Now that the Nintendo 64 has found its way (albeit in emulated form) onto Nintendo Switch Online, many eyes are no doubt on what’s next for the service.
With the 35-year anniversary of the original Game Boy peeking through on the horizon (2024), and the 25-year anniversary of the Game Boy Color just around the corner (2023), we wouldn't be surprised if these two handheld giants were on the agenda in some way, shape, or form.
But if that were the case, which games would (or should) Nintendo include in the package?
In this blog, we'll explore 10 classic games on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color that we think deserve a spot in a future pack addition to Nintendo Switch Online.
Read on and see if your favorites made the list!
#10. Kirby’s Dream Land
Dream Land introduced players around the world to precious puffball and star shooter Kirby, a creation of then-22-year-old designer Masahiro Sakurai at HAL Laboratory. (Sakurai would later go on to spearhead the ever popular Super Smash Bros franchise.)
This debut outing is notable for two reasons.
First, it’s the only title where Kirby isn’t pink on the box art. Sakurai always envisioned the character to be pink, but the teams in charge of design and marketing chose to give Kirby a white body to match his in-game grayscale appearance.
Second, unlike later games in the franchise, Kirby doesn’t gain any power-ups or enemy abilities when swallowing foes! Instead, you destroy whatever lies in your path by shooting out starry projectiles (or puffs of air while flying).
All in all, Kirby’s Dream Land is a simple yet charming platformer with catchy music and solid gameplay that still holds up all these years later. Given its lighthearted aesthetic, it’d be a perfect choice to bring to the Nintendo Switch!
#9. Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword
2001’s Curse of the Sword sets treasure hunter Lara Croft on a quest to hunt down an evil magician hellbent on using her body as a vessel for a demonic spirit. It’s a fairly intricate plot for a Game Boy title, but one that adds to the overall worldbuilding of the franchise quite nicely.
Just like any other Tomb Raider game, you’ll need to use your wits to solve countless puzzles and your firepower to defeat countless enemies. It plays surprisingly well for a 2D handheld adventure too, considering Tomb Raider’s 3D console pedigree.
20 years is a long time to be stuck in gaming limbo, so a Nintendo Switch port could be just the thing to satisfy raiders of the past and present alike!
#8. Metroid II
If you were a 90’s kid and you loved video games, chances are Metroid II’s iconic box art is etched into your memory — either for just how many copies lined store shelves back in the day, or for its appearance in the title catalog that came packed with the original Game Boy.
Yes, we just received a fantastic remake with updated graphics in the form of Metroid II: Samus Returns on the Nintendo 3DS in 2017, but here’s hoping Nintendo is able to spoil us again with a port of this Game Boy classic. If anything, the remake shows that they have faith in the game — and that players love it!
Return of Samus was a landmark title for the Game Boy, and — with its sprawling terrain and fully explorable world — one that fully pushed the handheld to its limits.
Shantae is a side-scrolling platformer that left a mark on players upon its 2002 release with its unique and inventive gameplay mechanics. Not only can demi-djinn Shantae transform into a wide variety of animals to help her on her quest, but enemies and environments are largely dependent on the time of day in the real world (foes become tougher at night, for example).
Shantae was a highly requested playable character for Smash Bros Ultimate; however, with Sora taking the final fighter slot in October, it looks like those dreams will never come to pass.
Still, given the amount of love and attention the community clearly showered her with, Shantae simply deserves to remain in the public eye — and what better way than a modern port of this classic Game Boy Color adventure?
#6. The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
In this classic title, you take Bugs through 80 levels of frantic puzzle-action hijinks on his quest to rescue the kidnapped Honey Bunny from the castle’s ominous depths — all while collecting carrots and avoiding contact with Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat, and Yosemite Sam as they attempt to thwart your every move!
Unlike its contemporaries, The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is notable for not giving you the ability to jump. Instead, mobility is provided through staircases, pipes, and chutes — you’ll find yourself zipping and zooming around each map as you try to collect every last carrot in order to proceed to the next level.
For a retro 8-bit title, the enemy AI is surprisingly solid — they’ll alter their set movement paths on the fly when you get near, and even wait for you to make the first move at times! Luckily Bugs can pick up a variety of comical items (classic Merry Melodies like boxing gloves, flower pots, and 10,000-pound weights) to help him get out of any sticky situation.
Given the frantic gameplay on hand, we think The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle could even function as another entry in the Switch’s 99 online battle royale series (Tetris, Mario, Pac-Man, and the like). Imagine trying to outrun a huge horde of Yosemite Sams in classic 2D!
#5. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
Okay, so technically Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are two distinct games that were released on separate cartridges, but they’re so intertwined in terms of story and mechanics that we just had to include them both.
These two action RPGs gave us an extended, all-enveloping world a whole decade before the property that catapulted the idea into the stratosphere (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) — complete with overarching plot, internal references and Easter eggs accessible via the Game Link Cable accessory, and even a linking password upon completion of one game that you can use to unlock more content when playing through the other! (Of course, a linked second game rewards you with a “True Ending” that wraps up all the loose ends.)
If both titles were indeed to make their way to the Nintendo Switch, we imagine its online capabilities could be used to further play up the linking gimmick. Imagine being able to travel to entirely new worlds and reveal more parts of the story only via online multiplayer! It’d be like visiting other players’ islands in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but with much more hacking and slashing.
#4. Spider-Man & The X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge
Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — well, technically not, seeing as how X-Men isn’t (yet) a part of it —there’s still very little retro representation on the Switch when it comes to comic book superheroes.
