The Best Game Boy Themed Indies on Switch

Dogurai, Pixboy, and Stardash Reviewed

Close up of a Switch playing Dogurai in the middle of a pile of old Game Boy games

There’s certainly no shortage of retro inspired indies on the Nintendo Switch. Everything from the NES to the original Playstation has had its fair share of indie homages—all designed to give a modern, fresh take on a classic formula. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly however, there seems to be a noticeable lack of titles which ape the retro system closest to my own heart—the humble Game Boy. Having played the scant offerings currently available, I’ve selected three titles which stand out as the best of the bunch. So, if you’re looking to swap your rose coloured-spectacles for a pair of altogether more green-tinted ones, then here is a guide to the best Game Boy indies on Switch.

Dogurai – £4.49/$4.99

Dogurai faces off against a large miniboss in this Game Boy Indie game for Switch.

Developed by Hungry Bear Games, Dogurai pounced onto the Nintendo eShop in March 2020. Taking inspiration from the 2D action-platformers of the 90s, Dogurai will feel immediately familiar to fans of the genre. Seemingly paying homage to Game Boy classics such as Mega Man: Dr Wily’s Revenge and Ninja Gaiden Shadow, Dogurai feels every bit the authentic experience.

Dogurai takes place in a dystopian future where a robot army and their manic creator are hellbent on world domination. Bones, a retired dog samurai from the Special Forces, is tasked with single-handedly taking down the robotic menace.

Dogurai leaps in to attack two enemies.

Thankfully, the anthropomorphic swordsman is well equipped for the task. His katana can make short work of the unruly machines and even slice incoming projectiles in two. For an old dog, Bones is surprisingly agile too with a responsive, and easily controlled jump. He also has a couple of neat tricks to help him traverse the many hazards and pitfalls that litter the game’s eight stages.

First is a satisfying double jump which allows for a high level of precision when platforming, as well as a useful means of escape when the going gets tough. Second is a Mega Man-esque slide which  provides a means to slip under hazards. It also provides a means to access secret areas where health refills and extra lives can be found.

Dogurai leaps over enemy bullets in a volcano stage.

To match the tight controls, Hungry Bear Games have created a finely-crafted set of stages to tackle. Locations you’ll battle through include a ruined city scape, a poisoned water plant, and an icy cryostasis lab. Each offers unique enemies and a distinct set of challenges to overcome. Some are more platform focused with plenty of moving platforms, lasers and conveyer belts to negotiate.

Others feel more action orientated where numerous enemies and projectiles make up the brunt of the challenge. A few even contain fun set-pieces such as a motorcycle sequence through a desert base. Another requires a rapid escape from a wave of lava in a fiery cavern. The game does a good job of mixing up the gameplay so that it never feels repetitive.

Dogurai faces off against a boss in the Game Boy Indie of the same name.

To cap off each stage there are, of course, boss fights. Each boss has its own distinct character and offers a unique set of attacks to learn and counter. They’re very Mega Man in style but nonetheless provide their own originality in design and attack patterns. One particularly nice touch is the inclusion of a special attack. Here Bones can exploit an opening in the boss’s guard (indicated by an exclamation mark). Time slows briefly and quick-time prompts will appear on screen allowing the samurai pooch to deal multiple blows to the defenceless opponent. It feels great to pull off and adds a cinematic touch to the retro charm.

Graphically, Dogurai looks as though it could’ve been released on an actual Game Boy. I absolutely mean that as a compliment. If it wasn’t for the smooth animation and fluid gameplay, you could be forgiven for thinking that it could happily run on the 90s handheld. The action is presented in the correct aspect ratio and the monochrome colours are spot on. There’s even an option for swapping palettes as if you’re playing on a Game Boy Color.

Dogurai navigates moving platforms in the Water Plant.

In conclusion, Dogurai is a no brainer for any Game Boy fans looking for an authentic experience. It comes in at a bargain price and offers tight platforming, combat, pacing, and a decent level of challenge. There’s two difficulty modes available, one with infinite lives and the other with a more traditional lives system. There’s also an unlockable, projectile-throwing, player character to encourage repeat playthroughs. For fans of Game Boy action-platformers, Dogurai should not be missed.

Pixboy – £4.49/$4.99

Pixboy tries to escape from a boss in the Game Boy indie game, Pixboy.

Released in June 2020 and developed by Oaky Games, Pixboy is a snappy 2D platformer that offers multiple objectives for each of the game’s forty stages.

The game uses a self-described ‘1-bit’ graphical style that makes for a simple but charming aesthetic. As well as the obligatory Game Boy green, the game also offers multiple other monochrome palettes to enjoy. These are inspired by everything from vintage PCs to old mobile phones.

