It was 1996 in Japan and 1998 in North America (and a year later in Europe) when the ageing Game Boy got an unexpected shot in the arm thanks to a little game named Pokémon. Nintendo’s granddaddy of handheld gaming suddenly had a new lease of life, but in the West the release of the game was followed just weeks later by the arrival of a new console — the Game Boy Color — and it was on that wonderful system that many of us caught our very first Pocket Monster.
A colour update to the original DMG-001 — which had previously been revised in the smaller form of Game Boy Pocket — was a long time coming, but after nine years Game Boy Color finally gave handheld Nintendo gamers the proper upgrade they’d been waiting for.
GBC launched, appropriately, in a range of eye-catching colours and was fully backwards compatible with the existing Game Boy library. Many dual ‘black cart’ games would also play perfectly well on the original monochrome console, although the sexier Color-exclusive games came on clear cartridges which let you glimpse the board inside. The GBC soon built up its own great software library before the Game Boy Advance came along in 2001. Three years is a relatively short life span, especially compared to its predecessor, but we’re big fans of this gorgeous system and its impressive, oft-forgotten library.
We’ve previously assembled Top 50 rankings for every other Nintendo console, each and every one based on User Ratings submitted by readers, and this list of the Best Game Boy Color games ever is the last to go live. Thank you all for contributing, to this list and all the others.
Remember, though, that just like the others, this ranking is not set in stone. The list will continue to evolve automatically based on user scores submitted to the Nintendo Life game database. If you missed out on ‘voting’, you can still do so right now by simply scrolling down and rating them, or hunting down a game that’s missing via the search bar at the top of the screen. Games require a minimum of 10 ratings to become eligible, but once that threshold is reached (and if it scores highly enough) it will appear below.
Ready to take a look? Grab yourself a fresh pair of AAs, sit back and relax as we take you on a tour of the 50 best Game Boy Color games of all time.
Publisher: GT Interactive Software / Developer: Torus Games
This 1999 run ‘n’ gun port is actually Duke Nukem II reworked heavily for the 8-bit handheld by Torus Games. While it’s quite different from its source, Duke Nukem on Game Boy Color is still an impressive little action platformer in its own right.
Publisher: GT Interactive Software / Developer: Crawfish Interactive
A handheld version of the PlayStation hit, Driver for Game Boy Color got a top-down makeover that brought it in line with the original GTA games. With satisfying, varied gameplay that worked nicely on the more modest hardware, it captured the caper-filled essence of the stylish PS1 original and gave fans the chance to take the game on the road for real.
Lara Croft’s first venture onto the Game Boy Color, Tomb Raider is a side-on action platformer which sees the titular raider of tombs scrambling up walls, swinging across vine-filled ceilings and leaping over chasms searching for treasures and the like. It’s a slow-paced adventure, but features some impressive animation — overall, a decent 8-bit interpretation of Croft’s 3D adventures.
Released in 2000 in Japan and the following year in North America, this GBC spin-off never came to PAL shores. The cartridge included a tilting sensor which enabled you to control Kirby by rolling him around levels, guiding him to the goal. Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s a fun Kirby curio and worth playing if you can track it down.
Make sure you’re playing it in a regular GBC or GBA, though — the accelerometer doesn’t like being held upside down in a GBA SP, and you won’t get very far plugging it into a Game Boy Player, either.
Rayman‘s Game Boy Color port absolutely has its charms, but it also has its share of irritations. Stiff controls, a confusing layout and a few troubling glitches mar an otherwise fine experience. It’s still a lot of fun, and it offers some incentive to play through it again upon completion, but it’s a port that sacrificed a lot of content in order to make the transition to handheld, and that leaves it feeling rather slight compared to the Ubisoft mascot’s more celebrated platformers.
Publisher: Infogrames / Developer: Banpresto
A strategic turn-based card fighter, Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warriors launched in 2002 (in Europe first, funnily enough) and brought the series’ colourful cast of characters to GBC in a thoroughly decent card battler.
Split across two games — you play as Bomberman in Blue Champion and Max in Red Challenger — Bomberman Max gave a Pokémon-style spin on Hudson’s classic Bomberman gameplay thanks to the inclusion of Charaboms, a top-notch multiplayer and some lovely presentation. Everyone loves Bomberman, right?
The mixture of old and new elements give Blaster Master: Enemy Below enough new twists to make it a worthy sequel to the amazing original. Sure, many of the same audio/visual elements have been carried over fairly unchanged, but the new bosses and open setting offer up a whole new experience for fans to enjoy. If you never gave the Blaster Master series a chance (and Switch owners don’t have much excuse considering the NES original is available with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription), this great Game Boy Color title is as good a reason as any to get stuck in.
Publisher: Electronic Arts / Developer: Griptonite Games
Bucking the trend of low quality movie-licensed tie-ins on handheld platforms, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone was a wonderfully solid little RPG and, in our opinion, legitimately in the running for Best Harry Potter game evs — certainly in the top three (not that the series boasts a host of stone cold classics, but still). Its turn-based RPG gameplay fit Harry’s spell-filled wizarding world perfectly and it remains one of the best interpretations of the source material in video game form. Flipendo!
Harvest Moon 3 faced a bit of a conundrum. While it may provide some top-notch farming simulation and finally introduced the marriage system to the portable series, this game could have offered so much more. The core mechanics you know and love are present and work well, but the overall package feels like little more than a re-release of the previous Game Boy Color entry.
If you haven’t played any of the early portable Harvest Moon games then this is probably the one to get, but don’t expect much beyond the basics if you’re a veteran of its predecessor(s).