The original Nintendo Game Boy was not known for its graphical prowess but it still rocked gamers. The green screen was home to many adventures and countless hours of entertainment for many gamers. The games on this list are not graphical work horses, they are not going to blow away the Playstation 3 or even the 8-Bit Nintendo Entertainment System, no these games are great for their game play and the brain challenge they represent. Here, we are celebrating the Nintendo Game Boy’s minimalist puzzle games that still found a way to captivate and be fun.
1) Daedalian Opus (put your toys up)
This is one of those titles that you will probably not “get” the first time you play it. The thing is, once you do get it, it will be hard to put down. The idea is to take the blocks and arrange them in the box in the middle of the screen. The challenge comes from the irregular shape of that box and the pieces that must be fit into it. Early on things are simple and you will probably fly past these stages. Just wait though, there will be a roadblock coming up in no time, your analytical skills and rational thinking capabilities will be tested soon enough.
2) Dr. Mario (let’s play with pills)
Dr. Mario when first released kind of got a bad rap from many parents. It was not like this was a graphical game on the Nintendo Entertainment System but it still got parents in an uproar (it was probably the box game artwork that brought this hell onto the title).
The idea was similar to Tetris, colored pills fall from the top of the screen and drop at a certain speed (the higher the level the faster they fall). Matching four of the same color in a combination of pills and/or virus in the bottle will cause them to disappear (much like Columns). Clear all of the virus from the bottle and you go onto the next level which features more virus that need to be removed. On the Game Boy the situation is a little direr as you no longer have color as a signal to trigger subconsciously based moves. Good luck with that.
3) Flipull (flip it, flip it good)
This is a title that has gotten around in the gaming world and somehow stuck to Nintendo platforms when it comes to consoles or handhelds (it is all over the spectrum as far as computers go). The gameplay is similar to Zoop (a later entry on this list) where you are matching pieces by throwing them at the pile. When you have two pieces match they disappear and you are tossed the next block in the pile and must now find a match for that one. This sounds incredibly easy but keep in mind it doesn’t take very long to lose track of what piece you need next. There is a fair amount of strategy in this title, more than say Tetris or Dr. Mario.
4) Ishido: The Way of the Stones (play with rocks)
The lack of color hurts this one too but somehow the game is still quite playable and enjoyable. Ishido is based on a very ancient game of matching designs and shades of the rocks on the board. The game ends when you cannot match at least one of the attributes with another one on the board. It sounds ridiculously easy but it is deceptively tough, especially when the board is filling up.
5) Mysterium (making first person magic with science)
Okay, your mileage will definitely vary with this one. Partly because of your level of college education in the material refining arts and how you feel about brain numbing toughness. You are in a dungeon, you have enemies to dispatch and you only have, for the most part, raw materials to fashion your tools, keys and weapons out of. The hard part is figuring out what creates what and doing it when you need it.
6) Othello (one wrong move can cost you the whole game)
Known as “Go” in Japan, Othello is quite a challenging little game. You place chips on the table, each chip has a white and a black side. When two of the opposing color encompass the other either diagonally, up or down they turn that chip, or chips, over to their color. Pretty simple but it is hell in later levels and against the right opponent (in real life) you could be playing one game for hours as strategy takes front and center place.
7) Qix (classic line drawing game, now with enemies)
The idea of drawing lines on the screen may not sound like a fun game but give Qix a try anyhow. Just like most puzzle games, there is a lot more to it than simply drawing lines. In Qix there are enemies to worry about, the kind that if they touch your unfinished line they kill you. To add to the challenge, there are other enemies that only travel on YOUR line and only kill you if they catch you. When you grab a super majority of the board you win and move onto the next board where everyone moves slightly faster (and they are a little madder about that last defeat).
8) Quarth (fill pieces by shooting them)
This was one of the puzzle games that made me interested in the Game Boy back in the day. It wasn’t Tetris that got me interested, no I had played that to death on a friend’s Commodore 64 for years prior to the Game Boy release. Quarth was unique and it filled me with hope that we would see some innovation in the puzzle world. You basically play a shooting game like Galaga mixed with Tetris or Super Puzzle Fighter. Pieces fall from the top of the screen and are irregular shapes, your job is to shoot them and make them square. Once they are square pieces they leave the playfield. The challenge comes in from the fact that the pieces are mingled together so you have to quickly decide which to remove first. It gets hectic in later levels but keeping your wits about you will definitely help.
9) Tetris (admit it, you were Tetrisized at some point in your life)
The classic title that Nintendo narrowly secured for their own use on consoles (imagine had Sega come out the owner of the console rights). It was only natural that Tetris become the pack-in title (remember those?) for the Game Boy when it was announced- the two just fit together so well. Tetris showed off the capabilities of the fledgling hardware while hiding most of its faults (blurry screen when things moved).
Arrange the pieces as they drop into the well to form a line across so they would be eliminated. Simple. Do four lines at once and you were rewarded with a little light show. The problem arises in the fact that you will eventually, every time, lose- there is no beating this game. This hearkened back to the early consoles and arcade games like Asteroids, Missile Command etc. You didn’t beat them, you just got slightly better, a slightly higher score another bragging right within your circle of friends. Tetris set the world on fire and Nintendo was riding high with it.
10) Zoop (the colored shapes are out to get me!)
Zoop was a 16-Bit puzzle game that relied A LOT on clear colors and graphics. That made it a natural to be ported to the Game Boy where there was no color and things blurred badly when moving too quickly. The simplicity of Zoop is probably why it is just as good on the black and white Game Boy as it was on Playstation (PSOne folks, there I said it). Things are overly simplified since colors are out the window there are no shades to help you out, just designs (or lack thereof) on the blocks coming for you at the center of the stages. Much like Flipull, you have to hit the same shape as your character is. The shape you hit, if it is the same, disappears and you are rewarded with the next one in line and must now match that one. The difference is, only that one shape disappeared as your color was swapped for the one behind it. The strategy comes in via your “stacking” same shapes and colors in a line at which point you can remove several at a time. There is no penalty here for hitting a shape different than the one you currently hold so you can move things around a bit on the playfield and earn combo points.
Ah, puzzle games. They are the lifeblood of mobile gaming and as you can see here, back in the day we had a lot more variety than 4,000+ match 3 clones every month coming out. Bring back innovation indie developers! Here are some good basic games to copy, rather than ripping off Candy Crush Saga yet again, which was a build on Bejeweled anyhow (another retro puzzler about a decade newer than those listed here).
Got a favorite puzzle game or platform that has some great titles on it that need to be featured? Let me know, it may be in the next feature.
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