Kevin’s Favorite Games: Game Boy Color

Welcome to Kevin’s Favorite Games! In this series, I will list my favorite games for every console I have ever owned (or at least played enough to have a reasonable opinion on the games). Clearly, this will not be a “best games of every console” list. The rankings will be based on my opinions and my experience, taking into account the time in my life in which I played these games. These games are not all going to be console exclusives, as I have played many exclusives and non-exclusives, and each console tends to have its own positives and negatives for each title.

Obviously, my opinions are 100% correct. You will likely disagree, and that is ok. You have a right to be incorrect. KIDDING! With that said, assuming you disagree with me, let me know what your favorites are. I love a good argument (*sigh* discussion). Let’s get to it!

Game Boy Color was the very first videogame “console” I ever owned. In fact, that GBC was the special edition Pokémon Yellow GBC (pictured to the left). This little handheld console kicked off a love and appreciation of Pokémon (and gaming) that is still going strong to this day. Since it was my introduction to the world of videogames, it’s only fitting to start my series with the Game Boy Color. Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Game Boy Color games:

5. Tetris DX (1998)

Synopsis: Tetris DX is essentially an upgraded version of the original Game Boy Tetris. DX added color, a couple new game modes, and even a save function.

Analysis: Tetris is considered by many to be a handheld classic, but Tetris DX is simply better in every way. I had played Tetris on my friend’s Game Boy before I ever got DX, but I did not enjoy it. My lack of enjoyment was likely due to there being essentially just a single color on the screen. DX was brighter and more colorful, capturing young Kevin’s attention much easier. DX makes an appearance on this list specifically because it kept me entertained on long car rides to visit family.

4. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (1999)

Synopsis: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is a handheld version of the classic 1985 Mario game we all know and love. Made specifically for the GBC, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe added new game modes: VS Mode (play head-to-head with a friend) and Challenge mode (collecting red coins and Yoshi eggs).

Analysis: With respect to the 1985 original, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is the best way to experience the game. While it is confined to the small screen of the GBC, it actually works better than on older TV screens. Sprites are not in danger of becoming too pixelated, actually improving the visuals. Water and lava are animated, giving the world a sense of life. Luigi’s color palette was also fixed, which seems minor to most, but I have always been #TeamLuigi and you are wrong if you prefer his spotlight-hogging brother. Other differences include slightly improved controlling of Mario/Luigi and starting games with more lives than the original. Since I am not a huge fan of Mario in general, it’s worth stating that this is one of two Mario games I have ever actually beaten (Super Mario Sunshine is the other).

3. Spider-Man (2000)

Synopsis: Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does whatever … the hardware limitations of the Game Boy Color will allow! Spidey’s first outing on GBC sees him in a standard, side-scrolling beat-em-up fighting through several locations in NYC, taking on classic baddies like Lizard, Hobgoblin, and Venom.

Analysis: This game was my introduction to the … troubled… history of Spider-Man’s appearances in videogames. It’s not always been great. In fact, it’s almost always been awful. Spider-Man GBC falls somewhere in the “not good, not awful” category. Spidey doesn’t control particularly well (though he does respond to commands much better than other games) and combat can be repetitive and boring. But the art style reminds you of the excellent animated series and using web powers actually feels good. The game is this high on my list because I received it as a gift while I was at the height of young Kevin’s love for Spider-Man: The Animated Series. I played the game obsessively. It’s not great to go back to, but my fond memories remain.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (1998)

Synopsis: Fun fact, I actually had no idea Link’s Awakening DX was a color remake to a 1993 release of Link’s Awakening. Upon researching the game, I discovered that the gameplay and story remained mostly the same from the original but added a new dungeon and a photographer. For those who do not know, in this game Link is removed from Hyrule and shipwrecks on a mysterious island. The game does also not have anything to do with Princess Zelda (outside a passing reference). In the timeline of Zelda games, this adventure takes place after Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past.

Analysis: Link’s Awakening DX is a very good game, with tight controls, unique and challenging dungeons, and a lot to explore. I am not someone who could ever be confused with a Zelda fan, but Link’s GBC outing was accessible enough for me to enjoy. Like with Tetris, I spent many hours in the car with Link trying to find out how to wake up that stupid Wind Fish. It also marks the beginning of my dislike of the “the whole story was really just a dream” trope that is horribly overdone these days. I have yet to play the remake on the Nintendo Switch, but it is on my list. Link’s Awakening is, to this date, the only Zelda game I have ever beaten.

1. Pokémon Crystal (2000)

Synopsis: Welcome to Johto region! Pokémon Gold and Silver versions are the Game Boy Color’s introduction to the second generation of Pokémon, taking the game to a new location and adding new gyms, Pokémon types, and new monsters. Crystal version is Gen 2’s “enhanced” version, adding a few new features – the ability to play as a female character, Pokémon animations as they enter battle, and even a new storyline involving the box art legendary Pokémon Suicune. You can also obtain both Ho-Oh and Lugia. The Dragon’s den is updated to allow you to receive a Dratini with Extreme Speed upon answering all quiz questions correctly – a Pokémon that, with time and care, will make the Elite Four a breeze.

Analysis: Generation 2 has a lot of issues. Non-linear game progression forces the gyms to be left at too low a level, making the middle section of the game far too easy. The Team Rocket subplot is absolutely pointless and takes far too long to complete. Most Gen 2 Pokémon were actually pretty garbage (check out the Gym Leaders and Elite Four… most of their Pokémon are Gen 1). But it did start moving Pokémon in a positive direction with the introduction of some excellent features.

Gen 2 introduced shiny Pokémon, one of the community’s favorite rarities to hunt for. New type introductions and balancing removed the God-tier status from Psychic Pokémon that nearly ruined Gen 1. Held items such as berries and evolution items have become a staple in gameplay. Day/Night cycles and evolutions based on the time of day have also become integral to the game. Crystal even lets you revisit Kanto to see how the world has changed in the three years since the end of the original games. Gen 2 also introduced my favorite starter, Cyndaquil (if you disagree you are wrong, who cares if the Cyndaquil line has the literal exact same stat spread as the Charmander line).

Pokémon Crystal is a game I still play to this day (my original copy with the original internal battery, no less). It is far from perfect, but its place in Pokémon history is undeniable, and there was never any doubt about it being my favorite Game Boy Color game.

And there we have it! Have you played the above titles? Did you love them or hate them? Let me know your favorites and check back for more of my favorite games!

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