The Game Boy RPGs that received the most attention were Pokémon, but the system had a lot of other great titles from the genre. Some of these games shared names with major series, like Final Fantasy, but others came out of nowhere and found success.
The only problem was that the Game Boy arrived before most people in the U.S. and Europe took a shine to RPGs. By the time games like Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest appeared to help people get a handle on the RPG genre, people went for newer systems.
As a result, a load of Game Boy titles never got the attention they deserve. Until now, that is. I’m going to take a look at some games on this handheld console that deserved better.
When I say underrated in this case, it’s not always that the game received bad reviews. Sometimes, it just did not receive enough attention, and I think they deserve a moment in the limited spotlight that I can provide.
With that in mind, check out the 10 most underrated Game Boy RPGs.
1. Dragon Warrior Monsters
Dragon Warrior Monsters was an amazing game that allowed the player to collect and use monsters from the wildly popular series in battle.The game had a fun story, a better breeding system than Pokémon Red and Blue (this game was released before Gen 2), a large world, and much more.
That concept was downright amazing for the time and it landed right when the monster-collecting genre was at its zenith. Yet, this game sold only 60,000 copies in the U.S. What happened? Why have so many people never heard of this game?
DWM came late to the party, and it was roundly ignored despite being an amazing game and having a fantastic sequel. Pokémon Silver and Gold were right on the horizon, and people were too busy playing games with much better graphics than this one to tide them over.
This game holds up today, too. You could pick it up and have a wonderful time.
2. Azure Dreams
The Game Boy Color version of Azure Dreams is a great adaptation of the PlayStation game. Again, the game got little love with average ratings and low sales.
This game was vastly underrated just like it’s PS1 counterpart. The story is very typical of JRPGS. Your dad went missing while on a quest, and you decide you want to find out what happened to him.
You take up the challenge and enter a massive monster tower that dominates your hometown, meeting monsters along the way. You fight alongside your monster “familiar”, collect treasure, upgrade your town and weapons, and hatch monster eggs for new creatures.
The story has great twists and turns, the way the tower works by resetting when you leave increases the replay value, the music is great, and the game squeezes every pixel out of the console possible. In short, this game is better than a little underrated— it’s fantastic.
3. Final Fantasy Legend II
Let me start off by saying the story in Final Fantasy Legend II is absolutely nuts. Again, you start off minus one dad and plus one crazy quest to collect 76 MAGI and revive a goddess. It’s amazing.
The game got some flak because your characters had uneven leveling methods. Also, mutants could change races in after battles, and that could completely upset the balance of your team.
Once you learned how to power up each race of character you could have, the game was easier. That is, until you started getting to some of the boss fights. You are fighting against various deities, and some of them are really hard.
The music is good and the graphics are about what you would expect for the time, but the story and characters were pretty memorable for an original Game Boy game.
4. Lufia: The Legend Returns
Lufia: The Legends Returns is a great game that continued the highly underrated Lufia series. Unfortunately, this was the last main entry into the series that wasn’t a remake. This game was a rather typical JRPG, placing you in the shoes of a descendent of a hero from the original battle against the Sinistrals, evil beings that reincarnate over time.
You’re once again called into battle when one of the Sinistrals is unleashed upon the world a hundred years after their last defeat. You get beat down by the Big Bad and then tasked with finding strong heroes to help you wage war against them.
For being on the GBC, this game had very good graphics and music. Also, the story was a high point, bringing up themes of fate, duty, and living up others’ expectations and needs. This title got middling ratings, but it was far better than average.
Please, someone bring back this series.
5. The Sword of Hope II
The original Game Boy came out at a time when the RPG genre was still getting its legs under it on an international level. In Japan, it was fine if a game had a dense, weird story and required hours of grinding. That basically sums up all Dragon Quest games, after all.
However, people weren’t feeling it with The Sword of Hope II. For the time it was made (1992), the game wasn’t bad. It had a decent story, enticing gameplay, and about all the RPG motifs you could want. If you enjoyed a good grind, this was the game for you.
By the time it hit American shores, though, it was a dud. That’s because it came out in 1996 when games like Diablo, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI had already been released.
This wasn’t a bad title, per se; it just required more of a grind than some people were willing to put into a Game Boy game in 1996.
