Top 15 Best Game Boy Multiplayer Games

The original Game Boy was one of the most wildly successful portable consoles of all time. It’s multiplayer functionality was not a selling point for it in the beginning. The barrier of entry was too high. You needed two Game Boy systems, a link cable, and two copies of the same cartridge. At the same time home consoles offered this functionality out of the box. Because of this multiplayer was often just an afterthought. It wasn’t until the release of Pokemon (where multiplayer was the main selling point) that I even ever saw two systems linked up. Regardless, there were still many titles that you could play together and I thought it would be interesting to highlight my favorites. So here it is; these are the best Game Boy multiplayer games of all time ranked solely on dual play functionality.

Front cover for Radar Mission for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#15. – Radar Mission

Do you like Battleship? Well then you’ll love Radar Mission. It’s a video game take on the classic head-to-head board game and it’s a great one at that. I’d be remiss to leave it out of any list of the best Game Boy multiplayer games. Once linked up you and a buddy take turns arranging your battleship fleet on a grid based board. From here you take turns blindly firing shots on a single grid on the field and are told whether or not you hit an enemy. What makes this better than classic Battleship is the more cinematic approach. You get small little vignettes showing your ships and the damage they’ve taken. It’s a simple touch, but one that’s well appreciated. Radar Mission is very easy to pick up and play, and that makes it a perfect multiplayer game for the Game Boy.

Front cover for Tennis for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#14. – Tennis

Good old Tennis. You can’t go wrong with the classic title, and this port to the Game Boy is surprisingly competent. Single player is fun, but playing with a friend across two different screens is really what makes this one shine. I absolutely love the fact that the screen is flipped on both screens so you never have to worry about a change in perspective. The action moves very smoothly considering the hardware, and this holds true in this Game Boy port. I was expecting input and display lag to be a problem but it’s not. The developers that coded this software really knew what they were doing. That’s why this is one of the best Game Boy multiplayer games of all time. Even non-gamers will love this one because it’s just a no frills match of Tennis.

Front cover for Double Dragon II for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#13. – Double Dragon 2

The original Double Dragon port on Game Boy was pretty awful in regards to multiplayer. It’s as if the developers had no idea what made the original so great. Playing with a buddy was relegated to one-on-one matches which made it more like a fighting game. This is a beat ’em up title so that just felt inappropriate and tacked on. In this sequel you can actually play through the main game in co-op mode which is amazing. It runs surprisingly smooth and in some ways plays better than the NES version. That’s saying a lot because not only is the hardware less powerful inputs are being streamed through the link cable at the same time. Double Dragon II is well worth picking up two copies of if you have a friend with the hardware. It’s easily one of the best Game Boy multiplayer games of all time.

Front cover for Battle Arena Toshinden on the original Game Boy.

#12. – Battle Arena Toshinden

It is my view that this is the single best fighting game on the original Game Boy. It’s also the only decent iteration of Battle Arena Toshinden. That’s a pretty bold statement considering the other titles were fully 3D, but it’s true. Battle Arena Toshinden is a one-on-one fighting game where you duke it out as chibi versions of the main cast. It runs surprisingly smoothly given the hardware, and special moves are easy to pull off. It also has multiplayer which is why it has made this list. I was surprised to discover that the engine runs competently even when duking it out across the link cable. Unfortunately multiplayer is relegated to just one-on-one matches, but that’s par for the course when it comes to fighting titles. It’s definitely one of the best Game Boy multiplayer games.

Front cover for Gauntlet II for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#11. – Gauntlet II

The Gauntlet games are best known for their arcade prowess. It was a light action RPG with up to four players at once. This is accomplished with an overhead view. You run through dungeons slaying enemies and racking up high scores while gaining levels. Because ports of this title are largely hit or miss I wasn’t expecting much from the Game Boy conversion however it rocks. What’s more is it includes two player support. It’s disappointing the developers didn’t go all out and let four people work together, but it’s understandable given the limited hardware. It’s a lot of fun to play with a friend. The engine is more than capable of supporting two players and the action is surprisingly smooth. This one is a perfect showcase for simultaneous multiplayer on the Game Boy.

Front cover for Balloon Kid for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#10. – Balloon Kid

Balloon Fight is one of my favorite of Nintendo’s old franchises. It’s sort of a rip-off of the arcade classic Joust only much better. Nintendo decided to take a different approach with their first portable installment in the series. Instead of being a single screen action platformer this is a more traditional approach to the genre. The screen scrolls automatically which adds adventure elements. It’s fun, and criminally underrated. Balloon Kid also happens to have a really awesome multiplayer mode. Basically it’s the main game but you are competing with a friend in real-time. This means that you can attack each other or co-operate. Generally I found myself trying to defeat my partner in crime all sneaky like. It’s addictive, and very fun. Balloon Kid is certainly one of the best Game Boy Multiplayer games.

