This was the first handheld I ever had. I got it for my 7th birthday, used of course, with a copy of Tetris. I remember the copy of Tetris had a cigarette burn mark on the top of the cartridge and was stained yellow. I’ll never forget that! Sadly, I only ever owned two Game Boy games. The other was Galaga & Galaxian that I found at a thrift store. Despite only having this game for the longest time I played it a lot. I remember that green screen burned into my memory and the sound of the theme song chirping away in the background. I wish I knew just how many awesome games were for the system back in the day as I missed out on a lot.
And for 80’s hardware, the system is quite impressive. Being such a small 8-bit system is really something else. The worst part about the system is the awful screen. There is no backlight and it’s monochrome in green. People gave the Game Boy hell for this and still do it until this day. The Japanese market got an improved Game Boy Light with a backlight, but it was never released here. The system is quite chunky, but that can be a good thing. It has some weight and feels good in the hand even today. There’s a contrast wheel and a sound wheel as well as a link cable port. This thing took four AA batteries but didn’t burn through them as fast as people think. This wasn’t the Game Gear after all. The batteries could last as long as 30 hours. Not having a CFL backlight had its advantages.
The system also had a headphone jack, and the speaker was good enough. Systems are only as good as their libraries and the Game Boy had some great additions. Sadly, there was also a lot of garbage on the handheld. Some developers didn’t know how to optimize the hardware and made ugly games with sluggish controls and animations. While others defined the system. It may be hard to back to the original hardware today especially when newer Game Boys play these games with better hardware. I recommend modding this system with an IPS screen and maybe swapping the shell out. A lot of these yellowed over the years and the plastics became brittle. However, I will praise the large screen as it’s easy to see the sprites on the screen.
Overall, the original Game Boy’s worst problem was the terrible screen, but the batteries lasted a long time, it sounded pretty good, and the screen was at least large. It may be hard to go back to an original Game Boy today, but anyone who is curious or wants to own one is encouraged to modify it with modern hardware and make it more enjoyable to play today.
I remember MK3 very fondly growing up as a kid. I remember seeing ads for it everywhere. Specifically a cardboard standee in a Walmart with the giant logo. My parents had a friend bring the Saturn version over once during a really bad storm. I remember seeing the arcades as well. I wound up renting it for Super Nintendo and had a blast. I mostly loved the much darker and more mature tone the series took. MKII felt more cartoony and stylish while MK3 felt like it pushed the first game’s realism even further.
Sadly does not transfer over to the Game Boy version. I don’t know why they bothered at this point. Probe dropped the ball after the pretty decent MKII and made MK3 just about as bad as the port of the first game. Back are the smaller sprites, sluggish animations, unresponsive controls, and weird speed issues with jumping animations. Animations seem to speed up and slow down making the game just slightly better than a Tiger Electronics version. The control scheme is mostly intact, which isn’t that bad, but we also get the running mode which is useless on such a tiny screen with a low frame rate. A new developer took the helm here and went with a 512K cart this time which still could be bigger. Sure, we get four stages, but they’re ugly and the music sucks too.
Once again, we get quite a few cut characters. Liu-Kang, Stryker, Nightwolf, Kung-Lao, Jax, and Shang Tsung are all missing. That’s nearly half the roster. Every character has their Babality intact, but only a single Fatality and Mercies were kept in. It honestly doesn’t matter with how insanely slow the game plays. It feels like everyone is wading through mud. It’s just so unacceptable at this point as many Game Boy games looked and played so much better.
There is nearly no redeeming value in playing this atrocity. It’s the worst version of the game and at this point, 8-bit versions should have already stopped. We’re almost into 1996. 32-bit systems have been here for a couple of years now. The Game Boy is already almost 7 years old. I can only say this is for people who are curious or are collectors of Mortal Kombat games. Otherwise, stay away.
Colors: Black, Silver, Green, Blue, Pink, Red, Lavender, Famicon 20th Anniversary, Final Fantasy IV, Lite blue, Mother 3, Pokemon
Nintendo’s constant quest to reduce and miniaturize their handhelds has its fans and some detractors I personally think it’s great as we can still keep and own the larger handhelds. The Micro, however, may have been pushing this limit a little too much. The tiny handheld improved on a single feature: We finally got a good screen and a backlight. The Micro has the best screen out of any of the systems, even the Game Boy Advance SP AGS-101.
The system was designed with the idea of putting on your keychain or a lanyard and being able to put it into small pockets and pack it away. The system had interchangeable faceplates (which you can still get new ones made today by third parties), but the tiny design irked a lot of people. It’s about 1/4 the size of the original GBA and to many, the SP was the perfect GBA system. It retained the same button layout, and rechargeable battery and the screen brightness could be further adjusted.
However, all I/O was removed. This meant no multiplayer and any accessories that connected to the GameCube, e-Readers, and backward compatibility was out the window as well. To many, this is just a novelty, especially with the tiny 2″ screen. Does having a really good screen and backlight make up the difference for such a small form factor and cutting every other feature? Probably not. The system is still plenty playable and I have enjoyed many hours on mine.
Sadly, due to the low sales and poor marketing, and lambasted reviews, the Micro didn’t sell well so these systems are expensive, especially in good shape or complete in-box. thankfully the faceplates and rear housing can be replaced by third parties, and mods don’t really exist for this system. They’re not really needed. This system is really only for those who collect Game Boys or just want a really good OEM backlight without any fuss or mods. If you don’t use any accessories such as the ones mentioned above you won’t miss those either. You also must remember that there is no backward compatibility with older Game Boy titles and need to be okay with just Game Boy Advance games.
The system does feel good in the hands despite the size. There are only two face buttons so this can work fine. I would complain about the small screen, but it’s so clear and crisp and high-res for the size that you can see everything clearly. Adjusting the volume and brightness requires a button combo which is unintuitive without the manual and it has its own proprietary charger not compatible with the GBA SP. There is also a headphone jack so keep that in mind as well. This is just a raw GBA playing system.
Overall, the Game Boy Micro is a fun little system that cuts everything out to give us a fantastic OEM backlight and customizable faceplates, but to some that may not be worth the cost of size and accessories. It at least has a rechargeable battery still and comes in really awesome variations.
These two portables were a huge part of my early teen years. I pre-ordered the PSP when I was 14 years old. I used my allowance saved up for 6 months to slap down that $250. I hadn’t been that excited about a piece of hardware in my life. I made a wallpaper (see below) for it, prepped files to transfer to the measly 32MB memory card, and even picked out a case ahead of time. The Nintendo DS was more of an afterthought. I never got excited about it due to the less powerful hardware and then heavily criticized touch screen. People thought it would be full of gimmicky games and lack the essence of what made the Game Boy so great. I’ve owned both of these systems for many years now and have played a good majority of their libraries. I want to break down the categories into hardware, revisions, software, and then various game genres. Most people just pick the best-selling games and compare those, but the systems go deeper than that. Some genres were stronger on one system over another due to their button layout and unique hardware. I am honestly tired of these comparisons: The DS had Zelda and the PSP had God of War. It’s so much more than that.
This is the first thing that you will notice before even picking up the system, so it makes sense right? What system had the more attractive box, better pack-ins, and overall looks? This matters more than people think, especially for the casual gamer who doesn’t do extensive research beforehand or the non-gamers who make a spontaneous purchase.
The PSP overall had a much larger box than the DS. It even showed right up front what it included. You got a hand strap, 32MB Memory Stick Pro Duo for game saves, a UMD demo sampler, wired earbuds with a remote, a soft case, a cleaning cloth, and the system itself. For $250 you saw right there that you got some value for all that money. Not only that but the PSP itself was plastered on the front for all to see. The XMB showed a music, video, game, and photo symbol so you knew this thing could do multimedia. This was the last of the Sony of the ’90s where everything they created had value and they showed right up front what you were getting to entice buyers and it worked.
