As incredible as it might seem the Nintendo Gameboy is now 25 years old. It was released in Japan on April 21, 1989, in North America in August 1989, and in Europe on September 28, 1990 so technically it's been 24 years for us Brits but let's not get bogged down in semantics...
Gunpei Yokoi, the creator of the Gameboy and its predecessor the Game and Watch LCD games, wanted to create a machine which was simple to use yet economical to produce to maximise profits. As such he created the Gameboy to have just 4 buttons (A, B, Start, Select), a small 2.6 inch screen capable of only showing 4 shades of grey at 160 x 144 pixels resolution, a 4.19 MHz processor, a single speaker (though it played in stereo through headphones) and just 8kb of RAM. With just 4 AA batteries the Gameboy could last anywhere from 10 to 30 hours, the higher estimates are from Nintendo themselves.
The Nintendo Gameboy transcended its limitations to become the second biggest gaming machine of all time, beaten only recently by the Nintendo DS. So how did this simple 8-bit machine defeat the likes of the technically superior Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx to sell in excess of 118 million units worldwide? Simple.... it had an amazing lineup of top-tier software. Whilst not playing all the games out there for the Gameboy I did play a lot and have listed a few of my favourites. See if you can spot yours on the list and tell me your favourite games in the comments section below.
Tetris was a gaming phenomenon, being a pack-in with the system made the Gameboy an essential purchase. It has one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time and the game while simple was deceptively addictive- lulling you into that 'just one more go' trap. A masterpiece of a game!
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK'S AWAKENING
Link's Awakening is a brilliant game. Out went the conventions established in Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past and in came a memorable bittersweet tale of Koholint Island and Links mission to awaken the Wind Fish. This game is a towering achievement that leaves a long lasting impression on players, well certainly with this one at least. Special mention must also be made for the sublime Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.
SUPER MARIO LAND
Super Mario Land on the Gameboy blew my mind the first time I saw it. Whilst visually simple the game nailed it where it counted, in the platforming. The levels were well designed and occassional side-scrolling shooter sections were interesting and added variety to the game. As the game was not made by the regular Mario team it toyed with conventions but like Zelda above, in a good way.
SUPER MARIO LAND 2: 6 GOLDEN COINS
Coming 3 years after the original, Super Mario Land 2 was an impressive visual and audio leap forward. The game allowed players to tackle the 6 worlds in any order before meeting the game's villain, the first appearance of Wario. I enjoyed the game greatly but preferred the platforming skills of the original, however I did enjoy some of the new powerups.
WARIO LAND: SUPER MARIO LAND 3
This was a bit of a left turn from Nintendo but an inspired one. Wario took centre stage and his method of dispatching his enemies was much more aggressive, a shoulder barge, a bottom smash or a variety of powerups. This changed the gameplay significantly and turned a one-off villain into a bona fide star.
This was an early release in the life of the Gameboy and whilst a simple game it was a fun. It had the rules of the game and a wide variety of shots. Mario as an empire is a sweet touch and the fact that you could link up with a friend to play added to the charm.
REVENGE OF THE 'GATOR
This is an excellent pinball game from HAL Laborotories, the creators behind Kirby. It is a quirky game with lots of personality and the physics work well. The fact that it had longevity due to features not available on real pinball table made it a must-have.
METROID II: RETURN OF SAMUS
Metroid II didn't get much love when it first came out but over the years it has been reevaluated and considered an important game. The game is sprawling and difficult but it recreates the mood for which the series is now famous for very well, an impressive feat considering the Gameboys limitations.
As a fan of Head Over Heels this game ticked the right boxes. The sprites are beautiful and the puzzles clever and interesting. This isometric game is a sadly forgotten classic, released prior to the Gameboys resurgence after the Pokemon craze. Pick it up if you can, you won't regret it.
KIRBY'S DREAM LAND 2
Kirby's Dream Land 2 was an improvement over the original in every way. The introduction of woodland animals helping Kirby added much to it's charm. A great game with lots of charm.
Pokemania hit Britain in the later part of the 90's. The game was and still is a phenomenon, just consider the number of people watching the Twitch Plays Pokemon videos (over 58 million at the time of writing). This is an amazing game and has stood the test of time.
DONKEY KONG LAND
This is a bit of a controversial one as this game has many fans but also many dissenters. I loved the game even though the graphics are very hard to see sometimes, the soundtrack is amazing and the platforming tight and fluid.
These are some of my favourite games, are there any games which you like that I have missed? Let me know in the comments below!