In the late 1990s, the handheld gaming market witnessed the emergence of the WonderSwan. Developed by Koto Laboratory and Bandai, this console marked the final work of renowned engineer Gunpei Yokoi, creator of the Nintendo Game & Watch handheld system. WonderSwan’s 1999 release placed it in direct competition with giants like Nintendo’s Game Boy Color and SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Color.
Bandai, known for its toys and electronic games, ventured into handheld gaming with the WonderSwan. The console’s design was innovative, allowing gameplay in both vertical and horizontal orientations. This feature, combined with a long battery life and a competitive price point, set the WonderSwan apart. Its game library, rich in anime-based titles and supported by major developers like Squaresoft and Capcom, further enhanced its appeal.
The WonderSwan Color brought technological and aesthetic advancements. With a color screen and a larger game library, it maintained backward compatibility, a key selling point. Despite these upgrades, the WonderSwan faced stiff competition from Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance. Its market share peaked at 8% but dwindled as Nintendo dominated the scene.
The handheld gaming market of the late 90s and early 2000s was fiercely competitive. While the WonderSwan was a strong product, it faced challenges. Nintendo’s entrenched position and the advanced features of the Game Boy Advance overshadowed the WonderSwan’s achievements. Additionally, Bandai’s decision to limit its release to Japan restricted its global impact.
Despite its brief lifespan, the WonderSwan series sold approximately 3.5 million units. The WonderSwan series, encompassing the original model, the WonderSwan Color, and the SwanCrystal, ceased production in 2003. While it may not have reached the heights of its competitors, the WonderSwan series remains an example of technological advancement and creative design in the gaming world.
Let’s take a look at the best games on the WonderSwan and WonderSwan Color.
#22. Digimon: Battle Spirit (2001)
Digimon: Battle Spirit offers a thrilling experience for fans of the franchise and retro gamers alike. Released in 2001 for the WonderSwan, this game combines simple yet engaging mechanics with the beloved Digimon universe. Players select their favorite Digimon and leap into action-packed battles, striving to collect energy spheres dropped by opponents. The game’s intuitive controls make it easy to pick up, while the strategic depth keeps players invested. With a variety of characters and stages, each playthrough feels fresh and exciting. Moreover, the colorful graphics and catchy soundtrack capture the essence of the early 2000s gaming scene. Digimon: Battle Spirit stands out as a must-play title for those seeking a dose of nostalgia and fun competitive gameplay.
#21. Fire Pro Wrestling (2000)
Fire Pro Wrestling for the WonderSwan is a hidden gem for fans of classic wrestling games. Its deep customization options allow players to create their dream matches with a roster of diverse fighters. The game’s strategic grappling system rewards careful timing and tactical thinking, setting it apart from other button-mashing wrestling titles. With its engaging gameplay and portable format, Fire Pro Wrestling delivers a satisfying experience for enthusiasts looking to take the ring with them on the go. The game’s robust mechanics and attention to detail make it a standout title that retro gamers should not overlook.
#20. The Final Fantasy Legend (2002)
Embark on a classic adventure with The Final Fantasy Legend, a gem from 2002 for the WonderSwan. This game offers a rich, turn-based RPG experience that harkens back to the genre’s golden age. Players can choose from a diverse cast of characters, each with unique abilities, to form a party of warriors. The game’s world is vast and filled with intriguing lore, ensuring hours of exploration and discovery. Combat is strategic and rewarding, with a variety of weapons and magic at your disposal. Moreover, the game’s narrative is compelling, featuring an epic quest to ascend a mysterious tower. With its engaging gameplay and nostalgic charm, The Final Fantasy Legend stands as a must-play for fans of retro gaming. It captures the essence of what made early RPGs beloved, while offering a polished experience on the WonderSwan platform.
#19. Space Invaders (1999)
Space Invaders for the WonderSwan breathes new life into a classic favorite. This 1999 revival offers crisp, monochrome graphics that stay true to the original’s charm. Players will find the simple yet addictive gameplay instantly familiar, as they maneuver their ship to fend off the iconic alien horde. The game introduces fresh challenges and power-ups, keeping the experience engaging. Its portability on the WonderSwan system means you can enjoy this arcade staple anywhere. With responsive controls and escalating difficulty, Space Invaders delivers a satisfying blend of nostalgia and new twists. It’s a must-play for retro enthusiasts seeking a timeless shoot-’em-up adventure.
