screenshot of the videogame shadow warriors, running on gameboy
Screenshot of “Shadow Warriors” by TECMO.

5 Gameboy Games That Are Still Fun Today

The best games already exist!

while ago I officially quit gaming. Well, except an occassional burst of playing original Gameboy games here and there. Why Gameboy and what games? I’ll tell you…

Being fed up with videogames of today

I used to be an avid videogamer since the age of 7, starting on my C64. Since then I went through plenty of computers and consoles and playing videogames was a huge part of my life. Literally wasting good chunks of my youth.

A conclusion, I was only able to make in my 30s.

Looking back, I can say, that I was addicted. Spending around 3 hours of playing videogames a day in my adulthood, plenty more hours in my teenage years (up to 12 hours on occassion).

The state of affairs in the current videogames industry woke me up. Better late than never, I guess. I was fed up buying the same games over and over again, only having to deal with massive day one patches and weeks upon weeks of the developers trying to fix bugs, that shouldn’t be in a release title to begin with. Meanwhile the microtransaction-shop was working just perfectly.

a group of young males sitting together, playing videogames at some sort of convention
a group of young males sitting together, playing videogames at some sort of convention
Addiction. Right there. Photo by Stem List on Unsplash

Been there, done that.

That’s the feeling I had with every single game I tried to like, before my interest in videogames completely died down. Nothing was exciting anymore. I couldn’t “believe” in the videogame world anymore as much as I believe in the fictional world of a good book.

I just “lost” it.

For a while, I still had fun playing videogames with my friends, in the same room, on a couch. Just having fun like back in the Super Nintendo days. It was more the social factor, than the videogames really, that kept me interested.

But eventually, this also faded.

I sold my Playstation 4 and the expensive graphics card from my desktop PC, turning it into a 6-core workhorse only.

The shift in my efforts

It’s hard to tell, if I lost interest in videogames, because of a shift in my efforts, or if I shifted my efforts, because I lost interest in videogames.

I work more. I read more. I finally put as much time into achieving my goals (earning a living by writing, eventually finishing my novel) as possible. I began with archery. I walk a lot more through the woods. I like sitting in the grass with my good friend, philosophing about the world’s hottest topics.

Looking back I feel quite sore about all the time wasted.

What if I would have spent all the time looking for that one magical Sword in EverQuest in doing pushups? I’d literally be the Hulk by now.

But, you should only look back to remember your mistakes ,so you’re not doomed to repeat them. But not become sentimental over them.

No more wasting time.

Working.

Reading.

Having a nap here and there.

an open book with someone reading it
an open book with someone reading it
Pure joy. Reading. Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Still, sometimes I need a “quick boost of relaxation”, that’s fun and not exhausting or too time consuming. So Social Media is out of the question and I am on the verge of quitting most of it alltogether anyways. So what remains?

The memories.

Back in the day, when I was a kid, I was in hospital often. To not die of boredom, my parents bought me a Gameboy and I spent my waking hours playing Gameboy games in the hospital.

It made things bearable.

The qualities of Gameboy games

Besides nostalgia and the obvious omissions regarding graphics, content, control options, sound and just about anything, Gameboy games have one redeeming quality:

They’re meant to be played in bursts. On the go. Not for hours on end.

I don’t want anymore distractions in my life. There are plenty as is. Clients. Social Media. Ads. Stupid News. All of it culminating into an eye-watering white noise.

Tiny games with chiptune soundtrack in a pea-soup-green aesthetic seem just like the right thing to escape it all for a little while.

So, in between long bursts of writing and working, when there is not enough time to go hike in the woods (my pastime of choice to regenerate my batteries and mind) I now make some tea and curl up on the couch, to play a 15-minute burst of good old Gameboy games. I love it.

I find it fascinating, given the limitations of the medium, what certain games were able to achieve.

It’s basically videogaming condensed down to it’s bare minimum. Gameplay is king!

Those games are not meant to hold my attention with hour-long dialogues, pointless “go-fetch-quests”, life-like graphics and certainly not with an addictive grind, that’s easily monetized with loot boxes and item shops (cosmetics only, of course).

They’re just meant to be fun. And it works, all those years later.

So I’ve selected the five games I really enjoy playing at the moment, while similar to each other, each one of them has a unique flavor. I didn’t include the obvious choices like the Mario games or Zelda, because I played plenty enough of them back then. Those five games I only played for a short while when I was a kid, but remember them fondly.

I plan to beat them all!

