20 Best WonderSwan Games Of All Time (Ranked)

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Everybody knows the Game Boy Advance and the PSP. But before them, many powerful platforms were vying for domination of the handheld console market.

Bandai’s WonderSwan was one of them, as were its successors – the WonderSwan Color (2000) and the SwanCrystal (2002).

Its 16-bit central processing unit was powerful, and its long battery life was also critical to its relative success. It’s easy to see this family of consoles as the best retro handhelds of that era.

Regrettably, the WonderSwan line never made it out of Japan – so most of its games will require a high level of Japanese to really get through them all (or at least some English patches).

In this brief ranking, I tried to focus on games anyone can enjoy without learning Japanese – though some iconic narrative-heavy titles did make their way in (for those of you who understand the language and/or can find patches).


20. SD Gundam Operation U.C. (2002)

SD Gundam Operation U.C. WonderSwan gameplay

If there’s something I like more than mechas, it’s super-deformed mechas that look like bobbleheads.

SD Gundam Operation U.C. is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up with minor RPG elements that offers intense action with virtually no rest time.

You’ll fight against other mechas and giant spaceships with an energy rifle and a sword for close-quarters combat.

The game features an Adventure Mode, a Shooting Mode where you go through the levels one after another, and a Vs. Mode where you can duke it out against the machine or another player.

It’s a bit unforgiving, but also profoundly enjoyable – and you won’t need to know an ounce of Japanese to make it work.


19. Engacho! (1999)

Engacho! WonderSwan game screenshot

Japanese developers have no fear of the grotesque, and Engacho! is the prime example of this trend.

The game’s objective is to make it through a grid board without getting caught by one of four monsters – a flying butt, a drooling Mickey Mouse clone, a big-nosed dude dripping snot, and an armpit hair monster.

Despite this bizarre line-up, the game is pretty engaging.

The enemies move in one direction whenever you take a step, and they all have different patterns you’ll need to learn in order to survive.


18. Tane Wo Maku Tori (1999)

Tane Wo Maku Tori in WonderSwan

Sometimes, all you need is a simple concept to make a great game.

In Tane Wo Maku Tori, you’re tasked with guiding raindrops down vertical beams until they reach a flower seedling growing underneath. To do this, you need to move the platforms connecting these columns, so the water drips down in the right direction.

It’s pretty easy at first. But the levels get progressively more demanding with the addition of hazards such as thirsty snails that’ll move around, trying to drink your precious water droplets.

Other than its simple but addictive gameplay, the game’s graphics are also top-notch for the era.


17. Hataraku Chocobo (2000)

Hataraku Chocobo WonderSwan gameplay

A Chocobo is a giant flightless bird similar to an ostrich that takes horses’ role in the world of Final Fantasy.

They’ve been a series staple since Final Fantasy II.

I love these feathery beasts of burden, and I’ll play any game with the word “Chocobo” on it.

Translating roughly to “Working Chocobo”, Hataraku Chocobo is a Life Sim/Board Game where you’ll guide Final Fantasy’s most famous mascot as they go around completing tasks in exchange for items.

Depending on how you’re planning to enjoy these WonderSwan titles, you may be happy to know that an English Patch was recently released for this fantastic game.


16. Golden Axe (2002)

Golden Axe WonderSwan game screenshot

This classic arcade side-scrolling beat-em-up can be played on-the-go on the WonderSwan Color.

Choose between a dwarf, a burly barbarian, and a sexy amazonian warrior to duke it out against the Death Adders and their minions on your way to raiding their castle.

It’s the kind of game you want to play after a hard day at work that’s left your brain exhausted. Just boot up your WonderSwan and take your frustrations out on pixelated muscular men and their reptilian beasts.


15. Tetris (2002)

Tetris WonderSwan gameplay screenshot

It’s Tetris! What else is there to say?

The graphics are nice and colorful, the music is perfect, and luckily for us Westerners – all the menus are in English!

All of you Tetris nerds will be glad to know it follows the “Tetris Guideline”. For the uninitiated, that’s the current list of specifications The Tetris Company enforces for all Tetris games.

