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Just as with the invention of color television, the only way to make a good thing even better is to add a little vibrancy to the display. This is very much the case with the Game Boy Color, which was already a hit with its predecessor the Game Boy in 1989.

Topping over a million sales in its first week alone and beating out all the handheld competition in the process, many wondered how the Game Boy could possibly improve. Then, in 1998, Nintendo introduced color displays. What better way for ’90s gamers to enjoy this latest tech than with the best Game Boy Color RPGs?

Role-playing games — commonly known as RPGs — were one of the most popular game genres for the Game Boy, as well as the follow-up Game Boy Color. It seems the genre was perfectly suited for the handheld console setup, allowing gamers to take their time and enjoy the tasks at hand without the high-octane thrills associated with the Nintendo 64, the PlayStation, and the like.

With this in mind, let’s celebrate some of the best Game Boy Color RPGs ever made by going through a ranked list of the greatest titles.

What Are RPGs?

Before getting into the ranked list, it’s worth delving into what exactly an RPG is. We’ve already stated that the abbreviation “RPG” stands for a role-playing game, but what exactly does this kind of game entail?

What are its origins, and where does it stand today? Simply put, role-playing games are more than just a video game genre. They exist outside the virtual world, too, and they have for a long time. Here are the basics: players take on roles of fictional characters, assuming responsibility for performing tasks and maintaining duties as said character.

RPGs can follow a set story or something much more open-ended and character-focused. They began in tabletop form, with game mechanics mimicking strategic discussion. (Ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons? This is perhaps the most popular example of a tabletop RPG.)

There’s also live-action role-playing, or LARPing, where players literally act out their tasks and duties. Interestingly enough, Dungeons & Dragons directly led to the creation of RPG video games. Many of the earliest titles dating back to the 1970s were simply D&D scenarios on a mainframe computer.

The Atari 2600 brought RPGs to consoles with the release of Dragonstomper in 1982. From there, it was off to the races. From Bokosuka Wars in 1983 and Dragon Warrior in 1986 to Final Fantasy in 1987, RPG console gaming effectively brought the genre to remarkable new heights.

The popularity of RPGs increased tenfold, with role-playing games still playing a vital role (no pun intended) in console and handheld gaming well into the 21st century. The Game Boy Color is owed at least partial credit for this.

A Brief History of the Game Boy Color

RPGs saw such success with the Game Boy Color because of the sheer portability of the handheld console. First released in Japan on October 21st, 1998, before moving over to North America in November of that same year, the Game Boy Color brought a full-fledged color display to the already popular Game Boy handheld console from Nintendo.

While slightly thicker and taller than previous models, the Game Boy Color — sometimes abbreviated to just GBC — was nevertheless small enough to fit in the palms of a gamer’s hands.

Ingeniously combining Intel 8080 and Zilog Z80 microprocessors into its own unique 8-bit processor, the success of the Game Boy Color helped the Game Boy product line reach nearly 120 million sales. (That makes it the third-best-selling video game system ever made.)

Relying on cartridges inserted into the rear of the device for its games, the GBC also allowed for wireless linking via infrared between consoles for local multiplayer gaming. Tiny enough to be brought on the go while still remaining big enough to see what’s going on on-screen, the GBC practically sold itself.

This small size and efficient portability is a large part of what made RPGs so popular on the Game Boy Color. Gamers could take their games with them wherever they went, allowing them to slip into their role-playing game environment on the bus, in the car, at home, on break, wherever.

The popularity of the genre brought forth some truly superb Game Boy Color RPGs. We’ve collected and ranked the very best of the best down below.

The Best Game Boy Color RPGs

From franchise entries to standalone hits, these Game Boy Color RPGs represent the very best the handheld console has to offer. Here are the seven absolute best Game Boy Color RPGs of all time. Read on to see where your favorites ranked.

7. Harvest Moon 2 GBC (2000)

game boy
Harvest Moon 2 was published by Victor Interactive Software.

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PublisherVictor Interactive Software
Available PlatformsGame Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS
DeveloperNatsume
ModesSingle-player
ReleasedNovember 7th, 2000

You can’t talk about the best role-playing games for a Nintendo console without talking about the Harvest Moon series. For the Game Boy Color, that Harvest Moon entry would have to be Harvest Moon 2 GBC.

The object of this Harvest Moon game is as simple as this: cultivate your farm to prevent dastardly amusement park developers from taking your land. Viewed as much bigger (and much better) than the previous entry in the series, Harvest Moon 2 GBC forgoes Harvest Moon‘s dating feature to put the focus entirely on farming. (No time to date when your land’s at stake!)

6. Revelations: The Demon Slayer (1999)

game boy
Revelations: The Demon Slayer was published by Sega.

