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The Best Game Boy Games that Stand the Test of Time

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Over the past week, we have already written extensively about the Game Boy, detailing the history of Nintendo’s hit portable system and even reminiscing about our favourite Game Boy memories on the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. And now today, on the console’s 30th birthday, we’ve asked our staff to compile a list of the fifteen best Game Boy games that we feel truly stand the test of time. It wasn’t easy excluding games like Wario Land, Duck Tales or Mega Man V, and we’ve eliminated games released on the Game Boy Color as only a few were backward compatible with the Game Boy, but we did what had to be done. Here is a list of the fifteen best Game Boy games. Enjoy.

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Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge

While not the first Castlevania game on the Game Boy, Belmont’s Revenge is the most memorable. Gone was the linear level-by-level progression, the player now had full freedom to choose which stage to whip first, be it the castle on the clouds or the fort in the swamp.

Once again, you control Christopher Belmont and unleash the famous whip at your foes. The whip starts off small but can be upgraded with various orbs, which at full power can start shooting fireballs from its tip. The whip can also be used to extinguish candles which reveal other useful items such as axes and holy water. For those that played Castlevania Adventure, the whip works slightly different as it doesn’t power down upon use, which personally, makes Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge all the better.

And in an opposite to Mole Mania, Castlevania II has some of the darkest, more depressing music on the Game Boy. While that would seem like a negative, it fits the theme really well and is, equally, some of the best music on the system. In addition to some of the most intricate visuals available on the console, Belmont’s Revenge is easily one of the best games available.  (James Baker)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Donkey Kong

When the classic arcade game that launched the careers of Donkey Kong and Mario made its way to the Game Boy in 1994, Nintendo didn’t set out to release a simple remake – instead, Nintendo brought back their famous ape for a revival that features a whopping 101 stages and a ton of new features. Like in the arcade cabinet, the player takes control of Mario and must rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong while running through the four levels found in the original game. But at the conclusion of these four stages the game expands into an ambitious action puzzle/platformer with short cutscenes and various gameplay enhancements such as Mario’s ability to pick up and throw items at certain enemies; carry keys to open locked doors; flip over onto his hands; catch falling barrels; swim underwater; climb ropes; spin on wires to reach new heights; and perform a series of chain-jumps – all things that would carry over to other titles in the Super Mario repertoire.

At the time, Donkey Kong featured improved levels, graphics, audio and controls, but like every game on this list, the Game Boy version of Donkey Kong stands the test of time. If you happen to be a nostalgic gamer or even a huge Nintendo fan who wants to explore the company’s back catalogue, this is essential to your collection. (Ricky D)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Donkey Kong Land

Remembered by many fans as the “other” yellow game boy cartridge, Donkey Kong Land is a not-to-miss spinoff from one of Rare’s most beloved projects. While many remember the title as a straight port of Donkey Kong Country for the SNES, the hardware limitations of the original Game Boy forced developers to make some notable adjustments that make this hidden gem unique. The title borrows many of the character sprites, background textures, and sound effects from its console counterpart but has an entirely new level design for each world, making it an under-appreciated entry in the franchise.

In classic Rare fashion, Donkey Kong Land has a humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and painfully self-aware story. Crankey Kong opens the game by criticizing the Kongs of only being successful because of the enhanced graphics and sound of the SNES, saying that they could never be as popular in 8bit. To put that theory to the test, he calls on K Rool to steal DK’s bananas and start the journey again. Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong must set out across Kong Island to recover the lost goods.

With its classic side-scrolling platforming gameplay and a killer David Wise soundtrack, Donkey Kong Land is definitely a Game Boy must play. Like its Country predecessor, the title is a bit of a difficult collect-a-thon that guarantees many hours of replayability. For those that don’t feel like shelling out ten bucks for a used cartridge, the title’s 2014 rerelease on the 3DS makes it easily accessible for fans of the franchise. (Ty Davidson)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Final Fantasy Adventure

