Forgotten Game Boy Gems

The Game Boy never got much credit as a proper game machine with decent games. Oh, sure, games like Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening were miniature masterpieces, but by about a year or two after the GB's release, it had fallen out of favour from me and any other self-respecting gamer, earning the title LameBoy for its blurry, low-contrast monochrome screen. That didn't change until the late '90s, when I finally caved in and bought a Super Game Boy for my SNES. This move let me rediscover some great games from the NES' little brother, and saved my eyesight in the process.

If you're like me, then, there are probably dozens of great GB games that you have passed over for flashier entertainment from the 16-bit and 32-bit systems. So why not take the time to slow down, and appreciate some of the cream of the obscure crop of GB releases? Most of these games were only released in Japan, and have very little hype or popularity to show for their efforts. I promise that there'll be at least one game that you'll fall in love with in this list below. So let's get busy!


Here is a fabulously cute and gloriously-designed action game by the masters of NES graphics and sound, Sunsoft. Trip world plays just like a scaled-down mini-version of their earlier production, Gimmick!, with a cute main character, large, slightly linear maps to explore (but with secret passages and divergent paths), and fluffy enemies that let you stand on their heads without being injured... until you decide to boot them out of existence.

Trip World's difficulty is quite low, but with graphics and music (Sunsoft's trademark) as good as these, you don't want to pass it up! I had a blast going through the varied levels and spotting all the unique and adorable creatures along the way.

This game suffered the fate of many of Sunsoft's fantastic games in the 1990s like Hebereke and Gimmick!, namely being withheld from release in North America, and being released in low numbers in Japan. I suppose Sunsoft took a long hard look at the series of mistakes that brought down former powerhouses Konami and Capcom and decided that proliferation was the road to ruin in the videogame world.


[JSSJSS] to start with 50 lives...and [SPCLST] to try the GRUELING special stage!

A B&W Gameboy game... released in 1997? And it doesn't even have a licensed character attached to it? No wonder it fell into obscurity!

Late 1990s notwithstanding (the age of fighting games and Pokemon), this is an oldschool, 8-bit, puzzling platformer, the likes of which we haven't played since the NES days. You play a robot who has to collect 5 gems in each area of an enemy spaceship before moving on to fight the guardian of that area. You can't jump, but a tap of the A button transforms you into a continually-bouncing sphere that can destroy blocks and most enemies. The B button allows you to push special wheeled blocks and springs for positioning in the levels.

This may sound like a cakewalk, but the challenge in this game comes in refining your control over an unwieldy, ever-moving main character, so that he doesn't impale himself on spikes and dangers lying overhead and underneath. There are also plenty of diabolical and cruel puzzles strewn across the game's 8 stages, as well as a complete mindfuck of a special, 9th stage accessed by a secret password (hidden to the left...) It's one of those rare games from yesteryear that demands logical thinking and complete, skilled control over the movements of your hero. Chalvo 55 is a game I wholly recommend!


You know, it's a feeling I had while playing this game -- something I hadn't felt in years -- a feeling of frantic, mindless fun, which compelled me to put PEETAN on this list. This is one of your old-school 1-screen action games that hearkens back to the simplistic, but thorougly addictive, games of the Atari 2600 and early NES era. I can't believe I had such a long-lost feeling while playing a Gameboy game, but I did, believe it or not.

Okay, the gameplay is very simple and can be summed up like the introduction of a game from the eras mentioned above: DROP EGGS TO STUN WOLF AND RESCUE CHICKS. It's that simple. Your chicks start out at the bottom of the screen, and you have to drop your eggs on the little seesaws to boost your chicks upwards. There's a mean wolf that comes along, and if you don't stop him in time, he'll chomp down on your hatchlings. Once all your chicks are gone, the game is over. There are varied bonus rounds after every few stages where you can add another chick to your flock, prolonging the enjoyment of this compulsive game. And, er, that's about it!


OK, we have a licensed character here, but at least he isn't cloyingly awful like many '90s licenses. I don't know what Noobow is or where he(?) came from, but he was marketed as a kids' manga and anime, and featured on Morinaga chip and candy packages in the early '90s.

So, what's his game like, then? It's pretty much a Flashback or Prince of Persia for preschoolers. Noobow needs to get to the end of the level by using tools and blocks scattered around the landscape. He can pick these up with the A button and drop them with the B button. If a tool (like a stick, switch...) can be used, pressing the A button while holding it will activate it. It's basically a very simple puzzler where you have to guide Noobow over obstacles and put items in their correct places in order to progress. The challenge level is quite low (Noobow can't die or get completely stuck) but the character is cute and endearing enough to put a smile on your face, and to make playing through the game quite fun.


This game needs no lengthy explanation: it's basically Balloon Fight 2. However this time, the main game is a platformy version of the Balloon Trip from the original. Controlling the heroine is identical to the original Balloon Fight, except that you can release your balloons and run around freely à la Mario (necessary in boss battles). You can also inflate any burst balloons by tapping Down when you are standing on a platform.

