Rank & File: Game Boy & Game Boy Color

It’s time to purge the drafts folder and unleash some hot Game Boy takes on the world wide Internet. More than a year in the making – alright fine, the takes are cold, ice cold – here are gametimebro’s thoughts on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color catalogues.

So, some background. Last June when the site was new and the content was created at a rapid pace, we had this feature called “Hall of Fame Time Bro.” We still have that feature, I guess. It’s just dormant, like “Stanpoint,” and “Pod Couple,” and “3rd Party Support,” and “Reviews.” At any rate, the idea was that we’d go through all the major consoles one by one in some arbitrary order, nominating different games on each for respective Hall of Fame status. The top 20 or 30 games would win and then we’d do a multiple-part unveiling in reverse order. You can find the Super Nintendo and Dreamcast series in our archive. An easy enough concept, right – what could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, trying to create a Game Boy post ended up killing “Hall of Fame Time Bro.” (And honestly? Good riddance. We’ve got “Rank & File” now, a leaner, meaner, cleaner way to craft listicles for the site.) How did it do so? Let’s count the ways.

First, trying to get people to participate in this one was like pulling teeth. There were two or three enthusiastic replies, but most of the bros who did participate were expressing all kinds of reservations about their own lists. “I’m not sure what that game was called” and “I really had to stretch to get this to ten games” were common sentiments – and that was after we decided to combine the Game Boy and Game Boy Color for ranking purposes.

Most of all, I struggled with how to handle dual titles in the vein of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue or Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Some people only included one version of each game on their ballots. One was adamant that Seasons was better than Ages, while another lumped Pokémon Yellow in with Red and Blue. With such a sparse and sad-looking Hall of Fame at hand, it was tempting to treat YellowRed, and Blue and Seasons and Ages as separate games. And yet, doing so seemed to violate the spirit of the whole exercise – what if Red and Blue ended up several rankings away from one another? What self-respecting readers could possibly take us seriously again after something like that?

But, again, that was then. This is now. And thanks to “Rank & File: Fruit,” we’ve got a precedent for ties and classification discrepancies. Fruit rankings: not for nothing!

Alright, I’ve kept you waiting long enough. Here are our collective and collaborative Game Boy and Game Boy Color rankings.

RANK GAME
1 Pokémon Red/Blue
2 The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
3 Pokémon Yellow
4 Kirby’s Dream Land
5 Tetris
6 Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
7 The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
8 Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
9 Pokémon Gold/Silver
10 Super Mario Land
11 Kirby’s Dream Land 2
12 Donkey Kong
13 Harvest Moon GB
14 Metroid II: The Return of Samus
15 Donkey Kong Land
16 Dr. Mario
17 Pac-Man
18 The Final Fantasy Legend
19 Final Fantasy Adventure
20 Pokémon Pinball
21 Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
22 Marble Madness
23 Wario Land II

For what it’s worth, when they’re treated as separate games, Blue comes in just ahead of Red but they both slip behind Link’s AwakeningOracle of Ages beats Oracle of Seasons even though Seasons appeared on one more ballot; and Silver comes in a few slots ahead of Gold with Donkey Kong and Harvest Moon separating them.

So that’s that. Doesn’t exactly provide a great counterargument to Game Boy being a Pokémon and Tetris machine with some decent Zelda games and a few good platformers, but here we are nonetheless.

Lastly, here are the individual ballots. Only Kevin gave enough of a hoot to annotate his list. Thanks, Kevin!


Steve:

1. Pokémon Yellow
2. Pokémon Red/Blue
3. Pokémon Gold/Silver
4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
5. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
6. Tetris
7. Metroid II: The Return of Samus
8. Kirby’s Dream Land
9. Mario’s Picross
10. Kirby’s Dream Land 2
11. Pac-Man
12. Donkey Kong
13. Qix
14. SolarStriker
15. Dr. Mario
16. Wario Land II
17. The Final Fantasy Legend
18. Marble Madness
19. Elevator Action

Kevin:

10. Pokémon Silver
One of my favorite things about the original Game Boy is how sturdy the dang thing is. Even the games stand the test of time. Pokémon Silver however was a little too ambitious for its time. For some reason my copy of Silver won’t retain a save after its been turned off. Which is a huge bummer but I still have enough fondness for the polish of Generation 2 Pokemon that I’d kick Dragon Warrior Monsters off my list for it.

9. Final Fantasy Adventure
It’s technically the first Secret of Mana game! It does an impressive job of bringing RPG elements and Zelda-like gameplay together for such a limited platform even if it is a little hard to recommend today.

8. Survival Kids
Yo this game is amazing. Part Zelda-like (you’ll see that phrase a lot) part adventure game and big part survival game, this game had you managing your hunger, thirst, and sleep long before modern survival games crowded Steam. It even had crafting! Man, this is a game modern devs should go back to. There are multiple endings and a monkey friend and actual honest to God mysteries to solve. Super ahead of its time.

