Monday, July 4, 2016

60 Game Boy Color Games Worth Playing

The Game Boy Color is often seen as something of a stop-gap.  Released in late 1989, the original monochrome Game Boy was already nine years old when the GBC was released in 1998.  Color had already come to handhelds with the Sega Game Gear and the Atari Jaguar, but the Game Boy had firmly established its dominance over those competing systems and every other competitor.

The GB had several advantages over its rivals, lower price, Tetris and a much higher battery life.  Nintendo was designing a true 16-bit successor to the GB, but it would take time.  By 1997, the GB's lifespan was already unprecedented in terms of a console generation, and sales and games were slowing.  So in order to extend the life of the basic 8-bit design, Nintendo decided to add color capability.  Instead of four gray shades, you could have up to 56 colors chosen from a 32,768 color palette.  CPU speed was doubled, CPU RAM quadrupled, Video RAM doubled.  A higher speed Game Link connection and an optional infrared port was now available.  Sound capabilities and input remained the same.

To the disappointment of many, the GBC did not ship with a front-lit or back-lit screen.  There were the same kind of lighting solutions for the GBC that were were available that were available for the GB, essentially shining an LED onto the screen.  Despite this oversight, there was no effective competition for the GBC in the marketplace.  However, even though the GBC was powered by 2xAA batteries, the battery life was extremely impressive.

Many of these games support features like Battery Backed Save RAM, the Game Boy Printer, the Transfer Pak, a Real Time Clock and Built-in Rumble.  The Built-in Rumble had a motor inside the cart that was powered by one AA battery.  The most important feature for many of these games, however, was that they would play in a regular monochrome GB or Pocket GB or the Super Game Boy.  Some games even support Super Game Boy features.  One game, Kirby's Tilt 'n' Tumble, has a motion detection chip inside the cartridge.

The GBC was, in many respects, the first flowering of the collectible creature game.  The success of Pokemon spawned many competitors, so this area of gaming is strong.  There are many games with a complimentary version, and these games are not exclusively collectible creature RPGs.  The Zelda Oracle games are pretty well done when it comes to enjoying new content after beating both games in either order. Traditional RPGs are a bit weak, with the best ones being ports of NES games.  Platformers are still strong, but shooters are a bit weak this time around.

I do have a few reservations.  Bionic Commando has a save game bug when used in a GBA that can be worked around but shows a lack of programming foresight.  The great music for Crystalis on the NES has been replaced by awful compositions, but the gameplay has not suffered.  Donkey Kong Country is much harder than the SNES version because of the smaller active screen size and tendency of enemies to blend into the backgrounds.

Some games are surprising.  Dragon's Lair is a "how in the hell did they do that" but solid port of the Laserdisc game.  Warlocked is essentially a port of Warcraft II to the GBC, the controls get a bit of getting used to but I was able to enjoy the game without a manual at hand.  Metal Gear Solid may not have the intricate, series-cruical plot of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but the controls blow the MSX2 game out of the water.  While there are no Castlevania games for the GBC (the colorizations in the Konami Classic GB Collections do not count), Shantae will give you your Metroidvania fix.

There are several games on this list that are colorizations of earlier Game Boy games.  I typically include these games on both the GB and GBC list because you may only have one or the other at hand or available for sale.  Titles in bold are Game Boy Color only :

Alone in the Dark: A New Nightmare
Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
Bomberman Max: Blue Champion
Bomberman Max: Red Challenger
Cannon Fodder
Conker's Pocket Tales
Donkey Kong Country
Dragon Warrior I & II
Dragon Warrior III
Dragon Warrior Monsters
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Cobi's Journey
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Tara's Adventure
Déjà Vu I & II: The Casebooks of Ace Harding
Dragon's Lair
Duke Nukem
Game & Watch Gallery 2
Game & Watch Gallery 3
Ghosts 'N Goblins
Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!
Harvest Moon GB
Harvest Moon 2 GBC
Harvest Moon 3 GBC
Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble
Legend of the River King GB
Legend of the River King 2
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Lufia: The Legend Returns
Mario Golf
Mario Tennis
Mega Man Xtreme
Mega Man Xtreme 2
Metal Gear Solid
Monster Rancher Explorer
Perfect Dark
Pokémon Crystal Version
Pokémon Gold Version
Pokémon Pinball
Pokémon Silver Version
Pokémon Trading Card Game
Pokémon Yellow
Prince of Persia
R-Type DX
Rayman 2
Shadowgate Classic
Super Mario Bros Deluxe
Survival Kids
Tetris DX
Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider - Curse of the Sword
Wacky Races
Wario Land II
Wario Land 3
Wendy: Every Witch Way


  1. "Color had already come to handhelds with the Sega Game Gear and the Atari Jaguar"
    I think you mean Atari Lynx rather than Jaguar