Unboxing the system felt premium and holding that sleek handheld was an experience I will never forget. It was sleek, and slim, looked futuristic, had a great build quality, and was comfortable in the hand. It was one of the best gaming unboxings of all time and nothing has topped that since.
The Nintendo DS wasn’t super appealing at first glance. The touch screen and the prominent stylus made you think it was a PDA or some sort (PDAs were still a thing back then) so it was confusing. Was it a game system or a personal organizer? The casual observer would be confused. The dual screens didn’t help either further pushing the PDA look. There was no video game shown on the front and the drab gray box was lifeless. There were no pack-ins either with the DS. While it was $100 cheaper than the PSP that sure made it appealing, but you didn’t get anything with it.
When you actually unboxed the system it was bulky, kind of ugly, and the screens weren’t very bright. A far cry from Sony’s bright LCD on the PSP, however, there was no ghosting on the DS like there was with the PSP-1000 model. The speakers sounded good and it had wifi as well, but another appealing factor was the backward compatibility with GameBoy Advance titles. This also acted as a peripheral port too. Great for rumble packs, and anything else you could imagine going in there.
The PSP was the first handheld to be a full multimedia station. This was before smartphones took off, so it was a very popular option for people wanting an MP3, video, photo, and gaming machine all in their pocket. It was fiddly with the videos as they had to be encoded in MP4. The PSP could also play WMA and MP3 files, but not FLAC or WAV. While the PSP could also display photos it seemed pointless without having a camera. While one would come later it was of terrible quality and nothing close to even what the first iPhone had. All of this multimedia stuff was great, but it came at a cost. Memory Stick Pro Duos were very expensive in larger capacities. The one it came with was meant only for game saves and DLC. If you wanted to do anything else you need to get a 64MB one or higher. Forget sticks that were 1GB. These cost hundreds of dollars and took a couple of years before coming down to an affordable price. This was Sony’s future-proofing the system, but it wasn’t appealing to early adopters. I remember my first large memory card was a 512MB and that cost $70 just one year later.
This was essentially where the XMB was born. What we got on the PS3 and PS4 and even a little bit on the PS5. Many Sony Blu-Ray players also used this menu system. It was simple and easy to figure out. Sony would later add comic support, web browsing (which was awful and slow), RSS feeds, and digital TV in Japan. It tried to do it all, but it couldn’t do it all very well. It helped show off the power of the PSP.
What you see is what you get. This is all there was to the DS’s software. This single screen. You could go into the options and set your birthday for certain games to recognize, but that’s about it. There was a simple calendar and analog clock. Pictochat was your only app and you could choose which game slot to play and DS Download Play, but that’s it. The DS didn’t focus on anything else but the games, and for the price, you expected that. I was surprised the DS had a menu system at all of how simplistic the overall design was. There was no need for more expensive memory cards as all games were saved on the game card.
This was the early 2000s. Everything was online or needed to be. The PSP had this in mind right out of the gate with what Sony called “Infrastructure” play or online play. Many launch titles had it, but they also had “Ad-Hoc” play which was wireless local multiplayer. Some games had the ability to play online locally with one UMD which was awesome, but very few games support this. Playing online was as simple as connecting to an access point, but this became impossible when later routers would implement WPA2 wifi security which the PSP did not support. Being able to go on a web browser was neat. Does anyone remember the hidden one in Wipeout Pure? Downloading DLC on a handheld was also really cool. You could later download comics, and RSS feeds, which were ahead of their time. Only smartphones were doing this. However, in the end, it was up to the game to support online play. Sadly, neither system supported a friends list, clans, rankings, or anything like that.
Surprisingly, the DS was capable of the same online play as the PSP, but mostly local wireless was implemented. You could play with up to four players off of one cart if the developers allowed it and even beam demos to your friends. This was utilized more than the PSP, and very few games had online play. The DS suffered from the same security incompatibility as the PSP later on but also had a feature the PSP didn’t have: DS Download Play. You could go to game stores and download demos of games which was really cool. Sadly, due to the lack of a storage option, you could not download or obtain DLC in any way unless it was in the cart and became unlocked by connecting to a server. Overall, the online capabilities of the DS were barely there.
The PSP is technically superior in pretty much every way. A faster CPU and GPU, more RAM, a bigger screen, an external wifi switch, larger physical media capacity, and a few more options. However, the CPU was underclocked for a good year to 222Mhz to save battery life until God of War: Chains of Olympus came out to overclock it to the full 333Mhz. A firmware update was required to even do this which shipped with the game. While the media capacity was larger, a UMD was 1.8 GB compared to a DS cart’s 512MB max capacity. That’s three times larger. This allowed for richer worlds, more content, and better visuals overall. The downside to this was spinning media on a battery. The UMD sucked the battery’s life down and thus games later in the system’s life opted for data installs as the prices of memory cards came down.
The physical design of the PSP while beautiful and ergonomic was also fragile. The system got dust under the plastic lens easily, the LCD could easily crack (I cracked mine only a few months in from just being in my pocket), the UMD drive failed, and while the battery was removable it was a fairly low capacity only giving users around 3-4 hours. The LCD also had serious ghosting issues, but many didn’t notice this as LCD screens were still expensive. While the PSP did a noble job on its first outing it had some serious flaws that were later addressed in newer models.
The DS had lower-powered hardware, but the battery lasted much longer. Getting nearly 8-10 hours on a single charge. There were no spinning media to worry about or a large power-hungry screen. The DS did have smaller screens and while they were clear, the backlight wasn’t that great on the first model. The touch screen was also prone to scratching. So in the screen department, it didn’t do so well. The DS didn’t have a sleep mode like the PSP did. The game had to support going to sleep so you could close the DS up. The DS was built better and felt sturdy however the hinge was a weak point. The stylus was also prone to get lost and when that’s gone you can’t play any games at all. A losable core piece of hardware is a downside.
In the end, they both have their strengths and weaknesses. The DS has lower-powered hardware, but the touchscreen forces gameplay innovation and creativity. The PSP looks sleek, but it is really fragile and the spinning media sucks the battery. You also need expensive proprietary memory cards. With the PSP’s largest strength being processing power, the DS just edges out on everything else.
Handhelds are notorious for hardware revisions. Some give better processing power they are, in the end, built to cost and are meant to be cheaper to produce. Both systems had many revisions with pros and cons. For starters, the PSP’s revision of the PSP-2000 or “Slim and Lite” reduced the screen ghosting by a lot, but made the PSP feel lighter and too cheap. It felt more plastic-like and had fewer metal parts inside. It came in many more colors and bundles but also didn’t come with anything like a value pack. This was just a core model. Sadly, the storage option wasn’t addressed and the battery was surprisingly shrunk down so you got less battery life. The only addition was video output which was nice but made no sense. However, Sony did double the RAM for faster loading times and better web browsing. The D-pad was also slightly improved. That was probably the second greatest addition next to the better screen. It was a modest revision, but nothing spectacular, and didn’t focus on the system’s biggest weaknesses.
Nintendo DS Lite
Nintendo released a strikingly slimmer Nintendo DS Lite. This thing was very sleek and gave off PSP vibes with how slim it was. Like the PSP-2000 not much was addressed. The biggest complaints were the size and chunkiness of the original model and that was taken care of. Brighter screens, a longer-lasting battery, and a longer stylus were added so nearly every issue of the original model was fixed. This is the perfect DS to get if you want GBA compatibility.
In the end, the PSP didn’t address enough of its bigger issues and added features that didn’t enhance the overall experience. While the DS Lite didn’t add anything new it focused on improvement.