The plot involves a Jekyll and Hyde-esque potion and some naughty dogs but ultimately Pixboy is a game that gets straight to the point (just as any good Game Boy game should). The game contains four worlds, each with ten stages to tackle. To finish a level all that’s required is to reach the exit. And whilst there are plenty of enemies, spikes and hazards in the way, doing so is never particularly difficult.

Pixboy jumps from a moving platform.

Pixboy is easy to control and can dispatch enemies by jumping on them or by shooting them with his catapult. He also has a parachute which can be opened mid-jump to allow him to float over obstacles. To merely reach the end of each stage throughout probably wouldn’t take very long nor would it be very satisfying.

The true joy (and challenge) in Pixboy comes from completing the game’s four additional objectives. The first tasks you with collecting all the coins in a level. Some are deviously placed in hard-to-reach areas and others are hidden entirely. The same can be said for the game’s second collectable which comes in the form of ice lollies. The lollies are typically hidden in secret areas found by walking through invisible walls. Only by checking every nook and cranny of each level can all the coins and lollies be found. Thankfully, each level is very compact, making it far less tedious than it perhaps sounds.

Pixboy stands between moving buzzsaws.

The third objective is obtained by completing the level within a certain time. The levels are small so the required time can be anything from just 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. Thankfully, Oaky Games haven’t made pixel perfect speed runs a requirement. All but the last few stages feel comfortably achievable.

The last objective, and perhaps the most unique, comes in the form of a pacifist run. Here you are challenged with completing the level without killing any of the game’s enemies. It makes for a fun contrast to the speed run. Here you often have to wait patiently for enemies to move out from cramped areas.

Pixboy glides towards a buzzsaw in the Game Boy themed indie game, Pixboy.

It might sound like padding but getting 100% completion on Pixboy is a fun challenge and provides hours of content. The game has great pick up and playability and is best played in short sessions. With a health bar and multiple mid-level checkpoints, Pixboy also feels less intense than many other similar games. As such, it provides a more charming, relaxing experience. Fans of easygoing platformers should definitely check it out.

Stardash – £7.99/$9.99

Leaping from a falling block in the Game Boy themed indie, Stardash.

Despite having only released on the Nintendo Switch in January 2021, Stardash is actually the oldest Game Boy indie on this list. Developed by OrangePixel, the game originally released on mobile platforms in 2011 making it almost ‘retro’ in and of itself. This fast-paced 2D platformer asks the question, ‘what if the developers of Super Mario Land had been masochists?’

All of the game’s enemies will seem oddly familiar to anyone who has played Mario’s first handheld outing. You’ll find turtles that explode after being jumped on. Insects that fly across the screen and drop spears. And carnivorous plants that spring out of blocks and snap menacingly. Stardash does little to hide its inspiration. But in many ways, the numerous Super Mario Land references are what provides the game’s charm.

A variety of enemies ahead in Stardash.

Despite its visual similarities, Stardash feels entirely at odds with Nintendo’s own gameplay style. The game speed is blisteringly fast, and the player character is instantly responsive. There’s no momentum to build up and no skidding to a stop here. Quick, snappy, and decisive movements are required to complete the game’s fifty stages. But don’t expect to beat any of them of without dying (…a lot).

Levels in Stardash are short but punishingly difficult. Taking a single hit will instantly respawn the player at the beginning of the level. Persistence and memorisation is the name of the game here. Learning from each death is an essential part of the experience. Certainly not for the faint of heart, Stardash is an intense and challenging platformer.

A flying fish blocks the way in the Game Boy indie, Stardash.

Getting to the goal in each stage will be satisfying enough for most. Much like Pixboy however, there are additional objectives for those who want the extra challenge. One requires you to collect all the coins. Another requires the level to be completed within a set time. The last has you play the level back to front. There are also keys hidden in each stage to unlock the final (ultra-difficult) Temple level in each world.

Ultimately, Stardash takes the visuals and chiptunes of Super Mario Land and blends it with the quickfire gameplay of Super Meat Boy. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who relish a challenge, there’re hours of fun to be had here.

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it, the best Game Boy indies on Switch. Three games that remind us that two buttons and one colour are plenty enough to have a good time with. These titles not only provide a dose of Game Boy nostalgia but are crucially good games in their own right. (Especially for the cheap price they’re being sold at.) They may not be setting the gaming landscape on fire, but it’s great to see a handful of daring developers keeping the spirit of the Game Boy alive. If only a few more would join them!

Written by Sean Coughlan

Sean is a writer for 25YL's gaming department. He is most passionate when talking about the games and consoles of the 1990s and has a penchant for hyperbole. He lives with his wife and daughter in Hertfordshire, England.

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