The Top 129 Game Boy Games Ever According to SnS - Part 5
by Sliders n' Socks




#10 - The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Chosen by: Miller, Pauncho Smith, Carmichael Micaalus, Zeloz, Remnant, Voodoo Groove

Pauncho Smith - The Use Your Illusion I of the Game Boy Color, Oracle of Seasons provided the familiar Zelda gameplay in a solid package, wrapped by the loving hands of Capcom. Most of the gameplay elements are consistent with the series to this point, swordplay, exploring, puzzle solving, ect. You have your choice of giant animal companion, can scour the map for stat boosting rings, and can gain access to passwords which links up with Oracle of Ages for new items, plot elements, and the true ending to this two-game saga.

I tend to slightly prefer this entry over Ages (but you really can't go wrong with either and both are essential titles). I quite enjoyed the ability to change seasons on the fly (hence the title of the game), and found it a bit easier to navigate the world of Holodrum this way than I did working my way through Labrynna via time travel. The plot here is a bit more skeletal compared to Ages (red girl goddess Din gets captured, go save that classy dame), and Onox himself is a bit one-dimensional as an antagonist, but hot damn is his final form killer. The Subrosians are a quirky underground-dwelling race and they're a hoot to interact with.

Carmichael Micaalus - I can't really pinpoint why I liked this game so much; it was really fun, the artwork was gorgeous, and I felt it was an overall solid game. I never was able to do the game carryover into Time and back to Seasons for the Super Real Final Boss No Really, or however it worked, but yeah. Damn fine game.

Zeloz - This was the first Zelda game I had the pleasure of buying and owning, and as the more action-themed entry of the Oracle games, I'd say it was a fitting introduction. Finding out that the bosses in this game were actually throw-backs to those in the original NES Zelda kind of blew my mind when I started playing the older game. This game somehow took me about five years to complete (I think I got hung up on the lost woods segment or something), but I felt so accomplished beating it.

Also, that Moblin Boss getting back at you for setting off his bombs scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. I deserved it, sure, but it's nice how the game'll let you pull off cruel pranks like that, then turn around and punish you severely for it.

Remnant - Oracle of Ages had a stronger plot, a better villain, and more emphasis on challenging puzzles. For these reasons, most fans put it up as the stronger of the two, but I have to take exception to that. Ages' signature gameplay mechanic of going back and forth between the past and present was fun and had more story potential, but gameplay-wise it was little more than a retread of A Link to the Past's Light/Dark World mechanic.

Season's signature mechanic of altering the weather effectively meant that every screen had four different layouts and art designs. Add to that memorable items like the magnetic gloves and the Roc's Cape (an upgraded version of the Roc's Feather, widely considered the best and most influential item in the Game Boy Zelda inventory), as well as the alternate map of Subrosia (the magma-filled underworld inhabited by charming little hooded folk). Don't get me wrong; Ages is a great game and the system of password-connecting the games to see how the stories blend and conclude is excellent. However, when compared side-by-side, I feel that Oracle of Seasons had spades more charm, variety, and fun than its counterpart, more than compensating for its easier puzzles, one-dimensional villain, and no-surprises plot.

Voodoo Groove - I'm kind of a plebian who never played many of the original top-down style Zelda games, so my first experience with them was playing through Oracle of Seasons with my friend who owned Ages, and as such this is the Zelda game that makes the list by default. I always liked the mechanic of changing the environment by manipulating the seasons as opposed to time travel, and I think it had some cool items like the cape. Never did get around to playing through Ages with my file from Seasons...




#9 - Metroid II: Return of Samus
Chosen by: computercat, Vanor Orion, Crono Maniac, Master of AFTER, Rhete, Zeloz, Remnant, Irish

Vanor Orion - In hindsight, if we only count the 2D games, this is my favorite Metroid by far and away. So much so I wrote a review about it on here. Despite being somewhat more linear (due to tech constraints), the game more than makes up for this by being both more ambitious yet even more grandiose in terms of exploration of the game's world. There were hidden rooms, tunnels, and secrets ALL OVER SR388. There was a lot you could miss, and still no maps to reference so it was still possible to get mixed up and lost at times. The game was also very interesting in that the Metroids are now the actual focus of the game instead of being only at the end of the game. And this time they mutate and become more powerful. The game was scary as hell to play back in the day and I remember how tense and nervous I'd be when I knew I was about to come against a more powerful version of a Metroid. Balancing that out you had an awesome new arsenal of gadgets and weapons that made their debut with this game. The Spider Ball, Space Jump, Spazer and Plasma Beam all made their debut here. The music was sparse but well utilized to reinforce the alien and desolate nature of the game's world. The sheer level of ambition this game had for being a Game Boy at the time is still astonishing to me, even to this day.

Crono Maniac - The world of Metroid 2 is alien and tremendous, and it's one of the few games I've played that doesn't feel like it was actually designed. It's too freeform and haphazard, even repetitive at times. It feels like an actual place with cracks and imperfections and all sorts of weird eccentricities, and the player's connection with it is strangely intimate thanks to exploratory powerups like the Spider-Ball and the Space Jump. The core conceit of hunting down Metroids is brilliant, and their evolutions give the game a strong sense of pace and tension. It's a game about descent, and the knowledge that every step downwards leads to greater horrors. The climax is perfect. The long space jump ascent, the freshly hatched Metroids, the short room before the Metroid Queen with its own unique theme that occurs nowhere else in the game, the Queen herself and her ingenious hidden solution, and then the slow climb out of the planet, infant Metroid in tow. It's surprising, challenging (depending on your level of lateral thinking), and even a little moving. More than anything else, Metroid 2 is an actual story, with rises and falls and peaks and valleys and all the stuff that makes narrative work. It's about exploration, dread, terror, and sublime catharsis. I'm not sure if it's the best Metroid game, but it's the closest the series has come to perfect.

Master of AFTER - People who have never played Metroid II are probably wondering why everyone keeps lauding the game's atmosphere like it's the fucking Game Boy equivalent of Silent Hill 2. To really understand what the big deal is - or, more accurately, what the big deal was - you have to remember what the gaming landscape looked like back in 1991. This was the era when the cartoony platformer was the dominant genre on every available system, and most console developers subscribed to the philosophy that making a better-looking game meant creating graphics that were brighter and more obnoxiously colorful than what the competition was putting out. The word "atmosphere" was not yet a part of the video game industry's vocabulary. And if it was, it sure as hell wasn't something you expected to find on a handheld system that was known for Tetris and that one Mario game where you fought an Easter Island head.

With this in mind, imagine popping the Metroid II cartridge into your GB with the expectation of another thrilling outer space run-n'-shoot adventure starring Flash Gordon's girlfriend. What you got instead was a lone intergalactic bounty hunter descending into the bowels of an inhospitable alien world with the goal of single-handedly eradicating one of the most dangerous species of natural predator in the known universe. It sounds exciting - and it was. The tone of the game, however, was less Starship Troopers and more Aliens. This game wasn't about conquering an evil empire of Star Wars background characters; it was about being a hunter making your way through the pitch darkness, carefully seeking out each hideously mutated creature and hoping you'd rationed your supplies well enough that you could destroy it before it destroyed you.