The PSP-3000 was sony’s last full-size revision. It had even fewer improvements over the 2000 model only adding the best screen yet with half-reduced pixel response time, more brightness, and a better contrast ratio. However, the parts were cheapened even more and it almost feels like a toy at this point. The component video was added to the video output which is nice I guess. I never understood hooking a handheld up to a TV. It kind of defeats the purpose and it looks ugly. That was it. The lens on the screen reduced glare, but overall with was a severely cost-reduced model and that was clearly the goal. By now the PSP was at its peak and was quickly dropping in sales.
This is where Nintendo took a step back. They removed the GBA slot which rendered all DS accessories useless and had no backward compatibility. Instead, they added two cameras which were awful and pointless. I would have rather kept the GBA slot. We did get a more powerful CPU for the DSi shop and a new home screen. The doubled CPU power was nice and helped with DS games that suffered a slowdown on the previous models. We also got a four times RAM increase, and 256MB of internal storage for the DSiWare games, plus an SD card slot. While the GBA slot was taken away we did get an actual advancement in the software and hardware side of things, unlike the PSP. The last downside was shorter battery life due to the larger screens, increased CPU speed, and a better wifi card.
Sony PSP GO
This was Sony’s final outing and it was a drastic change. They wanted to really push the PlayStation Store by making a digital-only handheld. That’s great and all, but what about all that physical media out there? They promised a program that would allow you to download a digital game if you had the physical one, but there was no way to prove this and prevent piracy. In the end, you had to re-buy everything and this killed sales. They also introduced a new, more expensive, and harder-to-find propriety storage that came in smaller sizes than memory stick pro duos. The memory stick micro or M2 card maxed out at 32GB. Despite this serious downside the new compact slide-out design was reminiscent of phones in the day and was a huge hit with fans. Again, there’s a downside to this. The 4.3″ screen was reduced to 3.8″.
While Bluetooth was added to connect a PS3 controller to play on a TV Sony continued to alienate previous owners by now making the cable proprietary and removing USB support. This was to support the official dock as the PSP could act as an analog clock, MP3 player, and video player, however, this was too late. While it’s a super sleek handheld, and the 16GB of internal storage is a good start it’s not enough. There should have easily been 32GB of internal storage and SD card support. But Sony’s rampant frothing-at-the-mouth drive to deter piracy killed the sales of their system.
Nintendo DSi XL
This is probably the best version of the DS to get overall. It sadly doesn’t improve anything outside of larger screens and better battery life. If you want bigger screens get this. If you want smaller screens, get a DSi. I owned one at one point and loved the larger 3.25″ screens. The system feels heavier but still sleek and well-built. I can’t give this one to Nintendo this time due to how little they changed anything. At least Sony tried to re-design the entire PSP despite its many setbacks.
The power of the PSP was suited for action games. Lots of explosions, fun combat, and the analog nub helped with this. Sadly, the lack of a second stick meant camera control was left to the computer or other buttons. Action games were plenty on the PSP with a lot of bestsellers. Most of Sony’s AAA titles were in this category. While not all of them were knocked out of the park, many showed off the power of the PSP and it set it apart from the DS at least in that way.
Some notable games are the God of War, Syphon Filter, Pursuit Force, Grand Theft Auto, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Ace Combat,Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Brothers in Arms, Coded Arms, Monster Hunter, God Eater, Killzone, Manhunt, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Medal of Honor, Metal Gear Solid, Prince of Persia and the list goes on. These were massive franchises and most had the PSPs’ back. If you want to play action games there is no shortage on the PSP.
The DS did have some action games, but the lack of analog control and the stylus made it difficult to port games or stick known franchises on the system. There weren’t many 3D action games as the system was best with 2D platformers and RPGs. We did get a few noteworthy titles such as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Dementium, Moon, Metroid Prime: Hunters, Call of Duty, Brothers in Arms, Ninja Gaiden, Contra, Okamiden, and LEGO, and that about sums up 3D action titles on the DS. It was slim pickings, and only a few of these titles were amazing.
Due to the PSP’s 3D capabilities racing games were huge on the system. If you were a racing fan this was the system for you. Nearly every major franchise landed on the system. ATV, MX, Burnout, Juiced, Need for Speed, Ridge Racer, Flatout, Split/Second, TOCA Race Driver, Gran Turismo, Wipeout, Outrun, Test Drive, Midnight Club, MotorStorm, Sega Rally, MotoGP, F1, WRC, NASCAR, Hot Wheels,Micro Machines, you name it. Not all of these were fantastic titles, but a lot of these games looked good and felt great on the handheld.
The DS didn’t lack any racing games, but due to the weaker 3D abilities of the system racing games weren’t the first stop for the system. Mario Kart probably dominated that genre single-handedly, but there were some third-party franchises as well. Burnout, Need for Speed, Asphalt, GRID, Sonic Racing, Trackmania, Racer Driver, Moto Racer, Dirt, Juiced, Ridge Racer, Diddy Kong, and a few others. While some of these franchises were also on PSP they were far superior. Some developers created all new experiences on DS over the PSP so they were their own unique games, but the ports weren’t very good and felt slow and boring. While there are a few solid titles on the DS it’s not the go-to genre for this system or its strength.
The PSP was a strong system full of JRPGs. Not many Western ones made it to the system with the biggest being The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion having been canceled. Many franchises, nearly all of the popular ones, made it onto the system both 3D and 2D. Remakes remasters, and one-shots made it onto the system as well. Series like Star Ocean, Final Fantasy, Persona, Kingdom Hearts, Valkyrie Profile, Ys, Lunar, The Legend of Heroes, Crimson Gem Saga, Class of Heroes, Brave Story, Phantasy Star, Dungeon Siege, Untold Legends, Growlanser, Tales of the World, Blade Dancer, and many others. If you notice a lot of these are lesser-known series, and Final Fantasy most dominated the system. There were more RPGs released only in Japan that the West never got. Thankfully some have been translated by fans.
The DS was clearly the strong winter in the RPG department. While it didn’t see hardly any Wester RPGs, JRPGs dominated the system and were one of its strong suits. 2D RPGs and even 3D isometric ones were popular with pretty much every franchise backing the system. Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Mario & Luigi, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, Radiant Historia, Shin Megami Tensei, Lunar Knights, Nostalgia, Etrian Odyssey, Chrono Trigger, Lufia, Golden Sun, Rune Factory, Suikoden, Sonic, Luminous Arc, Phantasy Star, Avalon Code, Digimon, and the list goes on. As you can probably tell Pokemon alone would win this category. But you had Shin Megami Tensei games that weren’t Persona. Unique Final Fantasy games that weren’t remakes or ports. Quite a few one-shot exclusives. Dragon Quest never made it to the PSP, and neither did Suikoden. There’s so much variety here that any JRPG fan will love the DS in this category.
Puzzle games are great in any portable form and every handheld has had a good amount of them. The PSP was no exception with the puzzle rhythm hybrid Lumines being the first on the system. The PSP got a ton of original puzzle games and ports. Some of them are wholly fantastic. Games like echochrome, Lumines, Crush, Exit, Practical Intelligence Quotient, Downstream Panic, Mercury, and others were great games that fit the widescreen of the PSP. There were also a lot of bad puzzle games on PSP, and sadly more than good ones.
The touch screen was just screaming for puzzle games. You can physically manipulate them outside of buttons and it gave the genre a chance to add another dimension. There were so many puzzle games on the DS that it drowned the PSP in comparison. Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, Picross, Meteos, Tetris, Planet Puzzle League, Professor Layton, Henry Hatsworth, Scribblenauts, Peggle, Touchmaster, Polarium, Crosswords, Clubhouse Games, and the list goes on. There weren’t just traditional puzzle games, but word games as well. Sudoku, Crosswords, and many others allowed you to write answers. That’s more than the PSP could. This is a situation where the genre fits the system better here.
