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What are the Best Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console Games?: Game Gear

A comprehensive breakdown of classic games on 3DS, both good, great, and awful. Now complete for all systems: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, NES, Game Gear, Super NES, and 3D Classics! [Updated: May 13]

List by Jeremy Parish, .

Game Gear

The Game Gear married the best parts of the Atari Lynx (a powerful processor, a backlit color screen) with the best parts of the Game Boy (higher screen resolution, a better price, familiar game franchises). It was, in its day, the premium portable gaming experience. Though not every Game Gear release holds up today, its brief tenure on 3DS before SEGA gave up due to low sales saw quite a few greats make their way to Virtual Console, all presented with loving affection by retro gods M2.

Page 1: Intro & NES
Page 2: Game Boy
Page 3: Game Boy Color
Page 4: Game Gear
Page 5: 3D Classics
Page 6: Super NES

The Essentials

Columns
SEGA, 1990
SEGA brought Tetris to Japan in the arcades before it became a home console phenomenon, so it makes sense that they'd have created the first great Tetris clone. Columns' match-three gameplay makes this basically the mother of all iOS games.

Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya
Camelot/SEGA, 1990
A legitimate version of Shining Force, this ambitious strategy RPG may not offer the same depth and visual quality as its console siblings, but it's still worth your time.

Shinobi
SEGA, 1991
This great-looking adaptation of the popular arcade and Genesis series put everything on Game Boy to shame in terms of visuals... and it played pretty well, too.

Sonic the Hedgehog
Ancient/SEGA, 1991
While ostensibly a port of the Genesis game, Sonic on Game Gear actually adapted the Master System version, which was its own distinct — and excellent — thing. Definitely worth playing, even now.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Aspect/SEGA, 1992
Another total overhaul of a much larger game and all the better for its willingness to pursue originality, Sonic 2 is really every bit as good as you could ever hope for a portable 8-bit take on the blast processed megahits to be.

Tails Adventure
Aspect/SEGA, 1995
A huge departure for the Sonic series, this Game Gear exclusive ditches the speed in favor of exploration. This is the closest Sonic game ever came to feeling like a Nintendo franchise, and while it's different, it works quite well. Recommended.

Worth Playing

Crystal Warriors
SEGA, 1991
SEGA's Game Gear had two great strategy games; this is the lesser-known of the two, since it doesn't have the name "Shining Force" attached. Don't think poorly of it for its lack of franchising, though; there's a solid game here.

Defenders of Oasis
SEGA, 1992
Even though the title and Arabian Nights theme of this RPG would suggest it's related to Legend of Oasis, it's not! But that doesn't mean you should scorn it; it's a great little portable adventure.

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Compile/SEGA, 1993
Hey, so this is Puyo Pop, except with a Sonic the Hedgehog theme. Totally worth playing, provided you enjoy both of those series. (Ironically, Nintendo's own reskinning of the game, Kirby's Avalanche, isn't available on 3DS Virtual Console.)

Dragon Crystal
SEGA, 1990
Dragon Crystal has the distinction of being the first-ever portable roguelike game. As such, it's pretty simplistic, but it's a decent enough adaptation of the genre and a good introductory piece for anyone interested in learning more.

Sonic Drift 2
SEGA, 1995
While it doesn't look as good as Super Mario Kart, this Sonic-themed racer plays well and remains loads of fun despite its age and fundamentally low-spec tech.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
Aspect/SEGA, 1994
An entirely original Game Gear creation as opposed to a radically overhauled Genesis conversion Triple Trouble doesn't have the same oomph as Sonic and Sonic 2 for Game Gear. It's decent, but it's missable.

Vampire: Master of Darkness
Sims/SEGA, 1993 A giant, shameless ripoff of Castlevania, and it doesn't even bother to pretend otherwise. While compromised next to its Master System counterpart, and somewhat moot on a system featuring three true 8-bit Castlevania games, Vampire plays well enough that it's still a worthwhile purchase.

Save Your Cash

G-LOC: Air Battle
SEGA, 1991
Basically a portable flight sim, a la Top Gun for NES. Kind of neat in its own way, but ultimately it hasn't aged well and lacks even the graphical punch of Lynx's equivalent, Blue Lightning.

Sonic Blast
Aspect/SEGA, 1996
Despite sharing a name with Sonic 3D Blast, about all this game carries over from that console title is Sonic's 3D-rendered look. It's a clumsy, awkward, and not particularly fun traditional Sonic 2D platformer with protracted first-person bonus stages.

Sonic Labyrinth
Minato Giken/SEGA, 1995
One of several isometric Sonic games released through the years, this early attempt to bring the franchise into the third dimension feels pokey, clumsy, and decidedly un-Sonic-like.

