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1998 saw Nintendo release the Game Boy Color worldwide. Although it wasn’t a complete redesign of the original Game Boy, it did add a limited color palette to the mix. The Game Boy Color went on to have a massive library full of great first and third-party titles before being replaced by the Game Boy Advance in 2001. Platformers are a staple of retro gaming, and the Game Boy Color platformer has its share of wonderful games in the genre.

Platformers Explained

A platformer is an action game that takes place in a 2D or 3D environment and relies on movement and navigation of obstacles to progress. Famous examples include Sonic The Hedgehog, Super Mario Brothers, and Mega Man. Platformers were very popular during the NES and SNES eras, and there was a good amount of evolution in gameplay conventions as the years wore on. Controls are generally simplistic, needing little more than a jump button or an attack button.

Platformers excelled on systems with limited control options, like the Game Boy Color. Certainly, they provided countless hours of fun over the years and are still strong. There are constant releases in the platformer genre. Little indies like Celeste and A Hat in Time and major releases like Sonic Mania and Super Mario Odyssey, prove the genre still has its place in gaming.

7. Shantae

front cover of Shantae GBC
Shantae uses her magical abilities and attacks to stop a pirate from plundering the village treasures.

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Shantae
  • More than fifty locations
  • Five different transformations
  • Three minigames
  • Battery save (three slots)
  • For Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance
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Wayforward and Capcom’s 2002 release Shantae came late in the console’s life but is a stellar Game Boy Color platformer. Fluid sprite work is displayed, and Shantae is expressive and animated through even mundane actions. Shantae is a tightly constructed experience. Wayforward has a mastery over the hardware you rarely see with third-party developers. This could very well be a home console game, given the amount of polish it was given.

Shantae is one of those rare experiences on any console. A talented team came together to create something exemplary that goes toe to toe with any first-party output from Nintendo. It is an easy, charming and effortless game. Whether you’re a casual retro gamer or seeking the utmost in the challenge, it is worth a playthrough.

6.

front cover of Blaster Master Enemy Below GBC
Blaster Master is a remake of the original game, but with new weapons and upgrades.

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A slightly more modern take on the NES classic, is a hybrid Game Boy Color platformer with some vehicular combat sections. Graphics are crisp and levels are broken up into on-foot sections and vehicle sections. Blaster Master was genre blending well before it became the norm for platformers and this GBC entry continues the same traditions.

There are some top-down sections, where the player has to navigate mazes and eliminate monsters. Blaster Master is a challenging game and requires the player to approach it with patience. It is a rock-solid title that calls to mind the games of yesteryear but in a handy portable format.

5.

front cover of Mega Man Xtreme
X and Zero are on a quest to find an eliminate a rogue hacker group that’s taken over a mother computer.

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A spinoff of the Mega Man X Series, the is a high-octane Game Boy Color platformer. Players are free to choose the order of stages they want to beat. This is fully in line with the rest of the series, where the more freeform take on approaching levels is the norm. has wonderful chunky graphics and a rocking 8-bit soundtrack.

The Game Boy Color didn’t lack in white knuckle action games, and Capcom certainly brought their best to give the Blue Bomber his portable color outing for Nintendo. Mega Man Xtreme is a challenging game, but underneath the difficulty is a wonderful platformer that serves as a remix for the classic Mega Man X games.

4. Bionic Commando: Elite Forces

front cover of Bionic Commando Elite Forces

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Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
  • Bionic Commando: Elite Forces
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A sequel to the NES classic, Bionic Commando: Elite Forces is a challenging title, and unorthodox Game Boy Color platformer. Rather than relying on jumps to traverse stages, players use a grappling hook attached to the player character’s bionic arm. Bionic Commando is a stout challenge. Graphics are wonderfully detailed and somehow are more vibrant than the NES original.

If you’re after a classic Capcom challenge, Bionic Commando fits the bill. Keeping in line with the original game, the controls are airtight, and grappling is fun when you get used to it. Any classic platformer fan owes it to themselves to try this one out.

3. Super Marios Bros. Deluxe

front cover of Super Mario Bros Deluxe GBC
Mario fights the evil Bowser and his minions and goes on a quest to free a captured princess.