At the time, Final Fantasy Adventure was not a typical example of the series, which was just beginning its eventual skyrocket in popularity. Its battles are real-time instead of turn-based, there’s a singular protagonist instead of a party system (though some NPCs do sometimes temporarily join up), and enemies appear on screen — not through those often annoying random encounters. Outwardly it seems more like a Zelda title, and that may have been the thought, but its sense of the tragic as a motivating force for storytelling is SquareSoft all the way, and this aspect is what makes it truly excel. The Hero (named by the player, providing instant connection and eliminating the need for heavy backstory) is a classic cosmic punching bag; he starts out in a bad way, endures loss after loss, only to be told that every sacrifice forced upon him is necessary for the good of all mankind. Not good for him, mind you, but in service of everyone else. No, the Hero’s role is that of a reluctant martyr, someone for whom friendship is impossible because everyone he likes dies a horrible death. Despite his incredibly awesome hair, happiness is never meant to be, because this stupid thing called “fate” says so.

The simple sword-swinging, spell-casting action works well (and would serve as inspiration for Secret of Mana), and the land is vast for a Gameboy title, but it’s the brutal world and themes that make this title stand out to those who played it. There’s a melancholy air permeating every quest, one that ensures no completely happy ending awaits. Final Fantasy Adventure keeps things real, so if you’re not being attacked by any number of beasts inhabiting the forest, frozen in place by a sorceress monster, mocked by ageist kids because you can’t swing a sword like you used to, or turned into a parrot because of your wonderful singing voice, then your town is probably under attack by the evil Glaive Empire, who have no problem razing everything you care about to the ground. So, you know, have a nice life. It’s an epic adventure on a small scale, still memorable to this day. (Patrick Murphy)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Gargoyle’s Quest

Is it a sequel to the Ghost n Goblins series or isn’t it? It technically is but it technically isn’t, the only similarities are those surrounding the main character, Firebrand, which is actually an enemy in the GnG series. Playing a villain turned hero isn’t a new concept, but Gargoyle’s Quest does a fantastic job of making it not a cheesy, mundane affair.

Gargoyle’s Quest was ahead of its time in many aspects. On the first appearance, it seems like a typical 2D platformer. Not quite so. to some extent, Gargoyle’s Quest was a pioneer at blending genres, in this incidence RPG and action. Firebrand jumps pits, clings to walls, and fights enemies much like an action platformer; but then visits towns, collects items, and goes on quests much like an early RPG.

In the likelihood of sound like an old man, Gargoyle’s Quest is a reminder to how well executed games used to be. It’s both confident in its simplicity and assured in its depth that it’s almost entirely faultless. A truly timeless masterpiece. (James Baker)

Kid Dracula

Best Game Boy Games: Kid Dracula

A list of the best original Game Boy games wouldn’t be complete without Kid Dracula, a comical sidescroller which takes all of the goodness of Castlevania and puts its own spin on gothic-themed platforming. Kid Dracula features just enough charm and personality to get you hooked, and thanks to its tight controls, it was one of the least frustrating games to play on the Game Boy.

When compared to other games released on Nintendo’s greyscale portable system, Kid Dracula’s visuals give other more popular titles a run for their money, as does the extremely catchy soundtrack which puts the Game Boy’s audio capabilities to the test. There’s a reason why the game’s main antagonist, Garamoth, later appeared as a boss in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – and there’s a reason why the titular character made notable appearances in other games such as The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Kid Dracula is simply one of the most charming and playable platformers available on the Game Boy and those who played it will remember it fondly to this day. (Ricky D)

Kirby’s Dream Land

Best Game Boy Games: Kirby’s Dream Land

Kirby’s debut, though he’s changed a lot as time has gone on. This black and white version on the Game Boy doesn’t really show how much, but on the box art, Kirby is white, as opposed to the pink complexion he is today. That said, Kirby’s Dream Land started the franchise in such an adorable manner that it’s impossible to dislike Kirby.

Before King Dedede became an ally in the more recent Kirby games, he was quite the gluttonous villain, stealing food from Dream Land, as well the as sparking stars to obtain more food. Kirby decides to go forth and defeat King Dedede to retrieve the food and stars — quite the standard storyline, but implemented so effectively that it remains one of the best games on the Game Boy.