#18. Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon (1999)
Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon for the WonderSwan is a delightful gem for retro gamers. This 1999 release offers a unique blend of classic Final Fantasy elements with engaging roguelike mechanics. As you guide the adorable Chocobo through ever-changing dungeons, you’ll encounter a variety of monsters and puzzles. The game’s turn-based combat system keeps the action strategic yet accessible. Moreover, the charming graphics and catchy soundtrack capture the essence of the era. With its blend of nostalgia and fresh challenges, Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon stands out as a must-play title for fans of the genre. Its simplicity and charm make it an excellent choice for both seasoned gamers and newcomers to the world of retro gaming.
#17. Mr. Driller (2001)
Mr. Driller for the WonderSwan is a captivating puzzle adventure that stands out with its vibrant graphics and engaging gameplay. As you take on the role of Susumu Hori, you’ll navigate through colorful, ever-shifting blocks to reach underground depths. The game’s simple yet strategic mechanics require you to carefully manage your oxygen levels while avoiding being crushed by falling blocks. Its escalating difficulty provides a satisfying challenge for both newcomers and seasoned gamers. Moreover, the portable nature of the WonderSwan makes Mr. Driller an ideal pick-up-and-play experience for gaming on the go. With its charming character design and addictive puzzle-solving action, Mr. Driller is a delightful addition to any retro gamer’s collection.
#16. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (2003)
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is a classic dungeon crawler that stands the test of time. Released in 2003 for the WonderSwan, this game offers a rich blend of strategy and adventure. Players create and customize their own party of heroes, each with unique abilities and classes. As you navigate the treacherous mazes, you’ll encounter fierce monsters and challenging puzzles. The turn-based combat system keeps battles engaging, while the intricate level design ensures that exploration remains rewarding. With its retro graphics and sound, the game captures the essence of early RPGs. Moreover, the difficulty level is well-balanced, providing a satisfying experience for both newcomers and seasoned gamers. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is a must-play for anyone who appreciates the depth and nostalgia of old-school gaming.
#15. Nobunaga’s Ambition (1999)
Step into the role of a feudal lord in Nobunaga’s Ambition, a classic strategy game that brings the Sengoku period of Japan to life on the WonderSwan. With its intricate gameplay, you’ll dive into deep tactical planning, managing resources, and engaging in diplomatic or military actions to unify Japan under your rule. The game’s turn-based system allows for thoughtful decision-making, while the historical setting provides an immersive experience. The challenge of balancing economic development with warfare strategy makes this title a rewarding experience for any retro gamer. Moreover, the portable format of the WonderSwan ensures that you can enjoy this engaging historical simulation wherever you go, making Nobunaga’s Ambition a must-play for fans of the genre seeking a satisfying blend of history and strategy.
#14. Side Pocket (1999)
Side Pocket for the WonderSwan is a classic billiards game that offers a blend of strategy and skill. Its simple controls make it easy to pick up, yet the game’s challenging levels provide depth for those seeking mastery. The graphics are crisp, with tables and balls rendered in clear detail, enhancing the overall experience. As you progress, the game introduces trick shots and obstacles, keeping the gameplay fresh and engaging. The portable nature of the WonderSwan allows you to enjoy Side Pocket on the go, making it a perfect companion for any retro gamer looking to pocket some fun during their travels. With its engaging mechanics and smooth playability, Side Pocket stands out as a must-play title for fans of classic sports simulations.
#13. Mega Man & Bass (1999)
Mega Man & Bass on the WonderSwan is a hidden gem for fans of classic platforming action. Released in 1999, this game offers a unique twist on the beloved series by allowing players to choose between Mega Man or Bass, each with distinct abilities. The game boasts a rich variety of levels that challenge your reflexes and strategic thinking. As you progress, you’ll collect bolts to upgrade your abilities, adding a satisfying layer of customization. The crisp graphics and catchy soundtrack capture the essence of the era, making it a nostalgic treat. Moreover, the game’s difficulty strikes a perfect balance, providing a rewarding experience for both newcomers and seasoned gamers. In essence, Mega Man & Bass is a must-play title that brilliantly encapsulates the charm and challenge of retro gaming.
