO AL 100% ME PASO HORAS JUGANDO WARIO LAND Y NUNCA HE TENIDO DOLORES DE CABEZA OJOS O CUELLO, GRACIAS NINTENDO POR ESTA GRANDIOSA VIRTUALBOY¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡

  12. Egamer says:

    Check out the AVGN’s video on Youtube about the VB – its not only hilarious, but informative as well. The only reason I would buy a VB would be to complete a retro console collection and to play Telroboxer. Anyway, keep up the amazing work Racket!

  13. Rob says:

    Wario Land and Teleroboxer were the only good VB games IMO.

  14. Patrick says:

    I wonder what the local Blockbuster store did with their Virtual Boy?