First things first: I conflated the Game Boy and Game Boy Color RPGs. Sue me.
Seriously, though, I get that they’re two different systems, but I like big lists of RPGs from the same generation. That’s what you’re gonna get here.
If you are a fan of Game Boy RPGs, then the chances are you won’t be surprised by anything I’ve added here. However, people that aren’t too familiar with the systems’ best RPGs should definitely take a look and see what games they can pick up.
Some of these did not get a lot of attention or the attention they probably deserved, but they’re worth playing today. Without further ado, here are the top 15 Game Boy RPGs.
15. Great Greed
Great Greed is a typical RPG experience. While it has some bright spots, it was lacking in some other important areas. The character names are a little difficult to get past with entries like Sierra Sam, Candy, Truffle, and Biohazard Harry. The story is odd, too.
From what I understand, your character is a bit of a hippie. You get taken to the world of Greene and you’re pitted against Bio-Haz (Biohazard Harry). You have to save the fictional world from being polluted.
The best thing about this game is the combat. You attack with A, block with B, run from battle with Start, and you also have the ability to map your magical scrolls to your directional keys on the Game Boy for quick usage. I really like that part of the game, but not much else. You battle one monster at a time, get a fair amount of people that will briefly join your party to help, and travel to save the world. It’s standard stuff.
14. The Legend of the River King
When I first heard of a fishing game RPG, I rolled my eyes a little. Then I actually played the game a little bit. The story was nothing to write home about. You have to catch the fish guardian for your sick sister. What? Whatever, I had low expectations.
The gameplay is where the fun is at. You go fishing! No climbing towers and no fighting angry gods. It’s up to you to get the right bait, be patient, and work on getting your hooked fish to the top of the screen so you can pull them from the water.
There is also a battle mode in this game where you encounter different bugs and creatures and fight them off. You complete different quests and eventually you get to travel more, encounter more fish, and battle more creatures. The battle system is cool, too. You have to stop the cursor at the right point to do damage to the monsters.
The game isn’t too involved or long. Still, if you’re looking to try something completely new, then this game could be interesting to you.
13.Final Fantasy Legend II
Some people really enjoyed Final Fantasy Legend II, but I thought it was the weakest of the Final Fantasy Legend games on the Game Boy. The character creation was interesting because you got to pick from different races like mutants, robots, monsters, and humans. Based on how you use the characters in battle, they gain different stats.
The combat system was cool, but some races, like the mutant, were so much weaker than others because their stat increases are random and they can fall behind. In true Final Fantasy Legend style, the story in this game is absolutely bonkers. You have to collect magical shards that you later use to construct a god. I won’t spoil the insanity for you, but it’s pretty decent.
12. Revelations: The Demon Slayer
This game comes from the Last Bible series of games, and it was released in 1999, long after the series had migrated to other systems. The story is not all that great. You’re El, and you need to find out why the Gaia power is going haywire in the world. So, you get your pals together and go to save the planet.
The cool part about this game is that you get to talk to the monsters you encounter and recruit them to work alongside you in the quest. While the game didn’t exactly give you Pokémon gameplay, you could still recruit monsters, fight against them as El and company, and even fuse them together.
Then, you could fight your teams against other people through the Game Boy Link Cable system. That made the game pretty interesting. However, it felt like all these elements were cobbled together and we got a weird hybrid game instead of a cohesive RPG.
11. Lufia: The Legend Returns
Do yourself a favor and beat the SNES Lufia titles before going to this one. I really enjoyed the series before I found out that there was a sequel on the Game Boy. This game didn’t get released until well into the life cycle of the Game Boy, so it flew under the radar as people played on systems with 3D graphics.
The story makes sense if you played the others. One of the “Sinistrals” from the original games has somehow returned and he’s wreaking havoc. You get recruited by a fortune teller to go and stop him. It sounds basic (maybe it is) but the call to action is a little better if you’ve played the others.
After all, this lone Sinistral is supposed to have been killed- twice in fact. Although you just have to deal with a single Sinistral, Gades, instead of all four, he’s a bad dude. Also, the game seems to imply that heroes aren’t made of the same stuff anymore so you don’t get to trounce him like you’d expect. Spoiler alert. You get your butt kicked several times in this game.
Aside from the story, the combat is pretty standard stuff for an RPG and this game sheds the constant puzzles from the second game. The music isn’t great by Game Boy standards, but I can forgive that for the large over world and overall design of the game. In my opinion, it’s a must-play, especially for fans of the series.