The gloomy environments and unearthly soundtrack excelled at instilling the player with a feeling of isolation and loneliness. The deeper you descended into the planet of SR388, the more it felt as if the subterranean labyrinth of caves and corridors was closing in behind you. With no map on which to leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs to find your way out again, there reached a point in the game where you began to dread the thought of a return journey to the planet surface almost as much as you dreaded the thought of progressing deeper into its core.

Metroid II did a lot of things right besides the atmosphere, but it will always be that potent cocktail of excitement and anxiety I felt playing the game for the first time that sticks with me more than anything else.

Rhete - While I dabbled in the original Metroid game as a kid, it was too big and scary for me to be able to figure out. Metroid II, due to it's slightly more linear and compartmentalized design, was much easier to get into. I really loved the designs of the evolved Metroids as well, and used them in some elementary school project. I wasn't ever able to beat Metroid II though, due to the damn Queen Metroid taking 100 missiles to kill. It wasn't until roughly 15 years later that Polly mentioned that you can bomb her in the belly. I ran and got my Game Boy, save file still intact, and finally defeated that bitch.

Zeloz - The original Metroid was a pretty massive game when it came out for the NES, perhaps only rivaled by The Legend of Zelda in terms of world depth. So when the sequel came out for the tiny Game Boy, back when it was still quite new, I'm sure people were either ecstatic or skeptical with the idea. And both groups had every right to feel the way they did, as the game added and subtracted a bit from what the original established to fit the hardware better. SR388's architecture wasn't as nebulous as Zebes, and your progress always took a downwards path. But it was a literal descent into Hell itself, spelunking into monochromatic depths occupied by either aliens that look just a little off, ancient machinery, or the dreaded Metroids you've come down to hunt. The music starts off gung-ho and bombastic, but as you go deeper, the music gradually shifts to various forms of alien ambience, adding to the extraterrestrial atmosphere that pervades the game. There are more power-ups this time around, and Samus can now aim up and down when shooting, but the continuous feeling of dread in this bizarre landscape still makes you feel just as powerless as you've ever been in a Metroid game. Fusion and Zero Mission may be more accessible, and Super may be the best overall, but I feel that this game has the best sense of atmosphere of the entire 2D series. And, considering this was an early-ish Game Boy title, that's quite a feat.

Remnant - Not my most favored Metroid game, but the fact that Nintendo managed to pack so much atmosphere into this package was mind-blowing. The music and environment design drip with a sense of alienation, uncertainty, and dread. The "a Metroid is attacking you" music still chills my bones a bit just thinking about it.

Irish - The game boy is a textbook example of how to make a success in the gaming industry. It was the least powerful system available in its time, yet Nintendo supported the system with exclusive sequels to some of its most respected NES title, then dared to make those sequels as good or even better. Metroid II has a more structured world, better power ups, and a more interesting game experience. Seeing the metroids evolve and become ever the more dangerous as you proceed through the world kinda justified Samus's mission of genocide. I do wish the final boss had been more of a challenge, but it was still a great package.




#8 - Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal Versions
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Pixel Crusher, Crono Maniac, Carmichael Micaalus, Zeloz, Remnant,
Voodoo Groove

FreezingInferno - Pokemon was INCREDIBLE in the late 90's. I was far too old for it when it came out, but I didn't care. The dinky Game Boy versions haven't aged that well, however. That's why Game Freak made remakes of them; so you could play the things again. So it's mostly nostalgia fueling this, but Pokemon Gold was something I was super hyped about. 100 new Pokemon? Dark and Steel type? A whole new world to explore? THE OLD POKEMON WORLD TO EXPLORE AS WELL? I CAN FIGHT ASH AT THE END? Okay so it's "Pokemon Trainer Red" but goddamn he leads with a Pikachu YOU TRY TO TELL ME IT'S NOT HIM. In 2000 it was everything I wanted from a Pokemon sequel, and it only further fueled my love of the series.

Pixel Crusher - If R/B/Y were the beginning of something amazing for its time, this version would be the true greatest Pokemon ever made and the one were the series should have honestly just stayed put. The most immersive and engaging portable experience that ever graced my life and one of the few that I keep coming back for old times sake. The best part though was being able to visit the region where first game took place and see how much it had changed. I honestly wish Nintendo could do that again in their next Pokemon game... by adding every previous region!

Crono Maniac - There's a lot that could be written about this game, but I just want to point out one particularly cool moment. So, after triumphing over sixteen Gym Leaders (including Blue from the first game), the Elite Four, and your own rival, you are lead to Mt. Silver for the final battle. However, instead of fighting against your rival or a champion like in the other games, this game has you battling Red -- your own avatar from the first Pokemon game. You walk up, see that familiar sprite, and try to talk to him. As in the previous game, he's silent. The fight begins. You battle him, listen to some amazing, thematic music and hopefully win. Then it cuts back to the map, and with a flash of light, Red disappears. Then the games ends. Just like that. This is the closest the Pokemon series ever got to the weird, avant-garde profundity of a Mother game. At the very least, it's a hell of an end to a really good video game.

Carmichael Micaalus - They took something good and continued to make it better. Being able to revisit the entire area of the first game was aces, too.

Zeloz - I may have spent more time with Red, but this game gave me literal fever dreams at one point. My older brother and I used to play a lot of this many years ago, and on a summer I fell really ill, I'd have hallucinations of one of the the trainer battle themes blaring from my brother's side of the room, when he was clearly playing on the PlayStation or something else. I dunno, maybe he really was playing the game, and just screwing with me when he told me he wasn't. But that's a memory I will not soon forget.

Blurry nostalgia aside, the second generation of Pokemon fixed a lot of the balance issues of the first and added a lot of cool stuff to make this game an almost completely new experience from its predecessor. You now had to take into consideration what time of day it was to get the most out of the Pokemon collecting, and you could record the phone numbers of various trainers to rematch them later so that by the endgame, the Elite Four won't be the only Pokemon trainers in the world willing to fight you. There was also those nifty events happening on certain days of the week, the introduction of Pokemon breeding, the first Shiny Pokemon, and so many other things that have since become staples in the Pokemon canon (though some of these were mysteriously missing in the GBA generation). Add in the fact that you could revisit Kanto, albeit a rather downsized version (though the excellent DS remake fixed this), and this was undeniably the best Pokemon experience for the Game Boy. Heck, you could argue it was the definitive RPG experience for the Game Boy, depending on your feelings toward Pokemon.

Remnant - The Gold/Silver generation was an interesting one, and the last one that I actively participated in. This game fixed A LOT that was amiss with the original setup. The sub-plots involving the resurrection of Team Rocket and Dragonmaster Lance's Pokemon-based vigilantism injected some interesting twists into the "Collect 8 badges and become the world's premier trainer" formula. Also, the design for the new creatures started to become a little more colorful and creative without going full-tilt gonzo like some of the later ones (an ice cream cone Pokemon...really?). My feelings on these games are mixed, but this may very well have been Pokemon at its best: plenty of fun, variety, weirdness (without things being too weird), and though the challenge had been ramped up from the original 151, it was still conceivable to "Catch 'em all!"