In Arcade’s Revenge, you play as Spider-Man, Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, and Gambit as they take on the Hunger Games-esque challenges set upon them by villainous Arcade and his “Murderworld” environments. Each hero has their own stage and set pieces, from Spider-Man’s airbone escapades in New York to Wolverine’s rampage through a treacherous funhouse — and, arguably toughest (read: worst) of all, Storm’s underwater oxygen challenge.
The 8-bit and 16-bit era of gaming boasted some truly amazing Marvel adventures — not at all surprising, considering the ever-present popularity of superhero comics and cartoons during the 90’s. Most outings during this time were of the 2D side-scrolling action variety, with classics like Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems and Spider-Man & Venom: Separation Anxiety on the Super Nintendo making full use of the beautiful sprites and vibrant colors that the system was renowned for.
Arcade’s Revenge is arguably a lesser-known title compared to those big names, so an emulated version on the Nintendo Switch Online service could be a great way to show appreciation to the developers involved in its creation. Plus, it’s simply a very difficult game, so speedrunners and other Let’s Play streamers could have a field day!
#3. Pokémon Trading Card Game
The Pokémon Trading Card game is, unsurprisingly, your standard Pokémon adventure — it just replaces the eponymous monster battles with card battles featuring said monsters.
Gone is Red (and Ash, for that matter) and their quest to become a Pokémon master; here, you take on the role of Mark, and your dream is to become the world’s best Pokémon Trading Card Game player! You simply pick your starter (deck) and off you go to conquer the world, all the while improving your arsenal with new and powerful cards.
At the end of the day, the title is refreshingly fun — perhaps more than it ought to be (in the eyes of some), considering it’s a game about a game.
Still, the music, the sprites (using the actual images from the real-life cards), and the ability to collect incredibly rare cards all in one adventure make the Pokémon Trading Card game a must-play for all Pokémon enthusiasts.
#2. Super Mario Land 2
All of the original Mario Land titles on the Game Boy are legendary in their own right:
The first, Super Mario Land, for bringing everybody’s favorite mushroom-munching plumber to handhelds.
The third, Wario Land, for reinventing the series by casting you as Mario’s nefarious brother, Wario.
And the second, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, for its tight controls and incredibly creative level design — not to mention the fact that Mario actually looks like Mario this time! You’ll take Mario through a plethora of unique worlds on an adventure that gets surprisingly difficult in its later stages (hello and how do you do, Final Boss).
While all three titles no doubt deserve a place in the Switch’s online library, we’ve decided to go with Mario’s second outing for this list. You just can’t deny the heights to which it propelled Mario on handhelds — it was an emphatic statement by Nintendo that portable gaming was here to stay, and could offer as much entertainment as its home console brethren.
#1. Pokémon Yellow
25 years and still going strong! Even Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri himself may have never in his wildest dreams imagined that his game — born from his own childhood love of bug collecting — would go on to become a global cultural phenomenon. (Or continue to entertain the masses half a century later, no less!)
Pokémon Yellow is a slightly reworked version of the first entries in the series, 1996’s Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue (or Green, if we’re talking about the Japanese versions). It features updated visuals and other adjustments so as to be more faithful to the Pokemon anime, which at the time was itself taking the world by storm. Your starter Pokemon can only be Pikachu, for instance, and several character sprites now resemble their cartoon counterparts (such as Team Rocket’s Jessie and James).
You can even interact with Pikachu as it follows you around on-screen during your adventure, which stresses the premise that you’ve literally stepped into Ash Ketchum’s shoes even more.
Admittedly, Pikachu-themed additions to the Switch catalog aren’t exactly hard to come by: 2018's Let’s Go, Pikachu! is a remake of Pokemon Yellow for the modern day, and it brought with it an adorable Pikachu special edition console too! (And that’s to say nothing of the numerous pouches, carry cases, and third-party controllers emblazoned with Pikachu’s cheery likeness.)
All the more reason to round out your Pikachu collection with the version of the Game Boy game that may very well have started it all!
Recap: Game Boy Games on Nintendo Switch Online
Here’s a look back at our picks for 10 classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles that deserve to be on Nintendo Switch Online:
- Pokémon Yellow
- Super Mario Land 2
- Pokémon Trading Card Game
- Spider-Man & The X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
- The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
- Metroid II
- Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword
- Kirby’s Dream Land
These games made the list for a variety of reasons, including the impact they had on gaming history, the lack of representation on modern consoles, and the fact that they could be enhanced with interesting online mechanics.
But most of all, simply because they’re a hoot to play!
Retro! Let’s Go!
Though the latest and greatest titles on modern systems are obviously a sight to behold in terms of realism, deep mechanics, and graphic fidelity, retro games have a simple unmistakable charm about them that can’t be denied. No wonder people continue to play and talk about them to this day!
But why wait around for a Nintendo Switch Online addition that may or may not happen?
If you’re itching to relive your own pixel childhood — or are just a gaming connoisseur who wants to experience iconic games of the past — look no further than the huge lineup of retro games and classic consoles being offered on ZenPlus. From Nintendo to Sega, Atari, and more, you’re bound to find something that catches your fancy!
Click the button below to jump straight to our retro gaming search results!
Over to You!
What are your favorite games for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color?
Do you prefer the 8-bit era or the 16-bit era of retro gaming?
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Concept by Ruel Butler
Edited by ZenPlus
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