In fact, this is a series that could be resurrected to tell a great story, but that’s probably less likely than the Chrono series coming back.
10. Metal Walker
I distinctly remember how I started playing this game. I wanted to try a new RPG, and my older brother tossed me this cartridge. The best way to envision this game is like a Pokemon title. You get a “metal buster” and use it to fight others that you randomly encounter.
You break down those enemies for scrap metal and power up your metal buster until it can tear up just about anything. The “evolution” in this game is based on using parts that you get from boss monsters, and it’s really interesting. Your partner can be a round “Meta Ball” or essentially a tank.
The random encounters are more than a grind-fest because you have to turn your metal buster’s direction to face an enemy and then launch it at them. That counts as a turn. It makes you pay a little more attention to the game than you might in other RPGs.
The music in this title is good and the world is interesting. The story is based on obtaining “Core”, a rare metal, as you travel along to find your dad. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but the gameplay was very interesting. It’s a good way to start the Top 10.
9. Dragon Warrior Monsters
Dragon Warrior Monsters is a game that might have had a chance at becoming the next Pokemon had it not arrived so late in the U.S. The game was fantastic because it allowed you to catch monsters from the Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior) series. Not only that, but it also had a huge number of monsters for you to catch, a fantastic breeding system, and a trainer battle setup that was absolutely great. It had a leg up on Pokémon in several ways- until the second generation arrived.
Everything about this game was very good from the music to the call to adventure. Your sister is stolen by a monster and you have to go win a monster-fighting tournament to get her back. It’s simple enough, right?
You are based in a big tree that has an open market, portals to different worlds to catch monsters, fighting grounds, and your breeding center. Sure, the world might not be as detailed as some others, but it was still very good.
You don’t use little balls to catch the monsters in this game. You lure them with meat, beat them down to let them know who the master is, and then hope they stick around to join you after the battle. It’s kinda dark and borderline abusive, so I can see why this game didn’t get the attention of kids (and parents, too) when it came out. Still, it was downright incredible for the time and underappreciated in my opinion.
8. Dragon Quest III (Dragon Warrior III in the U.S.)
Speaking of Dragon Quest, did you know there was a game on the Game Boy Color? Well, it was a port, but still. The first thing that I’ll say about this game is that it is a lot bigger and deeper than you would expect from a Game Boy RPG.
You have to fight the fiend Baramos and to do that, you need a party of heroes. There is a class system in this game that you use to diversify your party and make it easier to face down certain enemies. Your main character can be male or female (that was a big deal for the time) and you have to find out what happened to the last hero to challenge Baramos and then fight him.
The game is very interesting because the towns to which you travel are very unique. The graphics are pretty decent for the system and the monsters have cool little animations when they pop up on the screen. This felt like a very complete game that only suffered from the occasional weird translation.
The story was interesting enough that it might be one of the best JRPG stories on Game Boy. This game was the first time I’d played a one in this series since the original Dragon Warrior on NES, and I can see why this series has continued to grow.
7. The Final Fantasy Legend
The Final Fantasy Legend game was released in Japan under Makai Toushi Sa·Ga and then ported to the U.S. with the Final Fantasy name for branding purposes. At least, that’s what I’ve read. All I know is that this is technically the first “Final Fantasy” that I ever played and the first JRPG I played. Not that you care, but this game was a cool introduction to that genre.
If you’ve ever wanted to fight against fate and punch a god in the face, this is the game for you. Seriously, the final boss in this game is the deity overseeing your world, and your team is not happy to find out your lot in life. So, you fight him. It. Whatever.
This is a very standard RPG in a lot of ways. You get a party of characters together and you fight evil monsters as you try to climb this massive tower to get to the top. Your characters basically have no backstory and their motivation is probably akin to a dog chasing cars. There’s a tower that grants wishes- let’s climb it. Still, the game is very fun to play owing to the standard JRPG fights and class system.
You had humans, monsters, and mutants. Each one gains levels and power in different ways. Humans get items, monsters eat meat, and mutants get increases that I believe are random. It can be frustrating, but a little grinding never hurts anyone.
The story is not expansive by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s really interesting to see what happens when you finally reach the top of the tower. Along the way, your characters might die, and that can be a permanent death if they run out of “hearts” for resurrection. I am pretty certain you can buy new ones, or you can be a piece of crap party leader like me and simply recruit someone from the town guild that won’t die so easily. Up to you.