7. Metroid II: Return of Samus
Another thing I love about Game Boy games is their ability to shrink a game down to its base elements in a way that can clarify and even improve on a franchise’s original formula. You can’t have Super Metroid without Metroid II – even if Metroid II isn’t as flashy, all the gameplay is there. Plus lots of mini-bosses that are genuinely stressful.

6. Wario Land
Wah! What do you do when you can’t figure out how to make Mario feel natural on a handheld? Embrace the unnatural and make a Wario game.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
I dunno if we’re counting versions of games as different games but just in case we are, I love Ages just slightly more than Seasons. Ages has a few more memorable characters, a world that feels massive, and the best merging of dark world/light world and Ocarina-style time manipulation I’ve seen in a Zelda game.

4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening hits an emotional core that only Ocarina and Majora’s Mask have matched. It and Majora are the only Zelda games with satisfying endings. Furthermore Link’s Awakening proves you don’t need traditional Zelda touchstones like gorons, zoras, Ganon, or even Zelda herself to tell a good Zelda story.

3. Kirby’s Dreamland 2
I’ll elevate this game to number three for nostalgia alone but it’s also full of great songs, iconic Kirby powers, and a fish you wear as a hat.

2. Harvest Moon
If Gameboy’s legacy is one about doing more with less than I think Harvest Moon GB nails it. Without involving the dating sim elements that Harvest Moon was built on and is largely remembered for, it instead focuses on the open-ended farming and even the mystery of the Harvest Moon franchise. There are events and supernatural creatures that only appear at certain times, and legendary farming implements and an actual honest to God endgame. Remember when games ended?

1. Pokémon Blue
It’s a story about a kid who trains wild animals to overthrow a violent gang and ends with the capture a super mutant. What I love most about generation one Pokémon is how unpolished everything is. The latest entries are so clean and polished, we don’t get any of the grit that original Pokémon has. The part that makes you wonder if this is really okay for kids. Sure there are problems. SPECIAL as a single stat is dumb. Psychic is way overpowered. Dragon type barely matters. I don’t care. I can always go back to Pokémon.


Sweeney:

1. Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
2. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
3. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
4. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
5. Pokémon Red/Blue
6. Dragon Warrior III
7. Donkey Kong Land 3
8. Donkey Kong Land
9. Harvest Moon
10. Kirby’s Dreamland
11. Pokémon Gold/Silver
12. Metroid II: Return of Samus
13. Donkey Kong Land 2
14. Dragon Warrior I & II
15. Tetris
16. Donkey Kong (GB)
17. Pokémon Trading Card Game
18. Super Off Road
19. Super Mario Land
20. Pokémon Yellow
21. NFL Blitz
22. The Addams Family


Keith:

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
WWF Superstars 2
Primal Rage
Pokémon Red
Earthworm Jim
Killer Instinct
WWF WrestleMania 2000
Donkey Kong Country
Spider-Man 3: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers
Ms. Pac-Man
Tetris
NHL Blades of Steel
WCW Mayhem

Brian:

Pokémon Red
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Kirby Tilt ‘n Tumble
Kirby’s Dream Land 2
Kirby’s Dream Land
Tetris
Wario Land II
Shantae
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
Pokémon Pinball
Kirby’s Pinball Land
Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
Super Mario Land
X-Men: Mutant Academy

Biron:

1. Link’s Awakening
2. Donkey Kong
3. Pokémon Red/Blue
4. Final Fantasy Legend
5. Super Mario Land
6. Kirby’s Dream Land
7. Super Mario 2: 6 Golden Coins
8. Final Fantasy Adventure
9. Pokemon Pinball
10. Wario land
11. Donkey Kong Land
12. Harvest Moon GB
13. Tetris
14. Alleyway
15. R-Type


Webber:

Tetris
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Super Mario Land
Kirby’s Dream Land
Pokémon Blue
Pac-Man
Donkey Kong
Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
Dr. Mario
Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Castlevania: The Adventure

Marissa:

  1. Q*bert
  2. Kirby’s Dream Land

Stevie:

1. Pokémon R/B/Y
2. Pokémon G/S/C
3. Tetris
4. Marble Madness
5. Dr. Mario
6. Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge


Trevor:

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Pokémon Yellow
Pokémon Blue
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
Kirby’s Dream Land
Mario Tennis
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Donkey Kong Land
Super Mario Land
Tetris
Pokémon Puzzle Challenge
Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs’ Big Break
Paperboy
Home Alone


This has been Rank & File, the list-ammalgamating feature in which no bro’s take is too bad to contribute to the greater good.

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