Voodoo Groove - Man, people who say they only care about the first 151 pokemon are missing out. These games patched up some of the weird balance issues of the first generation (Dark and Steel types are awesome, Bugs and Ghosts get more pokemon/moves), and the sprites looked wayyyyy better. I really dig most of the pokemon too. I love the pastoral Japanese aesthetic of the new Johto region, and how it connects with the old Kanto region from RBY to make this giant area that feels like an actual country to explore. And I mean crap, after you beat the elite 4 and you realize you're only HALFWAY through the game? And you get to go back and fight all the original gym leaders? And some pokemon evolve by loving you enough? This game felt huge to me as a kid, and I think it still holds up.




#7 - Mother 3
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Pixel Crusher, Miller, Crono Maniac, Rhete, Zeloz, Mash

FreezingInferno - Well, shit. I don't know what to say here. Mother 3, man. The game that introduced me to the concept of Let's Play. I would not be making this list for you if it weren't for this game. More than that, it's... I'm just going to say it. A work of art. It will bubble forth every range of emotion. You'll laugh at it. You'll weep like a baby at the thing. Most importantly, you'll have an experience that you'll never forget. Christ, this game is just beautiful. An absolute masterpiece. Play it. Please. My words do not do it the service it deserves. It must be experienced and not spoken about.

Pixel Crusher - Heartwarming, depressing, cheerful and humorous, Mother 3 was simply one of those games that showered me with emotions like no game ever did and it disappoints me that Nintendo was clueless as to not bring this masterpiece of a game over to the West. All that matters now is that we finally got to play it thanks to some awesome ROM hackers and translators.

Miller - I'm still waiting for Pat to finish that write-up so he can put words to how I feel about this game (I'm lazy). I can't really sum it up in just a few sentences. To me it's a study of society - how we as humans act when presented with new challenges and discoveries. It's filled with so much humour and so much sadness, but you're not only looking at the big picture, you also pay attention to the small yet ever so important details - Dusty's limp, the items in the Magypsie's houses and so on. Great gameplay, amazing graphics and an extraordinary soundtrack - everything blends together so well that it might just be the best game ever (well, top 5 at least).

Crono Maniac - One of the moments in Mother 3 that I remember most vividly came right at the very end, after the credits. It was when the revitalized title logo appeared, free from metallic corruption. It seemed to contextualize the whole experience of the game for me. What makes Mother so tremendous and moving is that it's one person's singular vision of the human experience, core truths from the center of their being. Sharing those kinds of truths is the very purpose of art.

Rhete - I've never played Earthbound, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this game. What I got was a really charming RPG with great characters, surprisingly tactical boss-fights, and one of the most tear-jerking story ever in a video game. Definitely one of the best RPGs I've ever played.

Zeloz - The Mother games have a tendency for being surprisingly profound emotionally even amongst the usual Itoi zaniness, but Mother 3's spares no time in showing the player this within the conclusion of it's first chapter. I honestly don't care if the game past this turns out to be utter crap, it's at least earned this spot. Oh, and a battle system that REWARDS (rhythmic) button-mashing? Pretty nifty.

Mash - My only real gripe with Mother 3 is that it's gameplay still draws a bit too much influence from Dragon Quest for my liking. Especially with a few "You must have reached XX level to play past this point" bosses late in the game. Granted XX is never really that high a level, but that kind of arbitrary bullshit still kind of pisses me off just on principle. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

That aside, this is still a very fun RPG with one of the most poignant stories of any video game I've ever played. I can't really go into detail without spoiling it, and if you've already played it you don't need me to. If you haven't then, seriously, go play it.




#6 - Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Pixel Crusher, Vanor Orion, Pauncho Smith, Crono Maniac, Master of AFTER, Rhete, Remnant

FreezingInferno - The original Mario Land came out during the era of Solar Striker and Tetris. It was okay. Then this game drops in 1992, and good lord. It takes a lot of cues from Super Mario World, but it still keeps the "weirdness" that Super Mario Land added. I guess because they were portable they didn't care if things made sense. So now you jump around in a giant Mario robot thing, and go to space, and fight Japanese ghosts in a Mighty Max pumpkin. Then you fight Wario at the end! It's a great entry in the Mario series and one of my personal favorites. Here's a fun tidbit for you; it was the last original 2D Mario game until... New Super Mario Brothers. In 2006. Wow.

Pixel Crusher - Say all you want and kill me while you're at it, but to me, this here is the best Super Mario game I have ever played and its WAY better than any other Super Mario game in existence. The summers I spent attached to my cousins' Game Boy playing this are a true testament to its greatness and its groundbreaking level design and soundtrack are the only proof you need. This game is the reason that words such as nostalgia, classic and quality were created.

Vanor Orion - I love platformers. I grew up with them. As far as the Game Boy goes, this was pretty much a handheld Super Mario World with its own identity, which was excellent. Instead of rehashing/porting from the console, the Land games did a good job of carving out their own bit of the Super Mario mythos while still remaining true to what Mario was about. You had a totally different world with different themes, multiple exits, unique power ups with the Bunny Ears, bonus levels with that mechanical arm game, and the worlds and music themselves were pretty memorable and interesting (with the Halloween themed world and the low-gravity world). Something that this game had back then that the current 2D Mario games have today is ambition and a drive to push the hardware they were on to their limits. While you don't see that today, looking back it's very impressive to see the quantum leap in quality and graphics from the original Super Mario Land to the second game. And as far as Mario platformers go, it's pretty damn fun.

Pauncho Smith - Here we are. The big one. I have probably played and beaten this game more times than any other. I've had periods where I would play through this on a weekly basis (usually during my brother Dan's little league games, as baseball was and still is kind of a chore to watch). I have done runs of this game where I've tried to kill every enemy with the fireballs (at least the ones that could actually be burninated). I have played this on plane rides to Florida, Amtrak trips to New York, and in all sorts of other commercial vehicles. I've gotten more mileage out of this game than either any other Game Boy title I've played, or any other Christmas gift I received as a child.

What makes this game great? Mario runs and jumps as well as he ever has and the tunes are incredibly catchy. The fire flower makes its return, and the brand new carrot power-up lets you use your rabbit ears to fly and glide (well, I guess it makes about as much sense as a raccoon being able to achieve flight). The zones where the game takes place are amazing. Tree Zone is pretty mundane as far as stages go, but Macro Zone turns you tiny and forces you to battle bugs and rodents, Pumpkin Zone is appropriately festooned with ghosts and goblins, and Turtle Zone sees you explore a sunken submarine AND the insides of a live whale (a far cry from Super Mario Bros. 2 where you merely ran across their backs). Things take a trip for the weird in Mario Zone, as you make your way through a giant robot Mario, and I have to admit I get a little concerned when a guy, who already owns his own castle, needs a GIANT ROBOT VERSION OF HIMSELF in plain view too. Also, the level you play when you get to Robo Mario's crotch......it's full of BALLS.