The PSP has a hardware advantage here. The system isn’t just stuck with 2D platformers. 3D ones were common on the system, but then another hardware fault bites it in the ass. The lack of a second analog nub means no camera control. This became a widespread problem in the system. 3D platformers were frustrated endeavors and the DS’ lower-powered hardware suddenly could shine because of this. Games like Death Jr., Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Pac-Man World, Jak & Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, Toy Story, and many others were decent to middling. 3D platformers would have been a huge leg up for the PSP if it just had another analog nub. That’s not to say 2D platformers never made it to the system. Games like LittleBigPlanet, Mega Man, Prinny, Ghost & Goblins, N+, Castlevania, and many others made it to the system and performed better, but there just wasn’t a lot of them. The PSP isn’t anything to sniff at when it comes to platformers, but nothing truly stood out.
With the power of Nintendo’s already strong platformer games and a lot of third-party series the DS really did shine. It didn’t have to worry about clumsy 3D controls either. Games like New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, Super Princess Peach, Sonic, Kirby, Mega Man, Spider-Man, Castlevania, Wario, The Legendary Starfy, Yoshi, Contra, Aliens, and many others. Super Mario 64 was one of the rare 3D platformers, but it worked well thanks to being tailored for the system. It might kind of feel like there’s cheating here because Nintendo has such a strong presence in the platformer genre, but what’s here is here. While the PSP may have had a larger variety of platformers, the DS had a much stronger sense of quality.
With the advantage of 3D and not needing to really use a camera the sports genre had an advantage here. Sony had their own sports series, plus third-party companies like EA and 2K could throw there’s on here as well. Games like NBA 2K, NBA Street, NFL Street, Tiger Woods, Pangya, Madden, FIFA, Fight Night, Hot Shots, Tony Hawk, WWE, NHL, Virtua Tennis, NBA Live, Pro Evolution Soccer, Football Manager, The Bigs, and the list goes on. There was a massive pouring of sports games on the system of nearly every genre. While a lot of them aren’t very good there is at least one decent title in every series on the system.
Now the DS was interesting when it came to sports titles. Developers had to be creative to put their series on this system due to the lack of 3D horsepower. Series like Tony Hawk were better on the DS (outside of Underground 2 Remix) because of this creativity needed. You also had series like Tiger Woods use the touch screen in unique ways. There were many series on the DS as well like FIFA and Madden, but they weren’t really any good. Nintendo had its own sports series like Mario Hoops, Mario & Sonic, and True Swing Golf, but again, nothing special. Many series were a one-and-done on here like WWE, Skate, Real Soccer, and some others that just didn’t perform well. The DS was a real mixed bag in the sports arena with only a few standout titles. This is where the lack of 3D power hurt despite the unique controls.
Rhythm games during this era weren’t very popular on handhelds in the West. They exploded in the East and you usually had to import them if you wanted the best the systems had to offer. This was mostly the case with the PSP. There was Rock Band Unplugged and Lumines in the West, but Japan, China, and Korea got the likes of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva, DJ Max Portable, K-On, and Pop’n Music. The PSP’s widescreen format was great for rhythm games as it allowed a wide playfield and the number of buttons worked out great. The power of the system also allowed for music videos to play in the background which most rhythm games did.
The DS may not have had the powerful hardware or widescreen format, but the touch screen was a more physical and unique interaction for rhythm games that matched the arcade. Games like Elite Beat Agents, Ontomarama, Rhythm Heaven, Lego Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and many more. There was a much larger Western following thanks to the touch screen, but many of the rhythm games lacked content due to the cartridge’s small size and no way to download DLC. A lot of the DS rhythm games were more experimental and thus many didn’t review them as well as PSP rhythm games. Guitar Hero was fine, but the grip controller cramped your hands. There were also more consistent franchises on PSP with yearly releases, but the downside was needing to import.
The power of the PSP allowed for great 3D fighters and many jumped ship from their console cousins. Franchises like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, Dragon Ball Z, BlazBlue, SouCalibur, and many more made it onto the PSP. At least one entry in every major fighting franchise made it over and most were original titles. That’s not to say a majority reviewed well. Most of the 3D fighters reviewed with middling scores, and this was mainly due to the PSP’s not-so-ideal D-pad for fighting games. Despite the less-than-desirable score average, they made it onto the system nonetheless and many gamers ate them up.
The DS had some major franchises make it over like Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, and Naruto, but it wasn’t as vast as the PSP. The DS was even less ideal for fighting games due to a lack of analog input, and the DS’ D-pad wasn’t much better. Some games added a touchscreen swipe system, but these just never felt the same. Sadly, the lack of power meant 3D fighters suffered, and 2D fighters looked squished on the small screen.
Well, despite this seeming like a competition each system has its strengths and weaknesses and some might play better to what you want over others. Some may only play RPGs on handheld so the DS would be the best system for you. Some may want more multimedia features so the PSP would be the way to go. While in the comparisons the PSP seems to have a stronger library it only seems that way at first. A lot of PSP games didn’t review as well as DS games on average. The lack of first-party support with Sony not releasing as many games as Nintendo did on the DS and the DS’ lack of power and unique controls forced developers to make games from the ground up. The PSP received a lot worse PS2 ports and movie tie-ins than the DS did. The PSP’s power was also a crutch that many developers leaned heavily on and it didn’t pay off most of the time. Each system is worthy in your collection, but this contrast and comparison may help those who are on the fence in one area or another.
Many people use video game reviews to determine how to spend their hard-earned dollars. While as an adult I don’t take this as seriously and I now make my own money I am more forgiving of games that aren’t perfect. As kids or teens, we have limited money and are usually picked through gaming magazines to determine if that one game was worth the money because we only got a few a year. For me, it was only during Christmas time that my parents bought games. I mostly rented mine throughout my childhood and teen years. Even for rentals, I was picky as I didn’t want to be stuck on my weekend with a dud of a game. Even a 7/10 or 3.5/5 would be considered a waste of time. This was the last generation in which AAA title after AAA title would be considered fantastic and with so many exclusives it was hard to keep up with. The HD era of gaming would see budgets balloon to insane heights and game releases slowed down as a result.
In my eyes, 7/10 or 3.5/5 games are mostly ignored. These aren’t always considered hidden gems either. Some are, but some are just considered forgettable. Not awful or good, but just passes under everyone’s radar. These aren’t the “so bad it’s good” games either. A few of these games have cult followings; a few I had only heard of while compiling this list and some I played myself growing up. I compiled this list from Metacritic with games between 74-70. I feel that’s the true blue 7 range. 79 and 78-rated games usually only have about 25% of the critics giving it a 7 to bring an otherwise 8 score down some. These games are at least rated by half the critics as 7/10. While I know many people don’t listen to critics and some might feel this game should be rated higher or lower is subjective. Like it or not, critic reviews drive sales and it may be the reason why you might find a few games on this list you’ve never heard of, thought was talked about worse than you remember, or something along those lines
Pokemon Trozei! – 2005
A fun matching puzzle game, but lacked any modes and overall content. The graphics were also really simple despite looking at the part. The issue is that the game gets old really fast. It’s not as addictive as other puzzlers of its ilk.
Most Recent Entry: Pokemon Shuffle – 2015 (AND, iOS, 3DS)
This a great jumping-in point for new players as this new set of games are almost identical to the first game. You just get more of the same, and that’s not always bad. The original game was praised for blending soccer with RPG elements, but the soccer part wasn’t all that great. It’s still a unique series to check out.
This is considered the worst game in the series, but that’s saying a lot. The story alone is worth playing, but the game can feel overly complex at times and the AI is pretty bad.
