With the huge success of the NES Classic Edition and the SNES Classic Edition, people rightly assume that Nintendo will continue this line with the Nintendo 64 Classic Edition (which I did a theoretical games list for here), though as others have noted, it presents its own problems.
However, it’s possible that Nintendo may not dive right into the N64 just yet. There’s one other system Nintendo released in that era: the classic Game Boy. That little portable brick still represents portable gaming for a huge chunk of people and it is home to some of the more beloved games in the company’s history. In particular, two extremely popular franchises got their start here and one of Nintendo’s more beloved bad guys/anti-heroes got his start here as well.
Before I get into a games list, let me make some qualifiers first. I think that the system will keep its classic design, but in size will be closer in size to the Game Boy Pocket or Game Boy Color than the original brick. There will obviously be a backlight and a clearer screen. People think that this would significantly raise the price, but I don’t think it will. Standard quality portable screens are pretty cheap to make nowadays and this thing doesn’t need the super-clear OLED Gorilla Glass screen that top of the line phones and tablets use. As for the on-screen color palette, I believe there will be multiple color options. The default will be greyscale and the pea green scheme, but it will also include all of the default Super Game Boy color schemes as well as any specialized Super Game Boy color scheme a game would have.
I also believe that there will be a wireless adapter installed in the system too. It won’t be able to connect to the Internet, but it will be able to connect with the 3DS/Switch and other Game Boy Classic Edition systems, mostly because of one particular game you’ve probably guessed already. As for connecting to the television, I’ve gone back and forth on it. I think maybe they’ll include an HDMI port that is behind the battery cover and a Wii Classic Controller port on the side where the Link Cable port would be where you can connect the Wii Classic Controller, NES Classic, or SNES Classic controllers. While I do think they will include the custom Super Game Boy color palettes, I don’t think they’ll bring back the custom Super Game Boy borders. We’ll get some modified classic generic borders for widescreen TVs, as well as some new ones entirely, but the game-specific ones I don’t think will make a return.
Finally, we have the list of games themselves. Because of how short a lot of the games are and how low Nintendo prices them in the eShop, I think they’ll stuff 30 games on this system and price it for $50 or $60. The usual caveats with these things also apply. No licensed titles (meaning no Looney Tunes or TMNT games) and no non-Donkey Kong Rareware games (meaning no Battletoads).
All that being said, let’s get on with the list!
You’re not gonna have this thing without Tetris. This game singlehandedly made the Game Boy a must-have and allowed The Tetris Company to even exist. Normally, TTC doesn’t like promoting old versions of their game, which is why Tetris Attack for the SNES will never be re-released, but given that this was briefly released on the eShop, they’re obviously willing to budge for the original Game Boy version and I think they’ll allow this to be published here, especially since the purchase can’t be transferred to another device.
One of the first games on the system, Super Mario Land is a bit of an oddity. It was the only sidescroller at the time that didn’t have the Fire Flower, it includes real-world locations such as Egypt, and two levels have Mario in an airplane and a submarine respectively. The game is very short and the graphics have not aged very well, but it’s Mario so of course it’s getting in here. It was also the debut of Princess Daisy, and her only game for over a decade.
This is one of the most beloved platformers on the system. Featuring a huge graphical upgrade, new interesting powerups for Mario, and MANY more levels to explore, this game could easily stand up to its console predecessors. More importantly, it was also the debut for Mario’s archrival and greed-obsessed troll, Wario. Oddly enough, this would also be the last time Mario and Wario would face each other in a platformer.
Wario’s playable debut appearance, which cemented his obsession with greed. This game would form the foundation for all of Wario’s future platformers, where you have to search and find as many coins and treasures as you can get, with the richer you get meaning a better ending for Wario. However, the game doesn’t move too far from its Mario roots, as Wario still has powerups in the form of hats which let him briefly fly, shoot fire, and do all kinds of crazy stuff. These hats would make one last appearance on the Virtual Boy Wario Land game, then disappear from the series forever.
