Most memorable Game Boy games of our childhood

Amongst the trove of nostalgia-inducing 90s tech gadgets, the Game Boy was the perfect plaything that kept us entertained for hours on end as kids. The handheld device fueled recess conversations, and at the turn of the millennium, all of us wanted one as a reward for doing well on our exams.

But, we can’t go talking about the Game Boy and its various models without the very games that made it popular. Here’s a list of the hottest retro Game Boy games that we booted up on the regular, from Nintendo mainstays to curious pasar malam bootlegs.

All you need to know about the Game Boy

Original Game Boy
Image credit: u/C0L3YP via Reddit

First introduced by Nintendo in 1989, the handheld console was so named after the “Walkman” for its portability. It featured a digital screen that displayed 8-bit characters, a D-pad (arrow keypad), and A, B, Start, and Select buttons for play. It used Game Pak cartridges that could be switched out whenever users wanted to change the game they’re playing.

The original Game Boy has gone through quite an evolution over the years:

Game Boy Model Release Year Features
Game Boy 1989 First handheld in the Game Boy series, monochrome display
Game Boy Pocket 1996 Smaller, lighter version of the original with a better pixel refresh rate
Game Boy Light 1998 Only released in Japan, featured a backlit screen
Game Boy Color 1998 First colour-capable Game Boy
Game Boy Advance 2001 32-bit processor, landscape screen, supported advanced graphics
Game Boy Advance SP 2003 Clamshell design, rechargeable battery, backlit screen
Game Boy Micro 2005 Very compact design, customisable faceplates

Best Game Boy games of all time

Needless to say, as with any gaming console, there were endless amounts of games to play. Not to mention, sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and everything in between. Most of us sought after Game Boy consoles to play these very games, and you’ll likely remember the hype behind cult-favourite titles that included Pokémon, Super Mario, and The Legend of Zelda, to name a few.

Here, we revisit the top Game Boy games of our childhood:

1. Pokémon series

If you thought 2016’s Pokémon GO craze was nuts, you just had to be there during the late ‘90s when Pokémania was in full swing. Pokémon cards were selling like hotcakes, and lil’uns had their eyes glued to Kids Central whenever the anime was on air.

Pokemon Red CartridgeImage credit: theretropursuit via eBay

The original games, namely the Pokémon Red and Blue versions, were the catalyst that turned Pikachu into a household name. The premise of catching these little critters called Pokémon and making them battle captivated the masses, and soon you had kids showing off their prized Pokémon to their peers.

Pokemon Screenshot
Probably the toughest choice we as kids had to make: choosing our starter Pokémon.
Image credit: LootGamingHQ via X

You could even trade Pokémon with one another via the use of a Game Link Cable – the especially devious would try to con their friends of their best ones. Then, there were playground rumours of special in-game locations where you could catch rare Pokémon. Don’t lie; we’ve all tried using strength on that truck in Vermillion City in hopes of encountering Mew.

2. Tetris

Tetris CartridgeImage credit: u/DivOveR via Reddit

When it comes to retro video games, not many are as classic as Tetris. The iconic title received a Game Boy port in 1989, so fans could match blocks and clear lines on the go.

Tetris Gameplay
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Despite being deceptively simple, the game was pretty addictive and had a killer soundtrack to boot. It soon became an option for anyone, even adults who had zero experience with gaming, to pick up and try to beat the local high scores. If you were extra competitive, you could pick up a Game Link Cable to hook up 2 Game Boys to see who could outlast the other.

3. Super Mario Bros. series

Super Mario Land Cartridge
Image credit: @p0seidon via Carousell

Speaking of game soundtracks which were absolute bops, the 8-bit tunes of Super Mario Bros. is probably ingrained in every gamer’s brain. Super Mario Land has an indelible spot in many of our hearts as one of the first video games we’ve ever beat, which was an impressive feat as a kid.

This is because the game was pretty difficult, and the Game Boy’s dimly-lit, puke-green screen did not make it any easier and you had to sort of predict where your Mario-shaped pixels were going to land. Also, it was a 20-30-minute mad dash to finish the game in 1 sitting, as save files didn’t exist back then.

Mario Gameplay
Image adapted from: RockyGamers via YouTube

Those born a lil’ later got to enjoy versions like Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and Super Mario Advance. We still got to stomp on Goombas and Koopas, but this time, in colour. The other Mario spin offs were charming too; we got the first handheld Mario Kart in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance, and the Dr. Mario falling block puzzle game was an alternative to Tetris.

