Rumor has it that Nintendo is working on a Game Boy Advance emulator for the Nintendo Switch system. This would live alongside the massively popular NES, SNES, and N64 emulators the company already offers as perks for subscribing to the Nintendo Switch Online service.
We already went over which games we’d love to see appear on a hypothetical GBA Emulator on the Switch, so today we’re looking a bit further back in the company’s catalog.
The rumor also holds that Nintendo is working on Original Game Boy and Game Boy Color emulators for the system. These systems aren’t fully distinct from one another, but they’re not exactly the same, either. The GBC was fully compatible with Game Boy games, and some GBC cartridges could play in original Game Boy systems, albeit in the classic greenscale that defined the classic system.
Today, we’re looking at some of the system-defining Game Boy titles we’d love to see Nintendo introduce on the Switch. Some of these are deep cuts from the company’s history, while others are well-known smash hits that have gone on to define their own series. Let’s dive into these classics that deserve to get another day in the sun!
Dragon Warrior III
Don’t let the name fool you: Dragon Warrior III is actually Dragon Quest III, just wearing its original mistranslated name. It’s also one of the most interesting Game Boy Color games, taking up the entirety of its then-rare 32 MB cartridge. The title was also the first Game Boy Color game to receive a “T” rating, owing to the title’s more mature themes.
Many fans consider the GBC version of Dragon Warrior III the best version of the game released at that point, as it included a number of improvements over the Famicom original. For one, it introduced a new playable class, the Thief, alongside a handful of new minigames and features like Monster Medals and brand-new dungeons.
Fans of the Dragon Quest series would love a chance to play this historic and little-known port of the cult classic third entry. A Switch re-release would give newcomers a great chance to experience this classic title.
Super Mario Land
One of the most impressive things about the Game Boy upon its release in 1989 is that it was essentially a Nintendo Entertainment System that could ride in your backpack. Naturally, there had been handheld systems before the Game Boy, but none that could play Mario. And, of course, Nintendo wisely hurried to get Mario on their new system as soon as possible, featuring Super Mario Land on the big gray brick as a launch title.
Super Mario Land might not look as flashy as its NES counterparts, but it’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a Mario platforming title. It’s far and away one of the weirdest entries in the mainline Mario series, though, as it features levels where the title character controls a biplane and a submarine. Its sequel, released in 1992, upped the ante, solidifying just how odd this subseries is when compared to later entries on home consoles.
If Nintendo does decide to bring Game Boy games to the Switch, Mario Land should be among the titles available at launch–after all, it’s the best way to showcase how the system felt to players back in 1989.
When you bought a Game Boy, you could get it with Mario Land, or you could get it with Tetris. You couldn’t go wrong either way, but critics largely agree that Tetris is the game that sold the system. There are plenty of other versions of this classic puzzle game out there, but the Game Boy version is perhaps the most definitive title for many gamers.
Tetris was already popular before the Game Boy. However, the option to take the addictive Russian puzzle title with you on the bus or on a plane was a game-changer for players. Even though the handheld version was presented in monochrome, gamers still preferred it to the NES home console release.
That’s not to say the Game Boy version of the title lacks in terms of production values, though. In fact, many fans have noted that the handheld version has stellar music that underscored just how important those packed-in earbuds were for the new Nintendo handheld!
Pokemon Red and Blue
Pokemon is one of the most dominant media franchises in human history. It’s everywhere, from video games to animated shows to toys. There are just so many Pokemon toys. It all started with a humble and unassuming pair of games on the original Game Boy, though–Pokemon Red and Blue. Of course, these games were updated remakes of the Japan-only Red and Green, but only the most hardcore fans knew that at the time.
The first entries in the franchise are notably darker and stranger than the more kid-friendly games that Nintendo pivoted to in the early 2000s. The titular creatures are more mysterious and dangerous, and battles against the villainous Team Rocket seem to have more narrative stakes than similar conflicts in more recent entries. Fans who haven’t tried these older titles owe it to themselves to try them out, if only out of historical curiosity.
Newcomers to the series might find it a bit tricky to play older entries in the franchise, though. While Red and Blue have been re-released a few times, none of its prior releases are currently available on the Nintendo Switch. If Nintendo does implement a Game Boy emulator, fans will certainly cry foul if the library doesn’t include at least these original Pokemon titles.
Kirby’s Dream Land
Hal Laboratories burst onto the scene in the early 1990s with the excellent Game Boy game Kirby’s Dream Land. Helmed by now-legendary developer Masahiro Sakurai, Kirby’s Dream Land introduced gamers to the titular pink puffball. Kirby’s powers are simple: he can float, he can absorb enemies, and he can spit them out as stars. What the game lacks in depth it more than makes up for in raw charm!
Dream Land presents such a clear gameplay vision for the title character that its sequels have scarcely deviated from its formula, with the notable exception of the second game in the series giving Kirby the ability to copy his foes’ powers. Platforming and battling cutesy enemies is so rewarding and addictive in Dream Land that the title went on to become one of the best-selling games on the Game Boy, and launched the Kirby franchise almost overnight.
Kirby also interestingly has the distinction of being the only first-party Nintendo character to appear first in a Game Boy game and then make an appearance on the NES. In fact, the 1993 NES game Kirby’s Adventure was one of the final games released on the aging console. It was released two years after the North American launch of the SNES. The franchise proved so successful, though, that it would swiftly see a release on the SNES, the 1993 game Kirby’s Dream Course.
The first Metroid title was revolutionary when Nintendo released it on the NES. The game featured free-flowing exploration and a pulse-pounding sci-fi atmosphere that set it apart from its competitors. The game proved popular and quickly became a big priority for Nintendo, and the company set about creating two sequels: Super Metroid and Metroid II. Super Metroid is the one that most players fondly remember as the high water mark of the series, but Metroid II doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
Metroid II hit the Game Boy in 1991, furthering Nintendo’s trend of making sequels to its NES best-sellers on the diminutive system. The sequel also pulled no punches, functioning as a full narrative follow-up to the original title and setting the stage for its follow-up, Super Metroid, which would release the next year.
Metroid II features the same open exploration as its predecessor and features wonderfully atmospheric music, too. Reviewers noted that the storyline was improved over the original, proving that the title was more than a cheap cash-in on a new system.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
There are quite a few games on the original Game Boy that show how Nintendo was eager to get sequels to its major franchises on the handheld and prove that it was a “real” system. Super Mario Land and Metroid II are notable in this regard, but the pattern became very apparent when the company released Link’s Awakening in 1993.
Link’s Awakening introduced many mechanics that would go on to become series staples, including beast companions, the ability to jump, and even the option to steal from the shopkeeper. It also featured a surprisingly deep story and some profoundly weird presentation.
It comes as no surprise that the game’s narrative takes place within a dream–the entire affair feels a bit like an episode of Twin Peaks. The game’s unabashed weirdness and genuinely head-scratching dungeons make it one of the best entries in the Zelda series, and it would be a perfect fit for the Switch’s Game Boy library.