The original Game Boy’s sole Zelda title and spiritual sequel to A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening is one of the classic titles for the system, and for good reason. Koholint is huge and fun to explore, it has all the classic Zelda traits, the characters have a lot of charm, and the dungeons (Well, except Eagle Tower) are a blast to go through. The limited control scheme of the Game Boy does hinder the experience a bit since you have to equip the sword specifically, but even still it’s a blast to play. I personally have very fond memories of this game, as it was my first and only Zelda game until Ocarina of Time.
There are three (technically four) games that you HAVE to have on this system, or there’s no point at all in making it. Tetris and Link’s Awakening are two, and the remaining titles are Pokémon Red and Blue. Revitalizing the Game Boy after several flagging years and giving Nintendo a massive popularity boost, you simply HAVE to have the original games on here. This is also why I think the Game Boy Classic would HAVE to have a wireless adapter, since a large part of why Pokémon was so popular was the ability to trade and battle via Link Cables. And while I know Nintendo prefers to have these things as self-contained, I do think you’ll be able to connect these games to the 3DS Virtual Console versions as well as Poké Bank whenever it makes its way to the Nintendo Switch. As for Pokémon Yellow, I don’t think it’ll be included since Nintendo prefers to have the “quintessential” experience with these Classic Systems and Yellow isn’t as important to the franchise as Red & Blue were.
While not quite as beloved as Super Metroid or Metroid Prime, this game still offers all that great Metroid goodness on the go and is a grand adventure in and of itself. It is easy to get lost in this game, but for a lot of people, it won’t matter since half the fun of Metroid games is searching everywhere for the hidden goodies. It was also one of the first games to utilize Super Game Boy functionality to give it a custom color palette.
The first of many Kirby games on this list, the little puff ball would become the Game Boy’s unofficial mascot, and it all started on this quaint little title. I would say it’s a bit odd, since Kirby hadn’t gained his trademark ability to copy powers from his enemies yet, but the Kirby franchise has a LOT of oddballs in its wake, so this doesn’t feel as weird as Mario Land does in its home series. The platforming has aged pretty well, but it can be difficult for newcomers to get into with the lack of Copy Abilities. It’s also a lot harder than most Kirby games, but still fun.
While not as beloved as the first game, this game has its own unique personality. It brought in the Copy Ability function from Kirby’s Adventure, but what really makes this game stand out are the Animal Buddies. Rick the Hamster, Koo the Owl, and Kine the Fish give Kirby a fun new way to go through levels, and their modifications to his powers make blazing through the levels even more fun. There’s a reason fans have been begging for the return of these three to the platformers.
People who think Kirby didn’t start going spinoff crazy until the DS and 3DS era are forgetting how just many spinoff games Kirby had in the 90's. The SNES had Kirby’s Avalanche and Kirby Dream Course, while the Game Boy had three titles, the first on this list being Block Ball. Similar to Breakout, this game has you bouncing a ball-ified Kirby around destroying blocks everywhere and getting the high score. It’s actually quite addicting the Kirby gloss over everything suits the game well.
While Tetris got all the headlines, there were a lot of puzzle games on the Game Boy, and while this one isn’t the strongest of the lot, it does have its own charm to it. In this game, you use Kirby’s Animal Friends from Dream Land 2 to trap star blocks either horizontally or vertically. If you get two of the same Animal Buddy on either side of the Star Blocks, they’ll disappear and you get a lot of points. It’s definitely a little clumsier than Tetris or Puzzle League, but it can be addicting.
The final Kirby game on this list, Kirby’s Pinball Land is pinball... with Kirby. While it doesn’t have as many fans as Pokémon Pinball, this game is still a blast to play and the Kirby coating adds a layer of charm to the tables. I’m a little surprised Nintendo never made a sequel to this game.
This might be the lowest profile game on this list, and it’s average at best, but with the increase in brand awareness thanks to the Super Smash Bros. series, it makes sense to include the oft-forgotten Kid Icarus sequel on this list. It does offer a few improvements over its NES predecessor, but I’ll admit that I don’t really like this game a whole lot. Still, it’s Kid Icarus and it breaks up the Mario and Kirby representation on this list, so the variety is appreciated.
