I was ten years old when I first laid hands on a Game Boy. My uncle had just come back from New York with one and ever curious about games and games machines I was eager to have a go. He’d bought an American football game (which I can’t seem to find hide nor hair of on the internet) and I was hooked. I imagine he was a little peeved by his little nephew hogging his new purchase all day, running down his Ever Ready’s, but I was for too young to be sensitive to such things.
After a couple of hours of grey and green gridiron, I decided to give the other cartridge a go. Looks a bit boring, just a some colourful bricks shooting through space… what does it say here? Tetris? That’s a funny name…
A couple of years later and I myself was on holiday in New York when my Mum surprised me with my very own little beige brick of dreams. I was already on cloud 9 – I was in New York, people thought my accent was cute and I had nearly unlimited access to the NES that was set up in my auntie’s basement – but this sent me over the edge.
There’s only so much happiness a twelve year-old can cope with and I must have been very close to the threshold that day.
Here are some of the Game Boy games that I have enjoyed throughout its many iterations (of which I have owned the original, the pocket and the colour – I went on to own multiple Advances too, but those will wait for a future post).
This little beauty came packed in and thanks to my uncle I was already an aficionado of the game’s ‘B’ mode, much preferring the set challenge of overcoming and eliminating the piles of garbage on the bottom of the screen to the seemingly endless slog of the normal play mode (a twelve year-old’s attention span rarely stretched that far).
Tetris on the Game Boy strikes me now as perfection in a cartridge. Not so much a puzzle game, more an arcade action game experienced distilled into rapid logical responses to on-screen stimuli – twitch gaming at its most primal. Watching an expert play Tetris is a marvel to behold.
Super Mario Land
It is amazing that they managed to cram so much of Mario’s trademark gameplay into the Game Boy’s tiny cartridge so early in the machine’s life. Even more amazing that they then squeezed the vehicle levels in too. Future Mario and Wario games would close the gap on the console versions significantly, but this title beguiled me in a way that its successors did not.
While in New York, we went to see a New York Yankees game which was an amazing experience, so this purchase was a no-brainer for me.
Really simplistic, and whilst the minimal control of fielding and base running was frustrating, it captured nicely the tension of pitching and the thrill of a successful hit, thus capturing the essence of baseball. Once somebody told me that the back of the umpire’s head looked like a demented vulture I’ve never looked at him the same again.
Once again a really simplistic portrayal of the sport, but all the elements you needed for an enjoyable game of tennis were there. Great fun until you realised an exploit that would make winning too easy.
The only JRPG I’ve ever completed. It is undoubtedly a JRPG (crap translation, barely understandable Japanese memes, random encounters) but is so unlike its stable mates in many ways. The compelling ‘catch em all’ premise and rock, paper, scissors battle mechanic kept me coming back for more and desperate to ignore the idiotic cartoons.
Pokemon Blue, the first version of the series that would capture the hearts and minds of children worldwide, features the best designed pokemon in a manageable amount – later poke-games would go on to feature hundreds and hundreds of inconsistently designed beasts, so that the prospect of trying to ‘catch em all’ became more a grind than a pleasure. I put up with quite a lot of taunting from my friends for playing this, but doggon – it was worth it.
Hindsight delivered via Retro Gamer and the Internet has of course provided me with many more great games to play on my Game Boys: Burai Fighter, Nemesis, Revenge of the Gator, Yoshi’s Cookie… I could go on, there are so many quality titles. Tell me your favourites in the comment section below.