Most Recent Entry: Valkyrie Elysium – 2022 (PS4, PS5, PC)
99Bullets – 2011
Well-liked for blending two genres well, but lacked content and was a little on the hard side. It’s still a very unique vertical shooter and felt like a good diversion from the anime-based shooters at the time.
Zoonies – Escape from Makatu – 2011
A cute and fun albeit forgettable platformer. The game also had some control issues and was really short, but at least it felt at home eon DSiWare.
Meteos: Disney Magic – 2007
More of the same with a Disney skin. The changes didn’t improve the game, but instead just made it different. If you love Meteos this one is worth picking up. It’s sad this series was so short-lived.
Most Recent Entry: Meteos Wars – 2008 (X360)
Big Brain Academy – 2005
A good improvement to the series and the puzzles get harder are you continue to play adding replay value. However, the overall content is a bit lacking and is only fun in short bursts.
Most Recent Entry: Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain – 2021 (NS)
Drone Tactics – 2008
Yes, it’s an Atlus game so that means there are some big fans of this game. While the strategy is fun and the game looks slick, the storyline is childish and pretty stupid. Many rolled their eyes at the story and skipped past it just to get to the meat of the game. In any RPG that’s not a good thing, but the gameplay is good enough to justify this.
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood – 2008
This game doesn’t need any introduction to Sonic fans or those avid in their DS lore. Bioware of all people made this game and it was incredibly hyped. A dark and mature Sonic RPG? What’s not to love? The game is way too simple. There are no deep gameplay elements or RPG things in here. It was clearly geared towards younger children despite the great visuals and unique twist on the series.
Most Recent Entry: Sonic Frontiers – 2022 (PC, PS4, XONE, PS5, XSX, NS)
Bomberman Land Touch 2! – 2008
Bomberman tried the Mario Party approach and didn’t quite hit it off. The game was way too simple and there wasn’t much depth to the title. However, there was a lot of content and the use of the touch screen was well implemented.
Most Recent Entry: Amazing Bomberman – 2022 (X360)
Custom Robo Arena – 2007
A decent RPG if not mundane and formulaic. The story is boring and the quests aren’t all that great, but fans of the series or just anime RPGs, in general, might find some value here. This would be the third and final game in the series.
New International Track & Field – 2008
A remake of the original game with cutesy big-headed characters. Some said the game should have been on a console as the dual screens made the game feel off, but some preferred it. It at least had online play at the time which was nice. This would sadly be the final game in the long-running series.
Puchi Puchi Virus – 2009
A solid puzzle game that was different from the rest. While it did grow stale after a while and didn’t have the staying power of Meteos or Tetris it was different at least. The bright colors were nice and it had some character.
Luminous Arc – 2007 Luminous Arc 2 – 2008
This is a great game for casual gamers who want to dip their toes in the SRPG genre. While it looks good and has some good writing, the game isn’t very deep and can be too easy for vets of the genre.
Yoshi Touch & Go – 2005
A fantastic tech demo during the system’s launch, but that was about it. The game was really short and mostly focused on showing off the touch screen and other features. It’s still worth a pick-up to remind you just how unique and fun the DS really is.
Most Recent Entry: Yoshi’s Crafted World – 2019 (NS)
Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! – 2005
While not the best use of the dual screens, and there’s no lefty mode, the game still looks great, but the action is mediocre compared to the console brethren. If you love the series you will like what’s here, but just know that it’s also rather short. This would sadly be the final game in the short-lived series.
Many criticized the game for not adding anything and being merely an emulated port. It was solid and ran well, but also had online play, but good luck finding anyone at the time. Included was the awesome Puzzle Fighter from Mortal Kombat: Deception which I personally really liked and spent more time playing than the fighting part itself. The special moves on the touch screen are nice and you can track your W/L ratio. It doesn’t utilize the touchscreen in innovative ways, but it didn’t need to.
A fun and unique puzzle game if not bland in presentation. The story was considered silly and pointless, but the puzzles were addictive and that’s what matters the most.
Polarium – 2005
While a boring presentation and bland visuals might put you to sleep puzzle fans will find some joy here. The puzzles are rather hard, but not worth going back to. There is a puzzle maker that you can beam to friends though. There was a sequel later released on GBA of all systems.
These are considered the most newbie-friendly games at the time of release, but many will still get lost in the story without deep knowledge of the game’s anime lore. It captured the card game very well and had a rebuild of the entire series at this point in time. That was all well and good, but the steep learning curve for non-fans turned many away.
There’s nothing really wrong with this game. It’s a bit grind-heavy, sure, but the Diablo-esque combat and interesting quests made for a fun adventure. It just didn’t really stand out from the crowd much. It’s an Atlus series, so it has a lot of fans. The series would come to an end in 2016.
Most Recent Entry: Summon Night 6: Lost Borders – 2016 (PS4, VITA)
Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier – 2009
Good writing, if mostly pervy talk, but good nonetheless, and an easy yet addictive combat system won’t fans over. It’s not the best game in the series, but it’s a more relaxing and fun game rather than serious.
Most Recent Entry: Super Robot Wars 30 – 2021 (PC, PS4, NS)
Glory Days 2 – 2007
A unique game for the system but the small screens make playing a bit annoying. While nothing exceptionally amazing it does what it seeks out to do well enough.
Most Recent Entry: Glory Days: Tactical Defense – 2011 (DS)
Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans – 2009
A well made if formulaic JRPG in the DBZ universe. Many praised the visuals and interesting story…for fans. Yeah, you probably won’t want to bother unless you’re a fan of the show.
Most Recent Entry: Dragon Ball: The Breakers – 2022 (PC, NS, PS4, XONE)
Contact – 2006
It’s an Atlus game. Yeah, Atlus had some very mediocre games on the DS, but they get credit for trying something new. Contact is one of those. Praised for its humor and interesting story, but had boring combat and exploration. You either love it or hate it.
Brothers in Arms DS – 2007
While given props for being an incredibly good-looking DS game and keeping the core BiA action intact, the game was rather short and over before you knew it. It had some online play, but barely. Sadly, the series never saw a true sequel.
Most Recent Entry: Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War – 2014 (AND, iOS)
Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming – 2009
While not perfect, the puzzle gameplay is a nice change of pace for the series. While some of the puzzles felt like they had to be completed a certain way, any puzzle fan could get into this regardless of their Harvest Moon affinity.
Most Recent Entry: Doraemon: Story of Seasons – Friends of the Great Kingdom – 2022 (PS5, NS, PC)
Front Mission – 2007
A remake of the SNES classic, this is a deep and involved game that requires patience and a love for either mechs or the SRPG genre. This game turned many fans of the genre away for its complexity and sometimes dry presentation, but it still has a few layers of fun.
I personally love this series. It’s not perfect and has some pretty bad level design, and can be really frustrating, but the engine Renegade Kid designed is gorgeous. A 60FPS shooter on this system looks amazing. It’s also one of the best horror games on the system. It was later remastered on the 3DS which is probably the best version.
Most Recent Entry: Dementium: Remastered – 2015 (3DS)
Theme Park – 2007
A straight port of the 1994 classic, but that’s all it was. Nothing new was added or changed, and the game is overly complicated sometimes which would turn off casual sim fans. If you have the patience for the small screen and complex gameplay then you will have fun.
Most Recent Entry: Theme Park – 2011 (AND, iOS)
Mario Party DS – 2007
I remember when this game came out. Everyone was hyped for it but was let down by the board design despite the stylus and touch screen bringing a new dynamic to mini-games. The single-player was also really disappointing and was best played with friends. This is the one and only Mario Party game on DS.
Most Recent Entry: Mario Party Superstars – 2021 (NS)
Boing! Docomodake DS – 2009
A cute and quirky DS game that came over from Japan. The downside is the extreme amount of trial and error to get through the game. If you can stomach that then this is one really unique game that flew under everyone’s radar.
