I've covered the best games for the SNES and the PS2, two of the greatest home consoles in history. Now, I think it's appropriate to list the best games for the pioneer of handheld gaming systems. Of course, this pioneer is the Nintendo Gameboy. The Gameboy made handheld gaming a mainstay, and produced tons of incredible games that focused on gameplay rather than graphics considering its limited hardware power. Note that this list is for the original black and white Gameboy games; Gameboy Color games are not included. I'll probably make a separate list for that. Anyway, here are the top 10 games for the Gameboy.
10. Kirby's Dream Land
Kirby's Dream Land was Kirby's gaming debut. One would expect a lot of imperfections from the first in a series, but Kirby's Dream Land features much of what we love about the Kirby series in stellar fashion. The lovable designs, the catchy music, and the trademark floating/eating mechanics are all surprisingly solid for a Gameboy title. The only thing missing is Kirby's signature ability copying, and that's something that would be introduced in later games.
The general consensus about this game is that it is simplistic and easy. While I'll admit that the Gameboy Color sequels improved Kirby's Dream Land significantly, this game holds its own as one of the better black and white titles. It's simplicity just makes it that much more suited for a pick-up-and-play Gameboy romp.
9. Donkey Kong Land series
I'm going to go ahead and lump the three titles in the series together since honestly, they all deserve spots here. The Donkey Kong Land series is a follow-up and "sort of" port of the Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES. While the graphics are obviously downgraded, they resemble the original SNES graphics with eerie precision. Even the platforming is smooth and precise like the Donkey Kong Country games. While the level designs are greatly simplified, they make the most of the Gameboy's hardware and deliver an exceptional Donkey Kong experience. It's simply astounding how much this series oozes quality. There's no question that these games belong to any top ten list.
8. Mega Man V
The Mega Man series is well represented on the Gameboy, with five titles in total. It was hard to pick a single game out of the lot, but in the end, I had to choose Mega Man V. V is the last and, in my opinion, the best in the series. It doesn't do much to differentiate itself from its predecessors, but you can feel that the game refined every aspect of the Mega Man experience in this final entry. Though, I think it's wise to note that the entire series does a good job of complementing the console games. So, in case the choice comes down to a single game to start with: Mega Man V is your best choice.
7. Metroid II: Return of Samus
With a game as platform-perfect as Metroid, it's incredible how well it ported over to the Gameboy handheld system. Metroid II: Return of Samus had the same detailed graphics as its NES counterparts, the same smooth platforming action, and the same large interconnected dungeon you spent the whole game in. This game was a marvel for its time, and it's a shame that it never got a remake like the first game did. God knows it would have been amazing. Needless to say, this is Metroid's rightful representative on the Gameboy, and it's probably the best action adventure you can get on the handheld.
6. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
6 Golden Coins is the vastly improved sequel to Super Mario Land. I had originally chosen to put Super Mario Land here, but I realized just how much better its sequel was. The original suffered from a few gameplay issues, and featured incredibly unorthodox portions of the game that, despite being good fun, just didn't feel right.
Super Mario Land 2 takes us back to the console games, and features larger sprites and an overworld containing several unique zones. This was a particularly endearing aspect for me due to the creativity in such areas as 'Space Zone' and 'Mario Zone'. Gameplay was, of course, refined to a tee, and the level designs were as fun and engaging as ever. If you're looking for Mario on the original Gameboy, 6 Golden Coins is definitely the way to go.
5. Donkey Kong
The first few levels of Donkey Kong will have you believe that this is a port of the legendary arcade game, and honestly, that would have been just fine. But then you get past a few levels, and you watch as you're thrust into a completely new game. This game features items you can throw, enemies, a host of new jumping mechanics, and an endless amount of levels. In total, there are about 101 levels.
This allows you the pick-up-and-play experience of the Gameboy whilst offering a plethora of unique level designs that really never get old. Donkey Kong is truly a gem among portable games and games in general. Only one game can claim to have more lasting appeal based on gameplay alone, and that game won't show up on this list until the very end.
4. Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
Wario Land is an absolute favorite of mine. The level designs are fantastic, with secret treasures hidden in every world, the music is catchy, and the gameplay is senselessly fun. Unlike Mario, where coins equal lives, the coins you collect in Wario Land can be used to unlock doors, purchase items, and kill enemies. You're also meant to collect them along with the hidden treasures to get the best possible ending. This was my favorite part of the game, as it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment by the end of it all.
This game isn't just Mario with Wario as a playable character. Instead of jumping, you use Wario's bulk to tackle enemies and crush them from above. Also, there are a handful of different hats that give you awesome power-ups like flight and flame-throwing. You can use these abilities to break secret walls and explore the enormous Wario Land levels. I have such fond memories of this game, and for good reason too. This is definitely one of the fullest experiences you can get on the Gameboy.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
The Legend of Zelda was already becoming a popular franchise with hits like the original Zelda for the NES and A Link to the Past for the SNES. With Link's Awakening, the Legend of Zelda series made it's explosive debut on a handheld platform. Clearly, it couldn't have made a better transition.
Link's Awakening is a great example of how big things come in small packages. It's amazing how enormous this portable entry was; it's pretty much comparable to the console titles. The graphics were top notch, the story was lengthy and dream-like (pun intended), and side quests like the trade sequence were included to bolster the experience. Even to this day I consider Link's Awakening to be one of my favorite games of all time, so naturally, it belongs here as one of the top three greatest Gameboy games.
2. Pokemon Red/Blue
This is the game that started the whole Pokemon craze, and for a good reason to. It was essentially an RPG, but it featured over a hundred unforgettable "pocket monsters" that you had to capture and raise to become the best Pokemon trainer in the world. You could link your Gameboy up to a friend's and battle each other's Pokemon or trade them; this brought a whole new level of multiplayer to the video gaming world. Even when playing alone, you were busy making your Pokemon stronger while looking to catch them all. This game eventually spawned a popular card trading game, an anime series, several feature-length movies, and many more games.
I still find myself picking up Red and Blue and going through random playthroughs. Despite aging tremendously, it has stood the test of time with its addictive RPG elements. The series has since been improved numerous times, but obviously, this is the game that represents the enormous fun of Pokemon on the original Gameboy.
Everybody knows Tetris, everybody has played Tetris, and everybody loves Tetris. Despite having hundreds of different versions on just about every gaming platform in history, the Gameboy version of Tetris took the world by storm and had people playing it for hours on end. It's an incredibly simple game (you stack uniquely shaped bricks to form lines), but its the simplicity that makes it so easy to just pick up and play. And that's exactly what the Gameboy is about: picking up and playing. It's Tetris that practically defined portable gaming, so it's almost impossible to deny how important Tetris was to the Gameboy. It deserves the top spot without a doubt.