Kirby’s Dream Land consists of five levels, each one made up up of a series of rooms connected by large doors, some doors leading to secret areas. Kirby’s main method of attack is to inhale enemies, which he then can exhale as a projectile missile. Kirby can also fly indefinitely, but is vulnerable to attack. The ability to fly really opens up each room and turns the side-scrolling into not just left and right, but also up and down. The formula for Kirby’s Dream Land was ultimately simple, and the game is typically easy, which made it a fantastic title for those new to Nintendo. The franchise would ultimately become more complex, but its origins should never be forgotten. (James Baker)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the first portable title in the series, and is easily one of my personal favorites. It was the first Zelda title to make an attempt at exploring Link’s character beyond that of the boy called to action. For once, Link is not seeking to stop Ganon and save the princess, kingdom, or Triforce. Instead, his is a journey of self-discovery, led by a desire to leave the island of Koholint that he has been shipwrecked on. Much of Koholint is full of life, especially when compared to the desolate wasteland from the original Legend of Zelda and the horribly mangled Dark World of A Link to the Past. It’s a breath of fresh air, with plenty of different-looking areas and regions. Overall, the game’s aesthetics’ are great, and the story they present is something that was only ever (theoretically) tackled again once.

Link’s Awakening was also the first top-down Zelda to make use of jumping. While The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past both used pitfalls as ways to impede progress, they never had a clear answer to them. This time Link is granted the gift of jumping from an item called the Roc’s Feather, the very first dungeon item in the game. By combining Roc’s Feather with the Pegasus Boots, Link could clear even bigger gaps and jump over large obstacles. Link’s Awakening is an amazing Zelda title not only for its plethora of new ideas, but for also setting new benchmarks for later games in the series. (Taylor Smith)

Metroid 2 Game Boy

Best Game Boy Games: Metroid II: The Return of Samus

Metroid ll: Return of Samus is by no means a masterpiece that changed the gaming scene like Super Metroid or Metroid Prime. In fact, this 1991 GameBoy title was met with fairly mixed reviews from critics. Most of these issues can be blamed on the limitations of the GameBoy itself, such as the lack of graphical detail in the enemies and environments. However, a closer look at this underrated gem reveals a slew of intriguing design decisions that many of the future games were based upon. Metroid ll should not be regarded as the black sheep of the series, but instead should be welcomed into the family.

Any game released on the original GameBoy is bound to be limited in scope, however, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Handheld experiences are more suited for quick sessions that are built upon the sensation of progress being made with each play. Metroid ll takes this idea and successfully applies this to the formula that the first Metroid built. Instead of simply throwing the player into the game with no purpose, Return of Samus gives gamers an objective right from the start. Every metroid on the planet must be eliminated, and a count is displayed on the bottom right of the screen to track this progress.

The concept of tracking down metroids and destroying them works perfectly for a handheld, as it results in a simpler kind of Metroid that still retains the things that made the original great and in many ways, Return of Samus is the perfect game for newcomers to the series. Simplified level design and gameplay offer an easier start to a fairly challenging series that commonly overwhelms new players. Comparing this underrated gem to the other titles in the series really isn’t fair because of the limitations of the console it was developed for. However, it does accomplish exactly what it set out to do; create a fun handheld experience that still retains the feeling of a fully-fledged Metroid title. Even though it is often out-shined by Samus’ GameBoy Advance adventures that came years later, it remains fun to this day and deserves to be recognized as a fine iteration in this long-running series. (Zack Rezak)

Mole Mania Game Boy

Best Game Boy Games: Mole Mania

Mole Mania was unforgiving and troublesome, but beneath the hardship remains one of the best puzzle games on the Game Boy. The storyline consisted of saving your mole family that was kidnapped from an evil farmer, but like with many games on the Game Boy, the quality of the storyline is perhaps a poor indicator of the quality of the gameplay.

This isn’t about overpowering the enemy but out-thinking them. Muddy Mole is limited in what he can do, pretty much stunted to burrowing and moving certain objects. These limitations strengthen the gameplay as they lead to planning ahead before committing; digging in the wrong place can lead to an obstruction, resulting in restarting the level.

