Looking to start or build up your classic Game Boy collection? This budget-friendly list should help you quickly find which games will start you off well without emptying your wallet.
And don’t forget, with the Game Boy (or Game Boy Color), you don’t necessarily have to have the original hardware to play these cartridges (although, it is fun to pull out the vintage electronics for nostalgia factor – check out our Handheld Hardware Price Guide to shop around) — You can also play these games on a Super Gameboy on your SNES, the wonderful Game Boy Player for a Gamecube, and of course, the many models of the Game Boy Advance. Also, in case you are interested, you can also check out our older guide to the Cheapest GBA Games Worth Your Time (and the rest of the series), which will probably be updated later on. And while we will offer some Game Boy Color recommendations, we will work on a more in-depth guide later on.
BTW, keep in mind, these prices are for cartridge-only games as complete copies of Game Boy games come at quite a premium now and typically are reserved for dedicated collectors 🙂 (Prices listed are an average eBay and Amazon prices for US games, including shipping)
Possibly the most timeless portable game of all time, Tetris does not require much of an introduction. While there may be some that will disagree with me, I still consider the Game Boy version of Tetris to be the definitive version — I’m not sure if it’s the pure simplicity of the port or the nostalgia of the audio. However, there should be few debating against Game Boy owners paying just a few dollars for this classic. With it almost showing up in everyone’s collection in the 1990s, there’s always a cartridge to be found in shops and online in abundance (possible look for deals with it in game lots online). In some shops and conventions, you might be able to find this for just two or three dollars.
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Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins: $12
The Super Mario series took a little while to reach its full potential on the Game Boy. The original Super Mario Land was fun and whimsical, but it wasn’t until the second installment that we saw the series really shine. Six Golden Coins was a refreshing change from its NES counterparts — truly finding its own design language and personality that fit nicely into the limitations of the DMG hardware. It also had the depth to keep a portable gamer engaged on a long trip or a series of outings.
You can also find the original Super Mario Land for about $7 if you want to round out your collection, but this early attempt at bringing Mario to a portable pales in comparison to Nintendo’s later projects.
Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land: $12
Once the Super Mario Land series hit its stride, it essentially transitioned into the Wario Land series. Not only did this portable franchise introduce us to a new anti-hero, but it opened the Mushroom Kingdom to a number of new gameplay mechanics and personality. One could make a case for either Super Mario Land 2 or Wario Land as the original Game Boy system’s best platforming experience, but given how different the two titles are it almost seems unfair to compare them directly. However, at their low prices, they are easy essentials to add to your collection.
Donkey Kong: $10
The original Donkey Kong arcade game remains one of the most iconic classics and its one of those games that, up until very recently did not have a great arcade-accurate port on consoles despite lots of ports. This Game Boy release coincided with the Super Game Boy adapter for the Super Nintendo and executes nicely on its color palettes to make it one of the very best ports ever.
With Nintendo promoting this release heavily, there are lots of units swimming around. It’s a great classic that has actually come down in price just a bit and is now an essential purchase for those wanting to build a Game Boy collection.
Super RC Pro Am: $4
If you enjoy the thrill of a good racing game, you can’t beat this value. Despite its monochome appearance, Super RC Pro Am holds up surprising well for a classic racing game. As expected from old-school Rareware, this game has solid graphics in addition to excellent track designs with boost strips and enough power-ups to keep the replay value and entertainment factor high.
The isometric controls are tight and stick with for years — like riding a bike. Its one of those classics that are easy to come back to. Periodically jumping into a quick race or two is a great way to give yourself a break.
Kirby’s Dreamland: $11
While it isn’t as deep, challenging, or lengthy as the later installments in the series, Kirby’s debut is still quite a value and a handful of fun. Kirby’s gameplay design isn’t fully fleshed out in this first outing. His ability to copy enemy’s powers didn’t arrive until his NES debut. Despite these limitation, Kirby’s very first game is a light and fun adventure, mainly because controlling Kirby is such a joy and the series is a welcome change from traditional platformers from that era.
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Kirby’s Pinball Land: $6
Pinball games make for surprisingly good entertainment on the go, and there isn’t much better than Kirby’s Pinball Land. Revenge of the ‘Gator (see below) offers more solid pinball at a lower price, but Kirby’s Pinball Land offers an extra layer of personality and polish, providing a more satisfying pinball experience. Even though the game is pinball-inspired, it’s not quite pure pinball. Among other things, you can launch a dropped ball back into play with a cleverly timed press of the A button. In the end, it feels like a clever platformer controlled by flippers. Once you embrace this aspect, you can curl up and play a playful game with interesting pinball physics.
Bubble Ghost: $10
This puzzle-y adventure follows a gleeful ghost whose sole charge is to guide a bubble through a danger-filled haunted house. It’s a delicate mission, but your phantasmal friend has a great deal of control over his bubble and can blow it around in 8 different directions. While deceivingly simple, the game is actually quite challenging, requiring patience and planning in order to circumvent the many obstacles you’ll encounter.
Solar Striker: $5
Solar Striker was one of the few classic shoot ’em ups developed solely by Nintendo (the lead designer was Game Boy godfather Gunpei Yokoi). It’s a game of satisfying simplicity, with 6 stages of fast-paced, bullet-dodging action. The game starts our rather modest, but it gradually gets to be a more intense trial of classic dodging and shooting. It really does a good job of presenting the classic genre well while balancing the system’s limitations.
It does not have the complex powerup system of modern shooters, but focuses on a more classic style of play, where most enemies fall with a single shot, and where the powerups are only to increase the damage against larger baddies or bosses. It’s challenge is modest, but does work for a great passing of time and testing how long you can survive.