Space Zone is my favorite zone, and perhaps the most challenging zone, as you're force to complete an auto-scrolling section with hundreds of angry stars forming massive barriers that you have to navigate through in zero-gravity AND you have to win a rematch with Tatanga (the main villain from the first Super Mario Land) in order to make it to the final area, Wario's Castle (actually Mario's castle, but read the booklet if you're that starved for plot). Wario makes his debut, and he puts up a hell of a fight, first through some fiendishly tricky platforming as you make your way through the castle, and then through his three forms during the final battle. Once you've thrown Wario's ass out, you get your castle back (I never quite got how he went from owning a castle here, to living in a shack in Super Mario RPG, then a cottage with Luigi. Maybe the one thing he's not "super" with is managing his finances), thus ending not only a phenomenal game, but as far as I'm concerned, the absolute best title the Game Boy has to offer.

Crono Maniac - I actually think the first Mario Land is a little underrated. The physics feel like they came out of a graphing calculator game, but the actual level design is kind of amazing. But it's impossible to deny that the sequel is a far grander endeavor, with revamped movement and vastly more varied stages.

Despite seeing more diversity in gameplay styles than just about any franchise in existence, the Mario games tend to be extremely repetitive where aesthetic elements are concerned. The dizzying amount of characters, enemies, items, backdrops, and other content that gets recycled time and again has established a very distinct vibe that presents itself in almost every title featuring the name of Nintendo's mascot. Different shape, different package, same ingredients. What the Mario Land games bring to the table is a very obvious (and quite welcomed) departure from the conventional brand-name feel the franchise has become mired in over the course of its hundred-plus installments. Mario Land 2 was a particularly bizarre experience that saw the titular plumber traversing environments and battling baddies that were completely unlike anything the franchise has seen before or since. If nothing else, the game's dark fairy tale world presented a kind of freshness we'll most likely never see in a Miyamoto-produced Mario title.

Even with the game's numerous little imperfections in mind, Mario Land 2 was such an unforgettably unique experience that it makes me excited to imagine what new directions the franchise might be free to take once ol' Shiggy finally retires.

Rhete - Just on a technical level, it's really damn impressive that managed to squeeze the visual design of Super Mario World onto the Game Boy. Even though it's a short game, Mario Land 2 is still fun to play through and holds up great, but man fuck that last level for being hard as hell!

Remnant - Super Mario Bros 3 : NES : : Super Mario Land 2 : Game Boy. Enough said.




#5 - Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, computercat, Miller, Pauncho Smith, Master of AFTER, Zeloz, TJF588, Mash, Irish

Pixel Crusher - Konami made a lot of successors to Symphony of the Night, but Aria of Sorrow is probably the only one who manages to get as close as possible to Symphony's greatness. I still can't get the Chaotic Realm out of my head...

computercat - Best one I played on the GBA, I put it next to SOTN with all the stuff you could collect in it.

Miller - I'm not a very big Castleroid/Metroidvania-fan but this is one of the better ones that I've played. If anything, this style of Castlevania works best in portable format and with all the souls to collect you end up spending more time with this game than it's probably worth.

Pauncho Smith - If Symphony of the Night invented the game genre that has since been dubbed "Metroidvania", then the argument could be made that Aria of Sorrow perfected it. The Belmonts took a backseat in this adventure, instead of a whip-cracking muscle man from Central Europe, the lead this time around went to Soma Cruz, whose name and origin are quite frankly a bit confounding to me. Soma is chic, thin-as-a-rail Japanese teenager (or at the very least a transfer student and product of that school system) with a Hispanic surname and a first name that makes me wonder what type of medications his mother and father were on when they gave it to him.

And with that utter nonsense out of the way, this is an incredible game, and a much needed jolt to the series after the mediocre Harmony of Dissonance. Aria stays true to Castlevania's brooding, gothic feel with superb art design and music. Movement is crisp and fluid, and you feel completely in control of Soma at all times. Combat is pure bliss as you have a bonanza of weapons, armor and items at your disposal to take on the castle's undead hordes (each of whom have their own unique death animation, which is something I always thought was cool), and you will want to mix it up with these beasts at every chance, because that's where Aria's big twist on the series comes into play in the form of soul collecting.

This isn't some mere fetch quest, this mechanic is Aria's bread and butter. By defeating the enemies you come across, you absorb their souls (in the form of colorful little orbs, of course) and then have access to their attacks, abilities, stat boosts and other quirks that come with equipping a specific soul. Options for customization are nearly endless, and that's what I feel Aria's true strength is. There are so many ways to play through the game when you have all these different configurations and combinations of souls and weapons to chose from. Maybe one one playthrough you'll opt for long-ranged projectile attacks, and in another you might want to rely on your familiars and stat boosting souls a bit more. Top this all off with a solid supporting cast (Oh Yoko!) and an engaging plot, and you have what I consider to be the crown jewel of the Game Boy Advance.

Master of AFTER - After a grueling six-year wait, Konami finally answered the prayers of Castlevania fans everywhere by delivering a proper successor to the series' magnum opus, Symphony of the Night. It didn't matter that the game was released on a handheld console or that it followed two titles that had already successfully replicated the Metroidvania formula; Aria of Sorrow was instantly received by the gaming public as the shining prince that would sit beside the throne of King Symphony and continue the lineage of Castlevania royalty into the new millennium.

Of course, creative works should be judged by their own merits, free from any expectations of their ancestry. Thankfully, regardless of how it compared to any other Castlevania, AOS was a damn fine game. The castle was thrilling to explore, the difficulty was balanced almost perfectly, the soundtrack was among the best of any GBA title, and the plot was dripping with juicy fanservice that long-time fans lapped up like newborn piglets suckling on their mother's teats. To top it all off, you got to hack and slash (and shoot!) your way through Drac's digs as Soma Cruz, also known as One of Konami's Best Character Designs Ever.

"Hey, you know how everybody really loved playing as the son of Dracula in 'Symphony'? What if, for this new game, we let people play AS Dracula? Like, reincarnated. Maybe as a pretty-boy teenager with a hot girlfriend and the ability to wield the powers of the monsters he defeats."

"Could work... I don't know. Feels like it's missing something."

"What if we gave him a totally bitchin' pimp coat?"

"Fffffffucking YES."

Zeloz - While I still have trouble figuring out how exactly one seals a Romanian castle into The Moon of all places, this is still a very solid Metroidvania title. Even disregarding the collectable monster souls system (which lends itself to it's own brand of fun), the game kept a lot of what made Symphony of the Night and... well, Metroid so compelling, namely the exploration aspects coupled with a solid combat system and some interesting bosses.

Mash - It pains me a little to rank this higher than CotM since that game's kind of underrated, but if I'm being honest I must admit that this is the better game. Takes the things that made Symphony great and almost perfects it by fixing it's big flaws (namely the lack of challenge and half the game just being the other half flipped upside down). Symphony does look prettier and has a better soundtrack, though that's mostly due to the limitations of the GBA. Well, the visual part anyway (CHIPTUNES4LIFE).

