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Video Game Uber Fun Fun List: Nintendo Gameboy

Author: Philippe
Posted: 16 Feb 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to both you and the Video Games Uber Fun Fun List the most succesful gaming system to ever be produced. Yes, that's right gentle readers, I'm of course referring to Nintendo's hand-held system the Gameboy.

So set the hands of the wayback machine to the spring of 1989 and let's get ready to talk a little bit. Actually, scratch that. We're going back to two years earlier. Gunpei Yokoi (who, you'll remember, would later be the mastermind of the Virtual Boy) was the head of Nintendo's R&D 1 team.

Brief aside here. For those who don't know, Nintendo had three big research teams working on different projects. Hiroshi Yamauchi set these up so that there would be some fun inter-lab competition going on. Big bonuses every year went to whoever was deemed the best research team, so the teams were big-time producing tons of crazy shit. Admittedly, every team got big bonuses. Nintendo was a great company to work for. Anyway, back to 1987.

So, Gunpei took a look at what Nintendo's two big success stories were: the NES and Game and Watch. Stick 'em both together, and you got yourself a Gameboy for all intents and purposes. A system with the ability to trade cartridges and portable (and, this is an important point, a system that wouldn't eat batteries at an alarming rate).

Yoshi loved the system and they set about producing it. They also decided to put in a good but relatively unknown game as the included game. I forget the game, but it had something to do with Russians and falling bricks.

The Gameboy with Tetris was released in 1989 and sold out almost on day one. The system had a three-year sales total of 32 million units, in fact. That was just unheard-of.

When the Gameboy hit big, other companies tried their hand at handhelds. Colorized versions, faster versions, amazing things. The Gameboy, however, dominated the market because the Lynx and the Game-Gear all sucked batteries dry within an hour or two of gameplay (if you were lucky).

The system remained strong up 'til about 1995, in fact, and had sold 50 million units by this time. Eventually, though, the system needed a definite upgrade. Nintendo then introduced the Gameboy Pocket. Smaller, less unwieldy, and sporting a bigger and better screen. It sold a lot, but still needed just a little something extra.

They found what they needed in 1996 with the release of Pocket Monsters which, of course, then became Pokémon in 1997 I believe. 60 million units total sold at this point, largely do to the Pokémon phenomenon.

This era was the end of the Gameboy in black and white, however. With Pocket Monsters, the Nintendo company felt they could finally release the Gameboy Color, then, of course, the Advance and now the DS. But, for right now, let's keep it pure and dive into the black and white games on the list. Shall we?

9. And at the bottom of the barrel of the best of the best we have Faceball 2000 (Nintendo, 1991). This game was just brilliant, however limited in what it could really do. Not ahead of its time in ideas so much as hardware. It was the first (and I believe only) game that could support more than two players. Sixteen, in fact, and was essentially an FPS maze game. Lots of fun, really, but very repetitive. Also, finding fifteen friends with a Gameboy and a copy of the game is impossible. Thus, the bottom of the top.
8. Coming in at number eight we have our first of three puzzle games, Bubble Bobble (Taito, 1990). These puzzles were essentially very short platform levels much like the Nintendo game. The graphics, I believe, were horrible for a reason. Mainly, because the game itself was fun and would have been fun even if you were animated as just a black dot. Bubble Bobble gets on the list (and into my heart) because they really stripped it down to nothing so it wouldn't be hard on the eyes -- the secret to any of the original Gameboy games, in fact.
7. Link's Awakening (Nintendo, 1993). In my opinion, the true sequel to the original Zelda. This game, however, marks the turn from trying to be serious with Link to trying to be childish. "Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link," for the NES, was them trying to be serious. This was more playful in nature. It worked and set the tone graphics-wise for the SNES Zelda game (frightened chickens and whatnot). Fun all-around adventure game and it marked both the first game I got when I bought my Gameboy pocket and also part of the reason I flunked so many classes my first semester of college (meeting the rest of TTA pretty much covers the rest of the reasons in full).
6. Super Mario Land (Nintendo, 1989). Released at the same time as the Gameboy but, shockingly, not in the box. This was here because Mario had to be there to launch a new system. You're an Italian, someone has kidnapped someone else, etc etc. Fun, though.
5. Dr. Mario (Nintendo, 1990). I think this here marks one of the first times the world was able to say "it's fun; it's like Tetris except..." That phrase has been repeated a lot over the years. This game was fun; it was like Tetris except that you dropped pills of different colored (or, more accurately, different shades of gray) viruses and that made them disappear (little side note, puzzle games are always way more fun to play than they are to explain).
4. Pokémon Blue & Red (Nintendo, 1997-8). The game that begat all the nonsense that took up the majority of 1998-2001 or so. It saved the Gameboy Pocket from an early death, launched the Gameboy Color to the stratosphere, and just amused the living hell out of me. The game itself was an innovative, though somewhat straightforward, RPG (though the baby-killing Burger King toys were the true king of Pokémon fun for me). The game also set up a rather annoying standard of releasing two almost identical copies of a game which forces you to play with other kids in order to actually Collect Them All. Thank you, Nintendo. You are gods in my eyes.
3. OOOOOOOhhhh. The final three! Well, lets get cracking. Coming in at Number 3, we have Final Fantasy Legend (1989, Squaresoft). Now, you may have never played this, but it's possible that you played the sequel and didn't know it. The sequel, of course, being the fantastic Secret of Mana game for the SNES. This game plays more or less the same way. It moves like Zelda, but you level up like Final Fantasy. To level up you have to kill a metric shitton of bunnies. If you have the means, I'd highly recomend this bad boy.
2. Metroid 2: The Return of Samus (Nintendo, 1991). A real and actual tried-and-true sequel to Metroid -- something everyone had been clamoring for and something that was never released on the NES. The game even played a pivotal role in the story for the SNES version. Side-scrolling shoot-em-up platformer that was big big big. And hard. I don't have a single complaint about the game, in fact. It's high up on my list of games of all time, as it happens. Just for you guys, here's Samus in a bathing suit. I liked it so much, in fact, that I was going to put it in the number one slot. Everyone should know damn well why I couldn't.
1. Because Tetris was just so unbelievably awesome for this system. Simple graphics, easy gameplay. A game and a system were never so perfect for each other. Makes me all giddy inside. Check out the story of Tetris over in the NES article and play.

Well, that's about it, folks. Hope you enjoyed the trip. Play.

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