King of Fighters ’95: $10
Even though there have been some interesting technical accomplishments of cramming a lo-fi version of blockbuster fighting game titles into the DMG hardware, most of them didn’t really make for a satisfying gameplay experience decades later. One of the few exceptions is The King of Fighters. Much like their more colorful and powerful counterparts on the less-mainstream, Neo Geo Pocket, SNK embraced the limitations of the Game Boy hardware and rebuilt the games from the ground up complete with surprisingly-satisfying super-deformed character designs that ended up looking good (actually quite on-trend in the current pixel art world) and controlling quite well. The action is fast-paced and the animation is relatively good (some moves will even exceed the background and go into the energy bar area). For what it’s worth, I played both King of Fighters ’95 (GB) and a Game Boy Advance King of Fighters game (both played on the Gamecube Game Boy Player) and I had more fun with the ’95 monochrome Game Boy cart despite the cosmetic limitations.
Revenge of the Gator: $7
While some of the later pinball titles like Kirby’s Pinball Lab and the subsequent Mario and Pokemon pinball adaptations pulled in a wider audience, Revenge of the Gator (which was still under the development of HAL Laboratories) is one of the best best pinball experiences on an early Nintendo handheld. There is a nice amount variety: one of the bonus challenges is reminiscent of Arkanoid while another involves timing your flipper shots play Whack-A-Mole with gator heads. The end result feels like a true video pinball classic like the Crush series on the TG16 and does pretty well with physics. There is a decent amount of weight to the ball, and you don’t ever feel cheated when you do end up dropping down into the maws of the alligator that lurks beneath the flippers.
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Dr. Mario: $6
The Game Boy has plenty of excellent puzzle games to choose from — many of which are of the falling-block variety. While Dr. Mario falls into this category, it offers a splendid take on the format serves as a nice complement to Tetris for those that enjoy the genre. The puzzle gameplay of Dr. Mario is solidly addictive fun, and the Game Boy version is extremely satisfying. Just like its NES counterpart, the virus level and game speed are variable, so you can start playing the game at whatever difficulty you choose.
Bugs Bunny in Crazy Castle Series: $4 each
This charming puzzle platformer series has a rather simple presentation, but has a wonderful difficulty curve that will keep your brain busy for quite a while. These cartridges are in large supply, but are not appreciated nearly enough. Some may argue that the series can feel a bit tedious after a while, but they are great in small doses or a relaxing binge session. It’s one of those games that are great for certain gaming moods. Considering their bargain price and great availability, you should at least consider picking one of them up on the cheap.
Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge $10
If you enjoy old school action platformers, it’s hard not to love the Mega Man series. And even if you’ve played all of the NES incarnations, you still need to pick up the portable installments. The first game, subtitled “Dr. Wily’s Revenge” can still be found for less than $10 and is well worth the price of admission. Granted, many fans of the series, will say that the first couple Game Boy installments weren’t especially nearly as good as the follow-ups, but if you keep that in mind, you can decide if you want it on your shopping list.
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Additional Gameboy Color Recommendations
We’ll share some Game Boy Color Recommendations in a dedicated guide down the road, but here’s some essentials to get you started
Wario Land Sequels
While the first two Wario Land games (Super Mario Land 3 and Virtual Boy Wario Land have more similarities with the Super Mario Bros series, with Wario Land II and 3 start to develop more of their unique game design language and style.
In these newer, more colorful installments, floating blocks are gone, as are level time limits. Wario can’t “die”, but touching an enemy stuns Wario, knocking him backward. Some enemies don’t stun Wario but transform him in one of several ways, these transformations replacing the helmets of the first two games. For example, if he is crushed by something heavy, he will be flattened. Wario’s transformations can help him complete the level. Puffy Wario, for example, can float through the air, providing access to areas previously out of reach. This gameplay evolution helps develop the more problem/puzzle solving element that become a Wario platformer staple.
Toki Tori: $8
This cute yet entertaining puzzle adventure starts out with a rather simple setup to get your familiar with the basics and eventually gives your little yellow buddy extra abilities and tools to combat the added complexities in the later levels. Each of the levels and their respective tools are carefully designed, so you will need to think carefully and creatively to efficiently accomplish your goal. Now that this little gem is also on WiiWare, it’s getting cheaper on the GBC.
Dexter’s Laboratory: Robot Rampage: $4
If you like Elevator Action-inspired fun, this little take on the gameplay is a fun diversion. There are also some new tweaks to the Elevator Action formula like the ability to fall further and other abilities. Graphically, the game is nice and colorful, and the characters from the Cartoon Network original series are easily identifiable. The sound used throughout the game is similarly solid.
Additional Cheap Game Boy Gems:
- Super Mario Land: $7
- Tetris Attack: $4
- Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters: $10
- King of Fighters ’96: $6
- Kirby’s Block Ball: $9
- Adventures of Lolo (PAL): $10
- Balloon Kid: $8
- Yoshi: $7
- Yoshi’s Cookie: $7
- Battle Arena Toshinden: $8
- Dead Heat Scramble: $4
- Dexterity: $5
- Double Dragon: $8
- Donkey Kong Land: $8
- Donkey Kong Land 2: $10
- Donkey Kong Land 3: $8
- Game and Watch Gallery Series: $6
- Gourmet Paradise: $9
- James Bond 007: $5
- Lock ‘n Chase: $6
- Quarth: $6
- Street Fighter II: $1
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan: $7
- Tennis: $6
- Trouballs/Puzz Loop: $4
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