Irish - Easily my favorite Castlevania on the GBA, Aria of sorrow had a good story and a great pokemon derived gimmick of collecting the souls from your defeated enemies and using them for weapons and abilities.




#4 - Metroid Zero Mission
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, computercat, Miller, Crono Maniac, Rhete, Carmichael Micaalus, Zeloz, Remnant, TJF588

Pixel Crusher - A remake that did more than justice to the first Metroid game. It lacks some of the things that made Super and Fusion so eerie, but at least I could finally play Samus' first adventure in an appropriate fashion.

Miller - I'm a real sucker for this game, especially Hard Mode. I'm a huge fan of the original and yes, it is annoying to be told where to go at all times, but everything else just blends together so well - graphics, sound, controls, all the new areas plus all of those tricky shinespark jumps that made me sink more hours into this game than expected, and it was totally worth it.

Crono Maniac - This is the Metroid I dug the most into on a mechanical level. I went the whole nine yards, with hundred percent runs, low percent runs, speedruns, the works. Like Fusion, the controls are weightier than previous 2D Metroids, and unlike Fusion the wall-jump and bomb-jump are at full strength and easier to use than ever. The boss fights are more interesting and less berserker-y then older Metroid games too. The sad thing is that all of this mechanical refinement came at the expense of atmosphere and world-building, which is barely present. I also don't like that you can't access a quarter or so of the powerups until the very end of the game, forcing you to double back right before the climax if you want to get 100% (note: you could collect almost all of the powerups in Super Metroid while staying on the "core path"). Still, this is far-and-away the most "fun" Metroid game, and I'm only criticizing it harshly because I've played it to death.

Rhete - A remake of the original Metroid that goes for a very snappy, arcade action feel. Although the "sequence breaking" is all there by design, it's still fun to play through the game multiple times taking different routes and going for different endings.

Carmichael Micaalus - As far as I'm concerned, this game made Metroid 1 playable. Then it added a whole heap of neat shit on top of it, like additional cutscenes, bosses and minibosses, content after the original ending, and other stuff. It was a really solid game.

Zeloz - No disrespect to the NES Metroid, but I couldn't get into it past the Kraid fight. I dunno, I guess I'm just some snot-nosed kid who's suckled from the tit of Auto-Map for much of his life, but whatevs. This was the first Metroid I managed to play through without stopping midway, and I dug it for how it took refinements from the other 2D games to make the first one a more streamlined experience. It lost a bit of its creepiness in the process, but I find it to be much more playable. Of course, there's also the original Metroid included if you prefer that. So, I mean, everyone wins with this game!

Remnant - Classic NES Metroid had two major issues for me: a lack of any in-game map and too many useless hallways that led nowhere. The game was nigh-unbeatable without hand-drawn maps or a map in a strategy guide.

This game fixed the first problem with the map system that has become series-standard since Super Metroid. It also fixed the second problem, but I feel it overcompensated a bit and took a page out of the Metroid Fusion playbook, coming just short of full-on railroading the player from upgrade-to-upgrade.

Though I would have liked it a lot more if the game had been made to feel more like the original Metroid and less like Metroid Fusion, this game is still a blast to play, the unlockable Hard Mode gives it a kick-in-the-pants challenge that the standard experience was missing, and I'd sooner replay this than replay the original any day of the week.

TJF588 - Fusion has much to be lauded for (some which Other M sorely soured, in retrospect), but it was Zero Mission which has proved accessible to me, being still the only of the series I've beaten. The original Metroid's scneraio, but streamlined. Has Sames ever been this mobile? Game plays quick, even without speed boosting -- which even that is upped by built-in morph ball usability! Lush, sleek, faux comic book visuals, great mixes of the soundtrack, and even an extended sequence (the cutscenes must live for that Zero Suit booty). Zero Mission was the right kinda Metroid for me. Now, about beating Yakuza in Fusion...




#3 - Metroid Fusion
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, Pixel Crusher, computercat, Miller, Crono Maniac, Master of AFTER, Rhete, Carmichael Micaalus, Remnant, Irish

FreezingInferno - God. Picking between the Metroid games on Game Boy is like choosing a favorite child. A decision had to be made. It's gotta be Metroid Fusion. Yeah, maybe it's "linear" but that don't mean a goddamn thing. It's less linear than this game's supposed prequel, Other M... and I'm just going to stop right there regarding that game. Why Fusion? Well, I still like NES Metroid so Zero Mission doesn't "do it" for me. Metroid II has great atmosphere and is spooky, but Fusion manages to do it just as well while being a bit better. That SA-X, man. It borders on survival horror when you're trying to stay out of sight from this evil you that can kill you in all of three shots. So much more effective of an "evil you" than Dark Samus from the Prime games. Sorry, Retro. God, Fusion is so good though. Give us Metroid V already. And don't make it like... that game.

Pixel Crusher - While it certainly wasn't nowhere as good as Super Metroid, it was close to it. It was filled with those tense and scary moments and that superb atmosphere that made me fall in love with the series since Super Metroid. I was always crying inside in fear everytime SA-X chased after me.

computercat - Despite being linear and being told where to go, it did tell a decent story, had challenge, and had a great atmosphere to it.

Miller - When I played it the first time I didn't like how linear it was, which is a feeling that still lingers to this day. What do I like about it? Basically everything else (and these days I even like the linearity).

Crono Maniac - What a neat direction to take the series -- rather than focusing on exploration and power-up collection like every other Metroid-like, Fusion abandons it almost entirely and doubles down on tense atmosphere and robust challenge. The SA-X encounters are legitimately brilliant and the coolest part of the whole game, and the story is genuinely engaging, even if it relies more on text boxes and cutscenes than its predecessors. I also love how far it goes to avoid video gamey abstractions, giving logical in-game explanations for things previous entries took for granted, like health pickups and weapon upgrades. The ending is kinda lame, and getting 100% is an absolute drag (I've only bothered once), but this is still a rock-solid game that stands tall in the GBA library.

Master of AFTER - Okay, let's just strip away all the baggage of the Metroid games surrounding this one for a moment. No, it doesn't quite live up to the shining legacy of Super Metroid, and yes, it may have played a role in the creation of the wretched, stinking pool of pissvomit that is Other M. Also, no, you couldn't play as Zero Suit Samus in this one. Stop asking. All that put aside, 'Fusion' stands on its own as an excellent entry in one of Nintendo's all-time greatest franchises. The switch to a more linear style of progression refocused the game on action and gave Samus's mission a sense of urgency that's largely absent from other installments in the series.

As others have said, one of my favorite elements of MF (heh) had to be the SA-X. Constantly being pursued by an invincible killing machine gave the journey through the depths of the BSL station an omnipresent sense of foreboding and resulted in some of the game's most memorable moments. Nearly every encounter with the SA-X triggered an "Oh shit!" response that seldom failed to get my adrenaline pumping. Nemesis wishes he could be that frightening.

Rhete - I didn't really like this game the first time I played it, but a few years later gave it another shot and it clicked. As long as you don't go in expecting Super Metroid 2, and take the game on its own terms, it's pretty a fantastic action game. And for a 2-D game to be THIS GODDAMN SCARY FUCK YOU SA-X is also an amazing achievement.