#12. Shanghai Pocket (1999)
Shanghai Pocket for the WonderSwan is a hidden gem that puzzle enthusiasts should not miss. This game offers a portable version of the classic mahjong solitaire experience, perfect for on-the-go gaming. Its simple yet addictive gameplay involves matching pairs of tiles to clear the board, a task that requires keen observation and strategic thinking. The game features multiple levels that increase in difficulty, providing a satisfying challenge for players of all skill levels. Additionally, the crisp graphics and intuitive controls make Shanghai Pocket an accessible and engaging title. With its timeless puzzle format, this game promises hours of entertainment for retro gamers looking for a mentally stimulating diversion.
#11. Golden Axe (2002)
Golden Axe for the WonderSwan is a captivating throwback for any retro gamer looking to relive the glory days of side-scrolling beat ’em ups. This 2002 rendition of the classic arcade title retains the original’s charm and challenge, while adapting it to the portable platform with finesse. Players embark on a nostalgic quest, choosing from iconic characters to battle through hordes of enemies and formidable bosses. The game’s simple controls and straightforward gameplay make it easy to pick up, yet it offers enough depth to keep you engaged. Moreover, the WonderSwan’s unique screen orientation provides a fresh perspective on the beloved fantasy world. With its blend of action and adventure, Golden Axe stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of retro gaming.
#10. Lode Runner (2000)
Lode Runner for the WonderSwan is a classic puzzle-platformer that stands the test of time. Its simple yet challenging gameplay hooks you from the start, tasking you with collecting gold while outsmarting relentless pursuers. The game’s 50 levels offer increasing difficulty, ensuring a satisfying progression for players. Its crisp, monochrome graphics pay homage to the original, while the controls are responsive and intuitive. Moreover, the portable nature of the WonderSwan makes Lode Runner an ideal companion for gaming on the go. With its engaging level design and strategic depth, this title is a must-play for fans of retro gaming.
#9. Final Fantasy (2000)
Embark on a timeless journey with Final Fantasy, a classic RPG that shines on the WonderSwan. This game offers a rich, engaging storyline that follows four heroes on a quest to restore balance to their world. With its intuitive turn-based combat system, players can strategize and conquer diverse enemies. The game’s graphics are a significant upgrade from the original, providing a fresh visual experience while maintaining the nostalgic charm. The soundtrack complements the adventure perfectly, enhancing the immersive experience. Final Fantasy on WonderSwan stands out with its portability, allowing gamers to dive into an epic tale anytime, anywhere. Its straightforward mechanics make it accessible, yet it offers enough depth to keep you hooked for hours. For retro gaming enthusiasts, this title is a must-play, capturing the essence of what makes the genre enduringly captivating.
#8. Bust-A-Move (1999)
Bust-A-Move on the WonderSwan is a captivating puzzle game that stands the test of time. Its simple yet addictive gameplay hooks players with the task of matching colored bubbles to clear the screen. The game’s intuitive controls and escalating difficulty provide a satisfying challenge for any retro gamer. With its charming graphics and catchy music, it offers a delightful experience that’s easy to pick up but hard to put down. Moreover, the portable nature of the WonderSwan makes Bust-A-Move an ideal game for on-the-go entertainment. Its engaging puzzles and timeless mechanics make it a must-play for fans of the genre seeking a classic gaming fix.
#7. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1999)
Romance of the Three Kingdoms for the WonderSwan is a strategic gem that transports players to ancient China. As a retro gamer, you’ll appreciate the game’s deep tactical gameplay, where your decisions shape the fate of empires. The game challenges you to manage resources, engage in diplomacy, and command armies with skill. Its turn-based battles require thoughtful planning, ensuring each move counts. The historical setting is richly detailed, offering a blend of education and entertainment. Moreover, the portable format of the WonderSwan allows you to dive into this epic saga anytime, anywhere. With its engaging mechanics and immersive narrative, Romance of the Three Kingdoms stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of classic strategy games.