It ensures that the Tetriminos are the right colors and that the playing field grid is 10×40 (it only appears to be 10×20 to keep players on their toes). It even specifies where exactly Tetriminos must start falling from!


14. Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon (1999)

Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon gameplay

Hataraku Chocobo wasn’t the only WonderSwan game starring the adorable bird.

Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon translates to “Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon” and it’s a port of the PlayStation game – now in monochrome 2D.

The game follows a Chocobo as they explore a series of randomly-generated mazes, collecting items that help them get through each area, which they’ll lose upon being knocked out.

It’s a fantastic Roguelike – and much better on-the-go.

There’s also an English patch for this one and it’s absolutely the one to play first.


13. Magical Drop (1999)

Magical Drop WonderSwan gameplay

Competitive Puzzle games were trendy back in the arcade days, but handheld platforms fit these brain-training titles better.

Magical Drop was released initially on Neo Geo Arcades, where it quickly became a massive hit. This WonderSwan version is a faithful port of the arcade original.

The gameplay revolves around keeping a stack of falling bubbles from reaching the ground. You do this by grabbing the bottom sphere from one column and moving it somewhere else to create a line of three or more. Do this, and they’ll pop.


12. Makaimura for WonderSwan (1999)

Makaimura for WonderSwan gameplay

Fans of the classic Platformer/Run-and-gun Ghosts’n’Goblins franchise will no doubt love Makaimura for WonderSwan.

This handheld title is a remix of the first three games in the Ghosts’n’Goblins series, sticking closely to the first game’s formula. This means it lacks magic, double jumps, and aiming. It’s back to basics!

Level design is significantly improved from the original, and it features some very challenging new bosses.

Maybe this increased challenge is why they decided to let players clear the game in one go rather than be set back to the first level to acquire the necessary weapon to kill the last boss, Azrael.


11. Beatmania (1999)

Beatmania WonderSwan game screenshot

I love Rhythm games.

And as someone who has at least three different ones on their phone, I can tell you that they’re best enjoyed on handheld devices.

Beatmania on the WonderSwan is a work of art. Developers managed to make the tracks remarkably enjoyable for the system’s sub-par audio capabilities, and the inclusion of a small turntable peripheral with the game was just visionary.

The effort put into this thing is staggering, even if they reused mostly the same tracks as a previous Beatmania game. The tracklist is based on Beatmania 3rd Mix.


10. Guilty Gear Petit 2 (2001)

Guilty Gear Petit 2 gameplay

Guilty Gear is one of the Fighter franchises with the most unique style and personality – and it’s also great on the go.

This bite-sized title features adorable, super-deformed versions of 14 iconic GG characters going at it with the same vigor as their regular arcade counterparts. It also includes Fanny, a cute nurse with a giant syringe weapon that’s exclusive to the Petit spin-off series.

Despite having solid visuals and a decent combat system, the game has a terrible soundtrack made worse by the horrible audio quality. It puts a damper on an otherwise fantastic game.


9. One Piece: Grand Battle Swan Colosseum (2001)

One Piece: Grand Battle Swan Colosseum in WonderSwan

The WonderSwan was home to many licensed anime games thanks to Bandai’s smart business practices. And One Piece was especially well-represented on the handheld console.

My favorite among them is One Piece: Grand Battle Swan Colosseum. It features gorgeous, colorful graphics with incredible detail and a deep combat system unlike what you’d expect from a handheld title.

At first, your playable character roster is limited to six Straw Hat Pirates, but as you go through the campaign, you’ll unlock seven enemy pirates seen in the anime – including the beloved Robin.

Not exactly the best One Piece game out there, but definitely a retro treasure worth playing if you can.


8. Judgement Silversword: Rebirth Edition (2001)

Judgement Silversword: Rebirth Edition gameplay

For those of you who love the adrenaline-pumping action of a good shoot-em-up, Judgement Silversword on the WonderSwan is a no-brainer.

This fast-paced game rewards playing aggressively and, in some cases, recklessly. One of its main mechanics is using your shield offensively against enemy ships to produce power-ups.

The game also takes advantage of the WonderSwan’s ability to be played sideways for a more comfortable layout.

With fantastic graphics and fluid gameplay, it’s incredible to think this game was created for a home-brew development competition.