Carmichael Micaalus - I honestly didn't mind the linear aspect of the game, 'though I prefer my Metroid games with less direct story. Some of the boss fights were a bitch, but it always felt good to beat them instead of felling like you just wasted a lot of time.

Remnant - I've long defended linear games, and this is the textbook example of linearity done right. Many cried foul at this game for lacking the strong exploration component that defined much of the Super Metroid experience.

I say that linearity allows the game designer to do certain things that non-linearity doesn't: in particular, pacing. The pacing in this game is skin-tight, which is good, because the movement and combat has been cranked up a bit from Super Metroid levels. Samus runs, jumps, and shoots faster, bringing this game closer to the sort of run and gun you might expect from a Mega Man game without at all losing what makes Metroid distinct. The bosses are fun and challenging, and the encounters with the SA-X, an extremely dangerous Samus doppleganger, are the highlights of the whole thing.

This is also the first Metroid game with an overt narrative. Though it relies a lot on cutscenes and Samus' inner narration, the story is a sci-fi thrill ride that uses that skin-tight pacing to deliver an engaging narrative intertwined with the gameplay from beginning to end.

The game is too short for my liking and there should have been an unlockable Hard Mode like Zero Mission's to improve replay value, but damn if it isn't a blast to play.

Irish - Ok, so yes. Its linear. And yes, its story paved the inspiration for Other M. But when the game stops holding your hand from time to time and lets you explore, find new weapons, and experience the awesome boss battles and well developed stages that pay fan service to the series past, well that's when Metroid Fusion becomes a very worthy Sequel to its legendary predecessor.




#2 - The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
Chosen by: FreezingInferno, computercat, Miller, Vanor Orion, Pauncho Smith, Crono Maniac, Master of AFTER, Carmichael Micaalus, Zeloz, Remnant, Mash, Irish

FreezingInferno - This is a surprise. No, really. Before this year I thought this game was overrated. I had nostalgic memories of the two Oracle games. Link's Awakening? That's just the weird dinky one on Game Boy. Then I got the thing for free from Club Nintendo, and I played it on the 3DS. Really played it for the first time in about ten years. I was blown away. Holy shit. How is it this GOOD? It's everything you could want from a good Zelda game, and then more. There are a few points of contention that keep it from being perfect, but my god. Yeah, it's the best Game Boy game. I can say that now. It comes close to being the best ZELDA game. Well done.

computercat - New gameplay features, a new land, and a different story for once.

Miller - One of the first time I ever felt sad that the game was over was with this game. Not only because it's a great game and I didn't want it to end, but also the whole build-up with the story. A huge plus to both the overworld and dungeon design which make the game seem so deep and complex that I'm always looking forward to that next playthrough.

Vanor Orion - This isn't the best Zelda game. But it's up there, and as far as Game Boy games go, it's pretty damned good. A theme to these three on my list is ambition. And Link's Awakening has that. The game isn't about the Triforce this time, and it is a direct follow-up to Link to the Past, so no continuity reset which was refreshing. Link is lost on a mysterious island and has to get a bunch of musical instruments to go talk to a giant whale...okay that's a bit strange, actually. But for the time it was pretty neat to see Link have an adventure and not be tied to the Triforce or Ganon. What I really love was the power ups and gear you got. For the first (and only time I think), Link had the ability to jump around freely, which added a much needed dimension to the series. The combat was excellent, and the enemies were still pretty dangerous, even for it being a handheld game. The game was still fairly open-ended and there were lots of hidden things to find so it felt like the game was alive and a thrill to explore as a result. And considering the game's musical theme, it had some damned good music and one of the best Intros/title screens I've seen for Zelda period. It ain't perfect (the ending is kind of dumb), but everything that needed to work clicked to make a damn satisfying adventure for my Game Boy Pocket.

Pauncho Smith - Whatever could it be? Yessir, another birthday gift in Game Boy form (noticing a trend here?). I remember when the first news of a handheld Zelda game hit. Obviously, I was beyond excited to be able to take a Zelda game where ever I went, but I also had a fair share of questions running through my head. Could they really do Zelda justice on the Game Boy, especially after the magnum opus that was A Link to the Past on the SNES? Furthermore, the plots of the previous three games revolved around Princess Zelda, Gannon, and the Triforce. Was there a chance that some new ground could be broken with this installment?

June 4th, 1994. I took my newly-acquired cartridge out of the box, slid it into my Game Boy, and dove right in. Gone were the vast fields of Hyrule, in their place was the beaches of Koholint Island. No signs of Gannon and only scant mentioning of Zelda. Triforce? Only as a temporary power-up, a la the starman from Super Mario Bros. (but man was it ever satisfying to send foes flying across the screen). This was a brave new world for the series, and it hit the mark in virtually every way. The swordplay is as smooth as ever and many of the old tools are still there (bombs, hookshot, peagasus boots, ect.). The Roc's Feather was a grand thing to have and it was quite the novelty to be able to jump in a (non-Adventure of Link for the NES) Zelda game. It was also pretty fun to use some items together, like the feather & boots combo for jumping over longer gaps, or my own personal favorite combo, the arrow bombs (I want those to appear in another Zelda game YESTERDAY).

The inhabitants of Koholint are what really make the game come alive. From the bumbling and tactless Tarin, to the helpful and ever present owl (more of him and much less Navi please), to a chain-chomp with a voracious appetite for baddies (more of a temporary power-up to be honest) to the shopkeeper who can be provoked to commit murder (How does it feel, THIEF?), down to songbird Marin, who I honestly think might have some deep-seated anger issues, as she assaults a store clerk with a crane and eggs you on as you break pottery (I'll assume it's cabin fever from being stuck on the island for so long, manifesting itself as rage). In a way, this probably the least serious and most freewheeling game in the series; the vacation motif is established by the beach setting, the references to Mario are everywhere, and the whole thing turns out to be a dream in the end. But in the end, Link's Awakening can hold its own with any other game in the series, and being a Game Boy release, that's damn impressive.

Crono Maniac - This is the Zelda game that marries the immaculate gameplay of Link to the Past with the touching, sublime stories of later entries like Majora's Mask and Wind Waker. It plays wonderfully, with loose, freeform dungeon design and a smartly pared down item roster, with the Roc's Feather as the clear standout addition. And it stills plays better than any Zelda since (though Phantom Hourglass was pretty damned sharp all things considered.) But the real triumph of the game is the storyline. It's an eerie slowburn of a video game, where the story stays in the background for the most part except for a few key scenes. But it's there, when a boss begs you not to wake the Wind Fish after its defeat, or when you find the temple engraving explaining the nature of the island. It's there on the beach with Marin, and it's there when you play the eight instruments and open the path to the Wind Fish. And where Link to the Past ends with the protagonist using the Triforce to fix everything that had ever gone wrong ever, Link's Awakening ends with sacrifice, loss, and the knowledge that sometimes we have to accept things as they truly are instead of embracing a comforting fantasy. It's one of the most mature video games Nintendo has ever put together, a masterpiece in four shades of green, only matched by Metroid, Mother, and a select few other Zelda games.