All in all, this is a great Game Boy RPG and I’d recommend trying it out if you like the retro stuff.
6. Final Fantasy Adventure
The history of Final Fantasy Adventure is weird. Seriously, go check it out. It has a Final Fantasy name, but it’s the first game in the Mana series. Got that?
Anyway, the story in this game is a little better than some other Game Boy Games. It’s a pretty typical stop the Dark Lord story, but the characters are fleshed out just enough to make you not entirely forget about it. The music is another thing that caught my attention because it’s downright pleasant when you’re playing the game.
The combat and the world are really where the core of the game is at, though. The combat is like a Zelda entry. You have a top-down view of the world and you kill monsters. The only thing is that you get experience points towards new levels for dispatching monsters, encouraging you to kill ‘em all. When you let your power bar charge up for your weapon, it unleashes stronger attacks. That builds up to a special attack when your bar is maxed.
The world is fun to traverse. You go from screen to screen killing, solving puzzles, and chatting with townspeople. There are some dungeons and puzzles, but they’re nothing too difficult for the average player to solve. All in all, this was a very good game and a great sign of things to come in the Mana series.
5. Dragon Warrior Monsters II
Dragon Warrior Monsters II took the formula from the first game, improved upon it, and added features to make it one of the top Game Boy RPGs if not one of the best games on the system. The game tried to pull a Pokémon and sold two different versions: Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Cobi’s Journey or Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Tara’s Adventure.
Just like the last game, you would have to fight monsters and get them to join you after you have thrashed them and offered them meat. Surprisingly enough, they didn’t try to break away from the Stockholm-Syndrome style of monster recruitment from the first game.
The story is a big departure from the first game. It’s up to you as Tara or Cobi to save your island. You have to explore a bunch of worlds, make monster friends, and take out monster bosses and fellow trainers to make that happen. In the meantime, you can breed monsters in a fun, game-prolonging system that takes away your original monsters. Instead of getting an Eevee army in Pokémon, you end up with a stronger child monster while mommy and daddy disappear.
You could also battle against other trainers in fights that were 3 on 3 with everyone on the screen at once. Yeah, they beat Pokémon to the punch on that concept, too.
The game is very fun and immersive, and if you’re familiar with the Dragon Quest series, it’s a treat because you see familiar faces along the way. Part of me wanted to put this higher on the list, but the one thing that Pokémon had over it was the popularity and innovation.
4. Pokémon Red/Blue (And Yellow)
Do I need to tell you why this game was great? You probably know, right? Oh, whatever.
The first two Pokémon games get credit both for being amazing and for what they did for video games as a whole. Not only did people interested in video games buy Red and Blue to trade with and challenge their friends, but people that never played a game in their lives picked up the game to see what all the hype was about. That might be a reason why this game is so high on my list (and maybe some nostalgia), but behind all that is an incredibly solid game.
The graphics weren’t the best, but the game could still build unique areas and atmospheres. From the Viridian Forest’s “maze” of trees to fighting in creepy Lavender Town, there are many unique places that are fleshed out with very good music by Game Boy standards. Your rival had his own music, and the music at the Indigo Plateau really drove home the feeling that you were headed towards a difficult fight.
The gameplay itself was cool. You could catch or evolve up to 150 Pokémon if you have a friend that will trade their exclusives to you. The battles weren’t particularly difficult as long as you learned the “types” system that amounted to a big game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Even young kids could learn the whole system in very little time.
Between the trades, battles, and all the additional Pokémon media, like cards and television, Pokémon might have been the biggest video game craze up to that point in history.
Sure, this game didn’t have the biggest monster count or even the best story. Think about some of the fantastic characters we got, though. Giovanni of Team Rocket, Professor Oak that conveniently got you out of town and away from your single mom, and even that weirdo, Bill. There was so much to enjoy with this game.
3. Final Fantasy Legend III
Final Fantasy Legend III managed to improve on just about everything from the first two games even though they weren’t much of a “series”. The graphics were greatly improved and the story, although weird, actually made more of an attempt to make sense.
You’re tasked with helping defeat an Entity that is flooding the world in your timeline. That’s right, it’s a time travel game, and you go to different versions of the world to solve the problems. Your party members can be humans or mutants, but they can each change later in the game into cyborgs or monsters.