While frustrating, there’s a huge sense of achievement upon completion. The visuals are some of the best on the Game Boy and the music is perhaps the most upbeat found on the handheld console, complete with those famous 8-bit synthesizers. If you’re not prone to rage quitting, Mole Mania is a worthy playthrough. (James Baker)

Best Game Boys Games

Best Game Boy Games: Pokemon Red and Blue

Never before have two games begun such a massive franchise. A bold statement for sure, but just look at how inescapable Pokémon has become, from the merchandise filling up the shops to the fad that we briefly encountered in Pokémon Go. This all began in 1996 with a game designed around a simple accessory for the Game Boy called a Link Cable. The idea of creating two of the same game that offered unique collectibles that could be traded between the games, a new multiplayer concept that actually had kids outside of the house  (a Dratini by today’s standards) and socializing with pocket monsters they had caught and raised, plus a surprisingly complex competitive strategy game that only became more compelling as the franchise grew, was unique to Pokémon Red and Blue at the time.

150 pokémon to catch, with the addition of Mew available as an event exclusive, kept many fans on a never-ending journey to complete their pokédex. 150 might seem like a small number by today’s standards, but without the internet opening up the entire world to trade, you relied on your friends to help you complete the process. This brought the fundamentals of socializing to an uncomfortable place, where negotiating and persuasion were skills that were quickly learned to help us evolve our Haunter into a Gengar. In fact, kids with their Game Boys linked up became such a common sight that arguably the Link Cable became an iconic symbol of the nineties.

With so many pokémon to catch, it’s easy to forget that Pokémon Red and Blue had a pretty dark theme shadowing it. Lavender Town is a legend all in itself, with its soundtrack thought to have resulted in the death of numerous Japanese kids. Myth or not, it was the place that brought the chilling story to life. Team Rocket, the famous villains that debuted in Red and Blue, had done some terrible things in this town, including actions that resulted in the death of a now-famous Marowak. Its pre-evolved form, Cubone, has one of the creepiest pokédex entries.

While as a strategy game Pokémon Red and Blue was broken — Psychic was so over-powered that Alakazam effectively had no weaknesses — it remains so iconic and influential that the world cannot escape the franchise it created. A defining game of the nineties that time will never have the longevity to lose. (James Baker)

Pokemon Yellow

 Best Game Boy Games: Pokemon Yellow

When Pokémon Red and Blue had an animé produced to coincide with it, the popularity of Ash and his partner Pikachu made Pokémon Yellow inevitable. Originally, Ash’s partner in the animé was to be Clefairy, but was changed to the cute electric mouse that remains the mascot of the franchise ever since.

While there’s much debate about whether Pokémon needs third installments to each generation, Pokémon Yellow was the first and the most original in concept of them all. Rather than following the legacy of Pokémon Red and Blue, it follows the storyline of the animé, allowing the player to obtain the three original starter pokémon as part of the storyline. Furthermore, staying true to the animé, Pikachu follows the player around rather than staying in its pokéball, and refuses to evolve into Raichu when given a thunderstone, thus leaving Raichu only obtainable through trade.

Pokémon Yellow is a direct consequence of the popularity of Pokémon at the time, and with Pikachu still the beloved face of Pokémon, was perhaps shrewd marketing on Nintendo’s part. Its success inspired many other sequels to each generation, none of which would surpass the ingenuity of its predecessor. Pokémon Yellow won’t go down as the greatest Pokémon game of all time, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable. (James Baker)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins

Does the introduction of Mario’s crude, demented nemesis need any more reason to be on this list? Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins gave Nintendo fans their first sour taste of the crookedly-mustached Wario, something for which we shall always be thankful, but it also succeeds magnificently at standing out among the franchise’s platforming greatness. Though a straight-up sequel, this Gameboy classic takes more inspiration from Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, with the more familiar cartoonish visuals, the ability to move both left and right, an overworld, and multiple paths to and through each level. The look and feel are so stark from its predecessor that it’s hard to relate the two, but a semblance of plot involves Wario having usurped Mario’s throne (?) while Sarasaland was being saved, brainwashing the loyal subjects of the Mushroom Kingdom’s hero in the process.

