Collector's Guide to the Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo-Virtual-Boy-Collectors-GuideWith the release of the Nintendo 3DS fast approaching, it’s about time RetroCollect stepped back to look at Nintendo's first 3D venture. Deemed as a commercial failure, the Nintendo Virtual Boy holds a rich history with a highly collectible library of games.

It’s now 2011 and the world of 3D is finally upon us. With the promise of live football on TV in 3D, the latest movies requiring 3D glasses and the arrival of new 3D games consoles, it’s same to say we can’t escape it. However, as much as the industry would like to hide it, this isn’t the first time this ‘revelation’ has been introduced.


In the 1990’s, new gaming hardware known as Virtuality arrived on the scene. This new hardware was a 3D Virtual Reality headset which was accompanied by either a pedestal to move around on, or a sit down Go-Kart. Having made brief apperances on TV shows such as Gamesmaster and GamePro (America), these devices remained in dreamland as the $50,000 price tag was a little too much for most gamers.

Introducing the Virtual Boy

At this point, it was clear Nintendo wanted to jump the gun and bring the world of virtual reality to the homes. With the announcement of the Nintendo Virtual Boy set for release on July 1995 in Japan, the world was set for 3D fever, right!?

Sadly not...

As we all know, the Virtual Boy was a commercial failure with just 800,000 units being shipped worldwide. It was discontinued the same year it was released in Japan and shortly after in America come early 1996. With such a quick discontinuation, it never gave Nintendo the chance to consider bringing the 3D device to European audiences.

A lot of gamers will put the Virtual Boy’s failure down to the excessive amount of hype that was generated by the system. In a climate where the likes of the Virtuality were offering full immersing 3D gameplay, along with the Sony PlayStation 1 (one year before the Virtual Boy’s arrival),  the monochrome red & black 3D Game Boy graphics did not hold up to the promise whatsoever.

With just 22 games released in it’s short lifetime, the Virtual Boy remains Nintendo’s dirty little secret, something that has been rarely mentioned in the run up to the 3DS. But as usual, where collectors are concerned, commercial failure = rarities = collectible.

List of Nintendo Virtual Boy games released in North America


With just 14 games released for the system in North America, it remains a highly collectible system offering a surprising amount of playability.

From the list above, there is always the same three contenders for the title of ‘Best Virtual Boy Game’. Jack Bros, Virtual Boy Wario Land and Red Alarm are the games found sitting in the ring ready to fight, each offering a completely different experience yet equally enjoyable.

Virtual Boy Wario Land

Where Wario Land games are concerned, the Virtual Boy version offers a whole new level of depth to the treasure hunting adventure compared to the likes of the Nintendo Game Boy and Game Boy Advance outings. Using the 3D functions built into the Virtual Boy, the background scenery becomes equally as important as the front, giving two new areas of gameplay.

Virtual Boy Wario Land is a fairly uncommon title with a high level of demand, so expect to (currently) pay somewhere in the region of £30 for a complete copy.

View Virtual Boy Wario Land in the RetroCollect Rarity Guide & Release List Game Database

Red Alarm

Red Alarm could easily be considered the Starfox that never made it onto the Virtual Boy. Featuring a full wireframe 3D atmosphere space shooter, this release was only the beginning of what the Virtual Boy was really capable of. 

Luckily Red Alarm doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, making it easier and cheaper to find than Virtual Boy Wario Land.

View Red Alarm in the RetroCollect Rarity Guide & Release List Game Database

Jack Bros

To some, the title Jack Bros will already be ringing a few bells. If it isn’t due to our recent review of Jack Bros, it’s because you know of the rarity and price tag it currently holds.

Jack Bros is Atlus’s only outing on the Virtual Boy, but by far one of the best titles to grace the system. Featuring a tongue in cheek approach to gameplay with a mix of Gauntlet, Robotron and many Shmups, it’s one all Virtual Boy gamers should be saving up for.

Jack Bros is often considered the rarest North American release for the Virtual Boy and not one that can be acquired easily due to it’s demand.

View Jack Bros in the  RetroCollect Rarity Guide & Release List Game Database
Read RetroCollect’s Review of Jack bros (Nintendo Virtual Boy)

The rest of the bunch...

Overall, with the small selection available, the Nintendo Virtual Boy library has it’s fair share of good and bad titles amongst the pickings.

Unfortunately, not every developer was able to tap into the red & black power available here. Ocean being the main culprit, released Waterworld to accompany the 1995 film of the same name, in what could be described as the final nail in the Virtual Boy’s coffin.

On a more positive note, the likes of Teleroboxer, a futuristic 3D Punchout clone was well received and still offers plenty of tough, but enjoyable gaming sessions today. Tetris also made it’s very own 3D outing with 3D Tetris and a 2.5D outing in Japan with V-Tetris, with the tried and tested gaming formula.

While they did miss out on Waterworld, Japan also had a fair few exclusive titles on offer for the system. Many of these are now the playing field for eBay bidding wars; SD Gundam Dimension War, Space Invaders Virtual Collection and Virtual Lab often being the ones with considerably high price tags in place.

Collecting Virtual Boy Games & Hardware

RetroCollect currently features in the Game Database a full release list of North American  Virtual Boy games accompanied with scans of the boxes, manuals and cartridges. Should you already have a Virtual Boy collection underway, or fancy joining the rest of the Virtual Boy collectors on RetroCollect, so be sure to use our online guide and track your collection.

And should you want to discuss the Virtual Boy or collecting for the Virtual Boy further, head over to the Official Virtual Boy Collectors thread in the RetroCollect forums.

Last Updated ( 29 January 2011 )  


Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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+2 (Link to this comment) TwoHeadedBoy 2011-01-29 13:14
Excellent stuff - I thought I had everything I could ever need for my Virtual Boy, until I saw that Red Alarm video... Now I need this. Bugger.
(Link to this comment) JokerJur 2011-03-23 11:33
Good article, I hardly use my VB but it's such a nifty item to own and it looks truly futuristic.

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