The reason this game is so great is that one feels the same sense of mastery learning to control this balloon-riding girl as one did learning how to control Mario in the original Super Mario Bros (and flying Mario in Super Mario World's SPECIAL stages). Making daring leaps, drops, and attacks -- and finally succeeding after 10 tries -- gives a great sense of achievement and fun. The only real disappointment is the game's extreme brevity. It's a good challenge, but only until you master the meagre 8 stages.

For those that can't stand the GB versions' constrained screens, I recommend the (more or less) identical Hello Kitty World on the Famicom. Never mind the crap licensed character; this is a Team Mario game all the way.


Heiankyo Alien was once the target of ridicule by EGM magazine, having tied with Daedalian Opus as the game with the worst title in EGM's 1990 game awards. Sure, the title is silly, but it can't help itself: it's an extremely accurate description of the game, being about aliens invading Heian-era Kyoto (Heiankyo). What excuse does Daedalian Opus have for its silly title?

So it's a bit unfair to dismiss this game, as the original Heiankyo Alien was a seminal maze game released by TSG (now under Nihon Bussan) in 1979. An updated version is included in this GB cart, which is considerably more fun than the original. You have to run around a maze, opening holes in the ground (by holding the A button) to trap aliens, then burying them (with the B button) when they have fallen in the holes. Wait too long, and their alien friends can free them from the holes (and probably kill you soon afterwards.) It's a tough and frantic gem of a game.


Laugh at the title all you want, but Booby Boys has a considerably long pedigree as well. The game is a refinement of the alien-trapping formula in Heiankyo Alien (also by Nihon Bussan), except the main goal of each stage is to collect a number of treasure chests, collect the key afterwards, and exit the stage. Digging holes to trap enemies is incidental to the treasure collecting: although you get points for defeating each enemy, you get a large bonus [uhh... in the PC-Engine versions] for clearing the stage without killing any enemies.

It's good, clean fun. This game has also appeared in almost identical incarnations (how's that for assonance?) on the Famicom under the name Booby Kids, on the PC-Engine as Doraemon Meikyu Daisakusen, on the Turbografx-16 as Cratermaze, and in its original arcade version as Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen.

This title translates to "Secret male-and-female-principles chi kung method diagrammatic mystery play CaDa"

Attention: people who have a hard time with double-negatives or with balancing their parentheses, stay away from this game!

CA DA [the full title is "HidenInyouKikouhouZushikiNazoYuugi Kada" (whew!)] is a puzzle game that works on the ancient duality of positive and negative to pose a challenge to the player. You have to collect all the charged balls in the stage and make it to the exit. However, whenever you pick up one of these charges, your character becomes either positively (pale/white) or negatively charged (black). Certain springboards, marked with white or black arrows, will only launch you upwards if your charge matches its own, so you will have to plan carefully which charges to pick up, and what path to take through the stage.

It's a good brainbender and is perfectly suited for the more analytical gamers among us.


Well, we can't avoid awful licensed characters forever, can we? This game has a hideous, unappealing main character that reminds me of a geriatric Crayon Shin-Chan. But as the Bard once said, "the play's the thing," so let's take a look at the gameplay, shall we?

Karamuu-cho is aimed at the younger set, I'll bet, but it's a fun diversion for a half-hour, at least. Its core gameplay is similar to many other action/puzzle games where you have to pick up 3 balls before making your way to the stage's exit. Along the way, there are obstacles, tubes, rocks, etc. that are each surmounted by reaching for a power-up specifically geared towards that obstacle. It all becomes clear which power-ups work with which problem very quickly, so getting through the level is a matter of planning your path through the stage. All in all, it's a pretty simplistic game, but the fun always comes in the realization that you had planned for everything except for some single thing, sending you back to the beginning to try again (kinda like the best levels in Lemmings.) This one's probably worth a look.


Although this series is pretty pedestrian, there's just something about the presentation of the whole package that I like. The first game in the series was released in the west as Fortified Zone, as was the third in the series on the SNES as Operation Logic Bomb. While OLB on the SNES is quite pretty to look at, the levels begin to feel quite repetitive and dull, and it gets boring quite quickly.

This Japan-only sequel to the Gameboy original, however, manages to keep it together, and provides for a fun experience that I'd recommend to any fan of Alien Syndrome or... mmmaybe Metal Gear. Ikari no Yousai 2 is an overhead run 'n gun shooter set in a fortress that you have to navigate around, find keys to open doors, and ascend floors to reach the exit and the stage boss. Later on, there is quite a bit of backtracking and a good challenge in choosing carefully which pit you have to fall through, to ensure that you wind up in a normally-unreachable area on the floor below. The graphics and music in this game are really good too, so I'd definitely recommend checking this one out.

I did a review of another good GB shoot-em-up, ZAS. You can check out the review HERE!