7. GunPey EX (2000)

GunPey EX WonderSwan gameplay

Named after famed WonderSwan and Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi, GunPey comes to remind us how addictive brain-teasing Puzzle games can be on a handheld console.

The game has you arranging tiles on a grid to turn various parts of a line into a single, continuous stroke. While simple in concept, the game can get tough just a couple of levels in.

Other than the campaign, the game features Endless Mode, Puzzle mode, and even a competitive multiplayer mode.

GunPey EX includes color-based puzzles and more refined gameplay on the WonderSwan Color. But its black-and-white predecessor on the original WonderSwan is just as good.


6. Pocket Fighter (2000)

Pocket Fighter in WonderSwan

Known as Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix in its original arcade release, Pocket Fighter is what happens when you turn characters from Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and other major Capcom franchises into adorable bobbleheads.

In a way, it’s a middle ground between Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros.

The combat system is deep and pretty similar to OG Street Fighter. But it also features items that restore health, elemental orbs you can throw at enemies, and some other quirks to keep things fresh.


5. Blue Wing Blitz (2001)

Blue Wing Blitz WonderSwan gameplay

Just as the GBA had Fire Emblem, the WonderSwan had Blue Wing Blitz – an excellent turn-based Tactical RPG taking place hundreds of meters up in the sky.

Rather than ground units, the player is tasked with commanding warplanes on grid-based maps, trying to take down the enemy’s aerial force.

Unlike FE where all you can do in battle is watch, you have a couple of options in BWB.

These include changing your altitude to avoid damage or employing evasive maneuvers.

One of this game’s most remarkable features were its graphics, which could easily give any GBA game a run for its money.


4. Puyo Puyo 2 (1999)

Puyo Puyo 2 WonderSwan gameplay

The sequel to the classic Puyo Puyo took an already exciting and successful game and made it even better.

One of the main new features were the myriad custom rules that could be applied to matches, which added much more variety to gameplay and made the title an immediate hit.

Its modes include Single Puyo Puyo (story mode), Double Puyo Puyo (competitive multiplayer), and Endless Puyo Puyo.


3. Final Fantasy Remakes (2000-2002)

Final Fantasy Remakes WonderSwan game screenshot

Rather than a single game, this spot goes to the many remakes of iconic Final Fantasy titles that made it onto the WonderSwan, including FF1, FF2, and FF4.

They all feature redone spritework for better visuals, a fantastic soundtrack (even despite the WonderSwan’s limited capacity), and many fixes for glitches and bugs reported on the original games.

Each of these games has something that makes them unique and worth revisiting.

For example, the first game switched things up by letting you choose different jobs for your characters, and the fourth installment has the best story in FF’s 2D era.

Granted, you’ll need a translated script or some serious Japanese proficiency to enjoy them fully. But if you put in some elbow grease searching online you might find what you need.


2. Kaze no Klonoa: Midnight Museum (1999)

Kaze no Klonoa: Midnight Museum in WonderSwan

Klonoa used to be my favorite glove-wearing mascot from back in the day.

It’s a shame they’ve faded into obscurity, but there’s always something new to uncover among its classic games.

Most fans probably haven’t tried Kaze no Klonoa: Midnight Museum, released on the original WonderSwan.

Despite featuring somewhat downgraded visuals in black-and-white 2D, the game retains Klonoa’s ability to grab and throw enemies, as well as the double-jump. The gameplay is mostly the same.

The title was the predecessor for the subsequent GBA Klonoa games, so if you liked those, you have to give this one a chance.


1. Mr. Driller (2001)

Mr. Driller WonderSwan gameplay

It may seem a bit simple compared to some of our previous entries. But few games on the WonderSwan are as inherently fun and addictive as Mr. Driller.

Plus, you needn’t know a single word in Japanese to fully enjoy it.

As the adorable driller player character, you’re tasked with drilling through several stacks of colored blocks and reach the bottom before you run out of air. Matching colored blocks will make it easier, as will strategically picking up oxygen refill tanks on the way down.

If you’re into the WonderSwan and haven’t tried Mr. Driller yet, you’re sorely missing out.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.