Go! Go! Kokopolo: Harmonius Forest Revenge – 2011
Considered one of the best DSiWare games on the system, the fresh characters and fun charm of the game were well-liked, but the brutal difficulty turned many away. It would get one more sequel on 3DS before being forgotten.
Most Recent Entry: Go! Go! Kokopolo 3D: Space Recipe for Disaster – 2017 (3DS)
Nostalgia – 2009
The name says it all. This game is for those who grew up with SNES or PS1 JRPGs. With that in mind, the game doesn’t add anything to the genre and is pretty formulaic. The story is good but takes a long time to get going, but with patience and nostalgia on your side fans will love it.
Pac-Pix – 2005 Pac ‘n Roll – 2005
A fun and unique early title for the system, but the interface and gimmicky controls got old after a while and only the most patient or diehard fans would complete the game. It’s still completely unique to the DS ecosystem. Pac-Pix was a fun scribbling game that let your drawings come to life. Very simple, but a great tech demo for the DS.
Guitar Hero: On Tour – 2008 Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades – 2008 Guitar Hero: On Tour Modern Hits – 2009
I remember getting the first Guitar Hero game for DS with the hand grip keys attached to the GBA slot of the DS. It worked really well, but anyone who didn’t have child-size hands would get serious cramps. You were also locked out of the game if you had a DSi which nixed the GBA slot. The great addition to this game was being able to play with friends with a single cart.
Most Recent Entry: Guitar Hero Live – 2015 (XONE, PS4, PS3, iOS, X360, WIIU)
Jam Sessions – 2007
More of a learning tool than a game. Well, yeah. That’s where it stops. There’s not much of a game here. It also didn’t teach you how to play guitar like an expert but got the basics across. The DS was a unique system that allowed learning software like this.
Most Recent Entry: Jam Sessions 2 – 2009 (DS)
DodoGo! Robo – 2011
The smaller package didn’t improve upon the sequels but just felt like an expansion or DLC. The puzzles were punishing but satisfying once conquered. The game also lacked any nice presentation looking dull in most spots.
Electroplankton – 2006
A fun and unique take on art and music but lacked a save feature which really irked players back in the day. It offered something new every time you booted up the game and felt like a piece of interactive art.
Moon – 2009
Moon was an underrated FPS game on DS that used Renegade Kid’s engine. It was smooth, fun, and had a great atmosphere. It was later remastered for the 3DS.
Most Recent Entry: Moon Chronicles – 2014 (3DS)
Kirby: Squeak Squad – 2006
A fun game if formulaic when it comes to Kirby games. It didn’t do anything new and was really easy and only offered forgettable mini-games. Mainline fans will still find something here to like.
Most Recent Entry: Kirby’s Dream Buffet – 2022 (NS)
Nanostray – 2005
The short-lived series was well-liked by shmup fans. The game was fun, but very short and didn’t do anything particularly fantastic with the genre. It’s still a great addition to your library if you’re a fan of these types of games.
Most Recent Entry: Nano Assault – 2011 (3DS)
Phantasy Star 0 – 2009
A decent take on the series in portable form. The game offered online play and fantastic grinding with friends, but the single-player experience wasn’t as interesting. While it was fun and you could do it the series is meant to be played online. Just be prepared to do a lot of grinding.
Most Recent Entry: Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis – 2020 (PC)
TouchMaster – 2007
This was a fun set of “car ride” games, but not every game would be suitable for everyone. You would pick your favorites and never touch the rest. It feels like you got ripped off. Thankfully the series would improve.
Most Recent Entry: TouchMaster Connect – 2010 (DS)
Ontamarama – 2007
One of the best rhythm games on the DS, but everyone kept putting it up against Elite Beat Agents at the time. It’s by no means bad but does feel sort of generic in comparison. It’s not zany or whacky, but just a fun anime-style rhythm game.
Draglade – 2007
Another Atlus game on the list. Draglade is a unique mix of rhythm action and fighting, but the story is silly, there’s not much depth or challenge, and it’s over before you know it. It’s still a fun anime-style game.
Birds & Beans – 2009
A small $2 game that doesn’t utilize any of the DS’ features is brave, but it worked here. It’s a fun and frantic arcade game with no shame about what it offers.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light – 2010
If you’re dying to jump back into the world of FFXII then look no further. This is a by-the-numbers JRPG with simple combat and a simple plot, but sometimes that’s okay.
Most Recent Entry: Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin – 2022 (PC, PS4, PS5, XONE, XSX)
Space Bust-A-Move – 2009
If you liked more of what the series has offered then look no further. The formula hasn’t changed in over a decade, but it’s still a lot of fun with unlockables and a space theme.
Most Recent Entry: Bust-A-Move: Journey – 2017 (AND, iOS)
Avalon Code – 2009
The Book of Prophecy is a unique gameplay mechanic that allows you to capture things and manipulate their attributes. The UI and interface are a mess, and the game requires a lot of hours behind it to fully enjoy the game. The complexity is well worth overcoming for the unique gameplay mechanic.
Digimon World DS – 2006
The series struggled to find its own identity outside of Pokemon. While the farming idea was fresh and the capture method was different it was a new start for the series, but not quite enough. It’s still a solid handheld entry.
While teaching you about marine conservation this puzzle game was cute looking and fairly good for the cheap price point. It won’t blow you away, but it was a fun offering for all ages.
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence – 2006
This remake using the DS controls works just fine, but it doesn’t offer anything new. The game itself feels dated despite how perfectly fun it was at the time. If you are tired of the original game don’t bother. However, this is a good jumping in point for those who want a more modern update.
Most Recent Entry: Resident Evil Re:Verse – 2022 (PC)
Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals – 2008
The poor man’s Pokemon, or Digimon for that matter. While the monster trainer part was fine it wasn’t very deep and too simple for anyone familiar with other games in the genre. It’s still worth a look if you’re tired of said games.
Most Recent Entry: Spectrobes: Origins – 2009 (WII)
Gunpey DS – 2006
This puzzle game series was short-lived at the time, and while it was easy to learn but hard to master the overall difficulty wasn’t that high and you could easily achieve high ranks without a sweat. It’s still a cute-looking and fun game. This would sadly be the final game in the series.
Nervous Brickdown – 2007
A fun and stylish Breakout clone, but it doesn’t do anything new with the genre. The mini-games are fun, but they feel constrained to the gameplay element of bouncing a ball around and it hinders it a bit.
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends – 2007
The series was feeling stale at this point, but no game is incredibly awful as long as the unique controls work. These games are addictive and fun, but short-lived and don’t vary much between sequels.
Most Recent Entry: Cooking Mama: Cuisine! – 2022 (AND, iOS)
Trace Memory – 2005
An early DS title that used the stylus well and looked great. This touch-and-click adventure was praised for its story, but the slow pace, short run time, and lack of action put some people off.
Most Recent Entry: Another Code: R – A Journey into Lost Memories – 2009 (WII)
100 Classic Books – 2010
This may not be relevant these days, but before the rise of e-readers, the DS was thought to be a great option for reading books. While the backlight might be harsh on the eyes this is more of a piece of software and there’s no game here. 100 classic books on one cartridge could keep you busy for months or even years. It actually sold quite well, especially in the UK.
Photo Dojo – 2010
The DSi was the first handheld with a built-in camera. This, of course, sparked the start of augmented reality games, and while the cameras were of poor quality this game did a good job of injecting you and your friends into the game with zany mini-games.
The Legend of Kage 2 – 2008
A direct sequel to the classic side-scrolling platformer. The game didn’t offer much of new gameplay elements but still was hard as nails. This was a lot of people’s complaints. No difficulty setting and unless you loved old-school side scrollers you wouldn’t find anything worthwhile here.