Characters can use skills and magic to help them fend off the monsters that were summoned into the world as you collect pieces of your ship. The biggest issue that I have with the game is the goofy item system that makes it hard to find the one you’re looking for if you have more than one of the same type.
The music in this game is solid, the battles are fun, and the story actually makes sense. What more could you ask for from a Game Boy RPG in this era?
Azure Dreams was a very fun game on the PlayStation, but the port to the Game Boy Color was simply fantastic. It came with more monsters available to catch and the removal of the relationships system. More time in the tower and less time hitting on women in town. That’s a fair trade.
Seriously, though, the game is one of the best. I think my favorite part is the music, which is downright addictive. From the opening of the game through the Tower, there are plenty of great bits of music, including the level-up fanfare. It might be a little excessive, but man if it didn’t put a smile on my face.
The story was interesting as well. When you turn 15, you get the chance to enter this big monster tower in the center of town. You fight through it with monsters at your side, earn riches, and help the town. Also, your dad is a famous monster hunter and he went missing in the tower. So, look for him, too, I guess. On a side note: what is it with JRPGs and dads going missing?
Anyway, you get a monster before going into the tower but you can find eggs, hatch them, and combine monsters to get new ones. These monsters fight alongside you in the tower in an attempt at a live, action-strategy game. Every time you attack or move, a turn passes. Enemy monsters can move toward you or attack during that time. You can send your monster in to start the fight or take out enemies together.
You don’t have all day to explore each floor. The floors start to fall apart after a while so there is a sense of urgency. Oh yeah, your monsters start at level 1 every time you enter, too. That provides a small sense of challenge that never goes away. At higher levels, though, you start going into the tower with more formidable monsters and their level 1 is entirely different than your starting monster’s.
The combat is engaging and fun, the tower climb is actually difficult, and then once you get through that stage of the game, you find out there’s a basement. That’s a lot of journeying. The player has to think strategically for battle, decide when to leave the tower and start over, and do their best to stay alive.
The music, combat, interesting story, and art style make this a very good title, and I think everyone should give it a shot.
1. Pokémon Gold and Silver (And Crystal)
Imagine you took Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow and improved on every single aspect of the game. That’s what the second generation of Pokémon games did, and that’s why Pokémon Gold and Silver are my top Game Boy RPG.
Let’s start with the graphics. Everything is smoother than the first generation and the sprites for the actual monsters are much better. The art department definitely put their work in to refresh the old pokémon and make the new 100 additions look awesome.
Another great thing about this game was the night and day sequence. Based on your local time, the game would turn from night to day. You had a certain chance of catching Pokémon at night or in the day. In fact, I got a Gastly in the Sprout Tower and used him to wreak havoc for a good portion of the game.
Some other gameplay features like trainers calling you for battles, the bug-catching competition, new ways of evolving pokemon, and the overall vastness of the world map were downright awesome. Not only did you have a big area to explore in Johto, but you got to go back to the first game’s area, Kanto, and fight through that, too.
I enjoyed the difficulty of the game. From fighting Whitney’s Miltank, which had that crazy Rollout ability, to the Team Rocket hideout that seemed to have endless fights, the game was a tad harder than its predecessor. Especially at the Elite Four. Lance was not messing around. For that matter, neither was Red when you eventually found him.
The story was a lot better than the first game, too. Team Rocket was struggling to come back to life after a 10-year-old dismantled their entire organization years before. You could find Blue running the gym on Cinnabar Island, and Professor Oak has a radio show. These games packed in some many neat features that I spent a ridiculous amount of time on this game over one winter break.
I didn’t cover everything about this game that made it great, and that should give you an idea of why it was so fantastic. The designers learned from the first games and knocked it out of the park in the second generation.
These top 15 Game Boy RPGs were great at innovating the genre even though the 1990s went through a serious JRPG and monster phase. Yet, I think Game Boy fans can hold their head up high and say that some very good games emerged on these systems. The same can be said about the GBA and that is something that I’ll have to cover.
I know that some people wanted to see Zelda in here or even Harvest Moon. While I might have stretched the definition of RPG a little, I feel as though those two games are a little too far out of the way for me.
Still, I’d play most of the games on this list again, especially the top 5. If you haven’t tried any of these games, hit up your local retro gaming store (or eBay, wink-wink) and check them out. It’s worth it!