#6. Riviera: The Promised Land (2002)
Riviera: The Promised Land is a captivating blend of RPG elements and strategic gameplay that shines on the WonderSwan. Its enchanting story follows Ein and his companions as they navigate the mystical land of Riviera, tasked with preventing an ancient evil’s resurgence. The game stands out with its unique “Trigger Point” system, which adds depth to exploration and combat. Players must choose their actions wisely, as the limited inventory system challenges them to think ahead. The turn-based battles are engaging, requiring tactical decision-making to leverage character strengths and weaknesses. With its vibrant graphics and memorable soundtrack, Riviera offers a rich, immersive experience. This title is a must-play for retro gamers seeking a game that combines a compelling narrative with thoughtful gameplay mechanics.
#5. Final Fantasy II (2002)
Final Fantasy II on the WonderSwan is a classic gem that every retro gamer should experience. This game offers a unique skill progression system, where characters improve based on their actions in battle, rather than traditional leveling. Engaging storytelling propels you through a rich fantasy world filled with memorable characters and epic quests. The game’s strategic combat requires thoughtful planning, ensuring that battles are both challenging and rewarding. With its improved graphics and sound over the original NES version, Final Fantasy II shines on the WonderSwan, providing a visually appealing and immersive experience. This title is not just a nostalgic trip; it’s a testament to the timeless appeal of the Final Fantasy series.
#4. Hexcite: The Shapes of Victory (2000)
Hexcite: The Shapes of Victory is a hidden gem for puzzle enthusiasts on the WonderSwan. Its unique gameplay involves placing geometric shapes onto a board, aiming to control the most territory for the win. The game’s simplicity is deceptive, as strategic depth emerges with every move. Players must think ahead, considering both shape and placement, to outmaneuver their opponents. With its easy-to-learn mechanics and increasingly challenging levels, Hexcite offers hours of engaging fun. The game’s portability makes it perfect for on-the-go gaming sessions. Its charming graphics and thoughtful design ensure that Hexcite remains a delightful experience for any retro gamer looking for a cerebral twist to their collection.
#3. Clock Tower (1999)
Clock Tower for the WonderSwan is a hidden gem that offers a thrilling blend of horror and adventure. As a retro gamer, you’ll appreciate the game’s suspenseful atmosphere, which is masterfully crafted despite the handheld’s monochrome display. The point-and-click mechanics are intuitive, allowing you to easily navigate through the eerie corridors of the Barrows Mansion. Each decision you make impacts the story, leading to multiple endings that add to the game’s replayability. The game’s protagonist, Jennifer, must evade the terrifying Scissorman, an element that introduces heart-pounding chase sequences. With its engaging puzzles and chilling narrative, Clock Tower stands out as a must-play title that showcases the potential of the WonderSwan’s unique gaming library.
#2. Front Mission (2002)
Front Mission for the WonderSwan is a hidden gem for fans of tactical RPGs. Set in a future where mechs, known as Wanzers, dominate the battlefield, this game offers a rich strategic experience. You’ll lead a group of pilots through intense missions, customizing your units for optimal performance. The game’s story unfolds with political intrigue and personal drama, keeping you engaged from start to finish. Its turn-based combat system is both accessible and deep, rewarding thoughtful planning. With its compelling narrative and satisfying gameplay, Front Mission stands out as a must-play title for any retro gamer looking for a classic challenge.
#1. Puyo Puyo 2 (1999)
Puyo Puyo 2 on the WonderSwan is a classic puzzle game that stands the test of time. Its simple yet addictive gameplay hooks players from the start. You match four or more colorful Puyos to clear them from the screen, creating chains for high scores. The game’s increasing difficulty provides a satisfying challenge for puzzle enthusiasts. With its engaging mechanics and strategic depth, Puyo Puyo 2 offers endless entertainment. Its portability on the WonderSwan makes it perfect for gaming on the go. This title is a must-play for fans of the genre seeking a delightful blend of nostalgia and brain-teasing fun.