Also known as Donkey Kong ‘94 to separate it from the arcade and NES versions. You’ll find many people who consider this to be the best game in the classic Donkey Kong series, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it include the original levels, but it includes over 90 original levels, incorporating gameplay elements from Super Mario Bros. 2 as well as including Donkey Kong Jr. in some levels. This was also the very first game to include Super Game Boy-specific customization, including a really spiffy border based on the original arcade game. If you liked the original game in either version, you will love this game.
When Donkey Kong Country became popular, Rare was commissioned to create portable versions of the games to boost the Game Boy’s sales, especially with the Game Boy Pocket coming around the corner. While not as good as its console cousins, the Land games do offer a lot of the fun that made the originals so beloved. The CG graphics were impressive, though at times the increased detail was a detriment to gameplay, especially playing on the original brick system. Why the sequel? Partially because it fixed a lot of issues the original game had, including making the screen clearer, but also as a semi-apology for not including Donkey Kong Country 2 on the SNES Classic.
While a lot of people had never heard of the Game & Watch until Super Smash Bros. Melee, in truth there was a brief resurgence before then. Nintendo started this series, where they brought back a handful of their classic Game & Watch games for a new audience. And taking advantage of the increase in processing power, Nintendo allowed two different modes for each of the games. The first used the classic designs to emulate the LCD originals, but there was also an enhanced mode which gave all the characters more detailed sprites as well as including the Mario cast as playable characters. I picked the first one partially because Nintendo usually likes to go with the originals, and partially because this game includes most of the more famous Game & Watch games, all of which are represented in some form in the various Smash Bros. games.
While the Picross games have always been popular in Japan, they didn’t really hit it big in the US until the DS era, but Nintendo tried with this Game Boy game, complete with a Mario coat of paint to boost sales. The game flopped since the original muddled screen and small playing size hampered playability, but with the Game Boy Classic, the image should be crystal clear, and if Nintendo implements an HDMI port, it could be played on the TV as well. While I don’t find it as fun as proper Picross games and using buttons to play instead of a stylus could take getting used to, it’s still Picross.
After Super Mario World became a big success, Yoshi became a hot property all his own. While for most people their first Yoshi game was Yoshi’s Island for the SNES, it was actually not the first. This and the next game were both released on the Game Boy and the NES (there was also Yoshi’s Safari, an FPS on the SNES using the Super Scope peripheral) and... they’re not great. This is the lesser of the two games and can be really confusing for first-timers, as the object of the game is to trap enemies in between Yoshi eggs. Kinda like Kirby Star Stacker, but not as good. It’s in here because it’s a Yoshi title.
This was the other Yoshi puzzle game released for the NES and Game Boy. In this game, you have to match at least three cookies to make them disappear. Once they’re in a block formation, you can scroll them up and down or left and right like they’re on a wheel in order to make combos. It’s not as good as a lot of the other puzzle games on the system and it’s easy to see why it never got a sequel, but this game can be a lot of fun, unlike Yoshi, and the 2-player mode can have some great matches.
Technically, this wasn’t a Final Fantasy game. In Japan, this game series was known as the SaGa series, though more people would be familiar with the SNES Romancing SaGa titles instead, but this is where it started. In America, the title was changed to Final Fantasy Legend in order to boost sales since the Final Fantasy name was beginning to get popular thanks to the SNES titles. The games are notoriously difficult, but it’s still a great RPG and one of the few good classic RPGs available for the system that wasn’t Pokémon. As for why the second game, it’s another one of those cases where this one greatly improved things from its predecessor and is usually thought of as the best in the series. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the original gets in instead.
This one also got a name change when it came to America. While still technically a Final Fantasy game in Japan, the main title was the first game in the Seiken Densetsu series. Most people would recognize that more readily via its sequel for the SNES known in English as Secret of Mana. This first game shares a lot of its gameplay elements with Secret of Mana, but with only one party member, for obvious reasons. It honestly plays like a mashup of a Legend of Zelda game and a typical Final Fantasy game, and this game marries the two brilliantly.