Page 1: Intro & NES
Page 2: Game Boy
Page 3: Game Boy Color
Page 4: Game Gear
Page 5: 3D Classics
Page 6: Super NES

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Comments 35

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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #1 Mikki-Saturn 2 years ago
    Poor poor Mega Man 4. That's actually one of my favorite ones. :/

    I think the controversial charge shot is interesting, because for me the series feels simply incomplete WITHOUT it. I suspect this is one of those deals where whatever game you play first establishes your baseline for what's "normal".
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  • Avatar for tsamba #2 tsamba 2 years ago
    There really is a lot available on 3DS Virtual Console. (And some notable games missing of course.) Looking forward to the continuation of this article.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #3 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @BigPrimeNumbers Agreed, but Deluxe is one of the few games where I didn't find that to be an issue.
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  • Avatar for sean697 #4 sean697 2 years ago
    I'm assuming future articles will have Mile Mania as a must play for GB, that game was a revelation when I discovered it on 3DS VC.
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  • Avatar for naazimeaala75 #5 naazimeaala75 2 years ago
    I am still fuming at the fact that Nintendo made the SNES VC for the new 3DS models!!
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #6 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @naazimeaala75 The standard 3DS is not capable of high-quality SNES emulation.
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  • Avatar for scotts #7 scotts 2 years ago
    I may upgrade to a New 3DS just so I can get the SNES games. I have yet to play Earthbound, and that may be the easiest way. (I also don't have a Wii U.) Sadly, some of my SNES favorites like Super Mario World are not as fun for me on a portable system. I'm fine with the screen, but games that require precision controls (like platformers) are hard for me on the smaller d-pads, buttons, and the way I have to hold the system.
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  • Avatar for scarritt #8 scarritt 2 years ago
    @scotts Same. Playing Cave Story on DS was an ordeal. SMW hasn't been too bad for me so far, though.
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  • Avatar for scarritt #9 scarritt 2 years ago
    @naazimeaala75@jeremy.parish I've seen video of a hacked Old 3DS playing SNES ROMs. Didn't play very well at all, frame rate was really bad.
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  • Avatar for Thad #10 Thad 2 years ago
    Ah, I was wondering how they got SNES emulation to run smoothly on the 3DS. Disappointed but not surprised to hear it requires the new hardware.

    I've got a 2DS and I'm very happy with it; it's more comfortable in my hands and I don't miss the 3D. (Well, occasionally in Super Mario 3D Land I'll misjudge a jump and die and I get the impression that the depth would be easier to gauge if I were playing in 3D. But that's the only exception.) But smooth SNES emulation? It's tempting, and now that I'm starting a new job and not on a tight budget, I could see my way toward getting a new 3DS.Edited March 2016 by Thad
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #11 donkeyintheforest 2 years ago
    I really enjoyed warios woods.one of my first virtual console purchases on the wii. played and beat all the levels, but its tough to do multiplayer cause no one else is any good haha oh well!
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  • Avatar for orient #12 orient 2 years ago
    I bought Mega Man 2 on VC and it was clear the resolution was not correct. I'm not really a Mega Man fan but I know these games require precision controls and I didn't feel I was getting that with Nintendo's emulation. If all NES games have the same problem, I'd avoid any game that requires precision.

    All the SEGA 3D Classics are incredible but Out Run in particular looks amazing due to the Super Scaler tech.
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  • Avatar for ghostsandgoblins #13 ghostsandgoblins 2 years ago
    I have been slowly playing my way through Ghosts n' Goblins and Castlevania. Although both were hard on the original NES (I remember GnG being easier in the arcade), they are even harder on the 3DS, particularly GnG. The save state feature somewhat compensates for that if you aren't adverse to using it. I'm on the last board of Castelvania and have about 25% of GnG left, but I wonder if players new to the games would even enjoy them because of the difficulty of executing some of the necessary techniques. The retreating jump attack is a lot harder to pull off in GnG, and even 30 years later it's the only way I know to beat the red arremersEdited March 2016 by ghostsandgoblins
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #14 Roto13 2 years ago
    I agree with basically everything on the Game Boy list, except I think Alleyway is worth playing.

    In the 3D Classics, I think Galaxy Force II deserves a mention. Such a flashy game for something so old. Like After Burner. It's a real trip.
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  • Avatar for mganai #15 mganai 2 years ago
    I would have put Zelda 1 under Worth Playing (slight obtuseness and limiting controls being a bit of a mark for me). Balloon Kid is a borderline case, only hurt by monochrome visuals I guess.

    Both pinball games are definitely worthy. (Revenge was one of the early best ones.)