And finally… my Top 5 Gameboy games, that are still fun today

5. Turtles III — Radical Rescue

screenshot of the gameboy videogame turtles 3
screenshot of the gameboy videogame turtles 3
Turtles III — Radical Rescue © KONAMI

The Turtles have been a huge part of my childhood and I remember fondly how my friends and I played hours on end with the official Turtles toys.

Michelangelo all the way, because he likes Pizza.

The game itself really makes the most from the hardware, the iconic soundtrack is there and each turtle plays a bit differently, but in a nice twist, hast to be rescued (hence the name) and unlocked first. It’s a sidescrolling action adventure game, with a fair bit of platforming thrown into the mix. If you’re a Turtles fan, this game is for you.

There are two other Turtles games on the Gameboy, which are also really good, but this one, for me, is the best with the crispest controls.

4. Shadow Warriors (Ninja Gaiden Shadow)

screenshot of the gameboy videogame shadow warriors
screenshot of the gameboy videogame shadow warriors
Shadow Warriors © TECMO

I always prefered small sprites, that are suited for the hardware so everything can be animated smoothly. While it was hard to see them at times on the original Gameboy, it left enough system-memory for nice backgrounds, sound effects and engaging music.

A good example for this is King of Fighters ’95 with its tiny but very well animated sprites, that were custom made for the gameboy, compared to the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, that went with larger, more detailled sprites, but had to make huge omissions in framerate, sound design and animation. They look chunky and clumsy in comparison and play not really well.

Shadow Warrios has everything, that makes a good Gameboy game. The controls are simple, but the side scrolling action gameplay is as smooth as butter and really fun, even in the shortest of bursts. Ninjas are at least as 80s as the Gameboy itself, so it goes together nicely.

The sounds and the background-graphics keep amazing me. So much detail.

3. Kirby’s Dreamland

screenshot of the gameboy videogame kirby’s dreamland
screenshot of the gameboy videogame kirby’s dreamland
Kirby’s Dreamland © NINTENDO

The first ever outing of this puffy little hero. Kirby’s Dreamland was one of the games I did own as a kid and failed to beat it because I lacked preserverence.

But the music and the animations — it’s instant good mood. The controls are tight, as you would expect from a first party title and overall the game is a showcase of pure fun and everything that can be done with the Gameboy’s limited hardware and controls.

You jump, you inhale, you blow. And you bounce around. Oh so much bouncing. I’d describe it as the happiest action-jump and run game on the Gameboy, hands down.

2. Castlevania Legends

screenshot of the gameboy videogame castlevania legends
screenshot of the gameboy videogame castlevania legends
Castlevania Legends © KONAMI

This game is more straight forward than the classic Castlevanias, but still sports the same engaging atmosphere, great sound, nice animations, the iconic whip and creative monsters and boss battles. Also — the protagonist, is a woman.

This Castlevania game wasn’t too popular back in the day, but as I am now looking for only short bursts of gameplay, it’s just right. The music really comes to live with headphones on.

You’ll climb, fight, and explore and it’s fun over and over again, no matter how often you play through it.

1. Batman

screenshot of the gameboy videogame batman
screenshot of the gameboy videogame batman
Batman © SUNSOFT

This is the tie-in game to Tim Burton’s Batman. It’s grim, it’s gothic and it’s somewhat based on the movie. Batman is a tiny little blob of pixels and once again I am happy they chose this route, instead of going with larger sprites.

The game has an ever engaging soundtrack, the controls are ultra-tight and it’s fun to gun — yes you shoot enemies in this game — down all the evil mobsters with plenty of upgrades.

You’ll hunt down power ups, time jumps carefully and enjoy very smooth animations. I have a soft spot for Batman (the Tim Burton and the campy 60’s one) since I was a kid, so this game naturally holds the top spot.

Oh and by the way: Jack Nicholson is and remains the best Joker!

Conclusion

So if you’re sick of pointless mobile games, catching you in an endless loop, stealing all your attention, or all the 60-buck triple A titles, that are all more or less the same, a rushed hot mess of an item shop disguised as a game, you owe it to yourself to explore some of the older gems on the Gameboy. Especially if you’ve never had the chance of playing them the first time around.

Give it time and I’m sure you’ll find some simple, enjoyable fun in them, without sacrificing ALL of your sparetime.

I’ll sign off now, with a quote of my own, that at least to me, makes perfect sense:

A complex mind might find soothing joy in simple games.
-Scollurio

Thank you so much for reading! This article is purely based on personal experience and opinion. It doesn’t contain any affiliate links!

Hailing from Austria, a self-employed graphics designer and writer since 2009. Loves long walks in the forest, thoughtful solitude and silly raccoons.

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