Neves – 2007
While the design isn’t anything original this shape puzzle game gets the job done. It’s incredibly basic in presentation and if you don’t like this type of puzzle game you won’t enjoy it. It’s for a specific crowd.
Sonic Classic Collection – 2010
This is just a bog standard collection that we’ve seen before. It also doesn’t run super well on the system. Poor emulation aside if you have to have a classic Sonic game on your DS it’s not the worst thing.
Most Recent Entry: Sonic Frontiers – 2022 (PC, NS, PS4, PS5, XONE, XSX)
Fossil Fighters – 2009
It doesn’t look amazing or have any interesting story or characters, but it’s down right fun and has good combat. There are also a lot of things to do. Some may find it a bit too easy, but fun is fun.
Most Recent Entry: Fossil Fighters: Frontier – 2014 (3DS)
Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island – 2009
The one and only Atelier game on the DS. Annie is more of a city builder and less of an RPG. It also has a comedic story that’s very whimsical and fun. If you’re a fan of the RPG elements in the game then this may not be for you.
Most Recent Entry: Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream – 2022 (PC, PS4)
Metal Slug 7 – 2008
A surprising DS exclusive. It’s Metal Slug without any enhancements or advancement of the formula. It’s the same old Metal Slug we’ve either grown to love or tired of. The smaller screen thankfully doesn’t make it a chore to play and it runs really well.
Most Recent Entry: – 2009 ()
Dragon Ball: Origins 2 – 2010
If you loved the original you will like this one. Just be in for some unfixed controls and slowdown. It’s a fun RPG for fans of the series and you will be in for a good time despite its simplicity.
Most Recent Entry: Dragon Ball: The Breakers – 2022 (PC, NS, PS4, XONE)
Garfield’s Nightmare – 2007
Great visuals and level design help this game along quite a bit for older gamers. However, the pre-teen range this game shoots for shows. It’s easy and simple, but can be relaxing and lightweight for older gamers.
Most Recent Entry: Garfield Kart: Furious Racing – 2019 (MAC, PC, NS, PS4, XONE)
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits – 2004
If you love Mr. Driller then this is for you. It’s also a good jumping-in point for new players. If you are tired of the series and want something new then this isn’t for you. It’s the same old game built for touch screens. That’s about it.
Most Recent Entry: Mr. Driller: Drill Land – 2020 (PC, NS, PS4, PS5, XONE, XSX)
Beat City – 2010
A simple but fun rhythm game. If you’re tired of the bigger hits on the DS then this might be for you. It’s really short, and doesn’t have much replay value, but could be a fun evening with cute graphics.
Art Style: AQUIA – 2009
The Art Style series was popular due to its simple design and minimalistic looks. Aquia mixes Tetris with Bejeweled and while it does a decent job it’s very simple and won’t hold your attention as long as other puzzle games on the system.
Most Recent Entry: Art Style: Rotozoa – 2010 (WII)
This is probably the most iconic and memorable handheld system for anyone over the age of 25 today. The Game Boy Advance was an unstoppable juggernaut of a system and one of the most anticipated in video game history. It sold like gangbusters and Nintendo couldn’t keep up in the beginning. The first Nintendo handheld with a horizontal orientation and their first 16-bit handheld system that could create SNES quality titles, and boy did it. The Game Boy Advance has one of the most beloved and expansive handheld libraries out there. It’s also a good middle point of being playable today without any hardware mods.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room. There’s still no backlight on the screen. This was largely criticized back in the day and for a 21st-century handheld, mostly unacceptable. While the LCD is clear and crisp you still need a bright light to see anything. Thankfully many people still held onto their worm lights and got good at hiding under blankets at night by this point. Outside of that, I would say that’s the worst thing about the system.
When it comes to power the GBA delivered. It could re-create SNES-style 2D games and could do rudimentary 3D games which weren’t really seen until later on in its life. The added shoulder buttons helped with the ergonomics and allowed deeper gameplay. We still didn’t get much in I/O outside of the usual Link Cable, and the infrared was gone with this system. Overall, the system feels good in the hands. The slightly rounded back helps fill out your palms and reaching around to the shoulder buttons makes the system sit well in the hands. It’s a great feeling system and many prefer this to other re-releases of the GBA.
In today’s age, the best thing you can do is upgrade the GBA to a modern LCD. It’s a drop-in mod and pretty easy to do, but there are so many mods for this system. Amplifier boards, USB-C upgrades, shells, buttons, silicone pads, lenses, you name it. Many people run shops dedicated to modded GBAs and they can be quite beautiful. I have a nearly one-of-a-kind mod myself. The person who made mine no longer runs a shop and UV printed his own shells. Some people even add speed hacks via a hardware switch too. It’s an amazing system to customize.
We all judge these older systems on their libraries and the GBA is one of the best, some might say the best handheld library to date. While there was a lot of kiddie shovelware, there is something here from every genre including first-person shooters. We got Doom ports, many SNES ports, and games from many favorite franchises like Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Pokemon, Mario, Prince of Persia, Tetris, Lord of the Rings, and many more. This was an era where many console games were better on the GBA because developers were forced to redo the game and think outside of the box. Some terrible console games wound up having great GBA ports in the end. There’s something here for everyone. There are hundreds of games to choose from and many are quite good.
Overall, the GBA is a fantastic and iconic piece of hardware. While the internals isn’t impressive today, having a portable SNES was something everyone dreamed of. The GBA library is what most people remember over the hardware anyways. Many people’s childhoods are wrapped around this system. While I never had the original model growing up (my parents couldn’t afford one) I still saw people with them and envied them for it. I love my GBA today and play it at least once a week.
Mortal Kombat II is considered the best of the 2D games and to another group the best in the entire series. It’s sad how some think the series peaked so early on when it had so much more to offer. Next-generation consoles were here and the series needed to adapt. This game was strung across three different generations. 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit systems. That’s a lot of systems to make a game work on. This would be the last in the series for the original Game Boy. Already 6 years old at this point in time. Sadly, Probe didn’t use a larger cart so we do have some cut content again here.
Thankfully, the gameplay part was fixed. This is by far the best MK game on Game Boy. It’s fast-paced, fluid, and responsive and plays similarly to the console versions. The control scheme is the same as the first game which works. Holding down away and towards plus punch or kick can do sweeps and roundhouses. The visuals have also improved with larger sprites on screen. Fatalities are intact as well as Babalities, however, Friendships were stripped. We still get a stage fatality on Kombat Tomb, but many stages were still stripped. We get The Pitt II, but no stage fatality there which makes no sense. We also get Goro’s Lair again, but it’s just a solid wall of gray bricks. Horray? Yeah, the stages suck here.
Also gone is Kintaro, but we do get Smoke and Jade as hidden characters which is kind of cool. Sadly, Johnny Cage is also missing from this game as well including Raiden, Kung Lao, and Baraka. Why did Probe cut Johnny Cage every time? While the gameplay was a serious issue in the first game the lack of content is the worst offender here is the awful stages. They were acceptable in the first game, but with a larger cart, they could have fit all of them. There is also still no gore or blood unless you count Candy Bonz bouncing on screen as gore.
Overall, this isn’t the best fighting game on the Game Boy, but it’s the best game in the series on the system. Fighting games just weren’t great in the 8-bit era and it shows here. I’m glad Probe improved the gameplay and made animations feel much faster, but we are only getting a part of a whole game.
