What a journey: Firebrand, the gargoyle of Gargoyle’s Quest, goes from being a stock villain in Ghosts ‘n Goblins to being the hero of his very own adventure game, on a mission to stop an even badder bad guy, a demon called King Breager and his army of Destroyers. Gargoyle’s Quest follows in the same vein as Ghosts ‘n Goblins, featuring difficult side-scroller gameplay. As the game progresses, Firebrand becomes more powerful, gaining new abilities and new types of projectiles to shoot at enemies, making it the kind of game that rewards you for putting up with its difficulty.
Harvest Moon GB
Harvest Moon let indoor kids sit back and plant crops, raise livestock and chop wood for fun. Though farming doesn’t quite sound like the basis of a thrilling game, this simulator somehow worked. In case farm chores didn’t hold players’ attentions, ghosts of deceased relatives and harvest sprites were thrown in for good measure. This Game Boy release was followed mere months by the Game Boy Color version.
Kid Dracula is both a parody and spin-off of the much more serious-minded Castlevania series. While Castlevania is gothic and ominous, Kid Dracula is cartoonish and bouncey, a lively take on the franchise’s vampire mythology. You play Kid Dracula, the pint-sized bloodsucker, who has to stop the villainous Garamoth. That name will sound familiar to Castlevania devotees: Garamoth, renamed Galamoth, appears as a boss in Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night for PlayStation, albeit a lot meaner-looking. With breezy mechanics and an emphasis on exploration, Kid Dracula was a fun and inspired homage to both Castlevania and the platform genre as a whole.
Kid Icarus: Of Myths And Monsters
The handheld sequel to the NES original, Kid Icarus: Of Myths And Monsters is just as good. Pit is back, armed with his trademark bow and unlimited supply of arrows, defending Angel Land from the evil Orcos and his army of demons. Like the original, it was a tough platformer, with fluid graphics and interesting enemy designs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a huge hit, and Nintendo wouldn’t pick up the Kid Icarus series again until 2012, with Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS.
Kirby’s Dream Land
The developers at HAL Laboratory grew to like the dummy character they’d drawn so much that when it came time to replace it with a more advanced image, they decided to stick with the stand-in. That dummy character, Kirby, is now one of the most iconic video game characters, a part of the Nintendo canon. Compared to the frenetic, intense platform titles of the period, Kirby’s Dream Land is, appropriately, relaxing and dream-like. Alas, as fun and fluffy the game was, the cartridge had no save files, which meant that players had to beat the game in one sitting. Not an enormously difficult task, to be sure, but still–c’mon, guys, save files! Those are important.
Kirby’s Dream Land 2
As is the case with most sequels, Kirby’s Dream Land 2 takes the formula of the original and adds more, more, more, featuring more worlds and more enemies. The developers also gave Kirby the ability to “borrow” the powers of the enemies he swallows, a skill that was introduced in Kirby’s Adventure for the NES. In his quest to save his beloved Dream Land, Kirby’s accompanied by his animal buddies–an owl, a hamster and a sunfish–each with their own abilities. And this time around, they didn’t forget about the save files.
This brain-teaser was huge in Japan and nowhere else, turning it into a bit of a cult classic in Europe and the United States. The game featured 256 Mario-branded logic puzzles in which players are guided by vertical and horizontal sets of numbers to mark boxes in a grid, which together form an image. This nifty puzzle game was perfect for folks who preferred Sudoku to Street Fighter.
Mega Man 5
The maniacal Dr. Wily is at it again! In the year “20XX AD,” Mega Man, with a powered-up Mega Arm and a robot sidekick, must confront eight powerful robots called Stardroids, which he discovers are all part of Dr. Wily’s latest plot to take over the world. Unlike previous Mega Man releases for the Game Boy, which were just portable rehashes of home-console titles, Mega Man 5 featured all-new bad guys (the Stardroids) and storyline, welcome changes to a series that was starting to show its age.
Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge was the first handheld title in the Mega Man series. As great a milestone as that is, it came with a cost: instead of the typical eight levels, this portable iteration had only four, making it a relatively brisk endeavor. Well, maybe not so brisk, considering it retained the high difficulty that the Mega Man franchise is notorious for. Even though it wasn’t exactly innovative, Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge ought to be appreciated as a game that paved the way for bigger and better things.
Metroid 2: Return Of Samus
Metroid 2: Return Of Samus dramatically polarized fans and critics. Some praised its level design, replay value and final scene (more on that in a second), and others criticized it for bland and fuzzy graphics and unimpressive audio. Even its sharpest critics, however, give credit where credit is due. Metroid 2 sets up the rest of the series perfectly with its last scene, in which Samus is unable to bring herself to exterminate a baby Metroid, the last of its kind. This was heady stuff for a Game Boy title.