Crystalis was a top-down action-RPG released on the NES that was somehow popular enough to get a port to the GBC but not popular enough to crack most Top 100 lists for the console. Weird, right?
Crystalis had an absolutely bonkers story that featured thermonuclear war and a return to medieval society and magic. You play as a protagonist with amnesia, and it’s your job to unite the elements and defeat the evil Draygon.
That’s standard RPG fare for the time. This game had more to offer, though. The combat was very fun; it’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy Adventure or one of the Mana games. The music was amazing and highly memorable.
Sure, some problems emerged from porting an action game to a smaller screen, but they weren’t game-breaking. I would bet anything that if you slapped a title like Final Fantasy Future X Redux on this game, it would have gotten a better reception.
7. Great Greed
If you want a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Great Greed is the one for you. This RPG takes a guy named Sierra Sam and sends him to the world of Greene, a world that is being polluted by Biohazard Harry. See? It’s goofy but good.
The story might sound a little preachy with its environmental message, but it has a sense of humor. The developers used a Dragon Ball-like approach of naming people and places after food.
Looking at the overworld, you’d think you were playing a Final Fantasy Legend game, but the battle screen is far better. You don’t get any pesky party members. It’s just you doing battle against the evil guys.
The combat was really fun and gave you all the magic, swords, and other tools you need to fight enemies. The music wasn’t anything special but the graphics were pretty good. You could even get multiple endings in the game!
Great Greed is still an underrated Game Boy RPG, and I’ll gladly die on this lonely hill.
8. Revelations: The Demon Slayer
If I told you that a Final Fantasy and Pokémon hybrid existed in 1999, it would blow your socks off, right? That is precisely what Revelations: The Demon Slayer is all about, though.
You play as a character named El (eat it, Stranger Things) and you have to figure out what is making the “Gaia power” (magical power) go crazy on your planet. You gather party members and go off to save the world. That alone would make for an interesting RPG by Game Boy standards.
However, you get the benefit of recruiting monsters you encounter to your party to help you on certain quests. Then, you can combine the monsters, make new creatures, and fight against friends using the Link Cable system.
On top of all that coolness, the game’s music and graphics were pretty solid for the time. I’m not sure if this game is just underrated or never got noticed amidst all the other RPGs of the era, but it’s definitely a good game to check out.
9. The Legend of the River King
The idea of fishing in an RPG might sound silly. After all, you are fighting against deities in most RPGs. Yet, that is exactly why this game works so well.
You travel from place to place, choosing bait and catching fish. Along the way, you get into battles with various creatures, and you have to find their weak spot to defeat them. You’ll get experience for your effort and then level up, allowing you to fight more, go farther and find more fish.
Your job is to fill your journal of fish types and reach all the areas to catch fish. It’s not too difficult, either. The game should get more appreciation just for its style. The graphics, use of colors, and music are all wonderful.
The Legend of the River King deserves a lot more appreciation for pulling off such a unique twist on RPGs.
10. The Final Fantasy Legend
Although it has the Final Fantasy name on it, the game is actually not a main entry into the series. Instead, it’s part of the SaGa series, but that’s not important.
This game puts you in the shoes of a nameless hero that gathers a party and has to gather tools from Three Kings to open the door to a tower and find their way to paradise. Yeah, things go awry and you end up going from world to world until you finally get to the top of the tower.
Then you have to fight the world’s creator. That’s right. The Big “G” god of the world has to be killed by you and your party. What? How crazy is that?
This game is underrated because it lacks the style and great interface of Final Fantasy Legend III, but it still has good graphics, music, and a totally cool story. The Final Fantasy Legend might not be Final Fantasy VIII with its storytelling, but it deserved better than the moderate rankings it received.
Final Thoughts About Underrated Game Boy RPGs
The Game Boy was actually a powerhouse for RPGs if you think about it. The Pokémon series, The Final Fantasy Legend games, and several one-hit titles sold millions of copies despite lacking the technical powers of other systems.
Still, a lot of great games flew under the radar in this genre, and I hope I brought a few to your attention. The Game Boy continues to be an immensely popular console, with new games still being made and released by indie developers.
Let me know what you think of this list and what games you would have added to the mix. I promise to read every comment. Twice.