Two editors DISPUTE each other's top Game Boy games on Switch.
With the latest Nintendo Directly safely in our rear-view mirrors, we wanted to share some thoughts on the new consoles added to the NSO service. First up, Nintendo’s little portable that could: the Game Boy. Riffing on Skip and Shannon: UNDISPUTED, a popular sports debate show, we’ve got Neal Ronaghan and Jordan Rudek lined up to share their top 5 Game Boy games currently available, an honorable mention, and two anticipated titles. Neal’s going to critique Jordan’s list, and then Jordan will do the same back to Neal. *Nintendo Switch click*
Jordan Rudek's Top 5
5. Gargoyle's Quest
Neal’s Take: I’ll be honest–I toyed with putting this before Link’s Awakening on my own list, largely because Gargoyle’s Quest is truly that damn good.
4. Metroid II: Return of Samus
Neal’s Take: I respect this, largely because I have a renewed appreciation for this game after talking to true blue Metroid II superfan Justin Berube a few years ago about it. It’s a janky old Game Boy game, but what it tries to do is impressive even if it slips a little bit courtesy of the samey surroundings and lack of a map. Hunting down individual Metroids is a different feel than the rest of the 2D Metroid games, but the isolating tone still comes through, especially in the stark silence that hits you in the end game.
Neal’s Take: On a system where I have better versions of Tetris at my fingertips, I find it very hard to go back to Game Boy Tetris. Why play the first Tetris when I could instead play the best Tetris in Tetris Effect? I unlocked some core memories booting this game up, but the time for this 1989 wunderkind is over.
2. Super Mario Land 2
Neal’s Take: This was the first Game Boy I personally owned. I played this front to back dozens of times as a kid and every time it’s rereleased or I stumble upon my Game Boy copy, I hurriedly rush to replay it. What a wonderful video game.
1. Link's Awakening DX
Neal’s Take: I find your lack of Wario Land 3 disturbing. Link’s Awakening as a Game Boy game is far more impressive than Link’s Awakening as a Switch game because to me, the glory of this game is how it takes the limited controls and visuals of the Game Boy and makes it sing to the level of a home console Zelda game. The story is wildly good and the clever ways it makes use of the Game Boy’s button layout rules. Also when it’s Game Boy graphics and not painterly toy visuals that run at an inconsistent framerate on Switch, the simpler puzzle designs are charming and not limiting.
Honorable Mention: Game & Watch Gallery 3
Most Anticipated (Announced): Oracle of Ages
Most Anticipated (Unannounced): Pokémon Crystal
Neal Ronaghan's Top 5
5. Kirby’s Dream Land
Jordan’s Take: Not putting KDL in my own top 5 hurt because I’m so fond of the series as a whole, but the fact that Kirby’s signature copy ability isn’t present makes returning to the original game a bit of a drag. Since I did grapple with it being on my own list, I can admit that the charm and simplicity do hold up today, just not enough for me.
4. Gargoyle’s Quest
Jordan’s Take: We’re nearly in alignment on this one, and I’m actually happy to see Gargoyle’s Quest get a higher rating than I gave it. For an early Game Boy title, it’s incredibly unique, and the combination of action-platforming and a Zelda II-esque overworld complete with random battles make for a very fun experience.
3. Link’s Awakening DX
Jordan’s Take: I’m baffled that what some consider the best 2D Zelda game is outside Neal’s top 2. This is the desert island game about a hero stranded on a seemingly deserted island, and it still holds up incredibly today. It’s the must-play title of the current GB NSO offerings, and it may stay that way as long as the service exists. Without question, Neal takes a year of Luigi-sized L here.
2. Wario Land 3
Jordan’s Take: The third Super Mario Land game was the first Wario Land game, and I think that’s still the best one; it doesn’t get bogged down in Metroidvania trappings and unclear objectives. Playing Wario Land 3 today, I’m reminded that ricocheting off objects that Wario dashes into simply feels bad (man). With the best Wario impression I can muster: “This game stinks, and anyone who puts it in their top 5 does, too.”
1. Super Mario Land 2
Jordan’s Take: Super Mario Land 2 was a massive improvement over the first game, and that alone could be enough to award it the crown for this initial batch of Game Boy games on Switch. It feels like a console game, and that’s a quality that only a few Game Boy games possess. I wish it had a few more worlds to explore, but I can’t fault anyone for putting this at the top spot.
Honorable Mention: Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
Most Anticipated (Announced): Pokemon Trading Card Game
Most Anticipated (Unannounced): Catrap
Whose top 5 list looks just like yours? Check out these Game Boy titles now on Switch, and then let us know what your list looks like in the comments below!