Front cover for Micro Machines for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#9. – Micro Machines

Remember Micro Machines? This was a line of toy cars that were pretty cheap, but very collectible. I was never personally that into them but I did admire them in the stores as a kid. Well this Game Boy game is based off of the premise. You race from an overhead perspective across terrain that makes sense for toy cars. What I mean is that the tracks consist of things like tables, floors, or any other place you might race toy cars. Multiplayer is absolutely the highlight. When linking up both players race against each other in real-time. The course design is excellent, and it’s so much better to play through with a friend. It’s absolutely one of the best Game Boy multiplayer games. I really like racing titles that don’t take themselves too seriously, and this one scratches the itch.

Front cover for Double Dragon 3 for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#8. – Double Dragon 3

I already touched upon Double Dragon 2 here. That game was such a huge improvement from the original in terms of multiplayer content. Double Dragon 3 offers largely the same experience, but with better level design and more variety in enemies. You and a friend can work together to fight off an absolute army of incoming foes. The only real issue is that the AI is a little unfair. This is circumvented a bit when playing as a friend because you can cancel out their attacks, but it’s still a pretty major problem to be honest. Regardless the novelty of playing a beat ’em up in portable format with another friend is well worth it. Double Dragon 3 is better than its predecessors, and definitely one of the best Game Boy mulitplayer games of all time.

Front cover for Wave Race for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#7. Wave Race

It’s a little known fact that the Wave Race series actually started on the original Game Boy. Who would have thunk it? This original iteration is an overhead view 2D jet ski racing game. You compete with various opponents to reach the goal first. Thing is there are checkpoints that you have to pass on specific sides or else you face penalty. The physics are surprisingly good and this makes Wave Race unlike every other racer on the platform. We’re here to talk about multiplayer however. Wave Race is one of the few titles for the handheld that supports four players. I’ve only experienced this one but it’s a real treat and everything runs surprisingly smoothly here. Wave Race is fun on it’s own, but it’s a whole new ball game when you’ve got a friend along. Or ‘friends’ in this case.

Front cover for Killer Instinct on the Nintendo Game Boy.

#6. – Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct was Rareware’s answer to the Mortal Kombat series. In most ways it’s superior even in this Game Boy downport. It’s a one-on-one fighting game with an emphasis on combo attacks. For the limited hardware it runs surprisingly smooth. Killer Instinct GB pales in comparison to it’s console counterpart, but you can’t do much better on the Game Boy. I already said that Battle Arena Toshinden is the best fighting game for the platform, and so why does Killer Instinct rank higher? This is for the simple fact that when playing on a Super Game Boy multiplayer doesn’t require additional hardware. That means you can simply plug it in and play with a buddy. The typical link option is still in place but this is something we didn’t see that often. This is why Killer Instinct ranks so high on my list of the best multiplayer Game Boy games.

Front cover for Mole Mania for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#5. – Mole Mania

Mole Mania is one of the few games that have Shigeru Miyamoto’s name attached to it that wasn’t a huge seller. Most gamers have forgotten about Mole Mania. It’s a unique single screen puzzle game where you play as a mole in a garden. The view is from the top down perspective as you avoid the farmer trying to destroy you. Your goal is to move a black ball to the end of the screen, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Multiplayer is where Mole Mania really shines however. One player is the mole and the other is the farmer. This creates some truly frantic moments with a lot of curse words thrown out. It’s amazing, and a one of a kind experience. This is absolutely one of the best multiplayer Game Boy games of all time.

Front cover for Ninja Boy 2 for the Nintendo Game Boy.

#4. – Ninja Boy 2

Most haven’t heard of this series. In Japan these games were called ‘Super Chinese’ and because that’s not politically correct they were translated as the ‘Ninja’ series. This includes Little Ninja Bros, Ninja Boy, etc. Ninja Boy 2 is the second portable installment up to the point in it’s release, and it’s by far the best one. These games are typically multiplayer action RPGs, and that’s the same case here. You and a buddy wander a world map entering towns, purchasing equipment, advancing the story, and grinding levels of course. It’s downright amazing that the developers at Culture Brain were able to re-create the experience (particularly in terms of multiplayer) on the Game Boy. It may not sound like it but having a game like this be co-op over a link cable is a huge endeavor.

* This article was originally published here


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