Best Virtual Boy Games of all time
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

What can be said about the Virtual Boy which hasn't been said a million times already?

Arguably Nintendo's most high-profile commercial failure in the realm of video game hardware, this headache-inducing device is often blamed for the premature departure of the legendary Gunpei Yokoi from the company he helped build; rumour has it that the late Nintendo boss Hiroshi Yamauchi gave the Game Boy maker his marching orders after the Virtual Boy proved to be an embarrassing dud.

Whatever the real story behind this most infamous of flops, the Virtual Boy is a system that continues to attract attention, even after all this time. It promised so much – a gateway into virtual reality mixed with Nintendo's signature gameplay, all pulled together by the genius who had created the Game & Watch and Game Boy lines. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a bit, as it happens; software support was poor, sales were dismal, and Nintendo quickly abandoned the Virtual Boy to focus all of its attention on its upcoming Nintendo 64 home console.

However, for all of its failings, the Virtual Boy has some redeeming features; its 3D effect remains pretty impressive even today, and it has several amazing exclusives which haven't ever been made available elsewhere.

You'll see some of them listed below, and these are presented in order of user ranking. Don't agree with the list? Use the user rating box to cast your vote!

10. Teleroboxer (VB)

Teleroboxer is the first of the Virtual Boy catalogue that could be legitimately, consistently labelled as 'fun'. Think of it as a Punch-Out!! game set in the future, starring Real Steel-style robots rather than human beings. The Virtual Boy does a good job of immersing you in the fight with the large, detailed and varied opposition. You will have a great time blocking and punching as you try to find the best way to battle your opponents, but once you’ve done that things become very easy with the only challenge being to see if you can manage an unbeaten run.

9. Panic Bomber (VB)

Probably not the Bomberman game most players wanted but it’s a good ‘un, and the varied opponents and multiple difficulty levels help to keep your interest in this fun puzzle game that has excellent music and great visuals – even if the impressive backgrounds will largely go unnoticed. Extra modes would have been a benefit – and like Mario’s Tennis, it’s harmed by that non-existent link cable – but on the whole, it's another fine puzzle game for the Virtual Boy.

8. Jack Bros. (VB)

Once you’ve got the hang of it, Jack Bros. is a short game, and it’s a shame that there aren’t more puzzles on offer. However, multiple characters and two difficulty settings extend the life of a game that is a lot of fun to play already. It features great music and looks good, too – though it doesn’t really gain anything from being on the Virtual Boy. Overall the game’s strengths help to make up for any weaknesses, making Jack Bros. an essential Virtual Boy purchase.

7. Mario's Tennis (VB)

The small character roster makes the tournaments laughably short, but this is a solid (if simple) tennis game. Good music and graphics combined with the excellent 3D effect of the court ensure that Mario’s Tennis is a great introduction to the Virtual Boy – plus, it's cheap and easy to find these days. If only Nintendo had released that link cable, though...

6. 3D Tetris (VB)

The “Next” piece preview may cause some confusion, the ‘Clear It!’ modes are the kind you will try once and then forget about, and starting at easy level 1 can lead to boredom. However, start at a later level and you will have a lot of fun with the game. The difficulty settings allow you to adjust the challenge and the three game types are all good, differing enough to make you want to give them each a thorough play-through. It may be different to other Tetris games, but it’s still an excellent game and highly recommended.

5. Space Squash (VB)

Featuring great use of the 3D effect and a variety of different stages, Space Squash provides an enjoyable experience. The controls work wonderfully, the audio is effective and the (strangely hidden) options menu further extends the life of the game. An additional difficulty setting would have been a welcome inclusion but the game is still a lot of fun to play and one of the best titles on the Virtual Boy.

4. Vertical Force (VB)

Although the gameplay is pretty traditional, Vertical Force’s levels make good use of the hardware's 3D effect. It’s a fun shooter that offers (on two of the difficulty settings) a tough challenge. This adds replayability, but the game suffers greatly from only having four full levels. However, it’s one you will enjoy coming back to again and again either to try and get that bit further or just to see how far you can make it on one life. While it's not quite good enough to be known as Hudson's 'lost classic', this is still a worthwhile purchase if you're a new Virtual Boy owner.

3. Red Alarm (VB)

There are a few things to fault with the visuals, but Red Alarm's 3D effect is impressive, and there's a lot of variety in the wireframe graphics. It’s a little on the short side, but Red Alarm is a blast to play and remains one of the best reasons to own a Virtual Boy; the fact that it's cheap to pick up these days is a bonus. The Virtual Boy's Star Fox? Almost.

2. Mario Clash (VB)

At times Mario Clash can be pretty boring with its flat sprites, lack of a save function and other minor niggles. However, if you stick with it, you'll find it does provide something of a challenge and once you’ve got the hang of it, you should try starting from a later level for maximum enjoyment. It's no Super Mario World, but it hardly deserves the title of 'Worse Mario Game Ever' that it has been awarded by some sectors of Nintendo fandom.

1. Virtual Boy Wario Land (VB)

Arguably the only truly indispensable title on the system, this platformer featuring Mario's greedy counterpart boasts fabulous visuals and audio to match, and plays much like Wario Land on the Game Boy. It's easily the best game on the console and one you have almost certainly played already if you are a proud Virtual Boy owner. The fantastic visual design and great audio enhance this top-notch platformer. It’s a game you will keep coming back to, either to try and get a different ending or just because it’s so much fun to play through. It’s unfortunate that there are not more levels, but Virtual Boy Wario Land is thoroughly deserving of its reputation and is highly recommended.

Is Virtual Boy considered VR?

Not really. Despite using 'Virtual' in its name, the Virtual Boy can't really offer an immersive VR experience. It's more akin to a Tomytronic 3D or Nintendo 3DS; it creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth rather than Virtual Reality.

What was the last game of the Virtual Boy?

The final officially released game for the Virtual Boy was 3D Tetris, which launched on March 22nd, 1996. However, homebrew titles have been released since then.

How many games were released for Virtual Boy?

The Virtual Boy's library runs to 22 officially released games.