Master of AFTER - The word that kept popping into my mind when I was deciding what I wanted to write about this game was epic. Overuse has stripped that word of a lot of its original impact, but Link's Awakening provides an excellent reminder of what it used to mean. Everything about this game feels so grand and big and ambitious... Its size and scope may not match some other titles in the Zelda series, but by 1990s handheld console standards, the quest to wake the Wind Fish was nothing short of awesome (again, using the oldschool, literal definition of the word here). The fact that the developers were able to create an adventure that stretched so far beyond the edges of the Game Boy's tiny screen is a testament to the resourcefulness of the best game designers of the time.

Just look at the game's overworld map. The island is large enough to appear convincingly massive, but all across that expanse of virtual real estate is not one single pixel of wasted space. Every screen was designed to feature something for the player to find, fight, or experience. The map holds exactly as much as it was possible for the player to see and do without making things feel cluttered or cramped; to the contrary, making your way from one side of the island to the other felt like a journey across a truly vast area of land.

The developers were no less careful when it came to managing any other aspect of the game that would consume their limited resources. The beautiful soundtrack, the intense boss encounters, and the hauntingly surreal story all had that sense of feeling like they shouldn't be able to quite fit within the confines of a GB cartridge. I played the game accepting each new quest and making my way through each dungeon with the expectation somewhere in the back of my mind that everything was just going to suddenly cut out like a film that runs beyond its last reel. I thought there couldn't be enough memory for all of this. Not when everything looked and sounded so incredible. It was all just too... epic for a handheld game.

If there was one obvious technical limitation holding back Link's Awakening, it was the lack of a world that came alive with color. The "DX" edition released for the GBC rectified this with a vibrant palette that gave greater depth to the locations and inhabitants of Koholint Island. The new features and content that found their way into the adventure were just icing on the colorful cake. (Speaking of which, that Color Dungeon was cool as hell.)

I don't care what anyone says, this is one of the best Legend of Zelda games ever made. And if you owned a GBC and were taking a week-long family road trip to California in the spring of 1999, it was undoubtedly THE best.

Carmichael Micaalus - I think I came to the party on this one a little later than most people, so it wasn't as world shattering to me, but it was still pretty damn fun. It, like Pokemon Primary Colors, set the road to other great games.

Zeloz - Objectively, this is perhaps the best game on the Game Boy family of handhelds. Like Metroid II before it, it manages to become a tighter and more emotional experience than it's immediate console predecessor despite of (or perhaps because of) the weaker hardware. The story was much more involved, and the quirkiness of the characters and dialogue made it easier to care about them come the mid-game reveal that completely took me by surprise as a kid. It also helps that Koholint Island is such a meticulously well-crafted world to explore, with a secret to be found on every one of the 256 screens that make it up (not counting dungeons, caves, and that bizzaro glitch world). Add in some great tunes, and you've got yourself one of the best action-adventure titles on the Game Boy, and arguably the best 2D Zelda ever.

Remnant - Having played every Zelda game released (except for the most recent one on 3DS), I confidently can say that the stories set in Hyrule really start to lose their effectiveness over time. Link's Awakening was something else entirely. Even when the Hyrule stories hadn't lost their edge from diminishing returns, this game was interesting and different, and now that the Hyrule plots are wearing thin, I think that this game is even more significant, demonstrating how much potential the Zelda formula has when you think outside the box. Though minimalist by some standards, the setting/story/characters of this game evoke the sense of the uncanny and even touch on ideas found in existentialism and Plato's allegory of the cave.

Of course, all the high-brow stuff is subtlety woven into a really fun game. The overworld and dungeon designs are excellent. Almost all the puzzles and boss encounters are cleverly-designed. The ability to combine items for different effects and even fight without a sword if you choose is inspired.

And, as par for the series, the technical aspects of the design is great. The game plays like a well-oiled machine, looks great despite the limitations of the display hardware, and flaunts any conceived limitations of the audio hardware to deliver an excellent score. Each dungeon has a signature them (if I'm recalling correctly), The Tal Tal Mountian Range rendition of the classic Zelda theme is stirring, and the closing montage set to the final version of The Ballad of the Wind Fish still sends chills down my spine.

All of the different elements combine together to create a game is significantly greater than the sum of its parts and is a crown jewel of not only the Zelda series, but of Nintendo's work as a whole.

Mash - You know what? BEST. ZELDA. There, I said it. Just about everything that can be said about this game has already been covered countless times over the years, so I won't go into it much. I'll just emphasize that this is the tightest game in the series. One could not cut much out of this game without seriously detracting from the experience. I cannot say the same for any other Zelda...well, maaaaaybe Zelda 1 (but that may just be sentiment talking).

Irish - This game is the pinnacle of game boy design. It proved that despite technical limitations, imagination, talent, and ambition can make a game that can stand up to any 16-bit title. Despite the systems limitation, this game features abilities that would have kicked ass on the SNES (im looking at you Roc Feather) and a story that is arguably better due to its melancholy ending.




#1 - Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow Versions
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, computercat, Miller, Pauncho Smith, Crono Maniac, heavymetalmage, Master of AFTER, Rhete, Carmichael Micaalus, Zeloz, Remnant, TJF588, Voodoo Groove, Irish

Pixel Crusher - It's safe to say that, for many of us, this is where all the Pokemon craze began. Never before have I played a game that made me do a lot of moral decisions based on the happiness of my Pokemon (I was a kid back then, and everything in Pokemon felt so alive.) way before Bioware introduced that in videogames. It is also the game that, along with Tales of Symphonia and Shadow Hearts 2, propelled me into my ever growing love for Japanese RPGs.

Miller - Dear God how much time we put into these games. I played it on an emulator so I was never really into collecting all the Pokemons because, well, I couldn't (those were simpler times).But I was into the whole adventure thing, which was pretty new to me, so basically this game got me hooked on JRPGs for the next 6-7 years (thank you!).

Pauncho Smith - Long ago. The dying days of middle school. With a handheld I had long regarded as obsolete. During a chaotic and uncertain time of my life. Yeah, I played some Pokeymans (red was my version of choice and blue was preferred by my younger brother). I suppose I was initially drawn in as (to my untrained eye at least) it seemed visually similar to my beloved Earthbound. It didn't take long to discover how vastly different of an experience this would be. Every last critter and every last life-form was a potential mercenary for hire. Countless hours were spent in the tall, tangled grasses of Kanto trying to capture and train only the strongest of allies. Before long, I reached the point where my Jolteon could wipe out Gary Oak's entire team all by his lonesome. The original generation marked my first and last serious trek into the mainline Pokemon series and I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps I figured that it was merely a passing fad, and that it would be brushed aside for the next big Nintendo juggernaut. Almost fifteen years on, I'm ready to admit that my powers of clairvoyance aren't all that they're cracked up to be.