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Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
$29.99
  • Pixel-perfect translation of NES Super Mario Bros.
  • Thirty-two levels
  • New Vs. Mode for two system play
  • Game Boy Printer support
  • Battery backed with three game save slots
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01/26/2023 12:37 am GMT

This 1999 Game Boy Color platformer is an enhanced re-release of the 1985 Super Mario Brothers. It is a faithful translation of the Nintendo smash hit. The screen is a bit more crowded, but the GBC has a lower native resolution than the NES’s video output. Players get access to the whole of the original NES game. Additional modes include a simultaneous co-op mode courtesy of the Game Boy link cable, a challenge mode, and many new levels designed exclusively for the game.

While it isn’t a complete reinvention of Super Mario Bros. it is a wonderful twist on a classic. Gameplay is tight and responsive, the music is stellar, and the graphics are on par with the NES original. This is a must-have for platformer fans, especially those looking for a slice of portable goodness.

2.

A faithful translation of the SNES smash hit features the same quality platforming and tight gameplay you’d expect from the series. This Game Boy Color platformer tasks players with recovering Donkey Kong’s stash of bananas. Platforming is still tight and responsive, and the port suits the GBC’s strengths quite well.

It may not be the graphical marvel of the SNES original, but Donkey Kong Country is no slouch visually. Controls are tight, which comes in handy for such a tricky game. New minigames and a few new stages were added for Game Boy Color players, a welcome addition to extend playtime. Donkey Kong Country is a phenomenal platformer regardless of the console, and this portable take is worth a look.

1.

front cover of wario land 3 GBC
Mario is invincible to the enemy’s attacks.

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At the apex of the 8-bit Game Boy console series is . Players are tasked with adapting to their enemies in this game, as Wario changes form with certain attacks and encounters with enemies. Wario Land 3 features the same charming graphical aesthetic of the previous two games while maintaining the series standard for tight, responsive controls. The gameplay is smooth, and it plays like a dream. Wario Land 3 is the finest example of a Game Boy Color platformer.

It takes advantage of the limited hardware of the Game Boy Color to deliver a cohesive game experience developed exclusively for the console. Previous entries in this article are inspired or taken from home console games. Wario Land 3 was developed exclusively for portable consoles and benefits from that. This is a must-have for the Game Boy Color, go out and grab it now.

Last update on 2023-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Absolute Best Game Boy Color Platformers of All Time FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When was the Game Boy Color released?

The Game Boy Color was released worldwide in 1998. It is a color revision of the super popular Nintendo Game Boy. The GBC had a relatively short shelf life, with production lasting from 1998 to 2003. Oddly, it’s only competitor in the marketplace in 1998 was the original Game Boy which was still in active production at the time.

Nintendo dominated the handheld market, a position they’ve held since 1989.

What is the best-selling Game Boy Color game?

The best-selling Game Boy Color game of all time is Pokemon Gold and Silver with 23 million units shifted since its release. Pokemon games have been system sellers since the introduction of the first game in the series. Gold and Silver still maintain the addictive gameplay of its immediate predecessor while adding all-new Pokemon and regions to explore.

It also helps that players with Red and Blue could trade their Pokemon to Gold and Silver to use their old favorites.

How many consoles did the Game Boy Color sell?

When included with the Game Boy, the Game Boy Color accounted for 118.69 million consoles sold. This is a massive number of consoles on the market, and it’s a feat that hasn’t been surpassed by another handheld portable console. Nintendo really captured lightning in a bottle with the Game Boy line.

What is the rarest Game Boy Color game?

The rarest game in the Game Boy Color catalog is a limited edition release of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. This dual release had a limited release, with very few copies of both games in a complete package out in the wild. Included the package were some collector’s items like a shirt and poster.

A recent auction saw the dual release fetch nearly $4,000 for a like-new copy. The base games are relatively difficult to come by, but the limited edition is something else entirely.

What is the best-selling platformer game of all time?

Super Mario Brothers 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System is the best-selling platforming game of all time. An all-time classic, the game has sold a staggering 17 million copies to date. Super Mario 3 is regarded by many as the absolute height of the series for 2D Mario games. It isn’t a surprise a game so critically lauded could move so many copies. There was little on the market to compete directly with Super Mario 3. At the height of its popularity, Sonic the Hedgehog couldn’t hope to compete with Super Mario 3.

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