4. Wario Land series

Wario Land Cartridges
Image credit: u/stephentkennedy via Reddit

Of course, we’ve got to give Mario’s evil counterpart a shoutout too. The Wario Land series of games were also a couple of Nintendo’s best sellers. This time, you play as Wario, an unscrupulous, coin-hungry protagonist who’s out to get a castle of his own after losing his to Mario.

Wario Land Gameplay
Image credit: The King Of Grabs

If you can remember, Wario made some pretty wacky sound effects that still haunt me in my dreams. Those as crafty as Wario himself also had no qualms using the infamous cheat code too. It was activated by pausing the game and hitting the “Select” button 16 times, after which, you could modify the amount of lives and coins you had.

5. Hamtaro Ham-Hams Unite!

Hamtaro Game And Game Boy Advance SP
Image credit: u/Adora1996 via Reddit

Kids growing up in the early 2000s will be familiar with a particular orange and white hamster. The Hamtaro anime was quite the hit back then and probably caused hordes of kids to pester their parents for their very own furry friend. But rather than entrust a 5-year-old with the hefty responsibility of caring for a pet, we got the next best thing: a Game Boy game.

Hamtaro Ham-Hams Unite! Gameplay
Image credit: u/Gibberish94 via Reddit

Hamtaro Ham-Hams Unite! captured the hearts of many with its cutesy art style and compelling story, which saw you playing as the titular Hamtaro to return his lost friends to their clubhouse. You also had to go around collecting missing words from the Hamchat Dictionary, which were a bunch of hamster-coded words that the lil’ guys used in order to communicate in the show.

6. The Legend of Zelda series

The Legend Of Zelda Link's Awakening Game
Image credit: Video Game Sage

The Legend of Zelda series is an absolute hit even amongst the most avid of Nintendo fans today. As far as the Game Boy versions were concerned, the game had players follow the adventures of a young swordsman named Link to explore the wilderness and dungeons in search of treasure.

The Legend Of Zelda GamesVideo games have truly come a long way; a side-by-side comparison of 1993’s Link’s Awakening and 2017’s Breath of the Wild.
Image adapted from: Nintendo Life

The first entry of the series, Link’s Awakening, was a strong tearjerker, however its puzzles stumped many players. The game wasn’t as straightforward when it came to telling players what to do in order to progress through the story, as compared to the major hand-holding modern titles do for today’s gamers.

Yes, I’m looking at you, Bottle Grotto. It was a location in the game where you had to defeat enemies in a specific sequence in order to progress, without the game giving you even a slightest hint that you had to do so. Go figure.

7. Final Fantasy Legend series

The Legend Of Zelda Games
Image credit: u/FundamentalBaptist via Reddit

For those who were a little older when they picked up their Game Boys, then you might remember dabbling in the Final Fantasy Legend series of games. Although it is a far cry from what the franchise looks like today, it paved the way for similar Japanese Role Playing Games by popularising the turn-based gameplay it is known for.

Final Fantasy Legend Gameplay
Image credit: square portal

The game was pretty text-heavy, which meant that you had to actually read what your weapons and skills did and could not just mash your way through the game. Oldies might recall getting the monster characters in their party to eat meat to see what they would morph into, or hanging out by the in-game jukebox to listen to the original soundtrack the game had.

8. Donkey Kong series

Donkey Kong Cartridges
Image credit: u/ricokong via Reddit

Donkey Kong is another popular Nintendo character that you can step into the shoes of. Despite his name suggesting otherwise, he’s a monkey and his escapades in Donkey Kong Country will have you traversing through jungles and caverns to reclaim his stolen stash of bananas.

Donkey Kong Gameplay
Image credit: MobyGames

Much like other platformers during the Game Boy era, this one’s also known to be quite unforgiving when it comes to difficulty. Minecart levels where you have to jump among broken tracks are still rage-inducing to this day, while everyone can agree that you’d only willingly play the aquatic level just to vibe to its funky soundtrack.

9. Kirby series

Kirby Cartridges
Image credit:
@p0seidon via Carousell

Nintendo sure had no shortage of memorable characters over the years, and Kirby is undoubtedly one of them. No matter which release you slotted into your Game Boy, you just knew you were going to have a blast playing as the adorable pink blob.

Kirby Screenshot
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The OGs will remember floating endlessly around levels, or swallowing apples and spitting them back out to defeat Whispy Woods, one of the first bosses of the games. In more modern times, he’s even found a way into other titles across other consoles. For example, he was pretty dang OP in Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube.