There were a number of Bomberman titles for the original Game Boy, and while all of them are inferior to their console cousins, this is mostly agreed to be the best of the lot. It does offer a little variation in the classic formula to make up for the reduced screen size, but otherwise plays like most of the other Bomberman games. And with the wireless adapter, it’d be a lot easier to get multiplayer matches going than on the original game. If you’re wondering why I picked this game instead of Wario Blast featuring Bomberman despite that game being more famous, it’s because this game is just an overall better game, as Wario Blast kinda sucked.
Mega Man games are always a good pick for classic game collections, and here is no different. The classic run & shoot gameplay was modified well to fit on the Game Boy’s tiny screen, most of the time anyway. There were moments where the small screen wasn’t accounted for, making the game a lot harder than it would otherwise normally be. As for the game choice, I chose the fifth game for originality. The other four games were more or less remixes of the NES games and featured mostly the same Robot Masters, but V was made from the ground up specifically for the Game Boy and is usually thought of as the best for that reason.
While the NES version of Castlevania II is very, very divisive, the Game Boy version is much more beloved. Featuring the classic gameplay, a lot of levels, and the ability to have different weapons, this game is the quintessential Castlevania experience on the go until the Advance era. As for why the sequel, it’s yet another sequel that greatly improves its predecessor (which only had four levels and no sub-weapons) while the third game, Castlevania Legends, is one of the rare games to feature Sonia Belmont, it was stricken as non-canon, and with Simon being in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it makes sense to use a game with Simon in it over a character that doesn’t make many appearances.
A goofy little spinoff platformer of the mainline Castlevania series, Kid Dracula is fun and quirky while being very different from its home series. This game stars Dracula’s kid (er, other kid, not Alucard) as he confronts the evil Garamoth, who would get a slight name change into Galamoth for Symphony of the Night. This game pokes fun at a lot of the standard Castlevania tropes and is extremely charming. This game would also get a bump in recognition since the title character is going to be appearing in the Castlevania stage in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Shoot ‘em ups are a dying breed, but Gradius was one of the classics. While the second game in the Game Boy series, this was the only one released in the US, and it has all the classic shooter action intact, despite the small screen. If you’ve played the NES Gradius games, you’ll feel right at home here. Plus, with the newer screen, it’ll be a lot easier to play since the background won’t muddle the picture like it did in the original.
There were a couple Contra games made for the Game Boy, and both were largely just as fun as the originals. The creative peak was this game, a port of the SNES game of the same name, though with a few missing bosses and a missing level. As for why this game in the series was chosen, it was for a few reasons. One is that this is only game in the Game Boy series to actually retain the Contra name, as the previous game was released as Operation C. Another is that this had Super Game Boy support. Finally, this game is usually considered better than Operation C. However, since the SNES version was on the SNES Classic, I can see where Nintendo/Konami would pick Operation C instead so as to not have repeat games.
Let’s face it, most fighting games for the Game Boy sucked. The hardware wasn’t capable of processing the speed necessary for fighting games and it’s lack of buttons severely hampered the ability to create combos or special moves. Killer Instinct is probably the best of the lot, but that’s obviously a no-go. I chose this game, a port of King of Fighters ‘96, because it’s one of the better fighters on the system, has a bit of name recognition, and has Link Cable compatibility, giving another multiplayer option that’s not a puzzle game or Pokémon.
While nowhere near as good as its console brethren, R-Type is still pretty fun to play on the go. The cramped space is a big hindrance, but the impressive-for-its-time graphical detail and fun gameplay make up the difference. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, and it WILL challenge you later on.
I don’t think there are a whole lot of other eligible games I’m missing. Admittedly, some of the games might be a bit too similar to their console ports for Nintendo’s liking. Also, it would not surprise me if they reduce the amount of games to 20 and sell this for $40-$45 instead. If they do reduce the lineup to 20 games, I would cut Yoshi, Kirby Star Stacker, R-Type, King of Fighters, Contra, Bomberman, Kid Icarus, Gradius, Mario’s Picross, and either Kid Dracula or Castlevania II. Castlevania II offers up more variety, but I can see Kid Dracula being put on there because of Smash.
So, what do you guys think? What games would you put on this list?