Crono Maniac - Pokemon Red and Blue came out in 1998, a full three years after the release of the PlayStation and almost a decade after the release of the original Game Boy. What this means is that the Pokemon games were the first and last "modern" 8-bit JRPGs. They ran on essentially the same (well, worse) tech as games like Final Fantasy and Mother, but with design benefitting from more than a decade of, ahem, evolution. Even today it's a remarkably well-put-together and streamlined experience, and it's hardly a surprise that the series has mostly stuck with the same formula ever since. But what made Pokemon special for me were the secrets. The game is brimming with hidden treasures, and it never tries to shove them in your face. There are three legendary birds, none of which are on encountered on the main path to finishing the game. There are secret fossils that can be brought to life in a hidden lab. There's an entire dungeon (that's completely optional) where the main reward is backstory for the game's secret bonus boss. There's one pokemon so rare it can't even be found in the game -- or can it? It's a game that begs to be explored, poked, and prodded, while simultaneously being a propulsive, exciting experience to play in its own right. It's a damned triumph, and one of the best pieces of software Nintendo's ever touched.

heavymetalmage - The real reason I started in on portable gaming. I don't understand what is so amazing about Pokemon. It's like, you collect some critters and battle them. Also, they're usually cutsie. It shouldn't be that good but hey it is. After having caught all 150 a couple of times, and playing Pokemon Stadium, etc. I still love these games and think about them all the time. The subsequent generations have not captivated me the way the original did. Too many new mechanics, less interesting Pokemon. But I will say that I put a dent in the national AA battery supply with my old, giant, gray-brick Gameboy that was missing the battery cover. POKEMAN 4EVR

Master of AFTER - The amazing thing about the debut Pokemon games isn't the fact that I spent dozens of hours a week fervently playing them in 1998. I was twelve years old when Nintendo launched its full-scale marketing blitz against the preteen population of North America and was so thoroughly brainwashed by the company's multi-pronged media assault that I would have adopted Pikachu as my spirit guide even if the games had been unplayable. The amazing thing about Pokemon Red and Blue is that I can go back to them fifteen years later and not feel (too) embarrassed over how many days and weeks and months of my youth I spent huddled over that tiny screen trying my damnedest to catch 'em all. Because underneath all the merchandise and the peer pressure from a neighborhood full of rival trainers and my dumb boyhood crush on Misty from the anime... Underneath far too many layers of protective nostalgia for even the most bloodthirsty Alaskan oil company to penetrate... Underneath all of that is an ingeniously deep and accessible RPG engine that is at least as addictive today as it was back when I was too young and stupid to know what a Pokemon's special attack rating was for.

Rhete - The idea of a JRPG that is balanced entirely around PVP was always pretty interesting to me. While I haven't stuck with the series past the original release, I'll always remember battling friends with self-destructing Mewtwos, level 255 Snorlaxs, and other wacky shenanigans.

Carmichael Micaalus - Blue was the one which caused me to get a Gameboy Color. There isn't much I can say which hasn't been said, so I'll just say it was rough around the edges, but it was the start of something grand.

Zeloz - Generation 1 may be regarded now as unbalanced, unrefined, and hilariously buggy, but back in the day, it was, for lack of a better word, a monster. It not only revitalized a game system that had been around for about 10 years, it started the "mons" craze that captivated damn near the entire world with a fervor I assume could only be compared to the Mario and Pac-Man epidemics of the 80s. It introduced a monster-collecting and -battling gimmick that actually encouraged social interaction, forcing those who wanted a full Pokedex (and a decent match, admittedly) to find others with different versions. It also used the Link Cable in a very novel way, one that lent itself well to the nuances of portable gaming. Pokemon was simply not a game you could do in full on a console.

Not that my second grade self really cared. I just knew that Pokemon Red was the very first Game Boy game I had original ownership over (my other two games were hand-me-downs from a cousin), and it had... no, has the niftiest red cart ever. I mean, even now I sometimes look at my copy and think, "God damn, that is one sexy red cartridge." It's a pity Japan didn't get themselves colored cartridges for their Pokemon.

Remnant - In middle school, I was full-fledged, unapologetic, Pokemon fanatic. In my Freshman/Sophomore year of high school, I was a closeted, shameful Pokemon fanatic because it was really uncool to like Pokemon in high school. I collected the cards, I religiously watched the cartoon series, and I played the Game Boy games. Man did I ever play the Game Boy games. I can't even imagine (and honestly don't want to know) how many hours of my youth were sunk into the chasm of catching, item/money hoarding, and raising Pokemon after Pokemon to maxed-out level 100 perfection.

My fanaticism carried over to Gold/Silver, though I never quite as into those games. As I moved into Sophomore year of high school, I start taking more assertive interest in other pursuits, I was introduced to "real" RPGs like Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series, and I realized with the release of promo material for Ruby/Sapphire that Nintendo was just going to keep making the games with newer batches of Pokemon and that in order to keep that up, the Pokemon designs were just going to go farther and farther into that direction of weirdness that was not to my liking.

Despite the unending k-hole of a multimedia franchise that Pokemon has become, I still have a softspot for the original 151 and, to a lesser extent, the Gold/Silver generation. Pokemon became full-blown pop culture phenomenon for a reason, and I believe the reason is that the original Pokemon games tapped into something deep: the child-like desires to explore, collect, and watch something grow and (unintentional pun) evolve over time. Regardless on your feelings of what the franchise has become, the power of the original Pokemon experience cannot be denied.

TJF588 - My first Pokemon game, I still remember staring into the screen of my matching Game Boy Color against the sunlight streaming in the car window... While the sequel games did so much for functionality (SELECT registration was an Arceus-send), "Gen 1" did a bang-up job of establishing the Pokemon world, with an interesting base to build out from, especially in fan concepts (not to mention the fan theories, such as Blue/Gary's tribulations, or fan adulation, particularly over Lavender Town and its events). These games are particularly notable for being relatively down to earth, such that the main bad guys are your typical concept of "bad guys", thugs out for their own profit, and not getting swept up in anything more than your own journey to become the greatest Trainer out there. Perhaps that's part of why these games' events are so revered, even, a bit, in its own continuity: you and your rival are their own stuff of legends. Still, glad the gameplay has expanded and been tweeked as it has; Psychic-type was absolutely broken (Ghost-type were meant to be strong to and resistant against them, but that was inverted, leaving their sole weakness as under-served Bug-type attacks), though this may've contributed that much more to Mewtwo's supremacy, even getting special limelight this far after the first games' release.

Voodoo Groove - I still remember the day I first picked up Pokemon Red, my mom was yelling at me on the way home from the mall because I wouldn't stop yammering about how excited I was and how I REALLY wanted to pick Charmander as my starter but this old guy in the manual was telling me I needed to be sure I was an EXPERT TRAINER before doing so. On top of all the nostalgia, Pokemon Red and Blue to me represent time in video games we can never have back, where unsubstantiated rumors were spread by the burgeoning internet and could thrive in an environment where weird-ass glitches made anything seem possible.

Irish - You gotta catch em all. 151 monsters, two games, link capabilities, and a revolutionary game system. This game came at a time when the Game Boy seemed to be dying, and turned the system into the million dollar man of gaming systems. I personally believe in my heart that had this game not have been created, perhaps Nintendo would also be a software developer much like Sega is today.











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