10. Harvest Moon series

Harvest Moon - Retro Game Boy GamesImage adapted from: Slackers Music Movies Games via eBay, u/Shycon via Reddit

Before Animal Crossing, we had the Harvest Moon series to fulfil our countryside lifestyle fantasies. If the name didn’t give it away, it was a relaxing farming simulator that allowed you to plant crops, harvest them, and rear cattle in your very own plot of land. The game even came fitted with a season cycle, perfect for kids looking to escape from the monotonous weather of sunny Singapore.

11. Metal Slug Advance

Metal Slug Advance Cartridge - Retro Game Boy Games
Image credit: @ckzhou via Carousell

If you couldn’t get enough of old school arcade games then you’d better hope there’s a Game Boy version of your favourite games. Thankfully, fans of Metal Slug could take home a piece of the gun-slinging action with Metal Slug Advance. The game was a side-scrolling shoot-’em-up as you progress through levels defeating invading enemy troops.

Metal Slug Advance - Retro Game Boy Games
Image credit: Imgflip

Trips to the arcade could now be obsolete, since you got to hear that iconic “Heavy Machine Gun” line boom over your Game Boy’s speakers instead. Also, reaching the “Peace Forever” end-game credits scene always draws chuckles – as if you didn’t just spend the last hour or so blowing up anything that moved on screen.

12. Duel Masters Sempai Legends

Duel Master Sempai Legend Game - Retro Game Boy Games
The game was great if you didn’t have friends to play the IRL card game with.
Image credit: @nostalgicmart via Carousell

This number is one that those born towards the tail end of the 90s can resonate with. Apart from Pokémon, another trading card game that was booming at the time was Duel Masters, and naturally the video games followed in order to cash in on the franchise. That was how Duel Masters Sempai Legends came to be.

But, some of us did not really care too much about the game itself, and were just gunning for the free cards that were bundled with the game. The cards were limited edition too, and could not be bought anywhere else. But to be honest, the game was kinda mid as well, because all you did essentially was play the card game virtually against NPCs. It was way more fun trading cards with your IRL buddies.

Bonus: Bootleg 100-in-1 cartridges

Bootleg 100-in-1 Cartridge - Retro Game Boy Games
Image credit: NintendoSNES via Etsy

These Game Boy cartridges were by no means cheap back in the day; a single copy of a game could set you back around $50. So, when parents didn’t want to spoil their kids with the latest games, they would head to their neighbourhood’s pasar malam to pick up one of these bad boys: bootleg cartridges that had dozens of games loaded into one.

These were cheap, going for $5-$10, and you basically had a whole library of games at your disposal. They were often loaded with the most popular titles as well, but one downside was that they usually didn’t store save files on the cartridge, so you had to start from scratch every time you booted up a game.

Pokemon Bootleg Game - Retro Game Boy Games
Image credit: Khoo Yong Hao

Of course, you could also pick up counterfeit copies of your favourite games individually at pasar malams or dodgy game shops. Sometimes, they were blatantly fake; take a look at this one I dug out from the depths of my closet. This one’s not even a copy of an official Pokémon game, but a fan-made one that’s burned onto a cartridge.

Where to buy retro Game Boy games in Singapore?

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Since these retro Game Boy cartridges are over 30 years old now, you’re not gonna find them at your local hobby shop. You have to visit game shops that specialise in stocking retro games, and one of them is located in Sim Lim Square called Retro Nutz. They don’t come cheap though – popular retro games like the earlier versions of Pokémon can go for hundreds of dollars.

Original Game Boy With Cartridges - Retro Game Boy Games
Image credit: @p0seidon via Carousell

Otherwise, you can try your luck on Carousell. They’ve got more affordable prices there. I’ve spotted Super Mario Land going for $12 and Wario Land going for $14. However, the authenticity of cartridges purchased here is not guaranteed so you will need to do your homework on how to tell real and fake copies apart.

You can also try your luck with Facebook Marketplace, or if you’re really desperate, Amazon and eBay are options too but those entail dealing with overseas sellers.

See if you remember these retro Game Boy games

If you’re a sucker for games of the past, then let us unlock childhood memories with these nostalgic PSP games. For those who grew up with PC titles instead, here are some old-school computer games that you’ve definitely played covertly during computer lessons.

Cover image adapted from: @p0seidon via Carousell, u/Flightyfelon via Reddit


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