This is my favorite video game of all time. Hands down. While later games in the series are better and have more depth, the first game is just so raw and visceral. It had a weight to the fighting that other games didn’t have while still feeling fluid and well-balanced. This was translated well to home consoles on the Genesis, SNES, and even MS-DOS despite their own flaws. Even the Game Gear version did well. However, I don’t know what I’m seeing on the Game Boy. I don’t think it’s the lack of power in the system as the Master System and Game Gear versions are 8-bit and still play really well. The Game Boy version is just so bad. I can look past the visuals. They look pretty okay despite being a monochrome color. What isn’t excusable is the cut character. Johnny Cage isn’t present at all. Why bother if you can’t include the already small roster?
That’s not the worst part. The controls are also forgivable as the Game Gear and Master System also only have two buttons to work with and they manage. Holding away or towards plus the punch or kick button will do things like roundhouse kicks or sweeps. The special moves are also intact including the fatalities. There are also many cut stages. We only get The Pit, The Courtyard, and Goro’s Lair. All of the stages could have been included I’m sure. This is only a 256kb game which is unacceptable when 8MB cartridges were available. They could have put all of the content on here. But, again that’s not the worst part about the game.
It’s just downright unplayable. The characters feel like they’re fighting in molasses, animations take 2-3 seconds to complete, and there’s just a serious delay in everything. The health bars are terribly done, there’s no blood, no gore, and no Test-Your-Might either. The game is severely butchered and cut back for no reason. The manual is more interesting than the game itself. It’s written in the form of a comic book with great illustrations. That’s pretty sad.
There’s almost no redeeming value in this game other than for collectors. There are much better versions let alone 8-bit versions out there. This is by far the worst version of the game ever made, and I feel bad for anyone who paid full price for this game in the day. Maybe a Game Boy Color version could have come around and done better, but it never happened. While the game looks the part, and the character sprites are decent, the sluggish and unresponsive gameplay just doesn’t work. It’s too bad because the control layout works fine and is used on other 8-bit systems as well. I can only recommend this is pure curiosity and nothing more.
The GameBoy Color wasn’t something I had growing up. My parents couldn’t afford one. I had the DMB GameBoy, but that was it until the GBA SP was out. I did play some classmates’ GBC in school here and there and did experience Pokemon Blue a few times, but my GBC experience has mostly been as an adult, and mostly as of the last few years. See, the GBA SP could play GameBoy games, but I always felt they were “old and dumb” being 8-bit titles. I had very little money growing up and I didn’t want to waste it on older titles. I only owned a single GBC game and it was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX which I never finished.
Fast forward over a decade later and I appreciate the system a lot more. While I have a modded GBC with a backlight modern LCD, RGB buttons, and USB-C charging, I still remember what the system was like as stock. One thing that kept me from wanting one was the lack of a backlight. The GameBoy Lite had a backlight why couldn’t the GBC? I understand it was a budget system as the hardware inside was dirt cheap at this point to produce, but come on Nintendo! You still needed a worm light or had to play with a flashlight under the blankets. This makes playing today nearly impossible and unbearable with all of the modern LCD display techs we have today. Some like this and get a more nostalgic feeling from it, but I didn’t play my original DMB Gameboy much because of this when I got it for my 7th birthday back in 1997.
Not much else is improved over the original model. The Gameboy Pocket had already been out at this point, but it did feel lighter and was slimmer than the original model. However, the screen was smaller at 2.3″ compared to the DMG 2.6″, but it was in color so there was a trade-off. It did have more RAM which was needed for the wider color palette, and the sound was slightly improved, but we still had the same 10-year-old processor. We got square wave channels which made the system less “bleepy” than the original model but not by much. The only other I/O was an infrared receiver which could be used to beam digital data across to other consoles. The battery life was also cut back by 1/3 due to the color screen.
Some might say there are more drawbacks and improvements, but just being color alone was incredible. Many later DMB games were released with GBC compatibility and later there were hundreds of GBC-only games released. The system still feels great to play to this day. It’s clearly the best Gameboy to have as it can play original games with a slightly better screen. However, if you own both the slightly larger screen for the original games might be preferred. It’s all down to personal taste, to be honest. We mostly judge these older systems on their libraries and the Gameboy and GBC libraries are some of the best. Classics like Tetris, Wario Land II, Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario Land, and many more are engrained into millions of people’s minds. As for the original hardware, the only setback is that screen. I wish it had more improvements, and it feels like it could have had more, but at this point, the GBA was probably deep in R&D and only a few years away.
If you get one today I suggest getting an LCD upgrade at the bare minimum. USB-C and any other mods are optional and not really needed because the system has great battery life already. You can do the mod yourself or buy one custom-built from many shops online. There are so many aftermarket shells, buttons, silicone pads, and even sound mods for these handhelds that have blown up over the last 5 years. It will get to a point where you will have trouble finding someone with an unmodded Gameboy.
Wild West games blew up in the mid-2000s. Games like Read Dead Revolver and Call of Juarez really pushed the genre forward. Gun was a highly anticipated open-world game that was being watched by Grand Theft Auto fans. I remember reading about this game in magazines leading up to its release and being disappointed with how linear and simple it was. You play Colt White who is just living day-to-day life with his father, Ned White when he dies and you get sent on a mission to avenge him which leads to a road of greed and death. The story is really simple and short. It’s honestly very one-dimensional, but the voice acting is solid with major actors like Tom Skerret and Ron Perlman.
The majority of the game is made up of shooting. As the title implies, guns are the main focus of the game. You have an array of weapon types such as six-shooters, lever-action rifles, sniper rifles (bolt-action), melee, throwables, and bows. You slowly unlock these weapons as you play the story and you can also upgrade them at the shopkeep. You can acquire more gold by finding it out in the wild or completing side missions. Side missions are the second bulk of the game ranging from bounties, poker games, and overall just shooting up more bad guys. There’s no variation in mission type outside of the names. In the end, you’re killing someone or rescuing a horse.
Horseback riding is a major gameplay element here and it’s done surprisingly well for the time. They’re treated kind of like cars in GTA. They have health meters which are also tied to stamina. Overwork your horse and it will die. You can trample enemies with the horse which is great for clearing out large groups, and they are needed to travel between the two towns. This is one disappointment I have with the game. It’s surprisingly linear and the open-endedness is an illusion. This is just one large map full of brown dust, canyons, a couple of rivers, and a meadow. The game is very dull and void of any life, unlike GTA which feels vibrant and constantly moving. There’s just the wind and twanging background music playing. The towns maybe have three or four people walking around and there are no interiors to speak of. It’s a very empty world indeed.
I highly recommend just blowing through the story mode in the 4-5 hours it takes and forgoing most upgrades. Despite having this shop system they are pretty much pointless. Sure, it helps to have more damage or quicker reloads, but the quickdraw allows you to kind of cheat and constantly use it as long as you’re killing enemies to refill it. Empty the meter. Shoot about five enemies, and empty it again. I never really saw the need for most of the upgrades. This will alleviate the pain of completing these dull side missions.
The shooting in Gun is mostly stiff and awkward. It’s not amazing. There is a sticky auto-aim and you can aim down your sights with rifles, but the camera zooms too far in and you can’t follow anyone up close. Stealth is pretty much pointless outside of a single-story mission because enemies can somehow see and hear you a mile away. The explosives were surprisingly useless as well. Enemies can stand just in front or behind an explosion and they aren’t affected. This is really terrible. There are some missions that have you mounting a cannon and you have to hit everything dead on. There is no splash damage for explosions in this game. It makes no sense.
Overall, the game is very linear, ugly, and pretty repetitive. The side missions don’t add any variation, the upgrade system can be skipped entirely, and the open world is void of life. The only redeeming value of this game is the great voice acting, many cut-scenes, and short length. The story isn’t even anything noteworthy either and the same goes for the characters. With the short length, they have no time to expand or grow on us. We get no backstory. Just the here-and-now and that means nothing when characters die. I would only recommend this game if you’re itching for a Western game and need to go back in time, but this game really did not live up to the hype upon release.