    Hope they put out the GBC Special Color Edition releases of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. Heard great things about both. I should definitely grab both Lock 'n Chase and BurgerTime. Great memories of both on my Intellivision.
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  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #16 I-m-not-Daredevil 2 years ago
    Ugh, Super Mario Land 2 sucks. I dreamed of owning it as a kid and was so dissapointed when I finally did. Sure it has greatly imaginative level themes, but that doesn't make up for it's dull level design, floaty physics and very easy difficulty level. Skip it and play the far superior Wario sequels. Donkey Kong Land 3 > Mario Land 2.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #17 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @I-m-not-Daredevil Man, you're killing me.
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  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #18 I-m-not-Daredevil 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Haha, sorry Jeremy. I look forward to seeing you eventually cover Donkey Kong Land 3 in Gameboy World '97. If you're forced to spend a decent amount of time with it you'll realise that it's a surprisingly great game and runs rings around Super Mario Land 2 :)Edited April 2016 by I-m-not-Daredevil
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  • Avatar for stalelemons #19 stalelemons 2 years ago
    I'll go to bat for mega man 2(gameboy version). It may be more simple and easy but that's what why I like about the game. It's easy to pick up and play and beat in half an hour or so.

    I also have a soft spot for Metroid II, the first Metroid game I ever played.Edited April 2016 by stalelemons
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  • Avatar for raymondfernandes09 #20 raymondfernandes09 2 years ago
    I wish Nintendo would go to M2 for some more Nintendo 3D Classics. Super Mario World and Mode 7 games would really pop with that 3D effect. I just picked up Earthbound. I tried playing it years ago through emulation, but it couldn't hold my interest after I got my ass handed to me by the Sharks leader. I just made it to Threed yesterday. Something about the platform has helped this game keep my attention.
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  • Avatar for sobo89 #21 sobo89 2 years ago
    So, with Nintendo (still, apparently) closing the book on the DS, the big question remains: Is New 3DS worth the upgrade from XL for SNES games? I assume Nintendo will start the heavy push for software that requires the platform after NX details are released (DQXI will be huge).

    Actually I'd buy one today if they had good colors. Bring back Gamecube's orange and purple, or even a clear purple GBC variant!
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  • Avatar for zidanix #22 zidanix 2 years ago
    Damnit, there are too many good games on this list. I mean, having them all on one system is just too much temptation for me.
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  • Avatar for mganai #23 mganai 2 years ago
    @raymondfernandes09 Better yet, do some mechanical improvements to whatever games they can, specifically Zelda II for one. (Severely underrated because of its flaws. I'd take it over, say, Pokemon, or more than a few of the other Essentials personally. But then, this is a bit of a subjective list.)Edited April 2016 by mganai
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  • Avatar for raymondfernandes09 #24 raymondfernandes09 2 years ago
    @mganai I absolutely adore Zelda II. A reworked, slightly less cryptic version of it on 3DS would totally float my boat.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #25 Roto13 2 years ago
    I'd move Game Gear Sonic 1 and 2 down to Worth Playing, to be honest. They're both pretty mediocre.Edited April 2016 by Roto13
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  • I just realized, why is Sonic Chaos not avaliable, I always felt it was superior to Sonic 2 and Sonic Triple Touble, and it's on Wii Virtual Console...
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  • Side note: I could never figure out how to hang glide in Sonic 2 on game gear, so I was always frustrated I couldn't get past level two without the cheat code.
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  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #28 I-m-not-Daredevil 2 years ago
    Game and Wtch 2 & 3 could have just squeaked into the 'essential' list - but otherwise, no complaints about the gbc list.
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  • Avatar for guillermojiménez88 #29 guillermojiménez88 2 years ago
    Contra III: The Alien Wars, Donkey Kong Country 3 and Mega Man VII are out now for the New 3DS VC.

    The first one is a timeless masterpiece, the second one is OK, though still a downgrade from DKC 2, the third one should have been Mega Man X instead and I should get a New 3DS.
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  • Avatar for guillermojiménez88 #30 guillermojiménez88 2 years ago
    Komami's Legend of the Mystical Ninja for SNES is now out on the New 3DS VC, too.
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  • Avatar for guillermojiménez88 #31 guillermojiménez88 2 years ago
    How are the 3D Classics versions of Galaxy Force II and Power Drift?
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  • Avatar for guillermojiménez88 #32 guillermojiménez88 2 years ago
    More recent arrivals for Super Nintendo on New 3DS:

    Final Fight
    Kirby's Dream Course
    Mega Man X (masterpiece)
    Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
    Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (huh, they dropped the apostrophe from "II'" in the arcade version)
    Street Fighter Alpha 2
    Super Castlevania IV (masterpiece)
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  • Avatar for guillermojiménez88 #33 guillermojiménez88 2 years ago
    Two more recent arrivals:

    Final Fight 2
    Final Fight 3

    If I remember correctly one of those had a mode that allowed you to play with a CPU companion, which is just about the only thing missing from the Streets of Rage games (especially from the otherwise perfect 3D Classics version of SoR 2).
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  • Avatar for guillermojiménez88 #34 guillermojiménez88 2 years ago
    Capcom's Breath of Fire is in the New 3DS VC now.
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  • More SNES games on 3DS Virtual Console:

    Mega Man X2
    Mega Man X3
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