This bit of wackiness is only the start. For whatever reason, it seems like Nintendo’s development teams felt freed up by the Game Boy, reserving some of their strangest ideas for the portable versions of their popular series. Like with Link’s Awakening, the people working on Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins must have been a little loopy, somehow cool with devising a powerup that sees Mario grow a pair of rabbit ears that flap like wings, allowing for slower descents. There’s also an entire zone that takes place inside a pumpkin, as well as another whose boss level occurs inside a sleeping whale, which is in turn located inside a giant turtle. It doesn’t get less bizarre. These sorts of left-field oddities, along with an abundance of nice touches showcasing incredible attention to detail, make the world extremely entertaining, all the way to that fight against Mario’s greasy, greedy foe. In a franchise known for its outlandish creativity, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins holds its own — more than just an ugly face. (Patrick Murphy)

Best Game Boy Games

Best Game Boy Games: Super Mario Land

A launch title for the original DMG Game Boy, Super Mario Land is best described as a quirky, short, and forgotten title that moves Mario in directions that are never revisited in the series. Developed without input from franchise creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the sidescroller takes many risks that both pay off and fail spectacularly, introducing new enemies, Princess Daisy, some Gradius-style shooter levels, an evil alien as the main boss, and much more.

Taking place in Sarasaland, Mario must rescue the new princess from the clutches of the evil spaceman Tatanga. Through land, water, and the sky, Mario moves between obscure Easter island levels, a submarine mission, a moderately uncomfortable Chinese stereotype level, and an airplane fight, eventually facing off against a UFO to save the princess and blast off into outer space.

Love it or hate it, this strange game deserves a place in franchise and console history, branching out in new directions to change the way that players look at the Nintendo mascot. With familiar gameplay and oddball elements, Super Mario Land at times feels like the best bootleg Mario title on the market, borrowing from other gaming trends of the time for a unique experience that honestly makes one wonder how the company viewed where the plucky plumber was headed. An incredibly short game, the title can be completed in a 30 or 40-minute sitting, but that does not mean that it isn’t worth picking up. Aided by outstanding level design and one of the best soundtracks of any Game Boy title, the game begs for repeated playthroughs while always offering a nostalgic 8bit experience. (Ty Davidson)

Best Game Boy Games Tetris

Best Game Boy Games: Tetris

It’s safe to assume that almost every video gamer has heard of Tetris, and most of us associate it with Nintendo, specifically their portable Game Boy system. Yes, Tetris had already existed in various incarnations since its creation in 1984, and was sold for both a range of home computer platforms and the arcades long before Game Boy ever existed, but the hugely successful handheld version for the Game Boy — which was launched in 1989 — is arguably the ultimate version of the perfect puzzle game. The famous puzzle game from creator Alexey Pajitnov is not only brilliant but extremely addictive thanks to its simplistic design. With this particular version of Tetris came a competitive two-player mode made possible with the link cable, as well as an instrumental version of the Russian folk song “Korobeiniki.” Nintendo is known for releasing some of the greatest launch games of all time and Tetris is at the top of that list. Tetris was a phenomenon and literally laid the bricks for the foundation of the handheld gaming industry that Nintendo has continued to dominate ever since. (Ricky D)

 

Be sure to also check out:

The Top 50 SNES Games

The 40 Best Nintendo 64 Games

The Best Game Boy Games that Stand the Test of Time

The Best Game Boy Advance Games

35 Best Gamecube Games

The Very Best Wii Games

The 25 Best Wii U Games

The Best Nintendo Switch Games

200 Best Nintendo Games

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter

On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.

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Metal Gear Solid 3

“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”

On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.

The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.

Taking the Narrative Back

Metal Gear Solid 3
“Snake, try and remember some of the basics of CQC.”

Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.

Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsSnake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.

Revolver Ocelot’s gun-slinging pre-boss cutscene was completely animated through motion capture footage.

Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.

Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.

A Whole New Meaning to Survival

When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.

Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.

On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.

The Beginning of Product Placement

Fun Fact: Kojima has gone on record saying that Naked Snake’s favorite CalorieMate Block is the chocolate-flavored line (rightfully for promotional reasons!).

The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.

The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”

When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.

A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank

At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.

Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.

Snake Eater 3D Limited Edition Bundle included a ‘Snake Skin’ themed standard 3DS (only released in Japan).

2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collectiona compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.

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