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PublisherSega
Available PlatformsGame Boy Color, Game Boy, Sega Game Gear
DeveloperAtlus
ModesSingle-player
ReleasedMarch 19th, 1999

The first title in the Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible series, Revelations: The Demon Slayer was originally a Game Boy game in the early 1990s that was later ported to the Game Boy Color in the late ’90s. The game follows a young magician in training named El, honing his skills with Zodia, his teacher.

Later sequels embraced the series’ Japanese title Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible, but this Americanized Revelations title stands out as one of the very best GBC RPGs in the handheld console’s five-year lifespan.

5. Legend of the River King 2 (2001)

game boy
Natsume published Legend of the River King 2.

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PublisherNetsuke
Available PlatformsGame Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS
DeveloperVictor Interactive Software
ModesSingle-player
ReleasedApril 17th, 2001

Originally marketed in the United States as a spinoff to Harvest Moon 2 GBC — despite the River King series actually being the older one of the two franchises — Legend of the River King 2 is just about the most relaxing GBC RPG you’re likely to find.

Fishing always seems to be a fun little feature in several RPGs of note, but Legend of the River King 2 makes it the primary focus. It’s all the better for doing so. Allowing gamers to choose between a kid character and a teen character, the River King sequel effectively provides two unique story modes under one title.

4. Lufia: The Legend Returns (2001)

game boy
Neverland developed Lufia: The Legend Returns.

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PublisherNatsume
Available PlatformsGame Boy Color
DeveloperNeverland
ModesSingle-player
ReleasedSeptember 20th, 2001

Technically the third in the Lufia series, Lufia: The Legend Returns is the first entry in the series to be available for a handheld console. In this respect, it functions as a soft reboot of sorts. In it, players explore dungeons in search of ancient texts that then help them acquire new skills for use in random battles.

Originally intended for the PlayStation 2, the game’s original developer went under and was later grabbed by Neverland. There’s quite an extensive plot to keep players entertained, making it one of the most complex GBC RPGs in the handheld console’s history. It’s also one of the very best.

3. Survival Kids (1999)

game boy
Konami developed Survival Kids.

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PublisherKonami
Available PlatformsGame Boy Color
DeveloperKonami
ModesSingle-player
ReleasedOctober 1999

Also known as Stranded Kids in European markets, Survival Kids is a survival RPG with an open-ended story and objectives. The plot is basic; your boat capsized in a storm in the middle of the ocean, effectively stranding you on a desert island.

You must manage your vitals by finding food, water, and shelter. You’re also able to craft, which comes in handy many times as you make your way through the game. There’s no one true way to complete the game, giving players countless different outcomes to end up at. You can move as fast or as slow as you please, making it a truly unique RPG.

2. Dragon Warrior III (2001)

game boy
Enix published Dragon Warrior III.

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PublisherEnixAvailable PlatformsNES, Game Boy Color, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Mobile, PlayStation 4DeveloperTOSEModesSingle-playerReleasedJuly 7th, 2001

Dubbed Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation just about everywhere but here in America, Dragon Warrior III proves that the third time is almost always the charm. While Dragon Warrior I & II are plenty great in their own right, Dragon Warrior III elevates gameplay and plot to new and exciting levels.

It might have originally been released for the NES nearly 15 years earlier, but even when ported to the Game Boy Color, Dragon Warrior III still feels as fresh as if it were made specifically for the handheld console. It happens to be everything RPG lovers could possibly want from a GBC game.

1. Pokémon: Crystal (2001)

game boy
Pokemon: Crystal was published by Nintendo.

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PublisherNintendo
Available PlatformsGame Boy Color
DeveloperGame Freak
ModesSingle-player, multiplayer
ReleasedJuly 29th, 2001

Can you really even talk about Game Boy Color RPGs without talking about the Pokémon franchise? The two are practically one and the same, with Pokémon Crystal being the epitome of this. Technically an improved version of 1999’s Pokémon Gold and Silver, Crystal takes what Pokémon fans loved about Gold and Silver and introduces next-gen new features.

Gold and Silver were already beloved games by the time Crystal came out, but Crystal‘s added features made the game just that much better. As it stands, it tops the list of the absolute best Game Boy Color RPGs of all time.

Up Next

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

What is an RPG?

An RPG is a role playing game. While originating in tabletop form, the term RPG is now primarily used in reverence to video games.

When did the Game Boy Color come out?

The Game Boy Color was released in America in November of 1998. It was the next in line in the iconic Game Boy family of handheld consoles. Nintendo discontinued the Game Boy Color in 2003.

Is Pokémon an RPG?

Yes. Pokémon remains one of the most popular and well-known examples of a role playing game.

What's the best selling RPG of all time?

By today’s standards, the best selling RPG of all time is 2011’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

What's the best RPG on the Game Boy Color?

The Game Boy Color’s best selling RPG also happens to be the handheld console’s best selling game overall: Pokémon Gold and Silver.

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